The Back Nine welcomes the warm weather and hopes everyone had a lovely Easter weekend. It doesn’t get much better for the sports fan than this week, including Monday night’s national title game. Butler bandwagon T-shirt sold separately.
10. I want to believe Tiger Woods because I think it would be great for the game of golf if he quit being robotic and aloof. If he really will continue to acknowledge fans and try to be less of a jerk for more than this week, it will be great for the game. But as it is in his marriage, time will tell. Nobody is asking him to be Phil Mickelson, but when you have watched Woods play the last few years the only time he seems to realize there is a gallery is when someone coughs on his backswing. Woods said in his presser Monday (which lasted more than 30 minutes) that he plans to be less demonstrative on the course as well. I thought he won the press conference and seemed relieved to finally be sitting down in front of reporters. Perhaps the most amazing thing he said Monday is that he played last year with a torn Achilles. This isn’t the end of the scandal because eventually he’ll play somewhere that gives credentials to TMZ, but he took a big step towards putting the negativity in his rear view.
11. Everyone is entitled to their own snapshot of this wild and crazy NCAA Tournament. Whether it was a last-second shot or a celebration or tears shed by rugged men, this was the kind of tournament that should make the NCAA hotshots understand why expansion would be a mistake. I’ll get to that later in the week because the Back Nine doesn’t want to sully the memory of one of the best tournaments I’ve ever seen. Anyway, the moment I will remember was Bob Huggins, a guy who is hardly thought of as warm and fuzzy, holding injured star Da’Sean Butler in his arms after Butler suffered a serious knee injury. It was a very emotional moment because you knew that it was over for the Mountaineers and it drove home the point that — at least this is something I believe — coaches are closer to their players than ever before.
12. I remember when I saw Donovan McNabb play for Syracuse against Florida in the Orange Bowl and I said I didn’t think he’d be much of a pro. Once again, Dr. Football hits it spot on. He leaves Philadelphia having played in five NFC title games and is the all-time Eagles leader in a number of categories. I understand this is a business, and on paper it makes sense for the Eagles to get rid of an aging quarterback. But anyone who thinks it’s an upgrade is mentally unstable. You know who it’s an upgrade for? Washington, which has been saddled with bad quarterback play for the last decade. The Redskins made a smart move and it’s baffling why Philly would trade an icon within the division. Sometimes I wonder if the NFL isn’t in cahoots with the networks. “Let’s see, we don’t have anything compelling the third week of the season. Let’s have Philadelphia trade McNabb to Washington and make that the Monday Night Football game in Philly. That work for everybody?”
13. I was pretty content on Sunday night after a nice pool day and Easter dinner sitting in my recliner with two TVs going — Red Sox-Yanks on one and UConn-Baylor on the other. And imagine my surprise when Baylor cut UConn’s lead to three points midway through the second half. It’s rare that I consider women’s basketball must-see TV but this was it. Then, of course, the Huskies decided they’d had enough of that and won by 20. Connecticut will beat Stanford tonight by 30. And Maya Moore, who had 34 points Sunday night, has another year. Methinks UCLA’s college basketball record win streak of 88 in a row will be blown past next season.
14. At almost the exact same time on Saturday afternoon in stadiums a couple of miles apart, the starting pitcher for both Florida’s softball and baseball teams had a big single and scored an important run in a victory. Ensley Gammel singled and scored the tying run against LSU in the sixth inning, while Brian Johnson singled and scored in the second inning against Vanderbilt. The point? The Back Nine doesn’t have one but thought it was kinda cool. “I’m always asked if I’ll let pitchers hit,” Gator softball coach Tim Walton said Monday. “I’ll let pitchers hit, but this is the first time I’ve had a pitcher who can hit.” Florida baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan is toying with the idea of moving Austin Maddox to first, Preston Tucker to right and Johnson to designated hitter when Bryson Smith returns from a finger injury. Not a bad idea because the biggest weakness I see on this Gator baseball team is that there are too many holes in the lineup.
15. Speaking of softball, Gator pitcher Stephanie Brombacher has become the victim of a “point of emphasis” this year on illegal pitches. She’s had at least 10 over the last two weekends, including one Saturday that cost her a run. There are numerous ways to throw an illegal pitch and in Brombacher’s case she’s not dragging her back foot on delivery. Now, I don’t know a lot about the intricacies of women’s fast-pitch softball but I do know this — this is ridiculous. Why would you want to slow down the game and confuse the casual fans in a growing sport? To be honest, it’s just stupid. “We’ve been working on it with Steph since she got on campus,” Walton said. “But we have to do a better job at the grassroots level. I think it just ruins the flow of the game. The fans don’t understand it.” Exactly.
16. A great man will have a night of tribute when longtime Florida trainer Chris Patrick is the guest of honor at the 2010 Dinner of Champions on May 8 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The event will benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society North Florida Chapter. Dr. Nick Cassisi and Marty Huegel are serving as the dinner’s co-chairs. Patrick has seen just about everything there has been to see in the modern era of Gator football and has served with grace, integrity and humor. Call 904-332-6810 for more information.
17. Tim Tebow has signed a deal with Nike and will make close to $300,000. The last time I saw a quarterback land a bunch of endorsements before he was drafted was Brady Quinn. You hope Tebow has a better NFL career. Don’t be surprised if Tebow ends up in Philadelphia. I’m back to believing Tebow won’t last until the second round but check back tomorrow.
18. The Back Nine is starting to put together the ultimate summer playlist for those days spent lounging by the pool, and these have made the cut — “Very Busy People” by The Limousines, “Symphonies” by Dan Block and for old-school memories “Sympathy for the Devil” by favorite Stones’ song.