Running off at the typewriter …
Steve Spurrier’s new team might end up being the best in the Alliance of American Football. The Apollos are 2-0 heading into tonight’s home game (8 p.m. at UCF’s Spectrum Stadium) against the Memphis Express, their games are fast and fun, and their players are playing with a passion and a purpose and a mission of having something to prove. Many of them have been in the NFL, fallen through the cracks, and are fighting to climb their way back to relevancy.
In fact, you could say the entire Apollos franchise is a testament to conquering and overcoming. Starting next week, a team from Orlando will be based in Jacksonville, practicing in Kingsland, Ga., and then busing back to Orlando to play its games. All because the Apollos cannot get workers-compensation insurance in Florida but can get it in Georgia if they practice at least 51 percent of the time on Georgia soil.
“These players have done everything we’ve asked them to do,” Apollos GM Tim Ruskell told me Friday in regard to the team spending the next month practicing in Georgia.
“This has been a traveling road show from the beginning. We started out practicing at Jones High School, went to San Antonio for a month [for training camp], came back to Orlando and practiced at Camping World Stadium. We play our games at UCF. Now we’re going to have practices up in Georgia and walkthroughs in Jacksonville.
“It’s us against the world. We know we’re the only team in the league that has been given this path and our attitude is, ‘Go ahead, throw it at us, bring it on!’ That’s the way our players have taken it.”
Who cares where the Apollos practice as long as they’re playing (and winning) in Orlando. And just as the Apollos players are trying to prove themselves to the NFL, so is our rapidly growing and vibrant city.
There’s no reason that Orlando — the biggest market in the country without an NFL team — shouldn’t be the premier franchise in the Alliance. If you really want to get the NFL’s attention, start filling up Spectrum Stadium for Alliance games, which, by the way, are televised on the NFL Network.
How do you think little ol’ Jacksonville got the NFL to take notice and landed the Jaguars all those years ago? Here’s how: Because Jacksonville showed it had a true passion for pro football by leading the league and averaging nearly 50,000 fans per game to see the old Jacksonville Bulls of the USFL.
If Jacksonville can do it then, by gosh, why can’t we?
SHORT STUFF: When I first heard Friday that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft had been charged with soliciting prostitutes, I wanted to laugh. When I found out the prostitutes were young Chinese victims of human trafficking, I wanted to cry. … It was great seeing iconic Orlando Magic broadcaster David Steele being inducted into the franchise’s Hall of Fame on Friday. In the team’s 30-year history, I don’t know if there has ever been anyone affiliated with the organization — player, coach or executive — who has been more respected than Steele. OK, maybe Pat Williams, but nobody else. Steele’s induction into the HOF should make us all thrust our fist in the air and say what his Magic broadcast partner — color analyst Jeff Turner — would say: “Kapaya!” ...
Hey, did you see where Shaq dropped the price of his massive mansion in Isleworth from $28 million to $21.9 million? No word yet on if Magic ownership will make an offer and try to low-ball Shaq one last time. … Remember the old childhood playground taunt, “Na-na, na-na, boo-boo!?” After Orlando City landed its big fish this week, I think I heard Lions supporters ecstatically chanting, “Nani, Nani, wooooo-hoooooo!” … Who would have ever thought that an ice hockey team — the Tampa Bay Lightning — would be the model professional sports franchise in a place known as the Sunshine State? … Funniest tweet of the week after Duke star Zion Williamson suffered a minor injury after his Nike sneaker blew out the other night: “It’s all Colin Kaepernick’s fault.” … Speaking of Williamson, I’m wondering what model of Nike sneaker he was wearing? I’m thinking it was the “Air Jor-Damn!” ...
By the way, don’t you just roll your eyes at the predictability of the college sports bashers who are blaming Williamson’s injury on the “exploitation of college athletes.” Good grief, why is the NCAA to blame because the NBA forces high school basketball players to spend six months in college masquerading as student-athletes? It’s not the NCAA’s fault that elite players like Williamson aren’t getting paid; it’s the NBA’s fault for not allowing these players to be drafted until they’re 19. And, seriously, if you don’t think Williamson will enjoy massive financial benefits and is exponentially building his brand by spending six months at Duke, then you’re just being stubborn and dumb. And don’t even get me started on the value of a Duke education for those college athletes who do want to take advantage of it and won’t be playing in the NBA. …
LAST WORD: In honor of Tiger Woods committing to play in the Arnold Palmer Invitational (yay!), my favorite quote from Arnie: “I have a tip that can take five strokes off anyone’s golf game: It’s called an eraser.”