Sunday morning homily VII

To become a fan of any team in any sport requires making an investment.

Of course, there's the emotional investment, in which we pour our hearts and souls into following and believing in our chosen team. And then there comes the investment of time, where we set aside work, play and family, as another sign of commitment. Finally, and probably most importantly, comes the financial investment.

A fan's financial investment comes in many forms. There is the buying of jerseys, T-shirts, hats, bumper stickers, etc. Using vacation or personal leave time also represents one's financial resources. But for most fans, the biggest financial investment they will make will be in the buying of tickets, either for a single game or for one or more of the many ticket-plan options made available.

This season, having left the hockey-rich environment of New England for the sweat-inducing humidity of Tampa Bay, we stepped up and made a financial commitment, in the form of two different ticket plans for the three of us, to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

After last night's disappointing show of effort against the Carolina Hurricanes, characterized by a lack of fundamentals (namely shooting the damn puck at the net at each and every opportunity) and a discouraging absence of ambition, I want our money back.

I'm tired of watching Brad Richards, the Lightning's highest-paid player at $7.8 million this year, provide a dime-on-a-dollar return with his effort. I'm tired of watching players, even Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis, pass up shots in favor of making yet another low-percentage tic-tac-toe play just in case it might end up as one of the nightly Top 10 Plays on ESPN's SportsCenter. And I'm tired of watching Marc Denis and Johan Holmqvist get hung out to dry by defensive lapses that most often occur deep in the opposing team's defensive zone.

Most of all, though, I'm tired of watching players, such as Eric Perrin (making $450,000 this year), Paul Ranger ($450,000) and Doug Janik ($450,000), see their hustle and effort wasted by their bigger-name and higher-paid teammates. Here are three young players, busting their butts on a nightly basis, only to watch a teammate, such as Richards, look toward the heavens after yet another errant, and mindless, pass.

Granted, these kids, so to speak, may make some mistakes that lead to opponents' goals, but at least they're playing their guts out for the team, rather than themselves. And I'd rather see a error of commission, than one as a result of omission.

Going forward, and knowing that any request for a refund on the remaining games of our packages will fall on deaf ears, I know we'll be more judicious in our investment -- financially foremost -- of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

~ Count me among those relieved to hear that Boston's Phil Kessel was told that his testicular cancer, for which he underwent surgery this past Monday, had not spread, and his prognosis for recovery, as reported by NHL.com, is excellent.

It seems that my
prayers, as well as others who asked for divine intervention on behalf of the 19-year-old, have been answered.

Even better, for Bruins fans at least, is that Kessel could be back skating shortly after Christmas and will return to play this season.

~ Now that I've had time to sleep and reflect upon last night's encounter with Hall of Famer
Scotty Bowman, here's my proposal. I'm calling for a Get Scotty's Autograph Night for Saturday, Dec. 30, when one of Mr. Bowman's former teams, the Montreal Canadiens, will be in town to most likely beat the snot out of the woeful Lightning.

Anyone willing to join me in this effort that night should gather near Section 310, in the upper level of the St. Pete Times Forum, just before each intermission. Though you're welcome to bring your own materials for autographs, such as photographs, pucks, cards and, even, mini Stanley Cups, I'll have index cards and Sharpies for anyone arriving emptyhanded.

Once we've peacefully assembled (as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution), we'll make our way over to the last row of Section 314, just in front of the Forum's press box, and ask, ever so politely, Mr. Bowman for his letter-perfect signature.

Granted, Mr. Bowman will have to be in attendance (one would like to think, though, that he still has a soft spot for Le Bleu-Blanc-et-Rouge) for this to take place. Chances are, too, that he'll be less than thrilled by all of the attention and could seek the assistance of the Forum's security staff as well as a pair of do-nothing Tampa cops to maintain order.

But, hey, why not have a little fun of the penultimate (look it up if you don't know what it means) night of the year?

~ Want a good chuckle? Check this out. A little patience will be required.

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