The Back Nine comes at you after an uneventful weekend, which is actually a good thing sometimes. And before we complain about Sunday’s weather, remember that it could be — and is — worse elsewhere (the chill factor in Minneapolis today is minus-63).
10. One of the things I did this weekend was enter the transfer portal. It’s nice and cozy in there. People treat you with respect and offer you nachos and free socks. I could live there. I kid, of course, but who would have thought we would live in a world where something called the transfer portal would be something besides a sci-fi term? The portal is another effort by the NCAA to give more rights to college players without having to pay them. But what if you go into the portal and come out in Norway? The interesting part of this whole thing is that the NCAA has been more lenient lately in granting waivers to players who want to play immediately (such as Van Jefferson and Trevon Grimes for Florida last season). And we’ve seen social media pressure schools into backing off restrictions on transfer destinations. I’m all in favor of players having more rights (although I don’t believe in them getting paid) even if the transfer portal has turned college football into free agency. (Don’t forget, it’s been that way in college basketball for years). But the interesting case to watch will be Tate Martell, who transferred from Ohio State to Miami and will appeal for immediate eligibility based on the fact that Urban Meyer retired. If that appeal goes through, Martell’s first game would be against the mighty Gators in Orlando. And it would open up another door in the portal.
11. It was another day of frustration for anyone who follows Florida basketball when the Gators forgot to show up for an 11 a.m. Central start and it showed right from the first play, a set piece for KeVaughn Allen to get an open look from 3 before the defense was set off the tip. Except he passed on the shot and right away you knew what kind of day it was going to be. One of the many problems Mike White is dealing with is the lack of an alpha male to grab everyone by the jerseys and drag this team where it needs to go. The coaches can’t do it by themselves. Players need to be accountable to each other, not just the scouting report. (This tweet by incoming freshman Scottie Lewis yesterday tells you that may be about to change — “I’m coming for everyone and everything. I tried being polite while doing my job but I see those two things don’t mix. SAME MOTIVATION, DIFFERENT KINDA KILLA.”) Meanwhile, Allen continues to be an on-again, off-again player mentally, almost a reluctant star. And he’s only part of the trouble. It feels like a lost season and could get ugly over the next four games. Or, the players on this team could decide they’d like to participate in March Madness. It’s their call.
12. I would think the Big 12 wouldn’t be trumpeting its 6-4 win over the SEC with too much vigor when you consider that three SEC teams ranked in the AP poll were not part of the annual proceedings. It’s a nice day of basketball and an opportunity for some teams to pad their resumes. But the Challenge is no more than that. And the truth is that when you have a 68-team tournament at the end of the year, the only people who really talk much about which conference is better are the coaches.
13. Go Rams. There, I said it. Some background. I was a huge Rams fan until they moved to St. Louis. Didn’t fully embrace them when they moved back to L.A. But being the frontrunner that I am, you know I am all in. Besides, isn’t 95 percent of America rooting for the Patriots to lose? OK, 90? Unfortunately, I don’t see it happening. It’s all about the experience factor in a game this big. New England 31-23. Sigh.
14. Two headlines on ESPN Monday concerning the Super Bowl. One was about Bill Belichick texting Sean McVay during the season. Another was about how the Rams beat the Patriots on a Madden 19 simulated game. Brace yourselves. It’s only going to get worse. The only things I find interesting about this week are the prop bets, where you can wager on a streaker being touched first by a player, a cop or a security person and the number of social media posts the Super Bowl will receive Sunday.
15. Speaking of dynasties (was I speaking of dynasties?), something hit me when I was watching the Australian Open (it was a bad Sunday for sports on TV). People complain when it’s Alabama and Clemson every year for the college football championship. But nobody complains about Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic combining for 52 majors. By contrast, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg combined for half as many. I liked tennis better then. Buy my point is that dynasties (like the one Tiger Woods once enjoyed) are OK for individual sports, but not for team sports. I guess that’s my point. The bigger story is that The Back Nine included something about tennis.
16. It will get lost in the hoopla of a Super Bowl and Kentucky coming to town for men’s basketball Saturday, but Friday night is one of those great regular-season matchups when No. 1 Oklahoma faces No. 2 Florida in Norman, Okla., in gymnastics. If you haven’t seen 17-year-old freshman Trinity Thomas perform, well, you are missing something special. Florida is back home next Friday against Auburn.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from ESPN’s Don Van Natta Jr. — “Jason Garrett may be the only coach in America who can squeeze only 7 points and 148 total yards from an all-star team of offensive firepower playing against a flag-football defense. #TheMastermind.” Wait a minute. The Pro Bowl was Sunday? Can’t believe I missed it. Must have been watching “Ted 2” again on HBO.
18. My wife is always correcting me (and Alanis Morissette) on what is irony and what is coincidence. So you know how I have a pet peeve about people who back into parking spaces? The other day, someone backing out of a parking space ran me over. Now that, she admitted, was ironic. This playlist, however, is not:
• “Love Is A Made Up Word” by Hush Kids.
• “Moderation” by Florence + The Machine.
• “Come For Me” by Sunflower Bean.
• “Red Bull and Hennessy” by Jenny Lewis.
• And because I saw this band has the top nine downloads this week in the rock category on ITunes, my oldie is “Killer Queen” by Queen.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.