2003: The Tampa Bay Bucanneers beat the Eagles in the NFC Championship game, putting them in position to win their first ever Super Bowl.
2004: The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Flyers in the Eastern Conference Finals, putting them in position to win their first ever Stanley Cup.
2008: The Tampa Bay Rays face the Phillies in their first ever World Series.
The "Welcome to Tampa" signs that sit on the sides of the two major interstates that run through the area label the metropolis "The City of Champions," heralding the Bucs' Super Bowl title and the Lightning's Stanley Cup. As a transplanted Philadelphian living in Florida, this always bothered me. First, Tampa is no more a city than Starbucks is a restaurant. In places like Philadelphia, Boston, and New York, history can be traced back to a time when some of the most influential named in this nation's history roamed their streets. In Tampa, history can be traced back to 1987, when someone missed an exit in Georgia and realized land was cheap. Second, it just seemed wrong to affix such a label to what used to be the City of Expansion Franchises.
Yet as much as the Northeastern snob in me smirked at these signs, the fact remained: compared to Philadelphia, Tampa -- and, to be fair, St. Petersburg, where the Rays play -- is a City of Champions. It has two more titles than Philly does in the last 25 years. It has an up-and-coming football team that has spent parts of the last two seasons in the Top 25. Heck, even the Tampa Bay Storm has four more ArenaBowl tites than the Philadelphia Soul.
Which leads me to the World Series.
My buddy Fran and his family live in Tampa. They are transplanted Philadelphians. I shared a couple of Thanksgivings with them when I lived in Florida. He called me a few days ago and told me he might have to move if a team from Tampa beats a team from Philadelphia on a big stage again. He was referring to the Rays.
I can only imagine many of you feel the same way. At the very least, it should be an interesting week-and-a-half. I have a flight into Orlando at 8 a.m. We'll have plenty in the way of previews and breakdowns over the next couple of days. Make sure you stay tuned.
I should be passing the City of Champions sign about 10 hours from now.