The Back Nine comes at you after a week off to have our golf tournament, spend some time with my two daughters and chill for a couple of days. Miss me?
10. The one thing about having the golf tournament a little earlier than normal (and it was a perfect day) is that you feel like you have a full summer for once. But then you realize that we are less than a month from SEC Media Days in Atlanta. And even though the Media Days are a speed bump on the way to the college football season, there is no doubt this is one of the most anticipated seasons in a long time for Gator fans. You think about the situations inherited by Florida coaches in the modern era and this has to be one of the best. But not THE best. That would belong to Steve Spurrier, who inherited a stacked defense in 1990 and built an offense that would change the conference. One thing all of the modern day UF coaches had in common was changing the culture:
• Ron Zook inherited a lot of talent, but there was an attitude issue he struggled to overcome early because those players came to UF to play for Spurrier.
• Urban Meyer inherited really good players who needed to take the game more seriously.
• Will Muschamp inherited what were probably the worst attitudes of all, players who felt entitled and didn’t feel that practice was important.
• Jim McElwain inherited the best environment in that the guys played harder than anyone thought they could in their bowl game. But he had to get them believing they could win again after a record of 11-12 the previous two seasons. And the talent level was the worst of any of these coaches.
Dan Mullen inherits a team that went 4-7 last year and like every coach before him needs to change the culture. But I never got the impression that the attitudes were the problem last year. These guys just needed to be taught differently whether it was weight training or commitment or fan involvement or running precise routes or SPECIAL TEAMS!! Soon, we will see how much the culture shift pays off. That was kind of a long-winded way to say that football season is closer than you think here in the middle of June. And I promise I will stop putting SPECIAL TEAMS in all caps as soon as they show some improvement.
11. The display by Florida’s baseball team Sunday night/Monday morning was certainly discouraging for anyone who stayed up to watch it. You can’t give away runs in the College World Series and this continues to be a late-season problem for a Florida team built on pitching and defense. Obviously, there is going to be a lot of second-guessing about putting JJ Schwarz back into the lineup, especially at first base. I get why Kevin O’Sullivan did it, but it did not turn out well, Schwarz looked lost at the plate and lost at the position. The problem was that any move you made to get Schwarz’s bat back in the lineup after four weeks off was going to hurt the defense. If he was the DH, you have to put Nelson Maldonado in the outfield so you’ve downgraded that position. And obviously, they didn’t feel good about Schwarz catching. This team probably isn’t coming back after losing Game 1, but it has faced elimination before. And you are seeing just how hard it is to win this thing, especially two years in a row.
12. Because I have seen this before: In 1998 and 2012. Florida went to Omaha as the team to beat and spent the first few days out there receiving all kinds of awards. Then the games started and in both cases Florida went two-and-barbecue. College baseball is such a mental game with the draft during regionals and all the hoopla that goes with being in Omaha as a No. 1 seed. Florida looked like a tight team in its opener. But it wasn’t over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor (don’t @ me) and it’s not over for this team. There is a way to climb back into it starting today against Texas. It’s just going to be a really tough road.
13. The Back Nine watched more golf this weekend than anybody even though the U.S. Open was — for the most part — pretty boring. The USGA really struggles to give us what we want because we don’t know what we want. We want train wrecks, but when there are too many like there were Saturday they overreacted and made the course too easy. Mostly, a lot of people were unfulfilled because of the coverage. Paul Azinger has a way of talking over the action that makes you pine for Johnny Miller or Nick Faldo. And how many times did he say, “This green doesn’t receive shots, it repels them?” I lost count at 34. There were numerous sound problems and even the enhanced sound was annoying because of the fans who wanted to get on the broadcast. An occasional “Baba Booey” is fine, but it bordered on the obnoxious, not to mention obscene when the mics caught two guys talking about rough sex. It was a combination of a ridiculous course set-up, some really poor golf at times and less-than-riveting coverage.
14. But we did have Phil Mickelson’s meltdown for entertainment purposes. If you missed it, Mickelson blew a putt past the hole on 13 Saturday, chased it down and hit the ball while it was still moving. It was a bush league move and his explanation sounded like something he spent the next five holes trying to spin in his own head. I wasn’t offended the way some golf people were, but Mickelson just should have used his old line from another Open — “I am such an idiot.” He lost his mind. It happens. The fans continued to cheer for him and his reputation was only damaged for the serious golf people. The explanation was worse than the actually act, in my opinion. But that’s me.
15. I did watch about three minutes of the World Cup, but without a real rooting interest it was difficult to get into it. Maybe the answer for the United States is to get LeBron James to forego a move to another NBA team and get him on the pitch. Once his hand heals, of course. Although you don’t really need a healthy hand to play soccer.
16. One final thought on the 24th Bob Dooley Invitational, which was last Saturday at Ironwood. If you want to feel better about humanity, spend a few weeks following me around for this event and see how great people can truly be. It’s humbling to have so many people say, “Sure,” when you approach them about being a sponsor or donating a prize or helping with the tents (16 of 18 holes had one) or being on a hole serving food or beverages for 5½ hours. Everything went well and we will know the final total donated to Stop Children’s Cancer soon, but the best moment to me was Florida soccer freshman Lauren Evans, who has been battling leukemia, and her emotional speech when she was presented with our Jill Darr/Bonnie Freeman Courage Award. She finished treatment a few days later and that’s as happy as I have been in a long time.
17. The Tweet of the Week goes to the great golf writer Jason Sobel of ESPN.com, who was on his Twitter game during the carnage at the U.S. Open on Saturday — “The players who missed the cut at 9-over might wanna stick around all weekend and see if that’s enough to get into a playoff.”
18. So I haven’t been as diligent as I should be about getting into the gym because of the golf tournament (bad excuse) and the steam room being shut down while they renovate (better excuse) and a pain in my ankle (you have a lot of excuses, don’t you?) I promise to be better starting this week because my family has a vacation planned to the Grand Canyon, so I need to get in some semblance of shape. This playlist should help:
• “Hi Hello” by Johnny Marr.
• “Gold Rush” by one of my faves Death Cab for Cutie.
• “Fallingwater” by Maggie Rogers.
• “Dead and Gone” by State Champs.
• And for an old one, I watched the documentary and it was very sad and yet, very nostalgic so “I Woke Up in Love This Morning” By David Cassidy.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.