The Back Nine comes at you after the first weekend of televised sports since mid-March unless you have had a security camera watching people do stadiums at The Swamp and were betting on who got to the top first.
- Dan Mullen continues to thicken his roster by using the transfer portal and it’s interesting how the three major schools in this state have been able to get better by using the portal. Gee, why would anyone want to come to the state of Florida to live? It’s like the old recruiting line Steve Spurrier used to feed out-of-state players about how everybody up North saves their money to retire to Florida so why not come to school here now? Of course, the transfer portal has given and taken away for Mullen and all of the players who left before last season were a big reason the roster was so depleted. But any time you can add three five-star recruits and a three-year starter like former Mississippi State offensive lineman Stewart Reese, you certainly have gotten better. Transfers can be a tricky thing because you have to do your due diligence to make sure they will fit in, but when you think about how three of Florida’s best players last year — Van Jefferson, Jon Greenard and Adam Shuler — were transfers it feels like Mullen really knows how to take advantage of the system. The key for this year’s roster depth will be winning the appeals for receiver Justin Shorter and running back Lorenzo Lingard for eligibility.
- The interesting thing about this lull in sports is that we can still change our opinions a dozen times in a week about the teams that will be really good this season even though we don’t know for sure when it will start and what the schedules are really going to look like and not that much has happened. It’s almost like we have had an extra summer without the travel and anticipation of a season to come. Or an extra talking season without news conferences. Does this time off make it more wide open for possible playoff contenders or just shrink-rap them down to the usual suspects? It’s difficult to say.
- What is not difficult is to look things up when writing a column or story. But for some reason, this old man blacked out during the column that appeared in Sunday’s paper. And I heard it from several readers. Yes, the Cal Bears have been to Florida Field before in 1974 for the opening game (the Gators won 21-17). The bad thing is that I was AT the game as a student. And you know what I remember? A deep pass that could have gone for a touchdown but was dropped by a freshman. His name was Wes Chandler, who went on to become one of the greatest Gator players ever. I remember THAT, but not that Florida played Cal. Just dummy.
- This was a rough few days because of all of the sports figures we lost, including one of the nicest guys in the world in coach Pepper Rodgers. He was an assistant at UF on Ray Graves’ first staff, hired Spurrier to Georgia Tech and helped lure him to the Washington Redskins (we’ll forgive him for that.) Spurrier had been fired by Charley Pell after Pell took over for Doug Dickey in 1979. “He had me up for an interview and I stayed at his house,” Spurrier said of Rodgers. “He wanted me to bring Jerri back up. He kept my coaching career alive.” We also lost Phyllis George, a genuine pioneer who laid the groundwork for women in sports on TV. Watching those old clips of the NFL Today really brought back some memories. And I will count the great Fred Willard among the sports deaths because he was in what is technically the funniest sports movie ever “Best In Show.” He was also one of the funniest people ever. “I would hate to go on a date with judge Edie Franklin and have her judge me. That’d be no fun.”
- OK, so sports is back, right? Yeah, kind of. I enjoyed watching the golf and even took a peek at the NASCAR race and toyed with the idea of putting sports on two TVs for the first time in 10 weeks. So it was something, which is better than nothing and the money raised by the golf event was phenomenal. It wasn’t a great show (but I watched almost all of it and even got my daughter interested in it) because the golfers were rusty and the banter forced and when the players said something interesting the announcers were often talking over them. It was weird to see them carrying their own bags and playing in shorts. Two things — why does Seminole, the course where it was played, not host a major and how many people will hurt themselves trying to mimic Matthew Wolff’s bizarre swing? The first question — the place is different and the members don’t want all of that activity. Also, it’s not the best course to handle a huge crowd because of the way it is laid out with all of those waste areas. The second question, I can’t answer.
- The wonderful McKethan Stadium farewell tribute video produced by the University Athletic Association really hit home with both fans and players. If you are wondering who did the voice-over, he’s a UAA employee named Nate Terrell, who works in receiving. Tremendous job by all. I think when we look back on the Mac in five years, the memories will still be fresh and we’ll forget how there were times when it felt like you were watching a game on the sun. But what I will remember most is how Kevin O’Sullivan changed Gator baseball in that stadium. There were so many great things that happened pre-Sully, but also a lot of heartache. I can’t wait to see the new stadium with a full crowd and the shouts of “Earl’s in trouble” and “My name is Blue and I have a problem” in the new yard.
- I taped the final two episodes of “The Last Dance” and will watch them at some point this week. It has been really interesting and everybody has their input on what would make another great 10-part series. Well, I don’t think anybody else has that much video of an individual locked away in a vault anywhere. I mean, if we had an actual video of Tiger Woods on the night of his wreck or at Perkins, that would be another story. So, do you think so many people watched because we were shut down or because Michael Jordan is such an icon or because there was so much candid footage that surprised us? And how differently do you feel about MJ now that you’ve watched it? Just curious.
- The Tweet of the Week comes from Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal, a must-follow — “There’s an insidious notion that some sports media are ‘rooting against sports to return.’ It’s an absurd claim to make about a field already demolished by games shutting down. Reporters are looking at plans & asking fair questions. It’s not ‘rooting against.’ It’s reporting.” Which is the opposite of cheerleading.
- OK, this is kind of an embarrassing story, but we have a trail back behind our subdivision in the form of a circle and I walked it a few weeks ago and ended up somehow on north 441. So on Sunday, I was determined to figure out why that happened and headed out on the trail again and somehow ended up on a different part of north 441. I was convinced I was in the Upside Down. I swear, I thought I saw Winona Ryder on the trail. It’s a CIRCLE! Anyway, a nice guy named John guided me out of there. This was the most exciting thing that happened to me this weekend. That’s kind of sad. Here’s a playlist:
* “Teardrop” by Jose Gonzalez.
* “Wildfire” by Mandolin Orange.
* “Better Than Love” by Griffin House.
* To make sure you’re awake today “Death By Rock and Roll” by the Pretty Reckless.
* And for an oldie, a reader pointed out something I did not know, that the ACC Commissioner John Swofford is the brother of the singer Oliver. The late William Oliver Swofford was a two-hit wonder and those two songs were a part of my teenage soundtrack. So this playlist includes “Good Morning Starshine” by Oliver.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.