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Martin Fennelly, Times Sports Columnist

Martin Fennelly

Martin Fennelly is a sports columnist for the Tampa Bay Times. He was born in New York City, raised on Long Island and was sitting in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium, minding his own business, when Reggie Jackson hit three home runs in one night to beat the Dodgers in the 1977 World Series. Prior to joining the Times, he worked as a columnist for the Tampa Tribune, St. Louis Sun and Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Martin graduated from the University of Albany, where he studied history, and attended the University of Missouri Graduate School of Journalism. He lives in Lutz with his wife, Siobhan, their children, Conor and Norah, and, at present, five cats.

Phone: (727) 893-8495

  1. Fennelly: USF thrashes Temple to stay unbeaten; too bad not many saw it in person



    No. 21 USF ran its record to 4-0 Thursday night with some payback against Temple, a 43-7 trouncing, no contest, as if anyone cares, at least judging by the paltry crowd at Raymond James Stadium. Where was everybody?

    The Bulls are 22-4 in their past 26 games and this is what they get for a nationally televised game? An announced attendance of 24,325?

    If only Temple traveled better....

    Bulls cornerback Deatrick Nichols (3) celebrates with teammates after making a defensive play during the first half.
  2. Fennelly: Joe Maddon's return must be bittersweet for Rays fans


    If you are a Rays fan, you might have left Tropicana Field a little down on Tuesday night.

    It was Joe Maddon reunion night, Joe Ma back at the Trop for the first time since he left for his dream job with the Chicago Cubs, which he made even dreamier with a once-in-a-hundred years world championship.

    And here are the Rays, stuck inside another losing season, their third under Kevin Cash, though remember: Maddon came up a loser in 2014, his final season in Tampa Bay....

    Joe Maddon got out at just the right time, as it turned out, Martin Fennelly writes.
  3. Bucs fever: Timing your jump onto the pirate ship


    TAMPA — Hoist the flags! Fire the cannons!

    We give you the 1-0 Bucs.

    Start phoning the perfect '72 Dolphins for comment!

    I don't want to take too much away from Sunday's season-opening blowout over the Bears. There aren't NFL Mondays when fans can feel like they're rooting for kings of the world. Bucs fans, enjoy this.

    Your team began by trouncing someone. An inferior someone, with an inferior Mike Glennon, but you can't make the other team better no matter how well you play, can you?...

    Bucs defensive back Robert McClain (36) celebrates after returning an interception for a touchdown during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. Bucs Report Card: Grading Tampa Bay's 29-7 victory over Chicago


    A mauling to remember

    Football was back. Maybe nothing else needed to be said. The Bucs said it anyway, making a rousing statement in the heat in their delayed season-opener, 29-7, including a 26-0 halftime lead, even if it was over the incredibly bumbling Bears, a truly awful team.

    They did it with defense and more defense. They stuffed the run early, with rousing takeaways, from Kwon Alexander to Ryan Smith to Noah Spence to pick-sixer Robert McClain. And with Jameis Winston to DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans. All with a helping hand (and turnovers) from former teammate Mike Glennon, who in his return to Tampa Bay had two interceptions and fumble. Let the Mitch Trubisky era begin! Meanwhile, back at the parade route, here's this week's grades:...

    Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans (13) makes a touchdown catch as Chicago Bears defensive back Marcus Cooper (31) defends during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  5. This community needs a Bucs win. The Bucs need it more


    TAMPA — They starred on Hard Knocks. They got through Irma. They hope, as Jameis Winston said, that Sunday's belated season-opener produces something more than a football game.

    "A lot of people in this city have some troubling times right now," Winston said. "It's exciting that hopefully this team can hopefully be the giddy-up for people who were affected by the storm."

    Now they just have to go out and win....

     Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy looks up at the scoreboard during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars,in Jacksonville, Fla. The Buccaneers have lofty expectations and aren't afraid to talk about them. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File) NY198
  6. Fennelly: This is how USF is supposed to look



    Football was back. That might have been victory enough.

    But there was more.

    “Tonight was a major step forward,” USF coach Charlie Strong said.

    We still haven’t seen No. 22 USF put together a complete game, even after a 47-23 win in Lovie Smith’s return Raymond James Stadium. It was as if Lovie never left.

    But can I say something?

    USF just beat the ever-living stuffing and put up nearly 700 yards on a Big Ten team, albeit Illinois, on just three days of practice after Irma....

  7. Fennelly: At USF game, everyone has power — of love


    TAMPA — Walking through the parking lots at Raymond James Stadium three hours before a football game — yes, a football game — you could hear the hum of generators. But it was a hopeful sound. The bounce house in the fan area was kept inflated. TVs were powered at tailgate parties. People were laughing. There was a game.

    USF returned to the football field Friday night, defeating Illinois 47-23 on national TV. The Bulls brought a lot of people along with them, including high school football teams whose games had been postponed. The teams were admitted for free, as well as first responders and their families....

    University of South Florida Bulls fan Chuck Rogers, of Plant City, poses for a photograph along with a generator that provided electricity for his home during Hurricane Irma Friday, Sept. 15, 2017 in Tampa. Rogers is now using the generator for tailgating prior to the Bulls' game against  Illinois.
  8. Fennelly: Lovie Smith's return with Illinois to face USF is bizarre, well, except to Lovie


    TAMPA — Lovie Smith insists it's a business trip, a chance for his Illinois football team to go 3-0. The Fighting Illini had three wins all of last season, Smith's first as head coach in Champaign.

    When Smith takes his team into Raymond James Stadium on Friday night to face No. 22 USF on national TV, it represents his return to Tampa as a head coach after being fired by the Bucs shortly after the 2015 season. And I bet it matters to him, whether he says it or not. He says not....

    “Our football team needs to get a road win. Not a whole lot more than that,” Illinois’ Lovie Smith says about returning to Tampa for the first time as coach after being fired by the Bucs.
  9. Lovie Smith, Joe Maddon might be a welcome diversion for fans


    Provided we all have power, eventually we’ll turn our minds back to games.

    Or maybe we won’t. That’s fine, too.

    Relief efforts across our state. That’s what matters.

    But our sports might be some fun, a diversion.

    Story lines galore.

    Welcome back, Lovie.

    Welcome back, Mike.

    Welcome back, Joe Ma and Zo!

    Dig in, deep-dish style. Home sweet Chicago. A reunion tour to beat all....

  10. Fennelly: Derrick Brooks goes bold on Bucs: 11-5 record, division winners


    Twenty years ago, the Bucs broke out.

    They opened the 1997 season with a stunning, tell-the-world 13-6 victory at home over Steve Young, Jerry Rice and the San Francisco 49ers.

    What a day. Warren Sapp was a man on fire with 11 tackles and 21/2 of the Bucs' seven sacks. Both Young and Rice were knocked from the game.

    Second-year Bucs coach Tony Dungy and his team made a statement that afternoon, one that carried over from a strong finish in 1996, and it led the Bucs to the playoffs for the first time since 1982....

    "I'm pretty bold, man," Bucs Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks said. "They go 11-5, and they win the division." [DIRK SHADD | Times]
  11. Fennelly: Lightning must prove itself to erase doubts

    Lightning Strikes

    Lost in the delayed start to the Bucs season is that the team with the best chance at a championship opens training camp next week, under the cover of football.

    The Lightning.


    It was easy enough to forget after last season, when all its potential and possibilities vanished in a season that came up short of even the playoffs.

    And it will be easy enough to break this team into little pieces if it doesn't come through this time. GM Steve Yzerman has tweaked the roster. It had better be enough....

    Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper minds the bench during the first period of Tuesday's (3/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Arizona Coyotes at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  12. Fennelly: Cheating must come naturally in New England

    The Heater

    I guess they just like their cheating in New England.

    It comes as naturally as the changing of the leaves.

    So, the Boston Red Sox allegedly used video replay to steal signs and then relay them to personnel wearing Apple watches in the dugout. Information was then allegedly passed on to Boston batters at the plate.

    Apple watches.

    Excuse me, do you have the correct pitch selection?...

    The Red Sox’s Eduardo Nunez throws attitude after doubling vs. the Rays last month. Did he get a little sign-stealing help?
  13. Fennelly: Irma left NFL little choice


    It was the right move.

    It was the only move.

    The NFL took the long way home, but it will make the Bucs and Dolphins play in Week 11, in what was once their bye week.

    Sixteen straight games without a break isn’t easy. I’m sure the Bucs didn’t want this....

    The Bucs take the field before their preseason game against the Redskins.
  14. Fennelly: Irma making the rules as it approaches



    The announced crowd at Tuesday night’s Rays game against the Minnesota Twins was 6,509 – the smallest crowd for a Rays game in their 20 years at Tropicana Field.

    Normally, that would be cause for laughter or another attendance rant. How could so few fans show up for a game with actual playoff implications? I’m sure attendance will come up again down the road....

    Evan Longoria scores in front of Twins catcher Jason Castro and pitcher Bartolo Colon Tuesday night.
  15. Rays stand tall for one night



    They are at least trying to make a last stand. Shaky legs, but they remain on their feet.

    Still standing, as Steve Souza was after he crashed home plate to score on a sacrifice fly Monday. Awkward, head clunk with catcher, neck pain after, not pretty, but standing.

    The most important series of this Rays season, as announced by starting pitcher Alex Cobb, began with a win for the playoff longshots, a 11-4 pummeling of the Twins at the Trop before an embarrassingly intimate crowd of 12,108. But they made the noise of 14,208. Their team was full of life, too....

    Steve Souza Jr. crashes home with runs