The Back Nine comes at you after a Super Bowl Sunday that included Super Bowl Sundaes (it’s a Karen Dooley tradition) and the return of the two-TV system for my sports room. Woo-hoo.
- It was a fun Super Bowl in that I didn’t have a real rooting interest and just enjoyed the immense weight of the game (which only got heavier after the ribs were served at the Dooley Dome). I thought everything was great — the halftime show (not my kind of music, but it was spectacular), the commercials (the Groundhog Day one was the best) and the game. I was happy for Andy Reid, but here’s something that caught my eye that made me really appreciate him as a coach. After the Chiefs took an 11-point lead with a little more than a minute to go, Reid went to his offensive linemen as they came off the field and to quarterback Patrick Mahomes. You didn’t have to read lips to understand what he was telling them — “This game is not over.” The point was that anything can happen like a kickoff return or a fluke touchdown and those guys might have to go out there and try to get one more first down. I admire head coaches who don’t celebrate too early. There were a number of players who could have been the MVP, such as Chris Jones and Damien Williams, but, when in doubt, it will always go to the winning quarterback.
- One thing about winning it all in any sport is the aftermath, because players change as people and rosters change because it is inevitable. It’s rare that we have a team like Golden State that stays together AND keeps it together for a long run (a long run that has since ended horribly). Let’s face it, New England has done it because of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and has been able to plug and replace. But that’s a rarity. Free agency, new contracts, endorsement deals, they can all get in the way of keeping it going. That goes for San Francisco, too. On a related note, please don’t jump on that Kyle Shanahan bandwagon that is blaming him for blowing two Super Bowls (the other as Atlanta’s offensive coordinator). If Jimmy Garoppolo doesn’t overthrow Emmanuel Sanders deep with 1:40 to play the Niners probably win the game. That play may have looked familiar to Florida fans (not the overthrowing) because it was the old Mills Play that Steve Spurrier brought to Florida and used with Ernie Mills.
- On Saturday night, I’m watching Florida’s basketball team almost blow another big lead and complaining and Kelsey told me, “Dad, don’t you remember one of your sayings?” Oh yeah. Win by one. And Florida got the win that snapped a three-game losing streak and did it on the road in a place that has ghosts. Still … I didn’t think Florida played much better than they did in any of those three losses. The Gators were fortunate that they were playing a team that is historically bad (the SEC losing streak has now reached 26, the most for a conference team and it’s 28 if you count two SEC Tournament losses). That said, this season is not about how the Gators look anymore. It’s not about style points. It’s about finding a way to win games (by one if necessary). And winning enough of them, no matter the score, to get into the NCAA Tournament. I don’t think this team is going to suddenly turn it on and look like the team we all overrated in November. But it doesn’t mean these Gators can’t grind it out.
- One thing we are reminded of every basketball season is that the non-conference part of your schedule is for metrics and rankings, but the conference part of your season is when you find out how good you are. We are seeing that with LSU, still unbeaten in the league, and with Mississippi State, which has five straight conference wins and suddenly looks like an NCAA team. It is pretty clear — even with five weeks to go in the conference season — that there are still seven teams with a shot to make the Big Dance. Auburn, Kentucky and LSU are playing for seeds, Arkansas just can’t have a collapse and then there are the three with a lot of work to do. Miss. State is 38 in the NET Rankings heading into Monday night’s games, Alabama is 41 and your Gators are 42. The rest are below 70 and outside of a stunning 8-2 or 9-1 run or winning the SEC Tournament in Nashville, I’m not seeing it. It’s important for the league (not only financially) to not fall too far off after getting 15 teams in the tourney the last two years.
- When they announced the second wave of NFL Hall of Fame inductees this weekend, there were a lot of people in Jacksonville who were bummed out Tony Boselli was left out again. On the Dan Patrick Show, Boselli had this to say — “Gale Sayers played fewer games than I did. Dwight Stephenson played fewer games than I did. Terrell Davis played fewer games than I did. Kenny Easley played fewer games than I did. … The short career stuff has to go away.” Which is a good argument. You can understand why Boselli is upset because this was an important year considering the players who will be eligible next year (Peyton Manning, Calvin Johnson, etc.) It also stings Duuuu-vaall because the Jags are still without a member in the Hall. Here’s the argument against Boselli — he played offensive tackle, only played in 91 games, played in a small market and his teams never saw a Super Bowl. Boselli was a dominant player, but sometimes it’s difficult to quantify guys at the position he played.
- It’s about to get busy around here and in some ways it’s the most wonderful time of the year. There is about to be so much going on for the sports fans in our fair city, it’s almost overwhelming. First, let’s begin with a laurel and hearty handshake for the women’s basketball team. I don’t know if the win over No. 13 Kentucky is truly the beginning of this program turning things around, but I know Cam Newbauer’s team is playing better than a year ago and that was a huge win. The Gators return home Sunday for Georgia. And a pat on the back to men’s tennis, the second-ranked team in the country, after it spanked FSU over the weekend. That’s never a bad thing. And gymnastics continues to look like a team on a mission after its win at Kentucky and recording the fourth highest score in the nation this year.
- But the point is that you are about to have incredible options when it comes to going to sporting events in Hogtown. In addition to men’s and women’s basketball and men’s and women’s tennis and gymnastics and swimming and diving and golf, which are all in season right now, there’s this:
* Baseball starts at home Feb. 14.
* Lacrosse starts at home Saturday.
* Softball begins Friday and will start its home schedule Feb. 11.
Track also is in season and has the SEC Indoor coming up, but only the two meets at home — the Florida Relays and the Tom Jones, both in April. Oh, and we’re not that far away from the start of spring football practice.
- Twitter blew up during the Super Bowl, but the smart ones left their phones in another room and came back to them later. That way, you get to see later how people overreact terribly. Anyway, this was not an overreaction by Mak Whicker, the columnist for the Orange County Register — “Just a reminder that the Eagles fired Andy Reid so they could hire Chip Kelly.” We all need to be reminded of that.
- Another Super Bowl is behind us, another National Signing Day approaches and here is another playlist:
- “Lose Your Mind” by So Many Wizards.
- “Changes” by Langhorne Smith and the Law.
- “Firebird” by Milky Chance
- “The King of Carrot Flowers” by Neutral Milk Hotel.
- And for an old one, I only take you back three decades to the time Paul McCartney (those of us close to him call him “Macca”) was searching for a writing partner who could bring him the edge of John Lennon. He settled on the great Elvis Costello and the album wasn’t much, but I always loved this one song — “My Brave Face” by Paul McCartney.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.