Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Year to Remember

Today marks the end of the regular season for the Florida Gator football team. Thank goodness our bowl game will be early in the season so all of us will put this behind us before the start of 2011! This is a year to remember. Did I write that? Yep, it is a year to remember.

It's a year to remember just how good the players who left here the last two years were. They had to overcome this offensive staff to actually win games. Do you realize how much talent that took? Well we do now! That's something to remember. So maybe it really is the Jimmies and Joes that make great coaches, because the coaches took this year's group of supposedly talented players and made them look average at best.

It's a year to remember your rivals celebrating both at home and on the road. It's that feeling that I hope the players remember all year long as they lift and run. But I don't think any of them with the exception of Ahmad Black have the heart, brains, or ... well you know what else they lack to learn anything from it. They say no one hurts like the players but I've been near them and they didn't seem to hurt after the game, unlike many of the fans I've seen and heard from after the losses. So I hope the fans remember what it was like to lose 5 games in a season because those of you born after 1987 have no idea what's that like as a Gator fan. Now you get the chance to prove that you are a real fan and get behind the team for next year starting right now!

It's a year to remember FSU celebrating with fireworks and carrying out a gator head to mid field after the game for the second time in the last 7 years. So that means that we get to bring a broken spear out next year or better yet the stuffed head of renegade or Chief Osceola doesn't it? No, it means we get to stay classy and just get back to the business of beating the clown college and acting like that it is always supposed to be that way. It's a year to remember to be humble when you win and gracious when you lose.

It's a year to remember that sometimes coaches need to realize that moving up is not always a good thing. Sometimes being the line coach is the best level you should attain. It is also the season to remember that losing coaches to other schools can set your program back as much as losing star players. Both of which happened to us this year on both sides of the ball. So we need to remember that it may take some time to get back to playing at the level we expect. And we need to remember that sometimes the best coach you need is the one you already got! So let's just keep our heads Gator fans and let Urban hold those on the staff accountable. Some of them need to do the honorable thing and submit the letters before they are requested!

It's also a year to remember that all kinds of crazy things happen in football. Texas plays for the title and then fails to play in any bowl game. Alabama wins it all and then loses three games. Heck, Oregon looks like they are going to play in the National Championship game and they have always been more known for their uniform combinations than their winning ways. And a guy who everybody wrote off when he transferred from Florida will probably win the Heisman. And just when you think it will be Boise and TCU in the championship game, Nevada comes up and beats BSU! It's a crazy game. That is what makes us love it so much.

So it truly is a year to remember. Just not a pleasant memory!

Friday, November 19, 2010

You Find Out Who Your Friends Are

There is a country music song with the lyric “You find out who your friends are!” As you might imagine it involves lots of hardships and some tragic situations as the source of the revelation of who your friends truly are. Friends seem easy to come by when you are on top, whether that’s professionally, financially, or any other way. Everyone wants to be your friend when things are going great. But as the song says, you really find out who your friends are at 2 am when you need a favor, when your luck runs out, or when tragedy overtakes you at any moment. Maybe that is the difference between a friend and an acquaintance. Friends are there before the streak begins and remain long after your circumstances change for the worse.

You see that all too often in athletics. Those who have played the games at higher level know that all too well. Everyone is a fan when it is going well but starts to slip and so does the fervor of many of the faithful. Gator fans of late have been extremely spoiled. We are used to our teams being on top of the SEC in every sport. Heck, we are used to be in the top of national polls in most sports. Somewhere along the line we have begun to embrace the entitlement mentality that is so prevalent in our society. We think it is our “right” to be treated to the best possible example of sporting entertainment. We pay our coaches well and we expect a good return on our investment. Believe me, the coaches know that. At least the ones I know personally are fully aware of that sentiment. They embrace it or they would not have accepted the gig. This is not about expectations because fans can never expect more of a team than the coaches and players place on themselves.

This year has been a disappointment to say the least for our football team. Three losses at home just never happen at UF. In fact, it has been over 20 years since that happened the last time. That’s the point. It has been an incredible 20 year run that may not be repeated again. Just look at the national landscape, when TCU and Boise State can amass the talent and coaches to rank in the top 5 in November, the world of college football has changed and it ain’t going back! Coaches have learned that the lure of bigger programs might just be the lure to a noose around your own neck! The grass isn’t always greener on someone else’s field. In fact at Boise, they like their smurf turf! And Coach Peterson has turned down several offers from “Bigger” and supposedly “Better” programs to remain at BSU. The result has been a loyal fan base and the ability to lure top athletes away from bigger and better programs. The landscape has changed indeed. I think it will continue to move this way because now everyone has a bigger share of the dollars thanks to the ESPN and other networks bidding for more TV games. This means more players are getting seen every week, so the recruiting pitch that if you come to school x, you will get on TV more often doesn’t hold as much sway as it once did. The fact that NFL scouts go to other schools other than the BCS conferences can be seen by watching the introductions of NFL teams every week. Sure the majority of players are from schools you recognize as a casual fan, but notice how many players are from schools that you have no idea what conference they play in or even where the school is located. IF you are talented enough, the NFL will find you!

So the next time you wonder why the Gators are not the champs of the SEC East, remember that neither is Georgia or Tennessee. It’s the first time anyone else has represented the East. Maybe it’s a sign of the times in college football and not so much a reflection of poor coaching and execution. Unless by that you also mean recruiting the right players and having them work hard enough to out develop the other 3 or 4 star athletes that the other schools are recruiting. The national title may go to a school that doesn’t share an automatic bid, but I doubt it. Not because they aren’t talented enough to win it, but because the system is skewed in the favor of the BCS conferences to such a degree that it is almost impossible to overcome. But that’s a story for another blog!