Back Nine: Games do best to take minds off terrible tragedy

Published: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, December 17, 2012 at 11:08 p.m.

As we all know, this weekend was not about sports. Or Christmas or graduation or food or drink. I know that everyone is hurting and those of us with young ones gave special hugs as we sent them off to school Monday morning, praying they would be safe. But they did play games and the Back Nine is coming at you hoping we can take your minds off Sandy Hook for a bit.

10. But first, let me say this. I loved what all of the NFL and NBA players did to remember the victims. I would only ask them this — don’t forget them or any of the others who have been murdered over the last few years. All of you players have a strong voice and a bully pulpit. Do what you can to try to prevent this kind of thing from happening again. Stay with this. Make a difference. These families need you and they need us. Don’t let the memories of these young children and their teachers fade away.

11. We all know how well Florida’s secondary played this season. The Gators finished No. 1 in the country in pass efficiency defense. And one of the key matchups in the Sugar Bowl will be how well Florida plays against Louisville’s passing attack. “I feel like we’re the best receiving corp in the nation, I’ll say it right here,” said Louisville wide receiver Eli Rogers. “We ready for whatever competition on defense, whatever secondary it is we’re up against.” OK, well, you’re getting one of the best Jan. 2. I had a long conversation with Charlie Strong last week and he’s concerned about Florida’s physicality, but he’s thrilled that he has been able to take his program to a BCS bowl.

12. And you would think Florida fans would be thrilled to be back in a BCS bowl game after going 15-11 the last two seasons. But I’m also not surprised at the lagging ticket sales. I know, the economy is an issue. I know, you just got hit with an increase in your booster fee for season tickets. I know, you’ve been to New Orleans a lot. But from what I hear from Florida fans, it’s more about who Florida is playing than where Florida is playing. Had it been Oklahoma, which would have been the opponent if Northern Illinois didn’t crash the BCS, it would have been an easier sell for UF. Louisville just isn’t that sexy, especially when Florida is made a 14-point favorite early. Me, if I was deciding to go to a game, I’d much rather go when I thought my team was going to win than when I thought there was a decent chance they could lose. But that’s me. It’d be nice to think that Florida fans would want to show up just to thank this team for winning 11 games and coming within some bad Lane Kiffin decisions of playing for the national title. But that’s not the real world. The real world costs airline tickets, overpriced game tickets and hotel accommodations. Not to mention money for hurricanes and po boys. Louisville is closing in on selling its allotment because Papa John’s — a major sponsor — is paying half the price of the $130 tickets in the 600 level.

13. A couple of schools made risky coaching hires this week, but I like both of them. Kliff Kingsbury is the second-youngest head coach in the FBS and has no head coaching experience, but for him to go home to Texas Tech was a safe hire because it was such a popular hire. Especially in the wake of the not-very-popular Tommy Tuberville, who left a trail of dust as he bolted for Cincinnati. “I was going to see if there’s any way possible we could get Cincinnati on our schedule,” Kingsbury said. Think he got some laughs with that one at the presser? Meanwhile, Louisiana Tech hired Skip Holtz. Not a lot of coaches get hired within weeks of getting fired from a place where they went 3-9. But I think Holtz is a better coach than that, and it’s a win-win for LaTech.

14. Yes, I did stay up to watch the debacle that unfolded Saturday night in Tucson, Ariz. (although I missed some of the game watching my next-door neighbor Mike Chasteen rocking it downtown with the Dixie Desperados). For 38 minutes, Florida showed why it can be considered a Final Four team. For two minutes, one at the end of each half, they showed why you’ll be hesitant to have them go too far in your bracket. In back-to-back Elite Eight games, they failed to close with 11-point leads over Butler and Louisville, respectively, the last two years. The same thing happened against Arizona. Let’s see what this team learned from the experience. I know Arizona coach Sean Miller said it would be like a regional final, but you don’t play regional finals on someone else’s court with 15,000 fans cheering against you. I’ll be more interested in seeing how the Gators bounce back and how they play in SEC road games.

15. Adrian Peterson needs 293 rushing yards to break the all-time record for a season set by Eric Dickerson. And yet, he might not only be snubbed in MVP voting but in Comeback Player of the Year voting. There’s this guy named Peyton Manning who could sweep those awards. A lot may depend on whether the Vikes make the playoffs (right now they’d be in) and I get that when you’re talking MVP. But for a running back to come back from a knee injury and put up those kind of numbers, I mean, you have to give him the Comeback Player of the Year. His injury is the reason I didn’t draft him on my fantasy team. And decisions like that are why my fantasy team finished three games under .500.

16. Pete Carroll’s Seattle team was up 50-0 last week and threw a pass into the end zone. This week he was up 47-17 and ran a fake punt. Who said the Steve Spurrier way couldn’t work in the NFL?

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Matt Zemek, a columnist with the College Football News. But it’s not a football tweet — “My sports wish 4 today: No one will make this a 3rd straight day of belittling Billy Donovan as ‘not very special’ outside of 2 natl titles.” It’s funny how much love the Gators were getting on Twitter when they were destroying a mediocre FSU team and how much negativity came at Billy when the Gators couldn’t hold a late lead in an unbelievably tough atmosphere. That’s the way it works these days.

18. Music is one of the things that helps us make it through weekends like this one. We all needed some distractions. I used these downloads — “Charmer” by Aimee Mann, “Big Blue Wave” by Hey Ocean! and for old schoolers and the lost schoolers “Tears In Heaven” by Eric Clapton.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at

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