The Back Nine comes at you before taking a little break for the Fourth of July with the realization that we are inside two weeks until SEC Media Days. What happened?
10. So Tim Tebow can add another notch on his resume belt — Double-A All-Star. He was selected for the game after the month of June where he hit .318. But mainly, he was selected, because he’s Tim Tebow. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. If Tebow was hitting .218 it would be difficult to argue with his selection because it is the only way anyone would pay attention to the Double-A All-Star game. It’s in Trenton, N.J., which says it all. But we will pay attention now, because that is the power of Tebow. (In a bit of irony, there was an open spot on the All-Star roster because former Gator star and Rumble Ponies teammate Peter Alonso was elevated to Triple-A recently.) There was some Twitter hate out there as if Tebow was the first player selected to an all-star game with less than stellar numbers (he’s hitting .261, which is 21 points higher than Cal Ripken was hitting before his last MLB All-Star Game.) Jason Varitek once made an All-Star game with a .218 batting average. There is a bigger point here and it is that Tebow is going to play in the Major Leagues. The Mets smell on ice and what better way to sell tickets to a woeful team than to bring one of the most popular athletes in the world to your team? There is also this — after not playing baseball for so long, Tebow just keeps getting better at that sport. (He’s a better Double-A player than Michael Jordan was, but I digress). Something to be said for work ethic there.
11. Meanwhile, there was bigger news over the weekend because of LeBron James and his third decision, this one to join the Los Angeles Lakers. You may say this is the end of the NBA, because once the dust settles there will be two super teams in the West and nothing but tumbleweeds in the East. But this decision makes the regular season more relevant to the casual fan than it has been in a long time. My Lakers’ history is a little bizarre in that I lived and died with Jerry West and Magic and Kareem and Wilt, but when they traded Shaquille O’Neal and kept Kobe I disowned them. So it will be easy for me to root against them, especially because I jumped really hard on the Golden State bandwagon a few years ago.
12. There wasn’t good news for the Gator baseball team over the weekend, as Michael Byrne decided to forego his senior season and join Cincinnati. Byrne had told UF coaches he planned to be back, but sometimes an agent can be persuasive. The truth is Byrne would likely make less if he waited a year because he’ll have no bargaining power and, really, what else could he do at Florida? He’s got a ring, is the all-time saves leader, Stopper of the Year in 2018 and will always be remembered as one of the best to ever come through here. I don’t think he’ll be a great pro just because he doesn’t throw hard enough (I watched a St. Louis reliever throwing 103 mph on Sunday), but all Gator fans should wish him well. Remember, it’s the decision of the student-athlete whether to turn pro or not. We all have nothing to do with it.
13. More evidence I got into the wrong profession — Bobby Bonilla and Jim McElwain were both paid a million bucks Sunday for not doing anything. I’ve tried not doing anything and all I got was a numb backside. Man, there is a lot of money that gets paid every year for people to go away.
14. While on the subject of going away, Blake Toppmeyer of the Knoxville News Sentinel did a piece over the weekend on the 2015 Tennessee recruiting class. It was ranked fourth in the nation and didn’t quite pan out. This isn’t a knock on Butch Jones because that would be too easy. Instead, it’s a lesson that you can’t be too quick to rush to judgment on a recruiting class. For example, I’m getting a lot of feedback from Florida fans because Dan Mullen has yet to wow them in the summer recruiting period. I tell them all to be patient. But even when the class comes in and is ranked, you can hold up on your evaluations. That 2015 Tennessee class only has 11 of the 30 signed players still on the team and only three of them turned pro (two were sixth-round picks this year; the third was Alvin Kamara). It would be even fewer still with the Tennessee team if Darrin Kirkland Jr. didn’t change his mind about leaving and Jauan Jennings wasn’t reinstated. The Vols have lost 11 players to transfers (including Florida punter Tommy Townsend), which brings me back to this ridiculous paranoia among college coaches that the new transfer rules will cause chaos. What do you think we have now? I was curious so I looked up Florida’s 2015 class, which was McElwain’s first. I counted nine starters for this season out of the 20-man class. I’m not sure what that says, but it’s pretty cool.
15. There are two kinds of people in the world — those who live and die by the World Cup results and those who couldn’t care less. It doesn’t mean you fall in the dumb Americans category if you fall in the latter category. I watched more old football games this weekend than I did World Cup. But I do get it. I get the pageantry and the flopping (great tweet from ESPN’s golf writer Jason Sobel Monday — “Ooh, my arm! It’s broken!” — Al Czervik … and every World Cup player) and the incredible interest in the sport and its biggest event. It’s riveting stuff in the last few minutes of a tight game. Kind of like the NBA. So, yes, I have watched some.
16. If you saw the galleries following Tiger Woods at the golf tournament this weekend, you received another reminder that he is still the lightning rod for the sport. Every time he got it going, you wondered if this was the time he was going to break through. But he did not. All I know is it ramps up interest in the last two majors and that golf, like all sports, isn’t scripted. If it was, Tiger would have been there right until the end. So would former Florida stars Brian Gay and Billy Horschel, who were right there until they faded Saturday. But that’s just my script.
17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Mike Mills, former member of one of my top three bands of all time (R.E.M.) and an avid Braves fan — “They do, however, need to upgrade the bullpen. This team could go far in the playoffs, but not with this bullpen. As far as next year, remember the Nationals shutting Strasburg down to save him; haven’t passed the 1st round since. Play for this year!” I’m with you, brother. Just having the Braves in first place at this point in the season has been great. And their game was actually on MLB Network on Sunday. I forgot what they looked like.
18. Woke up like a kid on Christmas on Sunday morning because the steam room was set to open at the gym. Alas, it turns out there’s another week of fine-tuning. So I jumped on the elliptical and listened to this playlist:
• “There I Find You” by Middle of Nowhere.
• “I Think I’m Paranoid” by Garbage.
• “Younger Years” by The Milk Carton Kids.
• “She’s Kerosene” by The Interrupters.
• And for an oldie, “”Message of Love” by The Pretenders.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.