Thoughts of the Day: September 14th, 2013

[symple_highlight color=”yellow”]1. BILLY DONOVAN GETS IT: [/symple_highlight]A lot of folks seem to think that college athletes shouldn’t be compensated beyond room, board, tuition and books, that a scholarship is more than adequate pay for what amounts to a 40-hour a week job on top of going to school. As reported by The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway, Donovan told the Capital Area Gator Club, “There is a feel by a lot of families that here you have these huge athletic departments, you have arenas, stadiums filled up and these kids are told, you can’t go out and you can’t take a free meal, you can’t take anything. A lot of times for those kids, I think it’s very difficult to swallow that.” Supposedly, the current NCAA rules level the playing field and make it so that athletes are just like normal students, but a normal student can accept a free meal or have his cover charge waived. A normal student can take the summer off and get a job. Because they are required to spend so much time practicing, training and traveling to games during the regular school year, athletes typically have to pick up summer school hours to stay eligible so there is no time for a job. It is not a level playing field for an athlete, and it really is time to consider some sort of money beyond the scholarship.

[symple_highlight color=”yellow”]2. THE FAN CAM STRIKES AGAIN[/symple_highlight]: This is getting ridiculous. At the BMW Tournament in the Chicago suburbs Friday, Tiger Woods was assessed a two-stroke penalty thanks to a fan sending in a video of Tiger’s ball moving less than a sixteenth of an inch when he was clearing debris and preparing to hit the ball out of the woods back onto the rough surround the green on the first hole. I’ve watched the video several times and the ball does seem to move but ever so slightly. Tiger got no advantage whatsoever and it’s not even clear that he knew the ball had oscillated just a tad. I don’t know how many times it’s happened in the last two years, but I’m sick of golfers being penalized by fans with their cameras reporting things. I don’t think there is a golfer on the PGA Tour who willingly cheats. This is the only sport out there where penalties are self-assessed 99% of the time. It’s ridiculous that fans are looking for the slightest little thing and trying to make these guys seem like cheaters.

[symple_highlight color=”yellow”]3. REALLY, IT’S NICK SABAN VS. JOHNNY ROTTEN: [/symple_highlight]On paper it’s #1 Alabama vs. #6 Texas A&M, but let’s face it, this is really about Nick Saban uncorking a rather hefty measure of revenge – and defense – on the kid who made his rather stout defense look kinda puny last year in Tuscaloosa. What Johnny Manziel does for Texas A&M isn’t lost for a nanosecond on Saban, who knows that if Alabama is going to stay #1 in the polls Saturday, he’s got to make everybody in the world think that Manziel should have spent more time concentrating on football during the previous months instead of becoming the second coming of Johnny Rotten (lead singer for a band called the Sex Pistols back in the 1970s). For Alabama to win this game, Saban can’t let Johnny Rotten improvise and make plays on his own because when he’s doing that, he becomes something very special and this Kyle Field crowd will feed off that. Saban has to cut Johnny Rotten off at the kneecaps or else the Tide will not be #1 come Sunday.

[symple_highlight color=”yellow”]4. EVERYTHING POINTS TO A BAMA WIN:[/symple_highlight] Saban is 6-1 in revenge games since he’s been at Alabama and this is indeed a revenge game. Maybe he wants people to think it’s just another game, but it isn’t. When Saban loses, beating that team in the rematch becomes his life’s mission. Example: from the time the Gators ran off the field clutching the SEC championship trophy in 2008 until the rematch in Atlanta in 2009, those closest to Saban admit he was totally obsessed with getting back to Atlanta so he could exact revenge on the Gators, which he did. He’s had the Aggies circled on his calendar since January 8, 2013, the day after Bama disposed of Notre Dame to win the national title. Saban’s history of coming up big in games like this points to an Alabama win. I doubt it happens, but if Johnny Rotten pulls this one out, I won’t be surprised. Like him or hate him, the kid does have that IT factor about him.

[symple_highlight color=”yellow”]5. MEANWHILE OUT IN OREGON:[/symple_highlight] Whoever in Tennessee dreamed up this idea of a home and home with Oregon followed the same logic I followed nearly 30 years ago when I married that blue-eyed belle with that light up the room smile, syrup-sweet charm and killer legs. It really did seem like a good idea at the moment. Whoever signed that contract had it in his head that Tennessee football remains relevant on the national scene and has forgotten that the Vols have been drowning in a sea of orange love since 1999 when Alex Brown spent a lifetime in Tee Martin’s face one night. If that 48-13 beatdown by the Ducks in Knoxville in 2010 wasn’t enough of a reality check then what is going to happen today in Eugene when the Vols fulfill the second half of the contract will. Tennessee will discover there is fast and then there is Oregon fast. The Vols might be able to simulate Oregon’s tempo in practice but there is nothing they can do to simulate the speed. The fastest man the Vols have faced in wins over Austin Peay and Western Kentucky could probably get shot out of a gun and still couldn’t catch up with Marcus Mariotta or DeAnthony Thomas. And, they aren’t even the fastest of the Ducks.

[symple_highlight color=”yellow”]6. WHEN JOEY MET LAWRENCE:[/symple_highlight] This weekend 18 years ago, Tennessee and Peyton Manning were wearing the Gators out with slant and crossing routes over the middle when Joey Kent had an out of body experience that not only changed the game, but an entire season for Florida. Kent ran another slant route and Peyton hit him on the numbers at the exact same time that Lawrence Wright delivered the hit heard ‘round the world. The ball went flying into the air and landed probably 15 yards away and Kent lay motionless in a crumpled heap on the turf at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Kent didn’t move a move or budge a budge for what seemed like an eternity. Spit bubbles that kept popping in the corners of his mouth were the only indicator he was alive.

[symple_highlight color=”yellow”]7. WHEN JOEY MET LAWRENCE, PART II:[/symple_highlight] Joey Kent survived that hit and actually walked off the field albeit steadied by two UT trainers. When play resumed, Peyton was without a receiver courageous enough to catch the ball in the middle of the field. Minus the middle of the field, the Vols became predictable and saw their 30-14 lead dissipate in a hurry. Florida scored the next 48 points and won that game, 62-37. On the cover of Sports Illustrated the next week, Peyton was pictured sitting on the Vols’ bench looking like someone had stolen his puppy. The Gators would go on to win another nine straight games to finish 12-0 and earn a spot in the Fiesta Bowl against Nebraska. Okay, we won’t talk about what happened against Nebraska, but the hit by Mr. Wright not only salvaged that game but the season. Had the Gators lost, they probably would have played in the Citrus Bowl, while Tennessee, which didn’t lose again that year, would have faced Nebraska.

[symple_highlight color=”yellow”]8. THE FEARLESS FORECAST:[/symple_highlight] In addition to taking Alabama over Texas A&M and Oregon over Tennessee, I like Louisville over My Old Kentucky Home, LSU over (Clark) Kent State, the Georgia Poodles over North Texas, South Carolina over Gloria Vanderbilt, Ole Miss over Texas in game one of the Mack Brown Farewell Tour and Aubrin (we say Auburn but have you ever heard one of them try to say it?) over the Fighting Mullens of Mississippi State.

MUSIC FOR TODAY: If you spent any time on fraternity row on the University of Florida campus during the mid-1960s, then you might remember the Allman Joys, the Daytona Beach based band that spent a lot of time playing gigs in Gainesville. From that beginning, Duane and Gregg Allman hooked up with Butch Trucks, Berry Oakley, Dickey Betts and Jaimoe Johanson to found The Allman Brothers Band in Jacksonville in 1969. For the next two years, The Allman Brothers formed the roots of what we know now as Southern rock and roll. Although the band continues to exist today, it’s never been as good as it was from 1969-71 when Duane Allman (slide guitar) and Oakley (bass) made the Allman Brothers the hottest American band going. Duane died in Macon, Georgia in 1971 when his motorcycle collided with a truck loaded with peaches. Oakley died a year later in a motorcycle accident in Macon, just three blocks away from where Duane died. “Tied to the Whipping Post” was the best song on the band’s debut album in 1969. It’s still considered the national anthem of Southern rock and roll.

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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.