The Back Nine: Rest in peace, Aubrey
The Back Nine comes at you after a weekend that had a little bit of everything. And that is unfortunate because it included another example of how unfair the world is.
10. There are levels of sadness when you hear about someone passing away. The surprising death of Aubrey Hill was right up there with the sadness of a family member for so many of his teammates. And it was darn close for me. I'll never forget talking to him at the gym one day after he had been let go by Florida because his name had popped up in the Nevin Shapiro scandal in Miami. He mentioned that his wife had also just lost a baby. I gave him a hug. I thought I felt bad that day. Aubrey was one of the nicest guys you would ever meet. Here are two key stats from his time at Florida: number of TD catches --18; number of people who met him and didn't like him -- Zero. "He was one of my best friends," said Florida wide receiver Chris Doering, who was his roommate on the road. "I didn't know he (had cancer). I wish I could have reached out to him. Being his roommate on the road, it was the best exposure for both of us. He's a kid from inner-city Miami and I'm a kid from Gainesville. We'd lay in bed and talk about our upbringings and what we dealt with." They also connected on the famous double pass in the SEC title game that set up the winning score against Alabama in 1994. Hill was part of Steve Spurrier's first Gator recruiting class and the first receiver he lined up at tight end (to throw off an entire league). "When we got there (to Florida), we weren’t quite the gem of the colleges. We were under investigation," Spurrier said. "FSU and Miami were telling all the recruits, ‘Those guys are a bunch of cheaters at Florida.’ We had to overcome some of the negatives back in '90. He was certainly one of the best players we signed in that class. Wonderful Gator, wonderful guy.”
11. The SEC reveal of the home openers was a little bit surprising with really a lack of marquee games to start the season on Sept. 26. Florida opens at Ole Miss, which is probably when the Gators would like to play a first-year coach. Of course, with the news about key players opting out (their choices, not yours, so lay off the athletes), the Gators have a lot more work to do than we thought. My guess is that the SEC knows there is a decent chance it will move back the start of the season at least another week, maybe more, so it tried to avoid too many games within the divisions. I did a Twitter poll on this yesterday and 61 percent of you thought it would be the original SEC opener Kentucky (26 percent Tennessee, 13 percent a team from the West). So, the educated guesses were not really good.
12. This crazy news cycle does make you sit here and wonder why we are still talking about who is or who isn't playing, but it continues to be the No. 1 topic in college sports. The FDA approves a saliva test and you are happy and then you see pictures of students partying like it's 1999 on campuses around the South. The SEC schedule is released and teams start to practice and then you read another headline that makes you want to be a bubble boy for the next year (we won't even get into the "fire tornado," which is the latest thing to be unleashed by 2020). I heard Ryan McGee from ESPN talking about how there are no answers, but that's not true. Everybody has answers. We just don't know which ones are the right ones.
13. I just don't understand how everything has become so political from the brand of toothpaste you buy to the fast food you prefer to whether or not you wear a mask. If you think there should be football, that becomes your affiliation and if you think there should not, you're not just offering another opinion, you're on the other side. Yikes. I admire what Justin Fields did to organize a petition online but we all know that — while it is great that players continue to find their voices — they will be heard but not really listened to. The Big Ten and Pac-12 are done. And trust me, that product they will try to put out there in the spring — if that even happens — will be difficult to watch.
14. It was nice for the media to have the chance to catch up with Dan Mullen on Monday and one interesting thing he talked about was what the loss of spring might mean for the Gators. While people like to rave about what Florida has coming back (or what it did before the opt outs), this is a staff that thrives in getting the most out of players over time. "You're not going to make up for the development of the spring," Mullen said. "We're a developmental program. That's the tragedy for these kids." One of my Zoom questions was about students coming back to campus and Mullen said the staff has talked to players about making the right decisions instead of going to indoor parties with mask-less students. He also said the team will not go to a hotel this year for fall camp because the semi-bubble they have created has worked well. "I'm going to keep us doing what we've been doing," he said.
15. It looked for a time Sunday that we might see a Gator Sweep of the PGA Tour and European Tour. Sam Horsfield won for the second time in three weeks in Europe and Billy Horschel was leading by two with three to go at the Wyndham Championship. Ah, but golf is a game of inches and Horschel missed a par putt by an inch on 16 and a birdie putt by an inch on 18 that would have forced a playoff. It was great to see Horschel playing so well and it has been great to see Horsfield on a roll. There is a joke somewhere in there about the similarities of the names of the two current best golfers from UF, but I can't figure it out. Also, former Gator Dudley Hart closed with a 67 to finish in a tie for 10th at the Senior Players. Another one starting with "H". What's going on? Maybe I should change my golf course name to Hooley.
16. The NBA playoffs began Monday and I am torn in how I feel about them. On the one hand, I will root hard for Billy Donovan's Thunder and against the Lakers. On the other hand, whoever wins the title will have an imaginary asterisk inside a bubble by the team name. But maybe the best team will truly win because there is no home-court advantage. And yet, the home-court advantage is what the regular season is about. Except that it wasn't a regular season. Anyway, because we didn't get March Madness, we're being handed August Anxiety. I'm picking the Clippers to beat the Raptors in the final and all I know is that any major sport playoff that starts at 1:30 pm. on a Monday is speaking my language.
17. The Tweet of the Week goes to the excellent Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle -- "I’m skeptical about playing football in a pandemic. I’m skeptical always about the Washington Team of Football. I am never skeptical about Alex Smith’s fight, fortitude and grace." The quarterback was near death after his leg injury two years ago and went into septic shock. On Saturday, he was activated by that team up north.
18. I got some blow back on last week's Playlist in the Back Nine. It wasn't my best. I am getting used to a new computer and a new way of filing stories. This one will be better. I hope:
• "This Forgotten Town" by The Jayhawks.
• "Holiday On The Moon" by Love and Rockets.
•"Fire" by the Black Pumas.
•"Road to Nowhere" by the Talking Heads. It could be the theme song for the Big Ten as well. Now that was a cheap shot.
•And for an old one, because my wife was telling me a story about seeing this group many years ago which meant we listened in the car to this song ... and then another .. and then one more. And that was the list of songs by the three-hit wonders she could remember, "Hold Me Now" by the Thompson Twins.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.