The Back Nine comes at you after a weekend of baseball and baseball and a lot of watching golf. And some real tragedy that didn’t involve winning or losing games.
10. I can’t start without talking about the terrible news of the death of Dwayne Haskins at 24, hit by a dump truck while crossing I-595 in South Florida. Haskins was an unbelievable quarterback for Urban Meyer at Ohio State, finishing third in the Heisman voting in 2018. There are some people out there who were critical of Haskins the NFL player AFTER the tragic news came out, but that’s the way the NFL media tends to react to everything. The truth is that it doesn’t matter whether he would have figured things out or been in a better situation in Pittsburgh or gone on to be a Pro Bowler. What matters is that a young man that people seemed to really care about is gone in a tragic way that makes you think about how precious life is.
11. Let us move on to The Masters, which was a bit anticlimactic but certainly makes us wonder if we are seeing the next dominant player in Scottie Scheffler. Pretty amazing to hear him talk about how he cried like a baby the morning of the final round because he didn’t think he could handle the moment. Oh, he handled it. Usually after the final round of the toonimint I want to go to the course and hit balls but on Sunday I wanted to go to the course and work on my short game. The pitches of 1, 3 (which went in) and 4 calmed Scheffler and set up the rest of the day. He could easily have been feeling like he was letting it get away, but he has a short game that is next level good. And by next level, there is no reason to think this is the last major for Scheffler.
12. We have to include the Tiger Woods phenomenon that enveloped the whole weekend. It is amazing that he was able to play and then he was able to enjoy the warm embrace of the patrons at Augusta. We’ve never seen Tiger smile before after back-to-back 78s. But the victory was in the finishing even though his limp became more pronounced as the week went on and was Walter Brennan-level as he tried to make it to the scorer’s room. All I know is that it was must-see TV. But I can’t help but wonder if his physical situation means that we will see him contend, but unable to close the deal for the rest of his career. The man was and is in a lot of pain.
13. I’m talking full credit for Florida turning the season around if that turns out to be the case in baseball. I went to Friday’s game as a fan and Saturday’s as a writer and the Gators went 2-0. I thought Kevin O’Sullivan was pretty interesting after the game. “We have to get better,” he said. “Everybody’s talking about Arkansas and then at Vandy and then Tennessee. It doesn’t matter, you got to worry about today and play the best baseball you can.” That starts Tuesday night with a road trip to FSU. This season was on the verge of disaster but taking two of three from the No. 2 team in the country tells you this team isn’t as bad as its SEC record.
14. Softball? I’m not sure what to think. Twice in the last three games, the Gators had chances to walk off games at home and couldn’t get the clutch hit. They really need to find a way to win against Alabama tonight. This still seems like a team that can host a regional and probably not a super regional.
15. That’s the thing. Expectations for the two bat-and-ball sports are as high as they are for any sports on the campus – with less of a fan base – and we have become so blasé over Gator wins. But this league is ridiculous in both baseball and softball and you have to play every at-bat and throw every pitch as if it were the last out of the last game of the year. It’s tough, but Florida has the coaches to get it done. Even then, even with great recruiting classes, it’s still about playing the game with intensity.
16. Dabo Swinney said what a lot of us have been saying this week when he went off about the state of college football. “There are no rules, no guidance, no nothing,” Swinney said. “It’s out of control. It’s not sustainable. It’s an absolute mess and a train wreck, and the kids are going to be the ones who suffer in the end.” Well, it is a mess and it does feel like a train wreck and I think people are getting turned off by NIL deals and the transfer portal. But they are not going away. And while the NCAA is mostly responsible through inaction for these things being a part of the landscape, coaches are not blameless. They are the ones bailing on teams, commanding ridiculously high salaries and were the ones restricting which schools players could transfer to. So don’t act like coaches are blameless.
17. I was watching the movie “King Richard” for which Will Smith won an Oscar (I saw a guy who was just re-channeling his old Bagger Vance role, but I digress) and it got near the end and Venus Williams and it dawned on me that her first professional match – which is shown in the movie – was against our old friend Shaun Stafford. Stafford, of course, played for Buchholz and UF and won the NCAA singles title in 1988. She is also a member of the UF Athletic Hall of Fame.
18. Life has been interesting around the Dooley house lately and the best thing I did this weekend was go to games and remember why I love Gainesville. Also, I had this playlist:
* “HAPPY LIFE” by Judah and the Lion.
* ”Wait A Million Years” by The Grass Roots.
* ”Shake Me Down” by Cage The Elephant.