The TV was on at Council’s, but no one was watching.
Lawton Smith had everyone’s undivided attention.
It had nothing to do with the big knife he held in his hand, gesturing with it to make his point while chopping onions.
That the Manatee Hurricanes play for the Class 5A state championship Friday made Smith a tad more animated than usual on his favorite subject.
Hurricanes football and hamburgers are always on the menu at Council’s, a downtown institution.
“You don’t think Tony Dungy’s going to be looking at game films with the Plant coach?” Smith said.
A rhetorical question, but the fact the ex-Bucs coach’s son is a Tampa Plant defensive back was food for thought.
Regulars Dan Hawkins, Debbie Beard, Scott Edwards and Bill King nodded, their mouths full.
“Yeah, ol’ Joe Kinnan’ll have a surprise for them,” Smith said, chuckling. “He wants that ring.”
One for the thumb.
The four-time state champion Hurricanes last title was 17 years ago, so they’re overdue.
Last Friday night’s impressive semifinal victory over St. Thomas Aquinas, the nation’s top-ranked team, has this town sky high and thinking big.
Especially those of us who weren’t around back when and hear about the Canes’ good ol’ days on a regular basis.
Usually over a cheeseburger at Council’s.
“This is the way it’s supposed to be,” said King, a dentist and MHS alum.
Those expectations have been handed down generation to generation since before Smith’s dad, Council, played tackle for Bradenton High, a forerunner to MHS, back in the late 1920s.
“You’ve got old-timers come in here during the summer — granddaddies who go to the games after their grandkids are done playing and graduated — wanting to know what’s it going to look like out there next season?” Smith said. “There are kids on that team who have heard about their daddy and their granddaddy playing at Manatee.
“That’s the passion.”
“Other schools have their followings, but Manatee football is huge,” said Beard, a 1969 MHS alum like Smith, who works at the courthouse. “End of football season, we start counting the days until next football season.”
The countdown on everyone’s mind, not just at Council’s, is the one to Friday’s 7 p.m. kickoff at the Citrus Bowl.
“I hope the kids can recharge after what they did to Aquinas,” said Edwards, a certified public accountant.
“It’s the state championship game,” said Smith, who will be at the game while Council’s stays open. “Joe’ll have them ready.”
“Go, Canes!” Beard said.
Mannix About Manatee, by local columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee County. Please call Vin Mannix at 745-7055, write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, FL 34206 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a phone number for verification.