I love the St. Petersburg Times like I could never love the Hartford Courant, even though I sweated out a living in that sweet city for so long. You see, when a Hartford sports team wins a big game, the Courant publishes a nice, dignified story on the front of the sports section, laying out the full and factual account of the game as though it were a labor negotiation. Very fair. Wholly unbiased. Professional. Dull.
On the other hand, when the Tampa Bay Rays (who play, by the way, in St. Pete, not Tampa) win big, the Times splashes ink all over its front page:
in the biggest type that fits. And after the main blast of glory on Page One, the Times prints, not merely a sports section, but a whole damn RAYS WIN! section, with foldouts and three-color diagrams, trumpeting every statistic and scene from last night's astounding game that could possibly be celebrated. Followed by interviews with Matt Moore's mother and the guy who polishes Kelly Shoppach's cleats. It's the swingingest lovefest you can buy for 50 cents.
And when the Rays win the next big one, by God, there's another over-the-top, dignity-free headline and another special section. On those joyous occasions when the Bucs and the Rays both win, the Times prints two front pages and two special sections. If, heaven forfend, the home team should not prevail, as it did not last night, the headline - and still on Page One - offers that this is not easy:
Easy? This isn't a team that does things easy.
The St. Pete Times does every day what the Courant (and a lot of other corporate newspapers) cannot conceive of doing: it cheers - long and lustily - for the home team. The local sports coverage in my new home town is biased and blatant. The Times leaves no doubt: it is proud to be here, proud of its teams, proud of its people.
I love this place.