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Tom McEwen

The late Tom McEwen, sports editor of The Tampa Times from 1958-62 before being named sports editor of The Tampa Tribune in 1962, graced the Tribune sports section with his award-winning column, The Morning After, and his Breakfast Bonus notes columns were a signature offering from the 19-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year. McEwen died in June, 2011 at the age of 88. His wife, Linda, occasionally contributes past columns and exerpts to this blog.

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We shouldn’t rest on our laurels now

Posted Jul 12, 2010 by Tom McEwen

Updated Jul 11, 2010 at 11:26 PM

Like so many of you out there in Tribuneland, I grew up in a small town (Wauchula) where the nearest thing to soccer we knew was hitting a mashed tin can around with a makeshift hockey stick. We contrived a game on the asphalt road near the Hardee County Court House and Chester Ferguson’s home until an announced number of goals were scored, or until our elbows and knees were so skinned we had to quit.

I mention that because it was my personal introduction to soccer, which was played Sunday on the international stage that has become the World Cup in Johannesburg, South Africa, seen on live television in 210 countries, including our own and before 100,000 in the stadium there and many more than that outside and nearby watching on giant screens.

It emphasizes what soccer has become for all of us, including many of the principals involved in the Sunday event, like World Soccer czar Seth Blatter, and losing Netherlands coach, Franz Beckinbauer, and so many of the others who made that journey of early soccer days around the world to the sport’s acme it has become, and we were able to tag along with it to this point. Along the way, soccer flourished once in Tampa years ago, and now has begun flourishing again with the involvement of new owners.

Soccer surely is going to be a hit once more in Tampa as it was those years ago when the George Strawbridge Rowdies first appeared in this market, lured by the knowledge that NFL football was coming to Tampa as the Buccaneers the next season.

My, wasn’t that soccer show at the World Cup these last days breathtaking? A 1-nil result can surely enchant, and keep your attention. It did in Johannesburg Sunday with the victory by Spain over the Netherlands in overtime. It may as well have been 10-9. It was that good with its outcome hanging on each shot on goal or each goalie block on goal.

The smallest player on the field, Andres Iniesta, scored the deciding goal suddenly after the regulation time that ended in a 0-0 tie. When the game still was tied, someone walked into the room and asked, “What is the score, 0-0 or 1-0?” Soon after that it would become 1-0 and stay that way through the overtime.

The soccer moguls under Blatter had declared for overtime with a cap of 30 minutes. Iniesta scored for Spain just before time ran out, on a beautiful, powerfully struck goal. The Netherlands could not respond despite torrid activity until the overtime was over.

Soccer had declared some time ago that a championship game in the World Cup could not end in a shootout, meaning a series of individual shots for each team. Regular season games in the NASL are decided on shootouts. This system in force now is far better, given each team the same amount of time to win or tie and continue to play. Soccer, under Blatter, has become more receptive to change.

He has announced that additional changes will be made to be certain that they get it right from now on. Seth Blatter has always been a fair man, certainly good to the Tampa Bay area and to America when his regime approved the World Cup for this country.

Florida, with then-Attorney General Jim Smith and Tampa leaders in the forefront, lobbied for and won the World Cup here a few years ago. That could happen again if Florida and the Tampa area are so inclined to pursue it. We need now to move ahead with that pursuit, if we still have in place civic and public officials interested.

Soccer has and will again be good for Florida and good for the Tampa area. We have people in public places now, such as Sandy MacKinnon as Chairman of the Florida State Fair Authority, for such pursuits. We also have mayors now in Tampa and St. Petersburg who appear to be comfortable and receptive to such ventures. Why wouldn’t they be?

Babaloo.

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