1999 Results | Game Coverage
Who: Tampa Bay Storm at Florida Bobcats
Kicking Off...The preseason closes with the first Arena Football League contest in the brief history of the National Car Rental Center as the Storm and Bobcats face off in a divisional and intra-state matchup. Florida hopes to finally settle down after a transient three-year existence based out of West Palm Beach and a tumultuous offseason that saw head coach Rick Buffington be fired and replaced by former Orlando coach Perry Moss, who quit himself last month. Former Miami Dolphin tight end and Arizona Rattler offensive coordinator Bruce Hardy is now calling the shots, assisted by former Bobcat head coach Jim Jensen, who coached the team to a 6-8 record in 1996, the franchise's best record since it was known as the Denver Dynamite from 1987 to 1991.
The Coaches...Florida - Bruce Hardy, first AFL season.
Tampa Bay - Tim Marcum, 51-14 in his fifth season with the Storm, 106-26 in ten AFL seasons.
In 1999...Florida (0-1) - Lost to Buffalo 24-17.
Tampa Bay (0-1) - Lost to Orlando 45-39.
The Bobcats: Home at LastWith Friday night's game at the gleaming National Car Rental Center, the Bobcats' meandering trip across America, the football equivalent of Moses leading the Israelites through the desert, has ended. While the Bobcats played a full home slate at the tiny West Palm Beach Audtorium (a.k.a. "The Leaky Teepee" in 1996, they spent 1997 and 1998 playing "home games" in Los Angeles, Boston, Ottawa, Des Moines, Kansas City, Tampa and even the Polk County metropolis that is Lakeland.
Friday night represents the beginning of a resolution of the Bobcat odyssey, as this season will prove to be a penultimate test of whether this franchise will survive into the next milennium. There is no longer the excuse of playing in a substandard facility---in fact, it is this situation which owner Bruce Frey has pointed to for three years. Like the afore-mentioned Moses, he has shepherded his flock to what he has billed as the promised land, a state-of-the-art arena with a larger population base and, thus, a fighting chance at inching towards profitability and long-term viability as a worthy rival to the state's Arena Football powers in Tampa and Orlando.
The trek began when Frey and Christian broadcasting magnate Lowell "Bud" Paxson bought the Miami Hooters franchise, moved it 80 miles up the Gold Coast to West Palm Beach, and rechristened the club to its current nickname. At the time, West Palm Beach had plans to build a 12,000-seat arena to house the Bobcats and the city's CBA and Sunshine Hockey League franchises. Neither franchise survived past 1996, and, by 1997, the idea for an arena had died, too, taking with it any chance the Arena League club had of fiscal success.
From that point on, the goal was to survive until finalizing a lease agreement with the new arena going up in Sunrise, a suburb of Fort Lauderdale. The team would play just six more games at the Auditorium, drawing league-record low crowds in the process. Even those attendance totals appeared to be generously padded; an announced crowd of 2,062 for the Storm-Bobcats game last May appeared by the count of multiple writers in the press box to be around 800, including the Storm fans who comprised over 10 percent of the audience.
Has the journey been worth it? Will the promised land of Broward County be for real or merely a mirage in the desert of debt and losses? Friday, the Bobcats and the AFL will begin to discover the answer to this three-year conundrum.
Noting the Storm...Roster Moves - The Storm welcomed back linemen Terry Beauford and Steve Houghton this week, activating them both off of the Refused to Report list. To make room, the Storm placed OL/DL Keo Coleman on the suspended list for unspecified reasons and waived QB Willie Taggart. Taggart, perhaps humbled by his 0-for-4, one-interception effort at the end of last Saturday's loss to Orlando, will likely try his luck in the CFL, where he, as a running quarterback, will be more likely to find a measure of success.
Our Coverage...Andrew Mason will be at the National Car Rental Center to witness the game. However, he won't have a computer in front of him. Our reports will come via a telephone relay connecting him with Joe Kauffman back in St. Petersburg. We will have a full box score on-line as soon as it is FAXed from the arena to St. Petersburg, and will provide a full game summary as soon as circumstances allow. We do promise, though, that for the regular season game in Sunrise in June, that we will have full live coverage and stats.
Series History...In their current incarnation as the Florida Bobcats, these clubs have met six times, twice in 1996, 1997 and 1998, with Tampa Bay holding a 6-0 edge. The Storm also won the teams' lone preseason encounter last spring at the Ice Palace. But the history of the Bobcats franchise goes back further than 1996. From 1993 to 1995, they were the Miami Hooters, and they faced the Storm five times, with Tampa Bay winning each one. In 1992, they were the Sacramento Attack, and they did not meet the Storm. Prior to that, they were the Denver Dynamite, and they met the Storm three times in Tampa Bay's inaugural season of 1991---twice in the regular season and once in the playoffs. The teams spilt the regular meetings, and the Storm throttled the Dynamite 40-13 in a playoff game at the then-Florida Suncoast Dome.
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