The Front Nine comes at you on a day when the world says goodbye to my sweet and loving father with a celebration of a life well-lived. I’ll try to keep it together.
1. The reason I am such a sports nut is because of my Dad. It was ingrained in me early when we would listen to Otis Boggs on the radio. But who I am isn’t what this week has been about. It’s about who he was and how lucky we all were to have him so long. The biggest void I think all of us are going to feel is that we don’t have that rock to lean on. Even when he was suffering at the end, all he really wanted to talk about was his family and he was always concerned with our safety and well-being. This would be a better world if we all acted a little more like he did for 93 years. We can be a little nicer to each other and think of others instead of ourselves all of the time. We can listen instead of shouting, hug instead of pushing, smile instead of frowning. He’s watching, and when he’s not rooting on his beloved Gators, he’s hoping that his legacy is not the golf tournament that bears his name or the special life he had, but the wonderful example he set for us all.
2. Bear with me on this, but one of my favorite memories of the great Bob Dooley was taking him to the Masters in 1998 thanks to my good friend Glenn Greenspan getting us a badge for him. Glenn was the public relations guy for the tournament and – like many people – loved Dad. I think it was Glenn who gave him the nickname “The Mayor of St. Augustine.” It was an honorary title, but believe me, he could have been a real mayor if he wanted to. Anyway, I walked with Dad over the hills and through the trees when we first arrived at Augusta National until we came to an opening in the trees. And then, there it was. “Dad, Amen Corner,” I said. And his eyes welled and so did mine. It was my proudest moment as his son.
3. I could tell stories about him for a year, but let’s talk some sports, which my Dad loved to do. Let’s start with the strange world of college basketball where you are only as good as the transfer portal. Mike White is doing an excellent job of bringing in new players from the portal, especially some guys who can both defend and handle the ball. And while I know there are a lot of people who are less than happy with the new way of recruiting in college basketball (and college football), you either accept it as a coach and excel at it or you get ready to be run over.
4. And that is the thing about college hoops these days. People want to complain about the portal and the Name, Image and Likeness issues, those same people simply dismiss Bill Self receiving a lifetime contract that keeps Kansas from firing him for any NCAA violations that happened before April Fool’s Day. And Will Wade still has a job. As much as I enjoyed having the tournament back, there is something about the whole scene in college basketball that makes me happy that I got out of the business. That and road trips to SEC villages.
5. Florida put out a graphic about how it currently has 13 teams ranked in the top 25 in their respective sports. Which is amazing. And yet, I think there are a lot of fans out there who only are passionate about football, care a little about basketball and everything else is just kind of there. Trust me, peeps, you will be happier in your life if you are passionate about every sport at UF. This is such a great place for a sports fan to live. Of course, the NFL Draft is coming up and that means football is back for … a … few … days. Hey, we are only 9½ weeks until SEC Media Days.
6. One of those 13 teams is the women’s softball team which is off to a start that is only surprising if you haven’t paid attention to the job Tim Walton does every year. This weekend, the Gators take a break from the SEC, but I bet they’d love to keep it going the way they are playing.
7. I hadn’t looked at the baseball RPI until this week and it’s not surprising that Florida is down there a bit at No. 30 (by the way, softball is at No. 3). Florida has played few games on the road and has only won a single road game. That’s why this is a big weekend at Tennessee, which is No. 6 in RPI. There is still a lot of baseball to be played and Florida can still work its way into a national seed because there will be so many opportunities for Kevin O’Sullivan’s team. This league is just ridiculous with four of the top 6 in RPI and 10 of the top 34. There aren’t any gimmees in the SEC.
8. It’s “Trivial Trivia Time” and let’s ask this football question because I know you all love football (as stated before). Who is Florida’s leading receiver coming back in terms of number of catches? This is a good one.
9. OK, let’s get to the visual part of the Front Nine as I recommend something to watch. This is going to make you wonder about my sanity, but my oldest daughter Jennifer is in town for her grandfather’s funeral. She is married to Patrick (great name) who is in the movie business. She considers herself an expert. So, we have had this running joke about a movie I recommended. And this week, she watched it. And she laughed and laughed and thought the plot twists were pretty good. The movie? “The Three Stooges”, which was made in 2012. Don’t make fun of me. My other daughter, who knows movies, loves it too. Anyway, here is your Trivial Trivia Time answer. Running back Malik Davis had 37 catches last year and had more than any other returning player.