The Back Nine comes at you after a tragic weekend that started out so well. And in the end, we were reminded once again that we are just dealing with games. It’s the people who count.
- This was one of those news stories that was so powerful you’ll always remember where you were when you heard. I was driving from Ocala back home after golf when my daughter Kelsey (the real journalist) called me. I told her someone was trying to punk her, that was not possible. But she convinced me and sent me trying to find news on the radio. It still seems like it could not be real and we’re all going to be numb for awhile. Full disclosure, I was not a big fan of Kobe Bryant. The reason I am no longer a Lakers fan is because they traded Shaquille O’Neal and kept Kobe. But whether it’s Tom Brady or Rafael Nadal or Mike Trout or Tiger Woods, you don’t have to be a fan to admire the brilliance and respect the hard work. There is so much to be sad about, it’s almost overwhelming. I really liked the man that Kobe Bryant was becoming. The pain the rest of that family must be feeling and the family and friends of John Antobelli, who was also in the helicopter. That’s what hurts me the most, when young lives are snuffed out before they had a chance to really live.
- Any obituary has to include the mistakes Bryant made because they are a part of the definition of who he was. Some were calling it insensitive when Bob Costas brought up the rape allegation and other things Bryant apologized for, but I thought he said this perfectly — “When something like this happens… there’s a tendency to canonize the person. It’s more truly human to say that he surmounted some missteps.” It seemed as if Bryant learned from every mistake and tried to be better. This next chapters of the lives of Kobe Bryant, the first guard to ever go from high school directly to the pros, and his daughter Gianna were going to be something.
- I’m sure this was not on your mind Saturday night, but the Florida loss to Baylor made the SEC/Big 12 Challenge finish in a 5-5 tie. No, you were thinking about how good Baylor is and how the two teams could play 10 times and Baylor might win all 10. And that says a lot about the Florida basketball team and where it is right now. There is going to be some “give up” by the fan base that has become frustrated with a team that was letting Baylor players knock down set shots from 3-point range and goes into these offensive funks that always include a handful of hero shots. I’ve been like a lot of you, wondering if it was going to click in and we would start to see the team we were promised by Jay Bilas in the preseason. I’m starting to think it’s not going to happen. Maybe we should just accept this — is it possible that this team isn’t that talented? There are a lot of guys who can do one thing really well, but how many can do a lot of things really well?
- We will get some answers over the next few weeks, because Florida has a chance to at least pad its record even if it doesn’t boost it’s NET Ranking (currently at No. 37). Florida has No. 48 Mississippi State tonight, has two games against No. 163 Vandy, takes on No. 86 Georgia, No. 107 Ole Miss in a rematch and No. 149 Texas A&M. That’s hardly a murderer’s row over the next three weeks. One thing that will help Florida as it tries to reach the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight year is that — outside of the Big Ten and a few elite teams — there is a lot of average basketball being played around the country. A nice winning streak starting tonight might not catch anyone’s attention, but it would help with the confidence of what appears to be a fragile team.
- With the news that Justin Shorter, a former five-star receiver at Penn State is transferring to Florida, it’s pretty clear coach Dan Mullen knows what he is doing with the transfer portal. Eight players in two years and the first four (Van Jefferson, Tre Grimes, Adam Shuler and Jon Greenard) have all had major impacts on the Florida program. One thing that a coach and his staff and even the players have to be sure of no matter how talented a player might be — does he fit in? So far, it’s worked out beautifully. And now Mullen is flush with five-star recruits. Look, none of us knows how many games this team is going to win next year or the year after, but these guys are building a roster that gives them a higher ceiling than we’ve seen around here in a long time.
- The Super Bowl is Sunday, according to sources, so I’ve run out of time trying to pick a winner. There are two schools of thought. 1. Kansas City is the NFL’s version of this season’s LSU football team and will eventually wear out the 49ers; 2. San Francisco is the better team overall and has been the best team all season and will show it Sunday. I happen to believe in the first theory, maybe because we are all still recovering from Bayou Fever. Even if you don’t have a dog in the hunt, you have to watch. It’s the law.
- Remember how you freaked out because it was already 2020? Well, we’ll be a month into the new year Saturday, which is simply to illustrate how fast time flies. Hug your children today and every day. If they live somewhere else, give them a call. That should be what we learned from this weekend.
- For the Tweet of the Week I wanted to stay away from all of the Kobe Tweets because there were so many and instead keep it local. So I am using this Tweet from the Florida head football coach — “Happy to see former Gator Great @CIngram_85 turn around his former high school football program and girls basketball program. #GatorStandard.” Likewise, I’m sure. C.I. has always been one of my favorites to deal with at UF and beyond.
- I have this new trick now. Whenever I hear a song that is pleasing to the ear I Shazzam it and then listen later and to all of the songs on the playlist the app creates. I did it at the Buchholz baseball fundraiser at Embers on Sunday night and came up with these songs for your listening pleasure:
- “No Woman” by Whitney.
- “San Francisco” by Foxygen.
- “Another Weekend” by Ariel Pink.
- “Some Sunsick Day” by Morgan Delt.
- And for an old one, because I watched the last hour of this Friday night and it still makes me laugh, “Best That You Can Do (Arthur’s Theme)” from the movie Arthur.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.