Bock’s Score: Tamp-ions

David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire

Welcome to Titletown USA, also known as Tampa, Florida.

Wait. What?

Tampa?

The city on Florida’s west coast owns the title as reigning Stanley Cup champions, reigning Super Bowl champions and reigning American League baseball champions. It’s a good thing the place doesn’t have an NBA franchise or it might be a clean sweep of the major American sports.

This is a pretty impressive accomplishment since Tampa didn’t have a representative in any of these sports until 1976 when the NFL gave birth to the Bucs. Hockey arrived in 1992 and baseball showed up in 1998. And now all three Tampa teams are flying championship banners.

The Bucs started business in reverse, losing a record 26 consecutive games. Since then, though, they’ve won their share with imported ageless quarterback Tom Brady taking them to their second Super Bowl championship last February.

Their baseball neighbors started life as the Devil Rays and, like the Bucs, they began business in reverse. A decade after living in the basement, they dropped the “Devil’’ part of their nickname and won their first AL pennant. They’ve been contenders ever since and reached the World Series as AL champions again last season.

That brings us to the Lightning, part of the NHL’s ambitious expansion program that spread hockey in some unlikely places, like Florida. The Lightning were in the playoffs within four years and drew a record NHL crowd of 28,183 to their first home playoff game. By 2004, three years after losing 50 games, and in just their 12th year in business, they were Stanley Cup champions.

The Lightning won the Cup again in 2020’s truncated season and 10 months later, tip-toeing their way through a pandemic that rattled professional sports, captured it again for their third championship. They joined the Pittsburgh Penguins as the only repeat champions in the NHL’s salary cap era and set a record with the shortest span between titles in the long history of the league. They paraded the Cup proudly around the rink after winning the oldest trophy in professional sports.

That makes Tampa Titletown, a nickname that once belonged to Green Bay, Wisconsin, when the Packers ruled the NFL with multiple championships during the Vince Lombardi era. Later, Pittsburgh claimed it with four Super Bowl titles in six years for the Steelers.

Now, though, Tampa owns three championships at once, a heady achievement for the city that rightly calls itself Titletown. The climate is pretty good, too.

About the Author

Hal Bock

Hal Bock covered sports for 40 years at The Associated Press including 30 World Series, 30 Super Bowls and 11 Olympics. He is the author of 14 books including most recently The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty and Banned Baseball's Blacklist of All-Stars and Also-Rans. He has written scores of magazine articles and served as Journalist In Residence at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus where he also served on the selection committee for the George Polk Awards.

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