Our annual trip to the Gold Coast of Florida occurred quite a bit later in the summer than it had in the past as our week’s stay in a Perdido Key condo ended last Saturday morning as the front end of a tropical wave promising five-to-eight inches of rain hastened our departure.

As usual, our journey east on Interstates 10, 12 and 10 again was with the Whiteheads—Cathy, Brian and granddaughters Jennifer (15) and Shannon (12). This time we stayed on the ninth floor of the 19-story structure that had a balcony overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.

Much of the time the Gulf was unusually calm, but the threat of thundershowers persisted during much of the week and then became a reality Friday night and into Saturday when we were heading back to the Lone Star State.

And what has been the case each of the many years we have been vacationing at Perdido Key, we ran into some other Orangeites with the same intentions.

This time as wife Susan and I were exiting from the complex’s huge swimming pool two male voices almost in unison called “There’s Mrs. Kazmar.” It was two of her former high school math students Scooter Carroll and Wyatt Prejean, who were staying at the same condo with their respective families.

We visited with several families around the condo and on the beach and one of them—the Szavadeks from Cincinnati—said they made it a point that all nine of them stayed at the same condo as they had in the past.

They were huge sports fans and loved all the Cincinnati franchises—especially the Reds and the Bengals—and couldn’t figure out why their football team couldn’t beat our Houston Texans in the NFL playoffs the last two years.

But they did get back at me by making fun of the Houston Astros being the worst team in baseball for the last two years and probably for this season, too.

Coincidentally, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos of the Class AA Southern League is a minor league affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. And Walt Jocketty, the Reds’ general manager and president of operations for the major league team, was in town for the entire week-long home stand of the Blue Wahoos.

And of course all week long the sports sections of every Pensacola-area newspaper, radio talk shows and TV stations were overrun with the Alex Rodriguez 211-game suspension for his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Jocketty was asked by a reporter for the daily newspaper, the Pensacola News Journal, if he thought major league baseball will have to deal with the A-Rod drama for the rest of the year.

“I think so,” the former GM of the St. Louis Cardinals answered. “I think a majority of players get it…and have gotten it for a long time. This is just a small percentage of players who are causing the problem.

“I can tell you that our players, especially the (Reds) playing at the major league level are pretty upset about it because it affects the integrity of the game, and they want to do what they can to clean it up and keep it cleaned up.”

Jocketty went on to point out that one way to clean this up is to allow teams to void contracts immediately if the players are suspended and in any way use performance-enhancing drugs. Kick them out, he continued. Give their money to other deserving players. If the violators are ever allowed back, it must be under the major league minimum salary.

He added that it would send a message. Fortunately for the Cincinnati Reds and their entire minor league system, they have kept squeaky clean–no player involved, not this year, not last year, not recent years.

One of the Reds (and Astros) all-time greatest players, Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan, told the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News last week he doubts it will stop unless the money is all removed.

“They are going to have to make it where there is no reward at the end of the rainbow,” Morgan told the newspaper.

Jocketty explained that the Reds begin the conversation on drugs when players first join their organization.

“From the very beginning, we educate players on what the harmful side effects are and what the ramifications are of being caught, how it affects  your team, how it affects you as a player, and we’re just not going to tolerate it,” Jocketty warned.

KWICKIES…The NCAA is getting out of the memorabilia business after being sued by former players and a handful of current college players in federal court over the use of athlete images and likenesses. NCAA president Mark Emmert said last week it would stop the process immediately after reports that team jerseys and other items linking individual schools could be found on its own website by searching for specific player names. “I think seeing the NCAA sell those kinds of goods is a mistake,” Emmert said during a conference call last week. “It’s not what the NCAA is about.”

Whatever magical spell the West Orange-Stark football team has over Nederland occurred in last weekend’s scrimmage between the two football powers as the Mustangs rallied from a two-touchdown halftime deficit to defeat the Bulldogs 27-26. The same thing has happened most of the time over the past two decades, with the ‘Stangs outplaying Nederland when the chips were down and it counted the most.

And while on the subject of exhibition football, the Houston Texans displayed a strong passing game Saturday night to down the stubborn Miami Dolphins 24-17 at Reliant Stadium. Houston (2-0) is still without star running back Arian Foster because of a nagging back pain that has extended into his legs. Best case scenario is that Foster will be ready for the season opener the weekend after Labor Day.

The Dallas Cowboys’ defense didn’t allow an Arizona touchdown, but six Dallas turnovers and four Cardinal field goals plus a very inept Dallas offense led to a 12-7 loss by the Pokes, who now are 1-2 in the preseason games.

The Houston Astros were mathematically eliminated from the almost impossible task of finishing the 2013 major league baseball season at the .500 mark as they suffered loss No. 82 last weekend, despite winning the first two series of their current nine-game road trip that ends today in Arlington against the Texas Rangers.

The topic of the Seattle Seahawks came up Monday morning on ESPN’s First Take. Co-host Skip Bayless said he doesn’t believe the Seahawks will have as good a season at home as last year (8-0) and doesn’t pick them to win their division, but to perhaps get a wild card. But his cohort Stephen Smith strongly disagreed and said he thought Seattle was second-best only to Atlanta in the NFC and believes the Seahawks should beat out San Francisco for the NFC West Division title.

It didn’t seem like a big surprise that two-time defending national champion Alabama was the top pick in the Associated Press preseason college football poll, followed by Ohio State, Oregon, Stanford and Georgia. Two more Southeastern Conference teams—No. 6 South Carolina and No. 7 Texas A&M—followed, with Clemson No. 8, Louisville No. 9 and Florida No. 10. LSU was No. 12, Texas No. 15 and TCU No. 20.

JUST BETWEEN US…Some of the many sideshows related to the 211-game suspension of New York Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez is almost like one of TV’s reality shows. The baseball players—even some of his Yankee teammates—are upset because A-Rod is playing every day after appealing his suspension and the fact he used documents he received from Biogenesis to implicate Milwaukee Brewers’ outfielder Ryan Braun and Yankee catcher Francisco Cervelli, according to “60 Minutes.” Braun and Cervelli are serving their suspensions. In his first at-bat Sunday at Boston, Bosox pitcher Ryan Dempster hit A-Rod with a pitch—something that is predicted to happen at each visiting ballpark in which he plays for the remainder of the season. In another scenario, A-Rod’s lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, claims the Yankees and Commissioner Bud Selig were working together to sideline A-Rod from baseball and nullify his contract, under which he is still owed $86 million after this season.