Back Nine: Great to see UF gymnastics break through with title


Published: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, April 22, 2013 at 11:51 p.m.

The Back Nine comes at you after an emotionally exhausting week in this country. Don’t you feel like you want to just exhale? Thankfully, we were able to get away from it all with sports over the weekend.

10. One of the coolest things that happened Saturday night was to be at the O’Connell Center on the very floor where the Florida gymnastics team performed this season and watching the Gators win the national title on my phone. And when it was announced at the Stop Children’s Cancer gala, the reaction was as expected — part exhilaration, part disbelief. It wasn’t that anyone didn’t think Florida was short on talent. It’s just when you knock on that door so often and keep getting it slammed on your fingers, you wonder if it was ever going to happen. Watching the women celebrate and the confetti falling, you couldn’t help but feel special warmth for the seniors. My mind went back to 2010 when Florida hosted the national championships and finished a disappointing fifth because of mistakes on the balance beam and bars. And Marissa King, a freshman at the time, came out and talked to a few of us media folk with tears in her eyes. And then you flash forward to Saturday night and this team fights back from early mistakes by dominating and there is King celebrating with her teammates. There are a lot of people who deserve credit and one of them is Florida’s athletic director. Jeremy Foley hasn’t nailed every hire during his time at Florida, but he has an incredible track record of finding coaches who do incredible things (Billy Donovan, Kevin O’Sullivan, Mandee O’Leary, etc.) and Rhonda Faehn certainly is at or near the top of that list. But mostly, the credit goes to a tough bunch of gymnasts who dealt with expectations all season and never wavered.

11. Meanwhile, Florida’s baseball team continues to move in the right direction in terms of postseason play even though the Gators saw their eight-game winning streak come to an end. Any time you win a series on the road, it’s a good thing. When Florida beat Missouri with a run in the 15th inning of Saturday’s game, it ended another streak. Florida had not scored a run in 15 extra innings this season. That’s a good way to get in a hole, but the Gators are climbing out of it. This weekend’s series with Tennessee is important because Florida follows it up by traveling to Baton Rouge the next weekend. LSU is 37-4 this season and 25-1 at home.

12. And the Florida women’s tennis team won another SEC title. I’ve said it before, winning conference championships is still a big deal around here. Congrats to the ladies. It wasn’t such a good weekend for the UF golf teams. Golf, to me, is the most unpredictable of sports, but I don’t think anyone saw a 10th-place finish for the men and a 13th-place finish for the women when both teams went into the SEC tournaments ranked in the top 10. I’m sure both coaches are hoping they got their bad tournaments out of them heading into the NCAA regionals. Also over the weekend, Gainesville won another national title. Well, kind of. Billy Donovan’s daughter, Hasbrouck, was part of the Auburn equestrian team that won it all.

13. Another very cool thing about this weekend was Neil Diamond singing “Sweet Caroline” at the Boston Red Sox game. So good. So good. So good. It was an amazing Saturday at Fenway Park. In fact, it was an amazing weekend all over this country. Certainly, the Back Nine is saying prayers not only for the families of all who suffered losses last week, but the poor souls who are still in Boston hospitals. Next year’s Boston Marathon will not be lacking for participants.

14. I don’t watch a lot of NBA games, but when the playoffs come I pay attention. It’s not as interesting with Joakim Noah out and David Lee finished, but it’s still playoff basketball. Imagine if the playoffs were like the NCAA Tournament and a team like the Heat had to play at a neutral site and would be out with one loss. The NCAA Tournament is high drama, but I’ve never felt like it was the best way to decide the best team in America. Sometimes, it works out like this year. But not always. And yet, we love it so.

15. ESPN actually had a two-hour show revealing the new NFL schedule for 2013. At some point, shouldn’t one of the so-called experts have said, “In Week 13, that looks like a great matchup but, of course, it could very well be a dud because the NFL is so unpredictable?” No? I look at the opening weekend and then at the early schedules for the state teams and that’s it because who knows what will be big games 10 weeks into the season? By the way, who did Jacksonville anger in the NFL to always seem to have an unfavorable schedule? Maybe it was the way the Jaguars botched their one and only attempt at a Super Bowl.

16. OK, so I heard a rumor that the NFL Draft is this week. Sheesh, by the time the draft arrives I’m so bored with over-analysis and Mel Kiper that it has become an involuntary reflex to flip the channel as soon as I hear the words “upside” and “ankle flexibility.” And then the draft itself is so boring and drawn out. It used to be fun to watch before ESPN turned it into an infomercial. I’ll just wait until it’s about an hour into it (which is about six picks) and see who went where. I am going to be interested to see who the Jaguars take only because they have rivaled Oakland for botching so many drafts. Let’s see how the new guys do. And let’s see what the Jets do with the draft pick they acquired for trading their best player.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Florida gymnast Marissa King on Saturday morning before the Gators prepared to leave for the NCAA finals — “Good morning everyone!! It's Gator day today and I am SO ready!!!” And then she and her teammates went out and turned in one of the gutsiest performances in Florida athletics history.

18. It was a pretty decadent weekend, so this week needs to be about working out. And that means new music for the iPhone. Try these downloads — “Grace For Saints and Ramblers” by Iron & Wine, ”Entertainment” by Phoenix and for a classic album cut “Peace of Mind” by Boston. I listened to a lot of Boston over the weekend. It seemed right.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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