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This elevator will not bring us down

Because it’s an ELEVATOR, people! It moves in both directions!

This... is not a serious problem.
(Photo by Clark Brooks)

There are two things that people in sports media love to do:

  1. Complain
  2. Sound false alarms in order to cause unrest

It’s rare, but when they have the chance to do both, oh boy! It’s like having your birthday on Christmas, which anybody whose birthday actually does fall on Christmas will tell you is not nearly as big a deal as you might think.

Such is the case with the article written by David Wirth that was recently published at 813area.com that alleges the Tampa Bay Bay Lightning’s bid to host the 2018 NHL All-Star showcase could fall short.

Because of an elevator.

There are quite a few absurd assertions (Or “absurdtions”, if you will. Like that? I just invented it!) to unpack here, so let’s get to it... after this brief disclaimer: I am familiar with the elevator in question and I hate it too. I wrote about that way back in November. I’ve actually gotten stuck in the thing. It sucks, and that is exactly, in its entirety how much discussion the thing merits.

Now, the article itself and why it’s almost irresponsibly silly...

THE HEADLINE:You Might be Surprised to Know What Tampa Needs to Host the NHL All-Star Game

If you were to take an online course in the art of generating click-bait headlines, you could turn this in as your thesis and probably earn a solid B+. It’s not quite as immediately terrifying as the old TV news teasers (“What you don’t know before 11:00 could kill you and your family! Details coming up at 11:05.”) but it does raise the anxiety level enough to click on and read the article beneath it.

It falsely implies that the city itself needs to get their act together in some way or another, that the mayor and the city council and the chamber of commerce and Ye Mystic Krewe of Various Nonsense or Whatever has their work cut out for them if they’re going to pull off this miracle. But as you know by now, it will be revealed in short order that this story is actually about an elevator.

An elevator.

SETTING UP THE PREMISE:The NHL All-Star Game in 2018 is not a done deal, but the decision as to who will host will have to be made quickly since the game is less than a year away. What might help is if the Tampa Bay Lightning buys another elevator for Amalie Arena.

Mr. Wirth goes on to cite the improvements that have been made to Amalie Arena, as well as Tampa Bay’s history of successfully executing high profile sporting events, from Super Bowls to national championships in a variety of NCAA sports.

But that just might not be enough. If only Mr. Vinik could just buy another elevator. I have zero background in architecture or construction but I’m pretty sure adding elevators to an existing structure that’s over 20 years old is more difficult than buying an expansion pack for Sim Tower: The Vertical Empire on eBay.

HOW DIRE IS THE SITUATION?: In the article? Very, very dire. In real life? Not very dire at all. “Media members and broadcasters have long complained about the freight elevator that is the only elevator with access to the press box on the top floor of Amalie Arena. That elevator often stops at every level, and the ‘freight’ part means we share with food services and catering that services every level of the arena.

“...(W)e share with food services and catering...” might not be code language for “...we have to ride the same elevator as the unwashed hourly wage earners who handle food and/or garbage and have the audacity to need to get off at other floors in order to do their menial labor...” but regardless, many media members and broadcasters have such outwardly bloated opinions of themselves and complain about so many petty things that it’s tough to keep track of it all.

AN EXAMPLE THAT ATTEMPTS TO VALIDATE JUST HOW DIRE THE SITUATION IS:But in 1999, when the Lightning hosted its first NHL All-Star Game, I was on that elevator headed to the press box, when it stopped at one of the other levels. Hopping on at that point was Commissioner Gary Bettman and his NHL entourage. At the next stop, food services reps entered carrying half-eaten pizzas, sandwiches, and other treats that had just been removed from some suites. No one said anything, but never was there a more uncomfortable elevator ride than that one with the NHL’s elite… and carts full of messy pepperoni pizza and turkey sandwiches.

Gary Bettman and various NHL entourage member have been to the arena at 401 Channelside lots of times since 1999. He’s spent considerable time there, including multiple visits to the press box during the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. Somehow, he’s been able to overcome whatever level of post-traumatic sandwich disorder in order to make his way up there.

By the way, if you’ve never had Amalie Arena’s famous half-eaten sandwiches and pizza, you’re missing out. They’re available from an abandoned cart in the stairwell at section 305.

Speaking of stairs...

A MAJOR FLAW IN THE PREMISE: There are stairs. Lots of ‘em. Unless you have mobility issues, and of course that is a legitimate concern for those who do, you don’t have to ride the elevator at all. Yes, it’s the only elevator that goes to the seventh, and highest, level in the building and climbing that many stairs would be an arduous hike. But there are other elevators in the building, and they can take you to the sixth level, where you only have to climb up one level’s worth of stairs. I mean, I’m not doing that... I’m committed enough to my laziness that I will wait for hours for that stupid elevator if I have to...but I believe it can be done.

Maybe Mr. Wirth wrote this as satire and it’s so subtle that I missed the joke. But I know that things that many sportswriters consider to be matters of earth-shaking importance don’t really rate as such under normal people standards. I think many times, sports journalists confuse the severity of their problems with those of their colleagues who are writing stories between mortar rounds from under a table in a bunker somewhere far from home.

Two things are true, though: Tampa Bay has not yet officially secured the 2018 All-Star Game and the freight elevator at Amalie Arena is a piece of junk. All I know is that if the game winds up being awarded elsewhere for that reason, that arena had better have an outlandishly, unnecessarily posh freight/media elevator.