When I did a semester abroad in Florence one year while attending college, I ventured over to Stadio Artemio Franchi to check out ACF Fiorentina, the professional calcio team. It was futbol, or soccer, at its finest, more so for the passion in the stands than the play on the pitch, although Gabriel Batistuta exemplified athletic art at times. I quickly discovered that fan groups were notorious for creating orchestrated chants throughout the entire match, some with unabashed vulgarity. The stadium literally became a party among approximately 47,000 newly acquired friends. In St. Petersburg, a similar occurrence takes place whenever the Tampa Bay Rowdies host an opponent at Al Lang Stadium during the North American Soccer League season that runs from early April until the playoffs in October, although on a much, much smaller scale. Ralph's Mob (named after the character depicted in the original Rowdies logo) — nearly 600-member strong — makes soccer games at the venue formerly known as the home for spring training baseball an entertaining place to spend a Saturday night. With the posctcard-worthy Dalí Museum and the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront in the background, Ralph's Mob bounces up and down and uses "a mix of mostly English, German and Scandinavian"-type cheers, chants and choral composition accompanied by a banging drum played by founder Charlie Cole to give Rowdies' games a spirited backdrop for the ENTIRE GAME. Fans not standing alongside the mob members have been known to describe the group as "more exciting than watching the game." After having attended every major sporting event in the Tampa Bay area, I have to admit Ralph's Mob is the most organized and the most entertaining.
Metal man artist Frank Strunk posted a photo of a shirtless James Franco in the upcoming film Spring Breakers back in April, along with this rant. The photo got close to 100 responses on Strunk’s Facebook in a matter of minutes: “So this is how our town is being depicted by the movie industry. We work so hard to have what we have here and douchebag filmmakers come down and find the single worst element of our city and represent us with it. Tell me exactly WHY we should be welcoming to these assholes. Nice “727” tattoo dickhead. I don’t care how much “money” they bring to this area, if they are doing it at the expense of our hard work and reputation, they can stay the FUCK where they came from.”
Two years ago Charlie Justice held the state Senate seat that encompassed both Tampa and St. Pete. He left it to run for Bill Young’s congressional seat and lost. This year, the Democrats failed to field a candidate in the race.
After Sileo called three black football players “monkeys” in a passing reference, WDAE 620 announced that they “would like to apologize for Dan Sileo’s ill-chosen on-air remarks earlier this week. He absolutely meant no disrespect to the players and he is sincerely embarrassed and upset that his off-the-cuff remarks might be taken as hateful, disrespectful, or in any way racist. Dan and the station regret any offense to the players; to the Bucs organization; and to the people of the Tampa Bay community.” Shortly thereafter, WDAE canned him.
In one of the most ethically and socially diverse areas in the country, five of the seven Hillsborough County Commissioners are white men. So when they voted to support a Diversity Advisory Council (proposed by the sole gay commissioner, Kevin Beckner, and slated to include a representative from the gay community), some local columnists cheered the new perspective on the board. But wait — isn’t this the same local government that refuses to include the LGBT community in its human rights ordinance, and has a ban on gay pride? “The goal isn’t to promote a GLBT agenda,” said Commission Chair Ken Hagan, who supported the gay pride ban. “This wouldn’t use taxpayer dollars to support gay-pride events. This action does not conflict with that.” Whew. Thank God for that!
Who would have guessed that a movie about male strippers would be the best Bay area recruitment film ever made? Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike, starring Channing Tatum as a Tampa-based exotic dancer with dreams of hitting the big time in Miami, makes the Bay area look like a tropical paradise chock full of beautiful bodies and scenery. Get past the soft R-rated content (sorry folks, no dongs), and what’s left is a beautiful travelogue of Tampa and St. Pete, complete with glistening beaches and the hip urban cores of Ybor City and downtown St. Pete. Magic Mike will hit DVD right as the weather turns to slush up north, and in addition to inspiring daydreams about abs and ass, the film will surely draw a few new transplants looking for fun in the sun. (Clothing optional, of course.)
Runners-up: St. Pete Beach, Ft. Desoto Beach
Whoa, easy there, baseball fans. Sure, Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon might get the boys into the playoff picture, but do you think it will amount to anything more than an early exit, like the last two seasons? Well, we can dream. Bucs fans? I'd sure like to see coach Greg Schiano’s crew bring playoff pigskin back to the Bay. I'm just not sure the former Rutgers top dog (don’t get me started) has had enough time to get his house in order. Leaving us the Bolts, under Guy Boucher, who has captain Vinny Lecavalier supported by alternates Steven Stamkos ("best goal scorer in the world," according to Barry Melrose), Marty St. Louis, Mattias Ohlund and Eric Brewer. There's your winner.
For five and a half years, activist group St. Pete for Peace showed cutting-edge documentaries for free at Cafe Bohemia. The weekly series was cut short after the new owners of the café found themselves shocked and awed by American: The Bill Hicks Story, the animated documentary about the comedian’s life and early death. The film, and Bill Hicks’ potty mouth (or words of wisdom, depending on your taste), got the film series canned (temporarily) until it found a new home at the L Train. stpeteforpeace.org.