The Back Nine comes at you after a couple of weeks away, some of it spent giving unsolicited advice to a pair of friends who had knee replacement surgery. Good luck to Chris Harry and Karen Kearney. I feel your pain.
10. The ballots at SEC Media Days went pretty much as expected down the line, although it was strange to see Texas A&M get no votes to win the SEC and four teams from the East each get one. That just goes to illustrate how difficult the Aggies’ schedule is. But if we are talking only about whether or not A&M can win the West, sure it can. Texas A&M gets Georgia on the road late in the season and the usual cast of characters from the West. The Clemson game has nothing to do with whether the Aggies can win their division (although it could affect their confidence level). I think coach Jimbo Fisher’s team is one of seven who can be in Atlanta — Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Florida, Missouri, Auburn and A&M. Greg McElroy made a good point in Hoover, that so many of us are high on Mizzou that it has almost become a cliche and now people are drifting back the other way. As you can tell, I’m looking forward to the offseason being over. I’m starting to confuse myself.
11. For example, it drives me crazy when people refer to the games of Aug. 24 as “Week Zero.” I’ve chastised many a radio host for saying that (not that it has done any good). Florida and Miami play that day. Last I heard, it’s not an exhibition game. It counts, therefore, it is Week One. It’s the true start of the season. But then you look at another team’s schedule and start to say, “Well, I like their chances in that game in Week, um, two, er, three.” So I give up. The only way to have semi-intelligent conversations with football people is to refer to it as Week Zero. Or Maybe Week One-Half? No? The implication of Week Zero just bugs me. I’ll get over it.
12. One thing for sure, Gator fans are probably tired of hearing or seeing or reading me be less than optimistic about their team. I’m being a realist, with a touch of the pessimism that became part of my DNA thanks to Lindsay Scott, 0-10-1 and two four-win seasons in the span of five years. Here’s the thing — if you had asked any Gator fan how he felt about 2019 late in the third quarter of the South Carolina game, down 21 and heading for a third straight loss, I doubt if any of you would have been thinking Florida will be a top-10 team this year. But Florida rallied against a beat-up defense, beat a 5-7 FSU team two weeks later and handled a Michigan team missing several key players in the bowl game. Hence, the optimism. I’m not taking anything away from what those UF players did, but I think the national perception of Florida is that the Gators are back. They’re not back yet, because getting back means getting to a ridiculously high standard on the field set by Steve Spurrier and continued by Urban Meyer. That standard is so high that two of the last three coaches fired had a combined record of 45-26. That gets you an extension at some places. The bottom line is that I think Florida has enough talent (and I am a big fan of this coaching staff) that the Gators could go 11-1. I think their first 22 could compete with almost any team in America.They also could go 7-5 if the breaks go against them. Anyway, the first Associated Press poll comes out Aug. 19, so mark your calendars.
13. Usually, when a guy is ruining my Sunday by blowing away the field at a major, I am rooting against him. But Shane Lowry? Come on. He’s Irish, I’m Irish and it was in Ireland and there was nobody compelling to root for to catch him. So I definitely enjoyed his walk up the fairway to the 18th green and even got a little emotional when he was hugging his family members. Just a year ago, he sat in his car crying after his opening round in the British Open. “Golf is a weird game,” he said. Amen to that. I don’t even like Guinness, but it felt like I should have one out of principle. So that’s it for the majors for more than eight months. Goodbye, golf. Hello, replays of old football games on TV.
14. Because while Steve Spurrier coined the phrase “talking season” to describe this time of year, I’m all listened out. Yes, we’ve heard the Clemson-Alabama rivalry heat up even more and we’ve heard Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald blame phones for the decline in attendance (talk about fighting a losing battle) and we’ve seen the magazines and preseason accolades and Jim Harbaugh say that controversy has followed Urban Meyer wherever he has gone (are they getting nervous at Fox?) And even though we have the earliest game ever, it’s still a month away. So what this month really is for football fans is Reliving Season. My favorites are the old games that I can’t remember who won so I can watch them as if they were live. One thing that still amazes me is why it took so long to get the time and score on the screen all the time. I don’t know how we watched football back in the day.
15. Caeleb Dressel wins races and sets records like you and I eat lunch. The guy is amazing and the 2020 Olympics are going to belong to the former Gator swimmer. So there’s that to look forward to.
16. It would be easy for the Atlanta Braves — with a 6.5-game lead 101 games into the season — to just go with it and count on their incredible young talent to get the job done in the postseason. But they do not have enough pitching to win it all and they have to make a move for another starter and a closer. It will mean dipping into that rich farm system, but you have to go for it when the opportunity is ripe. That’s my opinion as a Braves fan and I’m sure I am the first person to let them know that they need more pitching. Splitting that series with Washington was big, but I would hope they have loftier goals than winning the division.
17. The Tweet of the Week goes to Thomas Goldkamp of 24/7Sports — “Bad news: I gained several pounds while on vacation. Good news: That was enough to get me on the Rimington Award watch list this year.” If you are not on a watch list, you might consider the transfer portal. I say that jokingly, but you know I am not a fan of watch lists. Theoretically, everyone is on a watch list.
18. We went with a heavy Howard Stern rotation for the trips to and from Hoover, Ala., and his interview with Kim Goldman, the sister of murdered Ron Goldman, was riveting and revealing. But I still had time to find you this playlist:
• “Darling Buds of May” by Viva Brother.
• “Champion” by Bishop Briggs.
• “The Celestials” by The Smashing Pumpkins.
• “Fire” by Sister Hazel.
• And because my wife and I went and saw “Yesterday” when I got back from SEC Media Days and loved it, for an oldie “All You Need Is Love” by The Beatles.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.