The Back Nine comes at you after a strange weekend with Covid-19 heading back in the wrong direction, the country possibly headed in the right direction and Sundays not feeling like Sundays anymore.
- All around this country, we saw athletes speak out and nobody was louder than Florida basketball player Scottie Lewis, who organized a peaceful march in Asbury Park, N.J. Chris Harry did a nice piece on him that you can read at FloridaGators.com. I also read some Twitter comments from Florida football player Jacob Copeland, including this one — “Only time they care about me … “ and showed a picture of him in a football uniform. I’ve heard this before from many African-American players (including a couple of former players this week), that part of the problem is so many people love them when they are scoring touchdowns, but if they weren’t blessed with athletic ability too many of people would not listen to them or invite them into their homes. Black athletes have a voice and we are more apt to listen to theirs. But who we really need to listen to are black lives who are just regular Americans. That is the point of this whole movement.
- A voice we will never hear again is that of Reche Caldwell, a tremendous player for Florida who kind of lived in the shadow of Jabar Gaffney. It was amazing the waves of receivers that came through UF under Steve Spurrier. You had the first wave with Willie Jackson, Tre Everett and Harrison Houston and the second wave with Chris Doering and Ike Hillard and Reidel Anthony and Jacquez Green and then the final wave of Caldwell, Gaffney and Taylor Jacobs. The one memory of Reche that sticks out to me was at one of those news conferences for the Orange Bowl in 2001 when fellow sportswriter Antonya English and I were alone at a table with him and trying to get it out of him whether he would go pro or not. Finally, he stopped us and wanted to ask us some questions about why it was such a big deal that we found out first. We actually had a fascinating discussion about the whole process and how our business works. So that’s my fondest memory of Donald “Reche” Caldwell.
- Scott Stricklin was nice enough to give Jeff Cardozo and I a tour of the new Florida Ballpark and all I can say (using the mock Steinbrenner voice from Seinfeld) is “Blown away! Blooooo-own away!” You think it’s something from the outside, wait until you get a look at the inside. The best thing of all was that we went on the field at the end of the tour and the field was bone dry after all of that rain we received this weekend. I think for big games, it’s going to be like the Masters where people have a mad rush to get their folding chairs on the front row of the two berms. The club suites are, well, sweet and there are so many TVs (49 to be exact, not including the coaches offices and team areas) that you never lose sight of the game. I literally cannot wait for the first game when everything is in place because what they have done more than anything is make it a great place to go even if you are not a baseball fan. Well done.
- As I was driving to the new baseball stadium, I saw the trainers getting Gatorade ready for the first group of Florida football players who were lifting on Monday. I guess that’s our new version of pitchers and catchers reporting. It’s interesting that Florida is one of the few schools that is using its indoor facility to work out and UF can do so because they can roll up those big doors and allow a flow of air throughout the building. Of course, when those doors were put in as the indoor facility was being built, nobody was thinking about a pandemic. Instead, they were thinking about lightning and how quickly you could get everybody inside if it was in the area.
- Seriously, why doesn’t Major League Baseball take 100 numbers, 1-to-100, and put them in a hat and whatever number is picked is how many games the season will be? Even the purest of baseball traditionalists cares very little if they play 80 or 70 or 45 as long as they PLAY SOME GAMES! All we casual baseball people really care about is the postseason anyway. Let’s go. I swear, I cannot tell you how many times I had to remind myself it was Sunday. On Sunday. And at one point, I pulled a chair out and watched the rain in my garage. I’m turning into my grandparents!
- At least we have golf this week and it will be the most appreciated Colonial of all time (it also has the best field for the tournament since 1986). No Tiger, but the field is so strong and we are so starved for live sports I bet it gets good ratings. It seriously feels like a major is about to be played. Can I get Thursday off? And then next week they go to Hilton Head, which is one of my favorite golf courses. Thanks, golf.
- So between what the commissioner of the NFL had to say and what the President said on Twitter, we may be headed for a standoff on kneeling for the national anthem. There have already been suggestions that we stop playing it before sporting events (I wonder how many anthems I’ve stood for in press boxes in my career. I bet it’s close to 50,000. But I digress). We remember the old suggestion about playing it before the teams come out of their locker rooms. I just think the whole thing has become skewed. Are you truly disrespecting the flag more by kneeling or by wearing it as a bikini? Just asking.
- There will be no Tweet of the Week. I have tried to stay off Twitter as much as possible, except to post a few things I thought were worthwhile. I did check some things out but every time I went on it I had to make myself get off. I will get back on there, but it has just become too difficult to go from one beautiful Tweet to one horrific Tweet over and over again. I need a break for a few days for my mental health. There are a lot of you who could not care less. Maybe I should be more like you. So we’ll put it to a vote — keep the Tweet of the Week or can it? You know my email address. Or as the Beatles put it, “You know my name. Look up my number.”
- But there is a new playlist and part of the reason there is one is that it is cathartic for me to go listen to different music and block out the noise. So, please, indulge me:
* “Valleys (My Love)“ by Whitney
* “Katie Queen of Tennessee” by Apache Relay
* “California” by The Lagoons.
* “Big Black Car” by Gregory Alan Isakov.
* And for a deep-cut old one, “Summer Girl” by Blondie.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.