PulseCards:The velvet rope

FROM:   Alan Grant in the streets of Tampa
DATE:   Saturday, January 27

The velvet rope

The Mag's Alan Grant takes us to the hottest nightspots in Tampa. And then leaves us at the door.

It sure looks like Florida. But it's cold enough to be San Francisco, and it feels like Hollywood because you gotta be on the list.

I was pumped to attend the Commissioner's Ball on Friday night. It was being held at someplace called Stargate. I didn't have a ticket, but fellow Pulse columnist Steve Wulf, had an extra pass. "I'll meet you there," he said. Fifteen minutes later, no Steve. No pass. The terse lady at the door with the headset made it clear she would not succumb to charm. "ESPN? I don't care if you're Stuart Scott, you can't get in here without a ticket." I walked back to the Marriott.

I stepped to the hotel bar and ordered a glass of wine. That's when a woman about 15 years my senior noticed my press credential. "Hey, you write for The Magazine? she asked. Yep. "I'm going to the NFLPA party," I told her. "Wanna go ?" She declined, but offered to give me a ride. Cool. I slid into the passenger seat of a brand new cream-colored Benz.

All that traffic -- and that third glass of Merlot pushing on my bladder -- made the 20-minute ride to the Cuban Club an eternity. The woman said she was "independently wealthy." (I didn't ask.) I thought: can she pay off the headsetted bouncer at the Commissioner's Ball? But instead I just thanked her, got out, and stepped into the NFLPA line. I spotted a smiling Brian Mitchell and Keenan McCardell. Finally, I got to the front, only to meet yet another terse woman with a wire -- and a chip -- on her shoulder. "No player's card, no entrance," she said.

"Taxi!"

Next stop, Club Rain. Derek Jeter was hosting a party. I prepared for another showdown with a gate keeper. "Grant," I said defiantly. "Sorry, no Grant on this list." Quick but ineffective thinking had me dropping names like Oprah. I mentioned every ESPN editor I could think of. She shook her head sadly. "Sorry."

So that was it. We were supposed to add a few contacts down here, but all I got was a ride in a Benz from Mrs. Robinson. My last, best hope is Leigh Steinberg's shindig Saturday night. That's the party of the week, IMHO. Lots of names and faces every year. Trust in Leigh, I always say.

At least you know the superagent rents out a place that looks good from the outside.

You can e-mail Alan Grant at alan.grant@espnmag.com.