by Bill Freitas
Those who know me are familiar with my admiration of the concept of losing. In most cases, in sports as well as life, it's the only way to learn, to grow, improve, get better and fully earn and appreciate the victories. That's right, losers. You are awesome. (You should know, Bill ... D'oh! Should've seen that coming.) It's how one faces, deals with and hopefully overcomes loss that determines how champions are made. Like brain-damaged philosopher Rocky Balboa once mumbled, "It's not about how hard you hit. It's how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward." Pure gold. And that's why I vomit with rage at the very concept of "Everybody gets a ribbon" — so that the young whipper-snappers don't get their precious little feelings hurt. These touchy-feely twits with the best of intentions end up stunting the character-building growth of little Timmy at a time when losing a T-Ball game isn't the worst thing in the world, and Timmy winds up an oversized, entitled crybaby who goes ballistic when he ends up getting fired one day. Headline: "Lunatic shoots up an office building after not getting a promotion." Maybe keeping score in Little League would have helped prep him for real disappointment. Naw, let's make him one of twelve co-captains. Everybody wins!
Speaking of loss (yes, there was a point to all that crap), the Tampa Bay Lightning lost Steven Stamkos for four months (Boltz kept playing), Marty St. Louis for ... ever (Boltz kept playing), and, currently, stud goalie Ben Bishop indefinitely. The Boltz ... kept ... playing. And winning. Injuries, trades, adversity, and these kids show up and rally around each other with whomever they got tending goal and are still getting it done, shedding hope on a potentially hopeless situation heading into the playoffs. Defeatists from all around Tampa Bay hung their heads and cried into their PBR's and proclaimed the season over after Bishop went down to injury. Again. At a time when the team needed him most. But in waddled Bluto Blutarsky with a couple of Number 2 pencils crammed up his nose to remind us all that nothing was over until we decided it was. It wasn't over after the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor, and it ain't over now.
"Because when the going gets tough ..."
Anders Lindback, the other goalie, stepped in, stepped up and ...
"The tough get going!"
Thanks, Bluto. Anyway, Lindback strapped on the Michael Myers mask and played like the starter he was meant to be, including stopping 34 shots Thursday night in a 4-2 victory over the Flyers from the perpetually repulsive city of Philadelphia. Man down, man up. Heal up the boo-boos, Ben. We got this. Also? Please get better! We are totally screwed without you! Why, God? Why?!
Meanwhile, down the street a ways past Mons Venus (Have you seen it lately? They've really classed the place up — bring your good Umbros), The Tampa Bay Buccaneers apparently invited 2012 Heisman winner and current bust in the making, Johnny Manziel, for a visit. Manziel. After a spectacular couple of years in college pulling ESPN highlights literally out of his ass, he's one NFL hit away from being pulverized into a pile of steaming little Johnny meatballs. Don't you just hate it when people use "literally" incorrectly? It chafes my nads. (Literally.) The Bucs need a leader under center, not a child. Remember "little Johnny"? The star of every dirty joke you told in elementary school? The one the teacher swore to never call on, but ended up doing it anyway? That's him. Why the hell did that teacher fall for it every single damn time, anyway? She knew he'd say something disgusting about his pee-pee. And these are the people teaching our children?
Honorable Afterthoughts: Your Tampa Bay Rays head to Cincinnati over the weekend for some interleague play (get ready to watch our pitchers at the plate swinging like Charles Barkley with a golf club ... in a phone booth ... with a bee); Tampa Bay Rowdies home games this season will all be televised on WTTA 38 to the delight of crickets everywhere (great, now I can't open my mail for the next six weeks); and finally, congratulations to the UConn Huskies for winning the 2014 NCAA Basketball Championship (The men won, too. BAM! See what I did there?)