I lived in Florida for 20 years, so I know the state’s secret. Tampa is not as nice as it's advertised to be in the "Visit Florida" brochure. Here’s a hint for the Florida Tourism Council – don’t feature Tampa as a destination spot. It won’t encourage repeat business to the Sunshine State. My Florida friends and I refer to it as Tampon, Florida.
Granted, the stadium is located in the airport section of town – and these areas usually are filled with chain restaurants and hotels. But I’ve ventured well beyond Raymond James Stadium to adjacent areas, and with the exception of St. Petersburg and Bradenton, there is nothing impressive here. Flat as a pancake, sticky humid (even in the winter), and seedy strip joints galore.
This last one might sound like a real treat to some sports fans. However, most Central Florida strip clubs aren’t the Hollywood fantasy "Gentlemen’s Clubs." They’re old Stuckey’s Restaurants converted into places where truckers will stop. However, instead of getting a pecan roll and a Florida key chain, they pay a mom with three kids to pretend that she’s still hot…and that she’d be interested in them even if they didn’t give her a $20 bill.
There are wonderful places in Florida. South Beach and Coconut Grove in Miami are fun places to visit. Naples and Tallahassee are great places to raise your kids. Orlando’s Disney World is an amazing feat of engineering and city planning - a veritable oasis.
Tampa's amusement park (Busch Gardens) is a low rent, urban dump of a zoo located a few blocks from South Florida's campus.
Why do you think it took so long to develop a football program for Tampa's State University? Because USF is mostly a commuter school that no one outside of Tampa wanted to attend in the first place. And why is that? Because Tampon is a nasty place to live. If Newark is the armpit of New Jersey, I’ll let you surmise where I think this city resides on the body of land that is Florida.
While this may be bad news for tourists and residents, it’s good news for real football schools that recruit from this area. I’m confident the young athletes are anxious to get out of town. So, Let’s Go Mountaineers! Let’s beat the Bulls***, grab some Florida talent from the local high schools, and go home to a place where you only shower before or after work – not after touring the area around your football team’s stadium.