The Back Nine: Florida’s spring game that wasn’t

Gator mascots Albert and Alberta greet fans during last year's Orange & Blue Game. [File]

The Back Nine comes at you after another weekend without sports unless you want to consider the six bucks you took off a buddy playing golf or virtual Connect Four worthy of coverage.

  1. On Saturday, I think I saw the words “RED RUM” in red paint scrawled on the wall of my home office, so I had to get out. I took a drive in my car and headed toward campus because I could at least imagine what the day would have been like with the spring football game taking place and crowds of people milling around. Instead, there were tumbleweeds and a few couples walking on Gale Lemerand Drive and three females in white dresses and mortar boards getting their pictures taken on top of the giant Bull Gator (social distancing, ladies). As I circled back, I started to think about the “what ifs”. Because if Emory Jones had gone out there and lit it up in the pretend game, we’d have had a summer of debate about who should be Florida’s starting quarterback. So maybe it was just as well that there was no spring game that would have split the Gator Nation in July. OK, I get it. I’m losing it. Still, that faction of fans who believe Florida should sit the probable preseason all-SEC quarterback for a player who seems better fit to run the offense Dan Mullen wants to run is still out there. Discuss. You have nothing better to do.
  2. One other thing I was thinking as I was driving around was about how we can’t start a season until campus is reopened. And I don’t expect that to happen in time for the scheduled start of the season. But there is also this — if you pushed back the start of school a few weeks, it’s not like football players have had to have students on campus to have fall practice or even play the first couple of games of a season. Hey, I’m reaching. There is an obstacle that not many people have talked about. We could open campus in Gainesville, but Baton Rouge or Nashville might not be ready. California might not feel it’s ready to open. And Michigan. So it’s not that we have to be ready to open campus, it’s that everybody has to be ready.
  3. And another thing that isn’t being discussed is how much college basketball will be affected by the down time. Let’s say they don’t start playing until February and can’t practice until January. It’s going to be sloppy. But right now, you’d take a live game with both teams shooting 25 percent over replays of old games. Speaking of which, I wasn’t expecting to sit through the first two hours of “The Last Dance” because I was never a Bulls fan. But it’s a great soap opera. Can’t wait for the next two episodes. Does Joe Exotic make an appearance? The most interesting thing of all is that Michael Jordan wouldn’t let it be shown until after the Warriors had their run and people started arguing about LeBron being the GOAT. If Jordan’s incredible drive and ego ever got into a fight, you had better not be in the same zip code.
  4. By the way, Jeff Borzello came up with a Way-Too-Early basketball Top 25 (it’s not his first so is it a Not-As-Way-Too-Early?) and he has taken Florida from outside the top 25 to No. 19 because of the decisions of Scottie Lewis and Keyontae Johnson deciding to return to school. Somewhere, holed up in his house, coach Mike White cringed. In his perfect world, Florida would be unranked and expectations would not be out of whack the way they were last season. The other teams from the SEC ranked are Tennessee (No. 13, which is probably too high), Kentucky (No. 15, which is understandable because of what it lost, but you know they’ll be in the mix in March) and Arkansas (No. 21). Watch out for Alabama and LSU to be Top 25 teams as well. The SEC took a dip last year, but as it turns out it didn’t matter because zero teams from any conference made the NCAA Tournament. 
  5. I will be interested to see what the ratings are for the NFL draft starting Thursday. The last two years has seen a surge in the ratings with last year’s three-day average being 6.1 million viewers. But sports fans are so desperate for live news they may turn off Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime and watch something unscripted. They should set up cameras in three or four homes of Jets fans just to see them boo their pick. The No. 1 story will be to see what happens with Tua Tagovailoa and to see what trades may be made. The draft has been a big bore to me, but I will be so into it this year. And Vegas is taking 10 times the bets it normally would for the draft. The degenerate gamblers must be losing their minds with nothing but cockroach races in the parking lot to bet on. The over/under on quarterbacks taken in the first round is 4.5. I’ll take the under. The runs on wide receivers and offensive tackles are going to be breathtaking.
  6. Meanwhile, up north, the Jacksonville Jaguars appear ready to finish cleaning out the mess they created with their efforts to trade Leonard Fournette. I’ve said this before, that was a really good team in 2017, but in a lot of ways it was a fluke. In the last nine years, Jacksonville had averaged 4.1 wins in the years that weren’t 2017. But those young players from that team were so full of themselves after coming so close to the Super Bowl, they turned the locker room into a disaster. So the Jags have shipped them all out, one-by-one, and are starting over again. Good luck with that.
  7. Yay, we can start a countdown to the start of golf in less than two months. Considering that people are playing the sport in many states in America, it’s not surprising that golf will be the first sport back. The problem is that a lot of international players who are currently overseas may not be able to travel to the U.S. It’s funny, but I think we’ll get used to there not being fans on the course pretty quickly. Maybe they should pipe in noise like they do at a lot of college football stadiums (I’m not naming names, but I’m looking to the West) so the TV audience will hear the roars when one of the more popular players chips in for birdie. It’s an idea. 
  8. If it wasn’t a requirement of my job, I think I would shut down my Twitter account. I only follow sports people and it’s a valuable product for sports news, but for some reason politics keeps overwhelming it. I think I need another cleansing of some of my follows. Anyway, here is your Tweet of the Week from Pete Prisco of CBS Sports — “Jaguars shopping Fournette only brings into focus the fact they took him fourth overall and passed on (Patrick) Mahomes and (Deshaun) Watson.” You are correct, sir.
  9. I can tell everyone is going stir crazy because I have received more feedback on my Back Nine song selections than ever. Some are positive, some are frustrated. I will keep going with this playlist:

* “We’ll Be Alright” by Grace Potter.

* “The World” by Peter Yorn.

* “River Cross” by Pearl Jam.

* “Why We Ever” by Hayley Williams.

* And for an old one, “Ruby Tuesday” by The Rolling Stones. 

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at