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Thursday, Jul 31, 2014
South Tampa News

O’Neill: ‘Historic’ Bro Bowl a sign of inflated times


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The more we ponder the controversy over downtown’s 35-year-old, “historic” “Bro Bowl,” the easier it is to understand how this skate park fiasco happened.

But first, some, well, historical perspective.

Since when is much of anything from the 1970s, including disco balls, platform shoes and bell bottoms, historic? We’re not talking Watergate tapes here. We’re not even talking a ticket stub from the first Ali-Frazier fight. Hell, most of those born in the ‘70s are still 30-somethings.

As to the head-scratching inclusion of Tampa’s “Bro Bowl” skateboarding facility on the National Register of Historic Places, this is a function, however well-intentioned, of rhetorical inflation and euphemistic upgrades. We see it played out in society all the time. From our architectural designs and sports celebs to our political posturing and educational rationales.

An inverted, ‘70s St. Pete pyramid, for example, is a long-standing “icon.” So also are long-tenured coaches. Athletes, of course, are also “warriors,” “heroes” and “role models.” Foreign policy hawks are uber “patriots.” Bloggers are “pundits.”

Our polarizing politics reminds us that pro-abortion is really “pro-choice.” Anti-choice is actually “pro-life.” Pro-gun advocates prefer “pro-Second Amendment” labeling. Out-of-context, ideological heavyweights are “Founding Fathers.” And liberals are “progressives,” thank you.

Not even death escapes rhetorical overkill when it’s a “negative patient outcome.” Too often an off-putting show of arrogance has become colorful “swagger.” Minimal accomplishments are “self-esteem” experiences. FCAT proponents maintain “accountability” as their mantra. Useless presents are now repurposed and upgraded to “re-gift” status. Virtually any and everything is subject to being assessed as “awesome” — or the more nuanced “like awesome.”

And that’s how a graffiti-enshrouded, concrete bowl off Central Avenue — one that amounts to an aesthetic eyesore amid Perry Harvey Sr. Park renovation plans — becomes iconically “historic.”

The good news is that Harvey Park advocates include Mayor Bob Buckhorn and African-American descendants of Central Avenue’s rich, segregation-era commercial and entertainment roots — and they know a thing or two about negotiating and real history. It will be their job — because federal funds are involved in adding statues, displays and a history walk to Harvey Park — to come up with a plan to “mitigate” the project’s impact on the nearby “Bro Bowl.”

Insiders sense that a “mitigating” compromise is in the offing. Too much is at stake for any zero-sum standoff. An acceptable solution will necessarily involve the federal bureaucracy, the National Register of Historic Places, City Hall, old-school skateboarders and those sworn to honor the collective memory and local impact of Ella Fitzgerald, B.B. King, Cab Calloway and Ray Charles. Now that will be historic.

Oswald and JFK

Here’s an additional thought that was prompted by the recently debuted “JFK in Tampa” documentary. How ironic that the word “alleged” is scrupulously — and appropriately — applied to (untried, unconvicted) murder suspects. And that includes, most notably, the infamous Dontae Morris, the alleged TPD cop-killer.

But for too many media members the word “alleged” no longer seems applicable to Lee Harvey Oswald.

Perhaps it’s self-consciousness over appearing to be duped by conspiracy opportunists and “nuts.” Perhaps it’s an ineluctable concession to permanently moving on past a half-century-old crime. Perhaps Oliver Stone has been replaced by Bill O’Reilly.

But there is one immutable, unquestioned fact. With summary suspect executions, you get no trial or conviction or perspective. Had Oswald been subject to a public trial, frankly, chain-of-evidence custody would have been a prosecutorial nightmare. Cherry-picked witnesses and conflicting testimony would have been beyond problematic. And, of course, there was no 1963 counterpart to a dashboard video.

Applied today to Oswald, “alleged” is no mere legal technicality. Its absence, however, is journalistic malpractice.

Christie to call on Scott

Get ready for those Kabuki dance references that will surface next year when recently re-elected New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie comes calling on the Sunshine State. That the Time magazine cover subject will be heading our way is a given.

Christie is the incoming chairman of the Republican Governors Association. Officially, he’ll be traveling the country in 2014 on behalf of the 22 GOP governors up for re-election. Unofficially, he’ll be reconnoitering the 2016 presidential-campaign terrain and stockpiling political IOUs.

As it turns out, three incumbents that warrant visits from the RGA chairman are the governors of Iowa, South Carolina and Florida. Christie, of course, is a Republican whose trump card is bipartisan appeal and non-tea party electability. So it will bear watching how he handles the Rick Scott dynamic. Can you say optics from hell? In retrospect, Scott and King Juan Carlos will have never looked so simpatico.

Will there be schedule “conflicts” (now being scheduled as we speak)? Or will Christie take one for Big Tent Team GOP, play down the polarizing, unpopular governor’s anti-Obama shtick and perfume the incumbent pig with arm’s length, non-tactile, disingenuous praise?

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