Welcome to SB Nation Tampa Bay, and welcome to the inaugural edition of the SB Nation Tampa Bay Power Rankings.
Once a week, we'll take a look at different areas within the local sporting world - one week may find us looking at the best plays ever, perhaps another time we'll pick the best quotes by a head coach, and maybe another week we'll tackle the best sports bars around. We'll mix it up quite a bit.
We'll take a look at the past, present, and future of sports in Tampa Bay, jumping into topics ranging from the controversial to the just plain ridiculous. We're going to start easy, though. Here are who we believe are the top five most popular athletes in the Tampa Bay area right now.
No. 1: Evan Longoria
As one voter said, it's no contest. In addition to hitting the baseball pretty well (on the FieldTurf), Longoria has been in a photo spread in Men's Journal, and makes an appearance (wearing his New Era cap) during every sports broadcast in the area. You briefly consider his suggestion of a senior prom for seniors when you drink a Pepsi, and see him every time you play a little Major League Baseball 2K10.
Oh, and he just might be the best third baseman in all the majors.
Pepsi Refresh Project & MLB (via Pepsi)
No. 2: Carl Crawford
Yep -- it's baseball season, and therefore, Crawford gets the second-place spot. One voter called him the "face of the franchise," and Buc 'Em's Craig T says he is a "proven fan favorite and a human highlight reel, with an irreplaceable presence in the outfield."
Bummer note: Because of budget constraints, Crawford may not be around next season, so enjoy his work while he's still in Tampa Bay.
No. 3: Vincent Lecavalier
Wait a minute. In football-crazy Tampa Bay, two baseball players and a hockey player rank ahead of any Bucs?
Let's see -- the Bucs went 3-13 last year, and don't look much better this year, so, yep -- without a doubt.
We got more than a few comments about Vinny, including some from our friends at Voodoo Five. Here are just a couple: "Best player on a bad team right now, but still got them to a Cup." "Face of the franchise." "Lousy tipper (personal experience on that one), but by all accounts a class guy as well." "Should be ready to bring the Bolts back to prominence after the Koules/Barrie fiasco."
I wouldn't worry too much about that tipping thing - could be a Canadian thing, or more likely, you gave him terrible service. Or he just forgot.
No. 4: Ronde Barber
We have a Buc on the list! As our friend Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com said, "He’s the last real remaining link to the glory days of the Bucs." Every single person who voted for Ronde made a similar comment using such words as "heyday," "Super Bowl," and "last of the greats."
No. 5: Josh Freeman
Heading into the 2010 season, there is a lot riding on Josh Freeman. Local sports fans know it, and there are plenty of eyes watching his every move.
Perhaps SB Nation Tampa Bay writer Clark Brooks put it best: "Because football season never really ends around here. And who else on the Bucs are you going to root for?"
Others Receiving Votes:
Steven Stamkos, Gerald McCoy, James Wilder, Jr., Jeremy Christie, David Price, Ben Zobrist, and Barrett Ruud. And we got votes for non-players such as Steve Yzerman, Derrick Brooks, Mike Alstott (of course), and, believe it or not, Lee Roy Selmon.
So, that's how this first edition shuffled out. If you have any thoughts on the top five list above, please share them with us in the comments.
And just as a reminder, we'll be doing these power rankings on a regular basis. If you know of a particular subject that should be covered, by all means, let us know!
Thanks for your time!