No more Bloomin' Onion? The Outback Bowl now will be called Tampa Bay Bowl | David Whitley

David Whitley
The Gainesville Sun
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Remember Teruo Nakamura? Probably not, but he was the Japanese soldier who hid in an Indonesian jungle for 29 years, unaware World War II had ended.

I now know what he felt like. After hiding out on vacation in a California forest last week, I emerged to find news almost as flabbergasting.

The Outback Bowl changed its name to the Tampa Bay Bowl. I couldn’t have been more stunned if Will Smith slapped me across the face with a bone-in ribeye.

Almost every stadium, uniform and square inch of U.S. sports has been sold off to the highest corporate bidder over the past 30 years. Of the 44 bowl games last season, only the Bahamas and Frisco Bowls didn’t have corporate names attached.

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What's in a name?

I don’t blame sports organizations for selling out. Citi is paying the Mets $20 million a year for stadium naming rights. I’d change my name to Shecky’s Savings and Loan for half that amount.

But in a world taken over by the AutoZone Liberty, Cheez-It, Roofclaim.com Boca Raton, TaxAct Camellia, TicketSmarter Birmingham and Allstate Sugar bowls, it’s nice that one game’s name doesn’t sound like a commercial.

What’s really odd is Outback signed a six-year extension with the bowl in 2019. Sponsors haven’t explained the switch, just saying the name honors the area.

Whatever the reason, here’s to you, Tampa Bay Bowl. May your name survive longer than the average Bloomin’ Onion. ...

Stud of the Week: Florida’s 400-meter men's relay team, which ran the fastest time in the world this year (38.47 seconds) at the Texas Relays.

Dud of the Week: Florida’s pitching staff, which hit eight LSU batters in Sunday’s 11-2 loss to LSU. As Nick de la Torre of @On3Sports reported, that’s probably a school record. It’s certainly more hits than UF’s defense put on LSU ball carriers last fall in Baton Rouge.

Rival game:Back in Jax: Florida, Florida State resume their college baseball rivalry at 121 Financial Ballpark

Dud II: The “Today” show, is accused of altering a photo of Penn swimmer Lia Thomas to make her look more feminine. I don’t want to get into the whole transgender athlete brouhaha. But from a journalism standpoint, it's not a good look.

Dud III: SEC basketball, which had as many teams make the Elite Eight (one) as the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Maybe NBC can photoshop Kentucky and Auburn uniforms over Kansas and Duke in the Final Four.

Dud IV: The Cleveland Browns, for giving QB/massage therapist aficionado Deshaun Watson a guaranteed $230 million contract. Watson will get $30 million, and the rest will go to paying off the 22 women who have filed civil suits accusing Watson of sexual assault. 

NFL column:Sickening to see NFL teams tripping over one another to land Deshaun Watson | Habib

Lane Kiffin throws fans a curve

That’s a lot of duds. We can always count on Lane Kiffin to lighten the mood.

He was tapped to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Ole Miss-Tennessee game Friday night. Kiffin got to the mound and pulled out one of the golf balls thrown at him during the football game in Knoxville last year. His toss was a little off the plate, but it sure struck home.

In related news, Florida’s new basketball coach, Todd Golden, had first-pitch honors at the UF’s softball and baseball games Friday night. We’re pleased to report he did not hit a single batter. ... 

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Let's just forget the Gasparilla Bowl 

Clarification: There were actually only 43 bowl games last year. According to UF fans, the Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl never happened. ...

Corporate name trivia: When Anheuser-Busch chairman August Busch bought the St. Louis Cardinals in 1953, he tried to change the name of Sportsman’s Park to Budweiser Stadium. Commissioner Ford Frick prevented that, so it became Busch Stadium. Shortly after, Anheuser-Busch rolled out a new product — Busch beer….

Dud V: Sorry to go negative again, but how about New York City lifting its vaccine mandate for pro athletes and entertainers, just in time for Opening Day and the NBA playoffs?

The mandate still applies to employees of private companies and city workers, 1,400 of whom were fired for not getting COVID vaccines. The science apparently says it's safe to have an unvaccinated Kyrie Irving go to work but not an unvaccinated cop. ...

San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium was named after a sportswriter. That might explain why the Chargers and Padres never won a world championship while playing there. ...

And the Razzie goes to ... LeBron James

Oscar recap: I didn’t watch, but I heard Will Smith reprised his role in “Ali,” with Chris Rock playing Sonny Liston.

I did note that at the 42nd Golden Raspberry Awards Saturday night, LeBron James won the "Worst Actor" Razzie for his work in “Space Jam: A New Legacy.” James also won “Worst Screen Couple” for his teamwork with any cartoon character or Russell Westbrook. It’s hard to tell the difference these days. ...

Times have changed: When August Busch was pushing Budweiser Stadium, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union led the opposition. Everybody knows that beer and athletics don’t mix, said WCTU president Mrs. D. Leigh Colvin.

She was later run over by a team of Clydesdales. ...

That’s about all the space we have for this week’s Whitley’s Believe It or Not. I doubt this convinced anyone that I should have a stadium named after me, but I am willing to listen to offers.

David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at dwhitley@gannett.com. And follow him on Twitter: @DavidEWhitley

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