Thoughts of the day: November 12, 2013

A few thoughts to jumpstart your Tuesday morning:


After a day in which I’ve had a barrage of messages from our fine friends out west, in Orlando and down south in the Sunshine State, it’s time to make one simple statement. Enjoy this season. Savor every moment. Remember it for a lifetime. Now, remember this, also. It’s still the University of Florida. It’s still the same school that has won two national championships in football since the last time any other team in the state won one. It’s still the school that has two national championships in basketball to the rest of the state’s zero. It’s still the school that has a trophy case full of national championships in sports not named football and basketball and it’s still the school that hasn’t had been in the NCAA jailhouse in 23 years. Can’t say that FSU, UCF and Miami, can you? And, by the way, it’s still the University of Florida, academically superior to any school in the state and one of the elite public schools in the nation. Remember that, okay?


So, while you are savoring your success this year, remember this, also. Yes, Florida is having a bad year in football, but no matter who coaches Florida heading into the future – whether that’s Will Muschamp or someone else – the Gators will never be far from success. That’s because it is the University of Florida and the foundation for success is there, whether it’s athletics or academics or monetary, and there isn’t a school in the state that can come close to what Florida has. So, again, enjoy your success. You have earned it and you have every right to expect that you’ll be successful in the future, but don’t forget big brother in Gainesville. It’s a bad year, but bad years don’t last forever. It’s still Florida. The Gators will be back and because it’s Florida, everyone else in the state won’t be nearly as relevant. That’s not boasting. That’s just fact.


You can take that to the bank. Beyond 2014? We’ll know that this time next year because there are holes in the SS Gator that have to be plugged. The ship isn’t sinking but it is taking on water. The injuries have been brutal – Antonio Morrison is the latest to go down and Tyler Murphy might not be able to play against South Carolina Saturday – but Florida’s problems are not all injury-related. Some of the difficulties can be solved with recruiting but others will have to be resolved with some changes in the coaching staff. I’ve been around coaches all my life and I can tell you, there is nothing more unpleasant than to have to tell a coach that he’s got to find a new job somewhere else. But, as unpleasant as it might be, there will have to be changes. If not, Muschamp will be a short timer.


Any time you have a season with this many injuries, you have to take a long, hard look at the strength and conditioning program. I understand that Muschamp wants a bigger, stronger and tougher team. He wants to play power football and dominate the line of scrimmage by overpowering people, but can you be so obsessed with bulking people up that you actually increase the possibility for injury? When I see all these knee injuries I have to wonder if the Gators are too bulked up and not nearly as flexible as they should be. And, it’s not just in the Florida football program. There are other knee injuries in other sports. I don’t have the answers but I believe it’s something that should be investigated.


Yes, he threw three interceptions against Vanderbilt. Yes, he fumbled the ball when he got hammered from behind when whoever was playing left tackle completely whiffed a block. Yes, it’s been three weeks since he played very well. Well, there is a reason. It’s called a bad shoulder and not just any shoulder, it’s the right shoulder. In case you haven’t noticed, Murph throws righthanded. And if you’ve ever tried throwing a football accurately, then you understand just how tough it is to do it when you’re feeling good and you’re painfree. Now, understand how difficult it must be to do it when your shoulder is killing you. Remember that if Murph tries to play Saturday against South Carolina. This is a very tough kid who might have what it takes to win big at this level if he’s healthy and has an offensive line that protects him.


Billy Donovan and the eighth-ranked Gators travel to Madison tonight to face 20th-ranked Wisconsin. Given Florida’s three suspended players and the number of players who still aren’t completely healthy (Will Yeguete, Eli Carter, Michael Frazier, Dillon Graham, Billy Donovan III), it wouldn’t be shocking if the Gators lose this one, but win or lose don’t read too much into it. Because of the injuries and suspensions, this Florida team is going to be a work in progress. In about five weeks when everyone is back and with Chris Walker enrolled and eligible (he’s passed his online courses; should be cleared for second semester within a couple of weeks), the Gators will look like a totally different team. They’re going to be really, really good this year, but it might take awhile before we really see just how good.


You could almost call this new wave vs. old school tonight when #1 Kentucky squares off with #2 Michigan State in Chicago in what should be the best college basketball game in the month of November. Kentucky is the new wave team with eight freshmen and two sophomores, while Michigan State is built the old school way. The Spartans are the traditional blend of freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. Although Kentucky probably will have the most talented player on the court in freshman stud Julius Randle, I like Michigan State’s experience and ability to defend the entire floor.


I’ve watched the Richie Incognito interview and I’ve listened to so many of his teammates defend him in the past week. It’s pretty obvious that the relationship between Incognito and Jonathan Martin was one straight out of the locker room. If you’ve been around the football culture, then you know and understand that it’s not normal. This is a violent game that requires a certain mindset and the people who play it, especially the linemen, are warriors for hire who put their bodies on the line for a game they love and a rather nice paycheck. I don’t buy all the bullying charges being leveled at Incognito just as I don’t buy Incognito’s defense. I understand these guys live in a different world and that their football world isn’t what any of us would call normal, but still, lines of civility have been crossed and there is no room for it. You can still have your world of violence and warrior mentality without the racism and without humiliating anyone.


The more I listen to John Hiatt the more I am amazed at the full range of his talent. When I first “discovered” him, much to my surprise I found out that I had actually been listening to his music for years only it was being performed by Three Dog Night, Bob Dylan, Buddy Guy, Keith Urban, Joe Cocker, Willie Nelson, Emmy Lou Harris and others. Today’s song is one of my favorites, “Have a Little Faith in Me.” It’s just John and the piano with some very cool vocals.

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.