General Manager Rich McKay hangs out with some of the kids who participated in Bowl with the Pros on Saturday
To spice up its lingo, bowling borrows quite a few terms from other sports, particularly football. For instance, have you ever rolled the ball straight through a split without hitting either pin? Well, that was a field goal, and the 7-10 pins you left standing were called, fittingly, goal posts. In football, blocking helps keep pass-rushers out of the pocket; in bowling, someone caught blocking is guilty of improperly oiling a lane so the ball will get to the pocket. Both games have running lanes, clotheslines and 'frozen ropes.'
Now we hear that the PBA is considering renaming a score of 100 an 'Al Singleton.' Apparently, 'Derrick Brooks,' 'Brian Kelly' and 'Shelton Quarles' are also under consideration.
We kid these very large men because their bowling efforts on Saturday, while in no danger of earning them tour cards, were still quite effective, as they played an important part in the fundraising efforts at the second annual Bowl with the Pros event sponsored by the Tampa Chapter of the NFL Players Association on Saturday. Oh, and they also won't be around One Buccaneer Place for the next month before training camp, so it seems safe.
"I'm having a lot of fun," said good sport Singleton. "I've met a lot of great people and we're supporting a great cause. I'm not bowling too well, but I'm having fun."
Bowl with the Pros is designed to support the NFL Youth Education Town (NFL YET) Centers in Tampa, facilities that provide programs and activities for at-risk children. By knocking down (a few) pins on Saturday, Singleton and company were helping to supply a positive alternative for children through programs in personal development, education assistance, life skills training and recreation. The NFL established the program in 1993 and has put NFL YET centers in each city that has hosted a Super Bowl. The two NFL YET centers in the Tampa Bay area were established as a legacy project of Super Bowl XXXV held in Tampa in January, 2001.
Along with the quartet of keglers above, the Bucs were also represented by team bowling ace Karl Williams, General Manager Rich McKay and Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders Jessica Deauseault, Tammy Denbo, Jessica Diaz, Andrea Gordillo, Karen Olsyk, Angel Reames, Carne Riley and Ayesha Robinson.
"It's a great charity event," said Williams, who struggled a bit himself when compared to the 212 he put up during the Bucs' surprise team bowling trip last Wednesday. "You can get out and have fun with the kids and interact with the community. It's what being a professional is all about."
Williams was impressed with the event, which drew a crowd of over 550, but jokingly suggested a few tweaks to the scoring system to help the pin-challenged Bucs out a bit.
"My first game was a 166 (as was his second), but I think all the guys that just got out of mini-camp should get a handicap," he said. "We're all pretty tired, so we can use all the help we can get."
In addition to the funds it raised for the NFL YET centers, Bowl with the Pros gave hundreds of underprivileged youth in the Tampa Bay area the opportunity to hit the lanes right alongside Buccaneer players and other local sports and media celebrities. Former Bucs Mark Carrier, Lawrence Dawsey, Parnell Dickinson, David Lewis, Lee Roy Selmon and Richard Wood participated in the event, as did media members Ronnie Lane, Ernest Hooper and Bob Buckhorn.
Though the scores may not have reflected it, the Buc players at Bowl with the Pros believed Wednesday's trip to the lanes, organized as a reward for hard work by Head Coach Jon Gruden, helped prepare them for Saturday's event. Singleton said as much, though it's also possible that he was merely trying to deflect attention from his Saturday score.
"Wednesday's practice helped me out a lot," said Singleton. "And I might add that myself, Aaron Stecker and David Gibson came in third and got nice prizes (on Wednesday)."
Williams came away from Wednesday's trip with Gruden's admiration for his bowling skills, but Saturday's event wasn't about bragging rights in the Buccaneer locker room. Singleton and the rest of the Buccaneers were more concerned with assisting the youth in their community.
"The more you can do at these types of events, the better you feel about any contribution you can make to the community," said McKay. "Especially when you're assisting something as impactful as a YET Center, where you're reaching some kids that need some help. It's a great event and we're just glad we can support such a great cause."
Gramatica Gets Kick Out of Coaching
Tampa Bay's mini-camp practice on Saturday drew the usual crowd of media, but there was also a group on hand that would have seemed a better fit at Monday morning's U.S.-Mexico World Cup game.
This clash of futbol and football was no accident. The group clad in soccer gear at One Buccaneer Place on Saturday was the Hillsborough United Under-13 Soccer team, a squad for which Buccaneers K Martin Gramatica is a voluntary assistant coach.
The team, which finished their season with a 19-1-1 record, earned its trip to a Buccaneers practice by winning the Atlanta Lightning Cup earlier in 2002. "I told them if they won the tournament in Atlanta, I would bring them all out to practice," said a proud Gramatica. "And they did."
Gramatica's involvement with the team dates back two years and began somewhat comically during one of the United practices. If not for a few observant members of the youth team, Gramatica might very well be helping coach their opposition.
"He came over to our assistant coach Javier (Lopez) and asked if he could practice with us," said Head Coach Tony Padilla. "I told Javier to tell him no. I had no idea who he was, but the kids all said, 'That's Martin Gramatica from the Bucs!' So we let him practice with us and he's been out here ever since."
Getting rid of him might prove even harder, considering the fun both sides are having.
"When he's playing with the kids he's like another one of the kids, but he's always telling them how to do this better and that better and the kids love him," said Padilla. "When he comes over now (after working with the team for two years), he's no longer Martin Gramatica the Buccaneer, he's just one of the team."
That's quite right, says Gramatica, a fierce competitor on the gridiron who doesn't mind getting beaten on the practice pitch every now and then.
"It's fun for me to go out and play with them," he said. "They love it when they drive by me or meg me (pass the ball between his legs). They really get a kick out of that."
Besides the joy of faking out the Great Gramatica, the Hillsborough United players get some very real instruction from the native Argentinean and former star soccer player.
"He's a good coach, a very good coach," said Padilla. "And when he does things at practice like bending shots or trick moves, the kids all want to do it. He helps them learn the skills they need on the field and he's a role model off it, as well."
The Hillsborough United Soccer team consists of Trent Anderson, Antonio Cotroneo, Jesse Crews, C.J. Evans, Ben Foerstner, Jeremy Hall, Kyle Jukem, Eric Lee, Joey Lopez, Scott Padilla, Mikey Paschall, Jonathon Rivera, Bennette Singletary, Brian Snuffer, Trevor Tobin, Head Coach Tony Padilla, Assistant Coach Javier Lopez, mascot Jonathon Lopez and trainer Melissa Padilla.