Gators visit Oval Office

It is customary for college basketball’s national champions to spend a day at the White House. In fact, this is tradition for nearly all of sport’s title teams.

But oddly, inexplicably – the  Gators, in the wake of a crushing semifinal defeat, celebrated in the Oval Office.

Well, sort of.

It was a mere 10 hours since I dejectedly walked out of Jerry’s World and into the cold, rainy world of reality.

Our basketball season was doused.

And so too was a Final Four trip filled with promise and expectations.

“Now what?” was the prevailing question among my crew of friends in Dallas.

Sunday began with a trip through the Hilton lobby, where Gator fans milled around – some aimlessly, others with a distinct purpose.

Check out. Get out. Go home.

The very same faces I saw a day earlier jubilantly cheering at the pregame pep-rally were now expressionless, in a sort of post-loss hangover.

They – well,  “we” – were easy to spot, wearing orange and blue, or a dismayed look.

I, like some others, was dressed in both.

I’d like to suggest my attire was borne of stubborn pride, but it was more due to the fact that my suitcase contained exclusively Gator apparel.

Don’t get me wrong, I am always proud – but this morning I was not in the mood to invite questions, comments or feigned empathy from rival fans.

But I got ’em all  …

“What happened last night?”

“We were really rooting for you guys. It would have been great to have an all-SEC final!”

“Well, you had a great season.”


I gotta get the hell outta here.

And that was the plan, but not until Monday.

On the advice of a fellow Gator fan and local resident, I opted to pass time at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

It was to be a sanctuary of sorts, as Kentuckians surely would not bother themselves with something as trivial as world politics. After all, there was a basketball game the next day!

I am kidding, of course. I was also wrong.

My friend Kevin and I walked up the museum to find a long line of visitors – and a venue lousy with Cat fans.

The line weaved like a serpent through the corridor and up to the security check point, forcing me to pass the same faces at every turn. I felt them staring at the “F-L-O-R-I-D-A” stretched across my shirt.

And I could almost hear their thoughts – “Sure, you beat us, but look at us now!”


I gotta get the hell outta here.

Alas, Kevin and I made our way into the museum where the line separated, crowd disbursed and Cat fans diluted.

On occasion we passed fellow Gator fans and exchanged somewhat solemn nods of recognition as we moved along.

We made our way through the museum and at risk of turning this into a raging ‘Too Hot’ debate, it was pretty darn good.

Among my favorite exhibits was W’s personal art gallery – only because it gave me ample opportunity to showcase my Will Farrell/George Bush impression.

“These are my paintins,” I said over and over – complete with the famous Texas drawl as well as the Bush smirk and hand gestures.

I thought it was pretty good. Hey, even a few Kentucky fans laughed.

Or were they laughing at my shirt?


I gotta get the hell outta here.

And that was the plan. But not before visiting the mock Oval Office.

“It is really something to see,” the advising Gator fan told me earlier in the day. “It is an exact replica, right down to the furniture and artwork”.

As Kevin and I approached, we were again greeted by a line – and yet again, it was permeated by the dreaded blue and white.

Each person took a turn sitting at the desk as a museum photographer snapped a keepsake.

It seemed kind of awkward, and I anticipated being a bit embarrassed when my turn came.

Many picked up the phone and pretended to be on a worldly phone call. Others sat rigid and offered a Presidential pose. Some just smiled.

I had not done the latter in 15+ hours.

“Go ahead, Mr. President,” a museum staffer said.

It was my turn.

As I approached, I felt the eyes on me again. The eyes of Kentucky.

“Uh-oh – a Florida fan. He is not a happy President,” someone joked.

I lowered myself into the Presidential chair and braced the desk.

“1, 2 . . .” the photographer counted out her cue.

Should I grab the phone?

Pretend to be writing?

Look sternly at the camera?

Think, Brent! Think!  Do something Presidential, damn it!

And then it hit me . . .

* We won a program record 36 games!

* We won all 21 games versus SEC opposition!

* We won the regular season and conference tournaments titles!

* We won 30 straight games!

*We won the nagging Elite 8 matchup and advanced to the coveted Final Four!

* Scottie Wilbekin won Conference Player of the Year!

* Billy Donovan won SEC Coach of the Year!

* Casey Prather won All-Conference Player and Wooden Award All-American honors!

* Patric Young won SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year and SEC Defensive Player of the Year.

* Dorian Finney-Smith won SEC Sixth Man of the Year. 

But most importantly, these kids – this team – won the hearts of one another and the Gator Nation!

I sat high in my seat, smiled broadly, grabbed my shirt at the sides and thrust the “F-L-O-R-I-D-A” logo toward the camera.


I rose from my seat, and walked out of the “Oval Office” – not having pretended to be the President, but instead showing what I am – a proud Gator!

“Go Gators,” someone shouted as I passed by the waiting line.

This time there was no solemn nod. Instead, a high-five.

On the way out, I bought the picture.

And yup, I look ridiculous – especially being 39 years old. But that is the beauty of sports . . . they make us feel, act, laugh and sometimes cry like a kid.

And this team provided for all of that – and more!

So, to the 2013-2014 Gator Basketball team:

Thank you! Thank you for the memories!

President Brent J. Mechler II


  1. ^^Haha!! It was great . . . . and became material for this column! Great suggestion!!!
    We looked for you at the pep rally and game . . . no luck!
    What a bummer, eh?
    Good to see ya! Thanks for the tour, lunch and suggestion!