The Back Nine comes at you after another weekend that kind of forced you to come up with something to do and unfortunately, one thing I did was watch a lot of football games from last season. We’re almost there.
10. Actually, in a way, we are there because I declared Aug. 1 the official opening of college football season. And here it is. Gators report Tuesday for Media Day and start practice Wednesday. There are football games THIS MONTH which makes you feel closer to the start of it all. When you were a kid, summer didn’t last long enough. But for those of us with no school or children to get up and out the door, we are ready to start the countdown. I’m getting fired up just writing it.
11. And it’s not only about the Gators and the start of the Billy Napier Era. It’s everything. It’s an SEC with so many teams that could go one way or the other or just keep idling like the person waiting in line for car pick-up playing games on his or her phone. It’s about USC and Miami trying to become relevant again with new coaches. It’s about putting to bed all of the NIL talk and realignment rumors and fake scheduling pods and just watching live football games being played. It’s the best, every year, and when you add in the NFL and Major League Baseball playoffs (as long as the Braves are in it) it truly is the most wonderful time of the year.
12. Have yourself a weekend, Coach Napier. Look, Florida is not going to have an Alabama or Georgia class. They’re not there yet. But the ceiling is gradually being raised and that is what is important. And they aren’t even officially in the new building yet. Napier is delivering on his promise to recruit the heck out of the state of Florida, but he’s not going to get everybody. There is more elite talent in this state than any other. Clearly, this is a new dynamic at UF with the attention that is being brought to the recruiting plan. Even when Urban Meyer was bringing in top classes, it wasn’t the same system that Napier is dealing with.
13. It appears that Dan Mullen is going to join ESPN as an analyst and I’m wondering why it took so long. Maybe he was holding out hope of a job as a coach landing in his lap, but he’s a little toxic right now because of the whole disdain for recruiting and the way his last team didn’t play hard for him. Look, I said it late in the season that I thought Mullen needed to start taking his job more seriously and don’t think I was the only one who noticed. But he will do great on TV, much like disgraced NFL coach Urban Meyer will on Fox this year after taking a year off to show why he’ll probably never coach again.
14. When I was younger (and, yes, I was young at one time) I hated the Celtics. Loved the Red Sox, but hated the Celtics. I’m difficult to explain. But I did have so much respect for Bill Russell, a man who never minced words and took young players under his wing. I always gravitated to athletes who would speak out on issues and be able to back it up. Muhammed Ali, Jim Brown, Bill Russell, John McEnroe. I was an agitator. And no matter what the kids these days want to tell you, Russell is in the conversation for greatest effort. This stat from Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe explains it – in his last 14 seasons, Russell played in 21 winner-take-all games in college, the Olympics and the NBA. He was 21-0. Now gone at 88, he lived a wonderful life and we should all miss him. We’ll especially miss that laugh.
15. And then there is Deshaun Watson and his brand new six-game suspension from the NFL. I’m sure the Browns are breathing a sigh of relief because it could have been a lot worse and missing six games of a 17-game season is hardly crippling. And so, former Gator Jacoby Brissett will be your starter in Cleveland. I wonder what he could have done if he had been given more of a chance here. Still, it is interesting that Florida had two NFL quarterbacks on their roster at a time when everyone was complaining about a lack of offense. Hmm. Anyway, the NFL wanted more of a suspension and a fine, but it is what it is. It seems a little lenient.
16. Tony Finau is on a roll with two straight wins and my swing feels like a seven-layer dip. You go in with a Tostito chip and have no idea what is coming out. Could be chicken and sour cream and pickled jalapenos or it could be black olives, congealed refried beans and an old Band-Aid. I mention this to ask the following question – does anyone know what happened in the LIV event? Not that I care. Finau could be on the verge of becoming the next great star over here on the real Tour.
17. We don’t talk much about softball recruiting here, but how about the young lady Tim Walton has had committed for years and will be in the 2023 class. Her name is Kelly Rothrock and she is from Indiana. She is also the National Softball Player of the Year. Her ERA is 0.70, she is 33-0 and her batting average this year was .523. And she grew up a big fan of Kelly Barnhill. I like her already.
18. So, I am off for a quick golf vacation of sorts and I wonder if I can make my brother play this playlist while we are deep into our bad rounds. His music seems more wedding oriented:
* “Synchronize” by Milky Chance.
* ”Friday I’m in Love” by The Cure.
* And to go a little deeper in the archives, “Sad Lisa” by the great Cat Stevens.