Thursday, December 24, 2009

Economy, crime ... and Hurricanes?





What a year.

Thankfully, we had Hurricanes.

No, not the tropical kind.

Manatee High’s Hurricanes. That's what I’m talking about.

Their enthralling postseason gave us the kind of headlines that took our minds off the grim news we’ve been battered by during 2009.

See Sunday's Mannix About Manatee

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Neighborhood lights Christmas magic

A bow to all those people around my neighborhood who go to such great lengths decorating their homes for Christmas.

Me? I'm a piker with a little lighted tree with a Santa in a Hawaiian shirt.

I'm OK with it.

But I'm glad all those folks do what they do every Christmas.

Hectic as it always seems to be this time of year, their light displays make me slow down and take time to drive around and gaze the magic they've made.

It doesn't matter how ornate or simple they are.

I feel like a kid again.

A kid at Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2009

'Twas the Saturday before Christmas

This shouldn't take long, I told myself as I wheeled into the department store parking lot.

Just pick up a couple of things, get them wrapped and I'm home.


What was I thinking?

It was the Saturday before Christmas.

The store wasn't crowded, but the lines? Yikes.

I picked out what I needed, got on one line and paid up.

Took maybe 15 minutes.

Then I got on the line for gift wrapping.

Oooooh, boy.

Know how you get in line at the grocery store and sometimes the person in front of you notices you've got one item and they let you go ahead of them?

Didn't happen Saturday.

There were folks ahead of me who must've done ALL their gift shopping that day and were getting every last box wrapped.

In different color wrapping paper and different ribbons, too.

Nearly an hour passed by the time my turn came.

The woman smiled just as she had for every customer before me, wrapped my gifts and then asked sweetly if there was anything else?

Merry Christmas, I told her.

Then I got out of that store as fast as I could.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Canes must wait another year for title shot

The stadium clock blinked down the final seconds of the season, but the celebration was already under way.
Not for the Manatee Hurricanes.
Tampa Plant's Panthers danced and leaped across the field, joined by their coaches and other players from the opposite sideline, their golden helmets shining in the Citrus Bowl's stadium lights.
State champs.
Plant 21, Manatee 14.
All the Canes could do was numbly watch.
They'd stormed back from a 21-0 halftime deficit and came within a fourth-down and short midway through the fourth quarter from sustaining their heroic comeback.
Slowly they assembled at the 50-yard line for the traditional postgame handshake.
Still, the Panthers celebration went on.
Their cheerleaders even assembled for a photo, most of them holding up their index fingers.
State champs.
What might've been.
The Canes just ran out of time.
Staggered by Plant's 21-point early outburst, Manatee showed a champion's heart, coming off the ropes in the second half, scoring twice to make it close.
They had their fans on their feet, yelling for more, rocking their side of the stadium.
"LET'S' GO MANATEE! LET'S GO MANATEE!" chanted the cheerleaders.
The Marching Canes were cranking the "Empire Strikes Back" theme.
Would their team strike back once more?
When Manatee got the ball back with 1:27 to play, they were working against a gale.
Cane quarterback Brion Carnes had to throw into its teeth.
Three incompletes made it fourth-and-10 from the Manatee 21.
Carnes scampered to his left and let fly, deep toward Ace Sanders, who outleaped two defenders, but couldn't make the catch.
That was the Canes last gasp.
Fifty-seven seconds remained in the season.
Panthers ball.
The celebration began.
After the Canes shook hands with the Panthers, they drifted toward the south end zone..
Some wept. Some embraced. Some knelt, head in hand.
When coach Joe Kinnan gathered his players around one final time, he told them he was proud of them, especially his seniors.
We have the nucleus, he also told them, to be back here again next season.
Yet next year seemed so far away.
It would take awhile for the Canes to get over this season ended.
State champs.
That was Plant Panthers Friday night.
Not the Manatee Hurricanes.
Maybe next year.


Zach Beeker was at a loss for words at halftime.

"We need to do something," said the Manatee High senior, whose Hurricanes trailed 21-0 at the half.

What did some alums say?

Patti Eurice: "They can't lose heart."

Joe Rocklein: "We're not beating them off the ball like we did against

Plant 21, Manatee 0

Panthers 21, Canes 0.
Just when it looked like the Canes defense had the Panthers back on their heels with a third-down and 18 jam, they let them off the hook.
James Wilder picked up the first down on a nice pass to the backside of Manatee's defense.
Then he busted a 42-yard run, breaking several tackles to score.
The Canes absolutely, postively have to get a score here.
It's just 3:06 until halftime.

Canes defense makes first stand

Canes defense makes a stand at last, forcing Plant to punt for their first time this game.

Still, with 6:07 left in the second quarter, Manatee needs to get something on the board.

It's early yet in the game, but the Canes must score soon.

Do Canes have enough time?

Plant 21, Manatee 14.

Now it's a game.

The Canes are storming back, but midway through the fourth quarter, is there enough time to pull this out?

Canes making themselves heard

It's a little hard to count noses from up here, but it's safe to say the Manatee Hurricanes brought a nice-swized contingent of fans.

There are thousands of fans both in the lower stands behind the Canes bench, and a couple thousand more in the second deck.

Making themselves heard, too.l
That's not easy in a 70,000-seat stadium.

Panthers draw first blood on opening drive

Tampa Plant gave Manatee a lot of James Wilder on the Panthers opening drive for a 7-0 lead.

The Hurricanes looked like they had something going on their first possession, but ended up punting.

Let's see if the Hurricanes defense stiffens up.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Canes, burgers on Council's daily menu

The TV was on at Council’s, but no one was watching.

Lawton Smith had everyone’s undivided attention.

It had nothing to do with the big knife he held in his hand, gesturing with it to make his point while chopping onions behind the counter.

That the Manatee Hurricanes play for the Class 5A state championship Friday made Smith a tad more animated than usual on his favorite subject.

Hurricane football and hamburgers are always on the menu at Council’s, a downtown institution.

Read more in Thursday's Mannix About Manatee.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Will anybody be home Friday night?

Will the last person to leave Bradenton Friday night please turn off the lights?

OK, not everybody is going to the Citrus Bowl for Manatee High School's Class 5A state championship showdown with Tampa Plant.

But it sure seems like it.

Judging by conversations I've had since last Friday night's stirring 28-20 state semifinal victory over No. 1 ranked St. Thomas Aquinas, nobody wants to miss the ending of this Hurricane season.

Whether it's by bus, car pool or plane, plenty of folks are Orlando-bound.

I know I'll be there.

I was lucky enough to be along for Southeast High's 1998 run to the state final where it lost to Miami Northwestern at Florida Field my first year in Bradenton.

Yet that was before I really came to appreciate first hand the rich history -- and the heroics -- of high school football in Manatee County.

Eleven years later, I'm raring to go again.

Let's go, Canes!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Lincoln reunion recalls old school feeling

What stories they will tell.

The Lincoln Memorial High School Grand Reunion begins Wednesday and Alvin McKinney, Clatha Reaves and Jean Murray Ellenwood can’t wait.

"See faces I haven’t seen in 40, 50 years," said McKinney, Class of 1954.

"The memories," said Reaves, Class of 1964.

"Meet people I don’t know .... people I have something in common with," said Ellenwood, Class of 1960.

What they share befits the legacy of an institution central to the black community during segregation.

It was an old school upbringing.

"Heard the expression it takes a village to raise a child?" said McKinney, 74. "That was Lincoln and the neighborhood."

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

One more time under Friday night lights

Played phone tag with my sister last Friday night.

Tried to leave a message, but I doubt she'd have understood it.

That's because the Manatee Hurricanes had just scored in the Class 5A-Region 3 championship at Palm Bay and everyone at the house where we were listening to the game on radio was cheering and high-fiving.

Only in Bradenton.

Can't beat Friday nights around here during high school football season.

Now it's the last one.

Unless the 'Canes shock St. Thomas Aquinas, who are not only defending state champs, but the nation's No. 1 high school football team, too, and reach the state championship game in Orlando.

I'd love to see it.

We all would.

We'll all be there at Hawkins Stadium, supporting the hometown kids.

Show those South Florida folks what we're about.

Which brings up the 2006 state semifinal in Fort Lauderdale, the last time the two teams met.

Leading 15-0 at halftime, the 'Canes were staggered by a long punt return and interception runback and lost in double ovetime.

It was a bitter defeat.

Yet St. Thomas Aquinas fans didn't gloat. Instead they showed class by applauding the 'Canes afterward.

They appreciated the magnificent effort put forth by our kids.

Let us do the same our final Friday night under the lights this grand season in Bradenton.

Monday, December 7, 2009

'We never knew what happened to them'

One of my favorite movies is "Twelve O'Clock High," the 1949 classic about the perils B-17 crews faced during their repeated daylight bombing missions over Hitler's Fortress Europe during World War II.

It starred Gregory Peck, Hugh Marlowe, Gary Merrill and Dean Jagger, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Duane Randolph could've had a role in it, too.

Except the Mt. Gilead, Ohio, native was there, a member of the ground crew for the 447th Bomb Group in the Mighty Eighth Air Force in England.

The 84-year-old Bradenton retiree was at American Legion Kirby Stewart Post 24's Pearl Harbor Day anniversary ceremony Monday, and recalled being thrust into war like so many young Americans.

Drafted in 1943, Randolph was eventually shipped to Rattlesden Air Base where he and other maintenance crewmen performed the herculean task of keeping bombers flying, despite the punishment the warbirds took mission after mission.

"It took a miracle to get some of those planes back in the air," he said. "It was quite a job to do."

Many times those planes didn't come back.

Randolph recalled one raid on Berlin where nine of his squadron's 12 Flying Fortresses never returned.

"We never knew what happened to them," he said.

Although Randolph spent two years, four months in uniform, his war lasted 16 months.

"I was lucky," he said.

Friday, December 4, 2009

DeSears closing hits this home

His name escapes me, but I remember his style.

The salesman was older and had a low-key manner that sold me.

He worked for DeSears Appliances at their old Palmetto store.

I was outfitting my new kitchen and spent a small fortune on it five years ago.

Oven and microwave.



He took good care of me.

That the DeSears retailer closed Wednesday after 62 years is what brings it to mind.

I’ve lived here barely a decade, yet the end of the Bradenton-based chain gives me pause.

When its Denver-based parent company filed for Chapter 11 several weeks ago, perhaps it was just a matter of time.

Still, the finality hits home.

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bowden boxing match sign of bygone era

It was a 1982 press conference in a Fort Lauderdale ballroom with a faux boxing ring.

In one corner was Howard Schnellenberger, who was resurrecting the University of Miami football program.

In the other corner, Bobby Bowden, who had turned Florida State into a national power.

Schnellenberger needed Bowden, more than the other way around.

Yet the FSU coach was all about helping the pipe-smoking, gravel-voiced UM coach establish a program that would not only rival the Seminoles, but surpass them in pursuit of national championships.

I was sports editor for the Boca Raton News and it is the memory of these two coaches, donning boxing gloves to hype their regular season game at the Orange Bowl, that defined not only the kind of man Bowden was, but also a bygone era in college football.

Imagine Urban Meyer and Nick Saban posing like that for Saturday night's SEC championship game.

Bowden's retirement brings a close to not only a fabled career in Tallahassee, but a time when one intrastate rivalry was about real respect and mutual admiration, off the field as well as on it

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Good riddance, hurricane season

"We all realize our days our numbered. It's just a matter of time before you get another one."

The words came from a Gulf coast resident on Monday, the last day of hurricane season.

Thanks for the encouragement.

We sweat out another hurricane season and can't get away from the doomsayers.


Dec. 1 is a day of thanks, even if forecasters are calling for mid-week stormy weather.

That only nine named tropical storms developed and nary a hurricane touched our shores is something to celebrate, even if it's with a quiet, thank you, God.

Contrary to what some people think, I don't believe our community takes hurricane season lightly.

When June 1 rolls around, I can feel it.

It's like an ominous cloud that doesn't go away for six months.

Ignore it at your peril.

But when the calendar says it's Dec. 1, it's time to say goodbye hurricane season.

Good riddance, too.