TEBOW OR DANNY?
Sporting News announced its list of SEC icons, one each for all 14 schools that make up the league. Most of the choices such as Herschel Walker at Georgia, Peyton Manning at Tennessee and Bo Jackson at Auburn, were obvious. Then came the choice for Florida: Tim Tebow. If you are under the age of 25 then Tebow probably seems like the logical choice. If you’re older than 25, then the choice is not so easy because you remember Danny Wuerffel. They both set records. They both won national championships. They both won the Heisman Trophy. They were class acts both on and off the field. They both continue to lead exemplary lives and make a statement for those who believe that character does count. This is not an easy choice and either one would be worthy of designation as the Florida icon in the SEC. Who would be your Florida icon?
NOT ENOUGH APPRECIATION FOR PATRIC YOUNG
When he came to Florida after a McDonald’s All-American season his senior year in high school, Patric Young was compared to NBA superstar Dwight Howard. Young is every bit as imposing physically as Howard, but while Howard is a double-double in the pros looking for a place to happen, Young has averaged about 10 points and 6.5 rebounds per game the last two seasons. Hardly Dwight Howard numbers, but Young has proven himself to be one of the best defenders in the SEC, he’s been selected the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year two years in a row and will probably become a three-time winner this year, and he’s missed all of one practice in his time at Florida. He plays tough on the inside, takes a pounding, never complains and is the inspirational leader for the Gators. Maybe you wish for better numbers for Patric – Billy Donovan does, too – but Donovan will be the first to tell you there is plenty to appreciate with his senior leader.
BULLETIN BOARD MATERIAL
Monday at Kentucky’s basketball tipoff luncheon, John Calipari was a bit more full of himself than usual. A few days earlier, he proclaimed, “Kentucky is basketball.” At the Monday luncheon, Calipari said, “Does everyone on our schedule know when they’re playing Kentucky? Oh, they know. And it’s on their locker, it’s on their ceiling of their bedroom. You’ve got to deal with that. That’s part of being at Kentucky. You know what I tell them? Not only do they want to beat Kentucky, they want to beat you as individual player. You want to know why? They wanted that scholarship that you got and they want to prove they’re better than you, not just their team is better than Kentucky.” Calipari should have added one thing: Those same teams would love to knock the Wildcats off just to wipe that smug smile off Cal’s face.
BASEBALL USED TO BE IMPORTANT
In the 1960s, before the World Series took all its cues from television, games were played in the afternoon and the seven-game format always began with Saturday and Sunday games bookending the midweek games on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Starting in the sixth grade, I was always “sick” on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Taking a cue from an eighth grader who lived up the street, I would chew up two aspirin with no water. My throat turned beet red and my speech suddenly turned raspy. Of course, my mother took my temperature, which was normal, but she, like my grandmother, believed if it looks like strep and I can’t talk then it must be strep and she couldn’t bear the thought of me infecting a couple dozen classmates. And so I stayed home and got to watch the World Series. Baseball was important then. It was important for me and important for most of the kids I went to school with. The World Series began Wednesday night and I think I watched 10 pitches the entire game. I have to wonder how many of the kids I grew up with were as interested as I was.
BASEBALL USED TO BE IMPORTANT, PART II
I was teaching high school English in Taiwan in 1983 before cable television, McDonald’s and Big Gulps at 7-11 reached the island. The Orioles played the Phillies in the World Series that year. I had a radio with a short wave band so I was able to listen to the Orioles win the World Series in five games via the Armed Forces Network because the game was still very important to me. It remained important until 1994 when the players went on strike and there was no World Series. At that time the average salary in Major League Baseball was nearly a million dollars. Since then we’ve missed significant portions of NFL and NBA seasons because the players went on strike. I treat those sports the same way I treat baseball these days, which is to say they aren’t important enough to occupy a whole lot of my time. I might watch a game or two in this World Series and an occasional NBA or NFL game, but if there is a concert or something fun, I’ll choose that instead.
BOWL ELIGIBLE IN THE SEC
Alabama (7-0), Missouri (7-0), Auburn (6-1) and LSU (6-2) are already bowl-eligible in the Southeastern Conference. Needing just one win are South Carolina and Texas A&M. Needing two wins (all 4-3) are Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Ole Miss. Of the 4-3 teams, the ones with the most difficult shot at getting to six wins are Florida Tennessee and Mississippi State. At 3-5, Arkansas has win three out of four games and while Kentucky (1-6) isn’t out of it mathematically, there are two chances the Mildcats win the next five games and get to a bowl: no way and no how. Although it might be a down year overall for the SEC, Sporting News projects 10 SEC teams to bowl games: Alabama, Missouri, Auburn, LSU, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Tennessee and Florida.
ADJUSTING THE TARGETING RULE
Rules that make college football safer are important and quite frankly, there probably aren’t enough of them, but the new targeting rule needs a bit of tweaking to get it right. Under the present rule, a player flagged for targeting (helmet to helmet contact or deliberate contact above the shoulders at a defenseless player) is ejected and his team is penalized 15 yards. Of course, all targeting penalties are subject to review in the booth. The replay crew can overturn the ejection but not the penalty, which is sheer stupidity. If there is no reason to eject the player then how could there be a personal foul? There is no room for headhunters who deliberately make helmet-to-helmet contact, but the way the rule is applied now is dead wrong and needs overhauling. Fortunately, targeting is going to be reviewed in the offseason. We can only hope the people who have the power to make the changes will get it right.
NEW RULES CHANGE COLLEGE HOOPS FOR THE BETTER
Old friend Don Rutledge, a Florida grad who became one of the top officials in all of college basketball, hung up the whistle several years back but his sharp eye keeps him in the game evaluating the performance of referees in the Southeastern Conference and NBA. Rutledge was at Florida’s practice Wednesday to evaluate officials who are having to adapt to the new block/charge rules among others. Long a proponent for changing the rule so that defensive players can’t slide into the path of an airborne player to pick up a cheap foul, Rutledge says the first month of the college season is going to be an adjustment for everyone, particularly with this rule, but also with taking out some of the sumo nature of the game in recent years. “The game is going to be a lot less physical and it’s about time,” Rutledge said. “It will take some adjusting by everyone but the game is going to be better.”
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I really didn’t discover Brian Culbertson until a couple of years ago. Once I took the time to listen to an entire CD I realized what an incredible jazz talent this guy is. He is a multi-instrumentalist best known for keyboards, but he also plays a fierce trombone. I really like his large band approach with lots of good horns to go with driving bass. This song is called “Get It On” which features both keyboard and trombone work by Culbertson along with some excellent sax and trombone. I’ve heard this song live and it’s a killer.