NAPLES — The demise of this year's Gulfshore Shootout is an opportunity for the Collier County sports community to assess and look forward.
A few things have clearly emerged. First, Naples and the reputation of the Gulfshore Shootout have not been permanently damaged by this year's events. An individual promoter's name has. That's all. Second, and most importantly, is how much support the basketball community in Lee County was of a thriving Naples post-Christmas high school boys basketball tournament. They do not view it as competition for the City of Palms but instead as something that is good for Southwest Florida.
That is the point I've always wanted our sports "community" to arrive at, where the two (Lee and Collier) and maybe even three (Charlotte) counties formed a partnership to bring as many sporting events to Southwest Florida as possible. Ideally, this would be an expansion of the Lee County Sports Authority to include their neighboring counties. Jeff Mielke and his staff know that an event scheduled in Naples or Port Charlotte is good for them because of the strong likelihood the participants are flying into Southwest Florida International Airport and renting cars from there as well.
That's money that reaches them one way or another. So the more, the merrier, for everyone.
If such a "partnership" were in place, would this year's Shootout have been saved? Quite possibly, because when the sponsor backed out or whatever happened, the Sports Authority likely would have come up with the affected teams' airfares so that the event continued. Why? Because flights, rental cars and hotel rooms is how they make their money, and if the teams don't come the Sports Authority suffers AND the tourney takes a hit.
Big picture, the sports "community" in Collier County could use the help. The Shootout was losing money the last 2-3 years anyway. In fact, REALLY big picture, a regional Sports Authority could promote the heck out of this week.
The College Hockey Classic at Germain on Friday and Saturday is always one of the best college hockey tournaments in the country. The FGCU women's basketball team is hosting LSU on Friday night, and there's the annual Naples Holiday Shootout girls high school basketball tournament at Barron Collier today through Saturday.
Give Mielke and his staff some time, and it's not out of the question that some or much of this could be nationally televised. NBC Sports Network televises college hockey on Friday nights. Why not the Classic doubleheader? While the cameras are set up, maybe Germain Arena plays host to an FGCU men's/women's basketball doubleheader before or after the hockey? Maybe it's a full day of boys and girls high school basketball at the arena as a big promotional tipoff to BOTH holiday tournaments. And some of it could be televised by NBC Sports Network; these networks NEED programming.
You get the idea, bigger is better, and there's no seeing how "big" this concept can be until you try.
While we wait, the best thing anyone who wants a return of the Gulfshore Shootout can do is support the terrific girls high school basketball tournament taking place at Barron Collier.
After Jan. 1, maybe some sort of partnership with Lee County can be formed, officially or unofficially, where this region begins to work together in the name of sports.
Southwest Florida has the resources and facilities to do anything we want.
Going forward, as is often the case in sports, we may just need to get on the same page and become a TEAM.
David Moulton co-hosts "Miller and Moulton in the Afternoon" weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m. on Southwest Florida's ESPN Radio (101.5 FM in Bonita/Naples, 105.1 FM in Naples/Marco Island). His freelance column appears Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.