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CHARLIE STRONG HAS GONE FULL TAMPA

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IT HAPPENS BEFORE YOU EVEN REALIZE IT

IT’S ALREADY TOO LATE

It could be that life’s busy, and you forget things in the moment. Maybe he’s just out of the shower, after a practice and in the midst of a busy day, and padding around in his socks when someone shows up, and boom—well you gotta meet the recruit, and you gotta wear shoes to go out of your office, and well hell, the sandals will have to do. It’s possible. Stuff like that happens all the time.

REMEMBER FLORIDA GROWS ON YOU SLOWLY FROM THE GROUND UP

Or maybe: Maybe Tampa’s slowly taking over Charlie Strong from the ground up, seeping into his bones like the mold that creeps into every house built there, leaching up from the ground into him. It doesn’t take long, and happens faster than you think. The countless Long Islanders driving their cars into telephone poles while texting and complaining about how Florida water doesn’t make bagels of the correct consistency—they emit a constant human energy, filling the air with an irresistible message that after a while even someone as strong in name and body and spirit as Charlie cannot fight.

That voice whispers: Wear socks with sandals. Do it. Stop fighting it and just wear socks with sandals.

A SMART CREATURE ADAPTS WE GUESS

He might be doing it just to blend in, sure, but the danger is real. His personal music collection may now be entirely nü-metal; He may now yearn, deep in his heart, for jeans so large another person could live comfortably inside them. He may feel a strange affection in his heart for sinkholes and restaurants that serve dinner at 4:30 p.m., and the need to own a boat that will eventually end up living in his front yard until “he can find some other fool to pawn it off on.” He’ll have confusing libertarian beliefs and join an embarrassing social club. He might buy a sword; he’ll definitely get an embarrassing tattoo. He will own three copies of Here Comes The Boom on DVD and won’t know why.

Charlie might have gone full Tampa, and once that happens there’s no cure.