For 20 years, CL's writers, editors and readers have presumed to declare various people and places The Best of the Bay. The collected BOTB issues from the last two decades represent an interesting kind of history. For instance, here's the first entry of 1991:
"Best Name for the Baseball Team We Didn't Get: The Tampa Bay Suckerfish."
Well, we have a baseball team now, don't we? And despite the sturm und drang over where that team will eventually wind up, I think most of us are pretty glad they're here (even if we only watch the games on TV).
Other winners remind us of people we've lost:
"Best Actor: Jeff Norton" and "Best County Commissioner: Phyllis Busansky," both cited in 1995.
Or of places that have closed: "Best Place to People Watch: Big City Tavern" from 2002, or "Best Business Lunch: Valencia Garden," from 1998.
And scandals that flared up and subsided: "Best Clue That Some People Need to Be Beaten About the Face with a Chicken Wing" (something about the Tampa Chamber of Commerce meeting at Hooters in 1994) and "Best Television Show Promoting a Police State" (a dig at the Fox Show COPS in 1990 which looks like Masterpiece Theatre compared to some of the reality programming we've got now).
But most of all I'm struck by the mainstays, those Tampa Bay people institutions that are not only still here but still going strong. So many names appear and reappear over the years: Haslam's Book Store, artist Theo Wujcik, Mise en Place Restaurant, Moving Current Dance Collective, The Hub, architect Tim Clemmons -- all continuing to make a contribution.
In another 20 years or so, readers will be able to look back at the 2010 Best of the Bay Issue (by then no doubt reduced to a digital file downloadable directly into our brain cells) and recognize the early achievements of people who went on to make an even bigger mark.
Maybe you're one of them. I hope so. Because that may be the best reason to do these issues each year -- to make Tampa Bay a better place to live by recognizing, and encouraging, the Best.