Gator basketball — love it or hate it?


Published: Friday, January 28, 2011 at 4:46 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 28, 2011 at 4:46 p.m.

Is it basketball or is it them?

Is it them or is it me?

Is it me or is it you, too?

These are the questions that drift through that empty place that occupied my brain before it was destroyed by Twitter, text messaging and “Man vs. Food.” There are other questions that float around in there never to be answered like, “If I get out of my car and a lemon lands next to me, is the tree in my front yard mocking me?” and, “If a Florida football commitment happened in a forest and nobody was around to hear it, would it make a noise?”

But I digress.

The question I have for you today, Gator Nation is this one — is it simply the game of basketball that causes you to have such polarizing feelings about the players on your team, or is it this group of Gators that evokes so many diverse emotions?

I thought about this because of the amazing shot Erving Walker made to force double overtime in a huge win for UF up in Athens. Had that shot rimmed out, Walker would have been vilified not for missing the shot but for two missed free throws at the end of regulation. That would have meant the mighty Gators would have two SEC losses and Walker’s missed free throws would have been the smoking guns in both.

Instead, the shot went in and Walker is lovable little Erv again.

The same guy you have wanted off the floor so many times after one of those drives into the lane that ended with a pass to nowhere. The same guy you cheered when he made a long 3 or a teardrop floater in the lane. He is just one of the players on this team who are polarizing for the Gator Nation.

Or is it just basketball? It’s a game where more than half the shots usually don’t go in. The best free-throw shooters miss a couple out of every 10. Every team gives up put-backs and has turnovers and takes bad shots. The Oh-Fours had their share of bad plays and bad games, but I don’t remember them receiving so much criticism.

Maybe it is just this team. Maybe it’s because these seniors have yet to build up a lot of equity. They have won zero NCAA games and have yet to get out of the second round of the SEC Tournament the last three years. Before this season, UF was a pedestrian 26-22 in SEC games the last three years.

This year was supposed to be different and so far it has been, albeit with a few speed bumps the size of Renardo Sidney. Maybe that’s why there has been a love/hate ... no wait. There is no hate in the Gator Nation for any of these guys. That is reserved for the opponents. It’s more of a love/I’m-not-taking-your-calls relationship.

Walker is the leader of the Polar Bears (Polarizing? Get it?) because there are a lot of you out there who don’t believe Florida should have a 5-foot-7-in-sneakers point guard at this level, especially one with such a green light to shoot and drive into the tall timber. But then he makes a shot, and all is forgiven.

Vernon Macklin? Much improved. Has a nice baby hook. Until he takes it from 20 feet. Or gets fouled and then you have to look away when he shoots free throws.

Alex Tyus? Remember how happy you were that he came back for his senior year? Until he takes a 3-pointer or plays invisible for a long stretch in a game.

How many times has Chandler Parsons taken a 3 and you’ve yelled at your TV, “No!” And then it went in?

How many times has Kenny Boynton missed a 3 and you’ve discussed with a friend how you would have changed his funky shooting motion if you were the coach?

These are your guys, and you love them when they win and are upset when they lose. They are flawed players who have to play as a team with an edge. Then, they are pretty good.

They go into today’s game with a record you hoped for before the season began — 16-4, 5-1 in the SEC. Four impressive road wins at FSU, Xavier, Tennessee and Georgia. RPI hovering in the teens.

What’s not to like?

But it’s basketball.

How can Corey take that shot? Why can’t Humphrey shoot free throws? Noah missed another bunny! Come on, Taurean, focus.

Try to enjoy the rest of the season.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. You can listen to The Pat Dooley Show weekdays from 4-6 p.m. on 104.9 FM. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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