The Back Nine has a new couch with three recliners, so where do you think most of last weekend was spent? That’s right, choosing among the hole-delay at Daytona, the 18th hole at Pebble Beach and the hole in the soul of the International Olympic Committee in Vancouver.
10. But first, let’s get to the news from college football where the NCAA’s Football Rules Committee continues to try to tweak a game we like just the way it is. It appears we’re headed for the Tebow Rule next season, as former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow continues to impact the game after his eligibility has expired. The Back Nine doesn’t think the new rules the FRC has called for to protect concussed players are related to Tebow. It’s more of a reaction to the NFL’s new rules. But not allowing players to put anything on their eye black has to be inspired by Tebow’s use of biblical verses, doesn’t it? I understand the NCAA’s fear that inappropriate slogans or sayings could end up beneath a player’s eyes, but isn’t that the job of the coaches to enforce? I just think back to all of the people who Googled John 3:16 after Tebow wore it in the national title game and how his father, Bob, told me that was his proudest moment. I wonder if there aren’t more important things for the rules committee to worry about.
11. Still, the NCAA doesn’t come across as the most pompous organization. Not this week. Not when the International Olympic Committee blames the death of Nodar Kumaritashvili on driver error. And then shortens the track and installs safety precautions on the luge course. And then says it wasn’t done to make the course safer but to make the athletes feel safer. That’s like saying Dale Earnhardt’s death was his fault but we’re putting these HANS devices on all the drivers to make them feel safer.
12. Of course, what would really make NASCAR drivers feel safe is to not have a pothole the size of Peyton Manning’s forehead in the middle of the track. The Back Nine kept going back to the race only to see guys who were dressed like they were dealing with radioactive material spend two hours trying to get the racetrack ready. I kept waiting for someone to cue The Beatles’ “Fixing A Hole.” I’ve seen workers on Gainesville streets fix potholes faster, and they get smoke breaks. The Orlando Sentinel’s Mike Bianchi points out this is the second snafu involving a playing field for central Florida in a little more than a month after the debacle that was the Capital One Bowl. This was not the Super Bowl of racing’s best moment. I just kept wanting them to put a Bob’s Barricades sign up and drive around it. Now that would be entertaining.
13. February may be the month of love with Valentine’s Day and all, but it hasn’t been lovely for Billy Donovan’s teams. Donovan’s Gator teams have lost more games in February than any other month. Donovan’s UF winning percentage in February is 59.8 and it’s 74 percent in all other months. Even the two national title teams went 8-7 in the month, and the biggest reason Florida may not make the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year is February. The Gators are 8-9 in the month the last three years. The Back Nine really can’t explain it. The schedule does tend to get more difficult. Maybe Donovan works his team so hard this is when they start to feel it. Maybe his teams become more predictable late in the season. But I don’t think it’s a coincidence Donovan’s deepest team in 2000 went 7-1 (with the one loss in overtime) in February.
14. There are four games remaining in February for these Gators, and how they play in them will have a lot to do with their postseason. Not only do they need wins to climb inside the bubble, what they would really like to have is a third-place finish in the SEC East (I’m assuming first and second are foregone conclusions). Thanks to losses by Tennessee and South Carolina on Saturday, UF is tied for third with the Vols and a half game ahead of the Gamecocks. The third-place finisher gets to face winless LSU (the drive for perfection continues) in the first round and then the second-place team in the West (no matter who it is, it’s certainly a winnable game). We’ll see.
15. The Back Nine watched a few minutes of the NBA All-Star Game where the star was the biggest crowd to ever witness a basketball game. It was quite a spectacle. It looked like a Final Four on steroids. I’m just not a big fan of All-Star games that don’t mean anything. It was worthwhile to see former UF stars David Lee and Al Horford play. UF made a big deal about it during the Xavier game, pointing out that Florida was the only school with two players in the game but failed to mention it was the first time UF has had any player in the game.
16. This is one of those weekends where it’s great to live in Gainesville if you like sports. The men’s basketball team is out of town, but there are five softball games, three baseball games, a big gymnastics meet, a men’s tennis match, a women’s basketball game and the school’s first lacrosse match all taking place during the weekend in Gainesville. Kelsey and I hope to see you somewhere.
17. The softball team opened its season with a 3-1 record at a tournament in Clearwater, and Francesca Enea put on a show. She hit three homers and knocked in 10 runs in the games. But Tim Walton has to be hoping Stephanie Brombacher just got off to a bad start and will settle down. Brombacher has taken over for departed Stacey Nelson and suffered her first loss after 42 straight wins. Moreover, she left Clearwater with a 6.91 ERA and allowed 16 hits and 11 runs in the tournament.
18. The Back Nine appreciates those of you who send in music suggestions. Here are mine for you this week — “Everybody Hurts” by various artists in the remake of the R.E.M. song with proceeds going to help Haiti, “We Are the People” by Empire of the Sun, and for the old school in you try a little “Incense and Peppermints” by the Strawberry Alarm Clock. Tasty.