Whitley's Believe It or Not: What Would John Do?

David Whitley
Gator Sports
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Tennessee forward John Fulkerson watches his teammates from the bench during the first half Saturday of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament semifinal game against Alabama at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.

English poet Alexander Pope came up with the phrase "To err is human, to forgive divine" in 1707.

Easy for him to say.

Pope never took a double-elbow to the head in an SEC tournament game. Tennessee's John Fulkerson did after tangling up with Florida's Omar Payne as they battled for position under the basket.

The first blow from Payne was bad enough. Then he whirled around and delivered a no-look elbow to the side of Fulkerson's head. The point caught Fulkerson near the temple.

Payne is 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds. He could have knocked Fulkerson into a coma. Or worse.

As it is, Fulkerson suffered a concussion and needed surgery to repair facial injuries. His status for the NCAA tournament is questionable. All of that would give him plenty of reason to want to see Payne suffer every possible penalty, insult and indignity.

Instead, he tweeted, "I  know a lot of people are upset with what happened during yesterday’s game. Omar reached out to me this morning and was very remorseful. Everyone makes mistakes. Let’s all show grace and focus on today’s game. Go Vols!"

Gosh, it's enough to make you want to sing "Rocky Top." The next time you feel like whacking someone in the head, ask WWJD — What Would John Do?

The officials tossed Payne out of the game, and Florida is considering further disciplinary action. He deserves it and the program needs it, if only to show the school holds players to a higher standard than what we saw Friday.

Fulkerson's willingness to forgive is a divine stand. You just hope Payne realizes how lucky he is that Fulkerson is still standing. ...

Unless Payne turns into LeBron James and is allowed to play, bookies aren't keen on Florida's chances in the NCAA tournament. The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has the Gators at 200-1, same as Friday's opponent, Virginia Tech.

Six teams are at 10,000-1. But take heart, Drexel, Hartford, et al. Y'all still have a better chance of winning than Kentucky or Duke. Speaking of which, faithful reader Sam Collins noted:

"Imagine the uproar had we been told prior to the basketball season that Florida would have the same number of losses that Kentucky had wins! The 'White Noise' would have been deafening."...

Stud of the Week: Tom Brady. Again.

He restructured his contract, basically taking a pay cut to give the Bucs more salary cap room to sign other players. Brady will still make $25 million a year, but that's less than 11 other quarterbacks, including Ryan Tannehill, Jimmy Garoppolo, Kirk Cousins and Carson Wentz.

Honorable Mention: Florida weight thrower Thomas Mardal, who won the NCAA title with a toss of 80 feet 3.75 inches. That almost matches Garoppolo's total passing yards last season.

Honorable Mention II: Mets shortstop Luis Guillorme, who fouled off 16 pitches before earning a walk in a spring training game Sunday. The 22-pitch at-bat was the longest since pitch counts officially began in 1988.

Unfortunately, the only people left awake after the 14th pitch were seamheads who appreciate seeing a guy foul off 16 pitches.

Dud of the Week: Nebraska.

The Cornhuskers tried to weasel out of their Sept. 18 game at Oklahoma and schedule a home game against some schlub. The trip to Norman would commemorate the 50th anniversary of the "Game of the Century" between the No. 1 Husker and No. 2 Sooners.

Nebraska quickly backtracked after football insider Brett McMurphy of Stadium broke the story, but the Husker Nation was already red from embarrassment.

With a 12-20 record at Nebraska, it appears Scott Frost might not be the second coming of Tom Osborne. Good thing Florida didn't hire him three years ago, or the Gators might have tried to drop Georgia and schedule Drexel this October. ...

Kudos to the UF soccer team and coach Becky Burleigh. Players worked in shifts last Wednesday to paint a mural honoring Burleigh on the 34th Street Wall. Then they beat Georgia Southern 3-1 in the final home match of Burleigh's 26-year career. ...

Cheap Shot of the Week: All-SEC linebacker Chris Allen has reworked his contract to allow Alabama to get under the salary cap and recruit more 5-star linemen. ...

And finally, things that did not take as much time as a 22-pitch at-bat:

The Gettysburg Address ... three of Larry King's marriages ... painting a mural on the 34th Street Wall ... painting the Sistine Chapel ... The U.S. invasion of Grenada ... Lane Kiffin's coaching tenure at Tennessee ... reading this column.

If you were asleep by the 14th paragraph, please remember — WWJD?

— David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at And follow him on Twitter: @DavidEWhitley

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