Florida Gators: My Emotional Vs. Logical Response to Will Muschamp’s Coaching

I, like many Florida Gators fans, was outraged how the Missouri Tigers came into The Swamp, Florida’s home football field, and outright destroyed our team on our homecoming weekend. Will Muschamp, the head coach of Florida’s football team, has struggled to lead our program. This game was determined this past week as the “do or die” game for his future as head coach.

He died, professionally that is.

The once proud Florida Gators football team gave up 42 points within three quarters of football to a team that had been shut out at home the week before by the Gator’s arch rival, the Georgia Bulldogs. Ironically, Muschamp was a walk-on at Georgia as a player, and had never been a head coach prior to his Florida gig.

Now his career with Florida is hanging by a thread, and it’s a matter of time before he is given his walking papers.

I am one of many Gator fans that feel he should be fired immediately, so the program can begin the search for a new head coach. Jeremy Foley, the Florida Athletic Director, had announced prior to this season that he would wait until the end before making a decision on Muschamp’s future. He wanted to see the direction the program was taking.

Well, after last night, the program’s direction is due South, and it is a one-way trip.

Seriously, it’s clear that the team is not going to contend for the SEC title or possibly even a bowl invitation, so why not terminate Muschamp now, give the reigns to offensive coordinator Kurt Roper in the interim, and begin the search for the team’s next head coach?

That being said, it’s incumbent upon the Gator Nation to continue to support the players, team, and program while the leadership is reworked. These kids, yes “kids”, are doing their best in a trying situation, and Gator fans must realize that the team isn’t going to win national championships every single year. Yes, I too am bored and over the Muschamp era, but I will go to my grave as a fan of my alma mater.

I remember when I was a student at the University of Florida, the team had Emmitt Smith, and we barely won six or seven games each season (Smith was there for three years). It wasn’t until Steve Spurrier arrived in 1990 that the Gators became a SEC and national powerhouse. There were plenty of lean years for the Gator Nation, and frankly, most if not all of us have gotten spoiled with the three national and several SEC championships since 1990. It’s time for all of us to come back down to reality, and support the program while we begin to rebuild this once proud program.

Yes, fire Muschamp, but we must support our team. That’s what true Gator fans do.

A Day of 10 Year Old Adversity and Life Lessons

To quote the late, great President Franklin Delano Roosevelt: “… A day that will live in infamy…”, was the best way to sum up Saturday, October 19, 2014 for my son, Jake. For the first time in his illustrious adolescent career, he swallowed a bitter pill and didn’t have a glass of water to chase it with. That bitter pill was being benched.

He started playing sports at the ripe old age of five. At that age he was introduced to basketball with eight foot high hoops, soccer, baseball with all 12 teammates in the infield, and flag football. Since that time, soccer and baseball have fallen by the wayside, but basketball and football have remained and he has graduated to 10 foot hoop and Pop Warner, respectively.

Jake isn’t ready to sign any professional contracts just yet, but he has progressed in skill each passing year. He really loves both sports, and has luckily been a member of teams that for the most part have won most of their games. He has never been the team’s superstar, but he contributes and has been and currently is an integral part of said teams.

This is his first year in Pop Warner football, and his position for the most part has been offensive lineman. The reasons, mainly are that his team has established and good skill players, and he is one of the biggest kids on the team weighing in at 105lbs. I was worried at first since previously he excelled on defense and did quite well as a linebacker. He too rather plays defense than offense, so when he was assigned to the offensive line I wasn’t sure how he would handle the news.

Proudly, he smiled and said “no problem”, and took to it like a good teammate should.

Yesterday was the sixth game of the season, and he was moved over to left tackle (he was playing left guard all season). He only had one practice in pads to prepare, but told me that he was confident he could handle it. Trying not to be the “helicopter parent”, I backed off and took him at his word. I knew he was not 100% comfortable, but he usually handles new situations well.

He was benched after the first series.

He was called for “holding”, and the referee kindly told his coach that he could have been called for holding on every single play in that series if he chose to do so.

Thanks, ref.

So for the remainder of the game, Jake stood on the sideline watching his team come from behind to win. He cheered on his teammates, high-fived the teammate that replaced him, and stayed involved in the game even though it was from the sideline.

For the first time in his life, he “failed”. The head coach ripped into him. He made sure that Jake knew he screwed up, and wasn’t doing what he was coached to do. Jake stood there, didn’t argue, and simply said “yes, sir”.

I was proud of him. I was also hurting inside for him, too.

I knew he was upset. For the first time, he failed at something he loves to do. When the game was over, I treaded lightly and decided not to ask any questions. Jake and I are a lot alike, and when we want to discuss something, we bring it up, and hate when people ask too many questions especially at the wrong time.

A few hours passed when he finally talked to me. “Dad, I’m hurting inside. I let my team down”. I smiled and said, “This is another life lesson, and only you can decide what to do next”.

Then we started watching the Florida/Mizzou game, and quickly the game became a massive blowout for the Tigers. At halftime, Jake looked at me and said, “This is a bad football day. Tomorrow is a new day. I’m going to bed”.

When Jake woke up this morning, he was back with all smiles, and I asked him how he was feeling. “The 24 hour rule is in effect. I can’t change the past, but I can learn from it.”

That’s my boy. I consider myself quite intelligent, but at his age, I was no where near the maturity level that he is at right now. It will be interesting to see how he handles himself in football practice Monday night, but if I had to guess right now I would say he will give it his all and put the past behind him.

The reason I want Jake to play sports is to learn teamwork, respect, competition, and work ethic. Winning games is great, but at his age winning too many could be dangerous if handled incorrectly. Losing games, on the other hand, may provide heartbreak at first, but in the long run they also provide a dose of reality. I think as parents, one of the best lessons we can help our kids learn early is how to pick themselves up off the ground when they fail.

Yes, he is only 10 years old, and one month from now, if not sooner, he will forget all about what happened yesterday. However, that doesn’t mean he will not learn from it and remember how it felt when in his words “he let his team down”. Even though he didn’t say it, I bet he let himself down, too.

Like I said, Monday night will arrive soon, and we shall see how he acts during practice. My money is on him handling it the right way, and he will give it his all.

An Open Letter to the Student Body of the University of Florida

Dear Students,

Where were you yesterday? You do realize that your football team, the Florida Gators, participated in a game against Eastern Michigan at 4:00PM Saturday, right? I know, the first game against the Idaho Vandals was canceled due to bad weather a week prior, but seriously, where were you? And yes, I know your football team had an embarrassing 2013 season going 4-8 and didn’t get invited to a bowl game for the first time since President Jimmy Carter’s administration, but seriously, where were you?

It was just lovely when the television cameras panned to empty seats at kick-off yesterday. At first, I thought they were showing us a shot of William & Mary, but no, it was “The Swamp”! Are you kidding me?

Let me tell you something, students of the University of Florida—you are embarrassing the Gator Nation.

Prior to 1990, the Florida Gators had a few bright spots, but were mainly a mediocre football team. We fans had to sit through plenty of .500 seasons, NCAA infractions, and annual beat downs courtesy of Georgia in Jacksonville at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. You know what? We sold out every game. It didn’t matter how many exams we had the following week. It didn’t matter how hot it was in “The Swamp”. It just didn’t matter—we woke up early Saturday morning, tapped a keg, spent what little money we had on snacks, wings, burgers—whatever, and we, if necessary, stumbled into the stadium to make as much noise and give as much support as we possibly could for our football team. Nothing else mattered, we just did it.

I understand that “The Swamp” doesn’t have proper 4G or WiFi coverage. Damn, what will one do without the ability to take a selfie and upload it to Instagram? No status update to Facebook or tweeting how trashed you are in the 2nd quarter of the game. It’s the end of the digital world as we know it, I get it. 

Get over it.

I’m sure AD Jeremy Foley is barking at every cell provider in North Central Florida to upgrade the cell towers, and is looking to put enough WiFi service in the stadium ASAP to appease the students, but in the meantime toughen up and get your butts in the seats. The alumni are doing their part to get their families to the games; all you have to do is ride your bikes, drive your cars, or heaven forbid, walk a mile or so to the stadium.

I graduated from UF over 20 years ago, and we didn’t have social media or the Internet for that matter, so I may be a bit on the outside when I offer advice on how to prepare for game day. Regardless, I feel its necessary to help all of you that still haven’t figured out how to prepare for a Saturday football game in The Swamp.

Ready? Here it goes.

First, since UF has become far more academic than it was when I was there, we must focus first on your classes. Study early and get prepared for the following week’s exams; don’t wait for the last minute. Don’t skip classes, don’t sleep in, live in the library if necessary. Saturday is just one day, and if you stop drinking by 10:00PM Saturday night, you should be able to get plenty of sleep if you feel it absolutely necessary to live in the library the following Sunday morning.

Next, don’t stay out too late Friday night prior. The bars shut down at 2:00AM, but that doesn’t mean you have to be there to close it down. Get your drink on, but get home early enough if necessary to get the proper amount of rest if needed. If you can close the bar, head to another party, and finally crash around 6:00AM to get only a few hours of sleep, then so be it. But it is incumbent upon you to get the proper amount of rest necessary to prepare for Saturday’s game.

Now to Saturday morning. Once you do wake up, it is crucial that you eat a good breakfast before you start drinking. Let me tell you, beer and Cheerios sounds like a good idea, but really it isn’t. Yes, I tried it a few times, so let me save you from that experience now. However, scrambled cheese eggs and beer isn’t too bad. I recommend putting salsa on the eggs, too; it definitely adds to the experience if you choose to pop open that Michelob Ultra while eating said breakfast.

Once you have a good meal in your belly, then commence the party wherever it may be. If you want to head down to University Blvd. or downtown to party with the masses then please go for it. Oh, and yes, the zip lock baggies must be in plentiful supply if you plan on sneaking Captain Morgans or Jack Daniels into the game; I recommend double bagging just to be safe. Whatever you do, make sure you have someone on look-out duty when you begin passing the bag around in the stands to ensure a police officer doesn’t confiscate your booze. One last thing: Don’t participate in a drinking game prior to the game; save it for the after-party.

You can do it, students. You can make the University and the Alumni proud. Get your ass to the home football games. Invest a few dollars on tickets; you can do it. The next time a Gator football game is televised, we better see every seat filled just like they were a few years ago. The 2013 season is over, and yes it was an embarrassment, but it pales in comparison to how much you, the students, are embarrassing the University of Florida with your lack of attendance at our games.

You can live without your iPhones for a few hours. Take your pictures and upload them after the game. Status updates? Update everyone before entering: “Entering The Swamp to watch my Gators kick some serious ASS!”. See, there is an example of what to post prior to walking in. The digital world will survive without you for three to four hours while you cheer the Gators to victory.

Beautiful shot of the empty seats in The Swamp.

Beautiful shot of the empty seats in The Swamp.

Do you need your parents to take your tickets from you, and show you how to do “Football Saturday”? If you are at Florida, then you are pretty damn intelligent; don’t make your Mommy and/or Daddy come to Gainesville to show you how it’s done. They will school you like no professor could ever; trust me.

 

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: Preview via My Take

The 2014 NFL season is under way, and the Jacksonville Jaguars travel to Philadelphia, PA to take on the Eagles this Sunday. Most, if not all, football experts are predicting a decisive victory for Philadelphia since the lowly Jaguars won only four games in 2013 and are considered a young and rebuilding football team.

What cracks me up is how some pundits simply wave their hands at the matchup as if they do not have the time to analyze the elements of the upcoming game. Yes, Jacksonville is the second smallest market in the NFL, and the team has struggled as of late, not having won a playoff game since 2007 when they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-29. That was also the last year they made the playoffs.

Coach Gus Bradley enters his second season as the leader of the Jaguars, as does Chip Kelly for the Philadephia Eagles. Coach Bradley was a candidate for the Eagles job, but was passed over for Coach Kelly.

The city of Jacksonville, FL is happy with that decision. We feel Coach Bradley is a fantastic coach, but still must prove himself.

Let’s take a look at this upcoming game, and what to expect.

Jacksonville’s offense against Philadelphia’s defense:

Last season, the Eagle’s defense was ranked 17th overall; fourth against the run and 32nd against the pass. They also released safety Patrick Chung, but the defensive front appears to be in tact. The Jaguars have LT Luke Joeckel back from injury, but struggled during the preseason with their interior offensive line. Center Brad Meester retired, which has left serious question marks at that position. His replacement, Mike Brewster, was cut on August 29, 2014.

However, the Jaguars, through free agency and the draft, have bolstered their offensive line and skill positions. The biggest acquisition was RB Toby Gerhart, and he will replace Maurice Jones-Drew who now resides in Oakland. QB Blake Bortles, WRs Marquise Lee and Allen Robinson were drafted in the first two rounds, and the surprise of the preseason, WR Allen Hurns out of Miami (FL) have excited the fan base and infused hope that has not existed in quite some time. The coaching staff will start QB Chad Henne Sunday, but it is a matter of time before Bortles becomes the starting QB.

The Jaguars must find a way to run the ball not only to gain yards, but to burn time off the clock and keep their defense off the field to have any hope of winning the game. The interior offensive line will be key to Gerhart’s success, or lack thereof.

Jacksonville’s defense vs. Philadephia’s offense:

This is where the “pundits” may be way too confident in their prognostications. Coach Gus Bradley, the former defensive coordinator of the LOB—the Seattle Seahawk’s defense, knows a thing or two about defense. In 2013, the Jaguars started rookies in their secondary, and by the second half of the season, they came together as a very tight unit, helping the Jags win the last four of six games of the season. In the middle is veteran LB Paul Posluszny, and he anchors a tough and aggressive defense. However, the Jaguars went out and signed defensive lineman Red Bryant, Chris Clemons and Ziggy Hood.  Along with veteran Tyson Alualu, the defensive line should be vastly improved against both the pass and run.

That being said, the Eagles return QB Nick Foles, who came onto the scene in 2013 with 27 TDs and only two INTs. Let’s not forget RB “Shady” McCoy, who is considered in the top three of all NFL RBs. However, for some “shady” reasons, Coach Chip Kelly decided to release WR DeSean Jackson, which leaves Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper as the go to WRs. Will Foles be able to repeat his awesome performance of 2013? Will Maclin, who is returning from a serious knee injury, and Cooper be able to fill the departed Jackson’s shoes? Can the Jaguar’s defense prevent the Eagles from running up the score quickly and easily? 

I say yes.

The Eagles will win, but not by much: 24-20. The Jaguars are going to lose, but will surprise many this year and perhaps earn a wild card spot in this year’s playoffs. 

Yes, you heard it here first. The Jaguars will return to the playoffs this season.

 

Goodbye, My Friend Robin Williams

I can’t believe you’re gone, Robin. I had no idea that you were in that much pain. Surely, no one knew you were in that much pain. Damn, I turned to you whenever I needed a laugh or an emotional lift because you were so good at bringing laughter and joy to everyone around you. Just last week, I turned to you for a laugh, and it took only a few seconds to accomplish the goal. You were that good. I wish somehow I or someone could have done the same for you.

The first time we met, I knew immediately we would be close. For me, you were a natural at reaching out to a person. I know when I was sad, or down, you would instantly bring me back to a place that was tolerable if not bliss. Hell, you were so good that the troops overseas enjoyed having you; not only because you made them laugh, but because you truly cared. Just another reason I loved you so.

You were so good you crushed it in movies, too. There wasn’t a movie you did that I didn’t love. Of course, there are the popular ones such as Good Morning Vietnam, Mrs. Doubtfire, Patch Adams, Dead Poets Society, etc., but one of my favorites is a film that flew under the radar, Jakob the Liar. Of course the critics panned it, but you were spectacular as always, and made the message of the film clear as day. However, your performance in Good Will Hunting will never be forgotten. By far my favorite film, you reached deeply into a part of my heart that I never allow anyone to discover. That movie will always best represent your talent as an actor, but most importantly a human being.

I remember the time I traveled to Las Vegas to see you. You were commencing your world tour and opening at Caesar’s Palace. I had close to front row seats, and from the minute you stepped on stage, you had everyone in the crowd crying with laughter. Before you started your act, you had fun with the gentlemen that walked to their seats with a hired escort in tow. You were spot on that night. Your 90 minute show flew by and I left wanting more. That night you confirmed that you were the best in the business. No one could come close to your talent or intellect.

Now you are gone. I feel empty. I truly feel like I lost a best friend. I also feel guilty because I will never be able to repay you with the correct amount of gratitude for all you have done for me and the citizens of planet Earth. If we only knew the pain you must have been feeling to take your own life. I know you loved your family very much, and I also knew that you battled the demons of addiction, too. You shared often that you entered rehab to battle those demons, and honestly, we thought you were winning the fight. Sure, there were times you lost ground and had to return to seek assistance, but you were human and allowed to ask for help even though you seemed super-human to most. Why you would decide that the only course of action to finally defeat the demons was to take your own life I hope I will never understand.

Goodbye, my friend. I hope God takes you in and provides the comfort that you clearly sought. I will never understand, but will eventually accept it. You will be sorely missed.

“You don’t know about real loss, because it only occurs when you’ve loved something more than you love yourself.”

How the San Antonio Spurs Are Destroying AAU Basketball

The past two NBA Finals games in Miami have been absolute blowouts and embarrassments for the Miami Heat. A team put together to win several championships, the Miami Heat is now down 3-1 in the 2014 NBA Finals, and the next game is Sunday night in San Antonio. I did predict that the Spurs would win in six games, but I never thought the Spurs would perform as well as they have this series.

I guess I gave the Heat too much credit by thinking it would go six games.

However, on a deeper and more personal level, I wondered why a team so talented as Miami could be beat so easily on their home court. Seriously, the Heat have LeBron James, the best player in the NBA, and arguably one of the best players of all time. Then I remembered that LeBron was left off the NBA’s All-Defensive team this season.

Clearly, he was left off for a reason.

If you’ve watched these four games between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs, then surely you’ve noticed that the Heat have played very little defense. In game three, the Spurs scored over 40 points in the first quarter alone. Then comes game four, and everyone in the world figured the Miami Heat was going to come out on fire, score a ton of points, and play serious defense.

Nope.

Let’s take a look at the starting roster of each team:

Miami Heat

  1. Mario Chalmers, G, Kansas (USA)
  2. Dwyane Wade, G, Marquette (USA)
  3. Rashard Lewis, F, Alief Elsid HS (TX/USA)
  4. Chris Bosh, C-F, Georgia Tech (USA)
  5. LeBron James, F, St. Vincent-St. James HS (OH/USA)

San Antonio Spurs

  1. Manu Ginobili, G, Kinder Bologna (ARGENTINA)
  2. Tony Parker, G, Paris BR (FRANCE)
  3. Boris Diaw, F, Pau Orthez (FRANCE)
  4. Tim Duncan, F, Wake Forest (US VIRGIN ISLANDS)
  5. Tiago Splitter, C, Saski Baskonia (BRAZIL)

Arguably, these roster changes for every game, but do you notice any differences between the two?

I’ll give you three guesses, but the first two don’t count.

Without doing extensive investigative reporting on each listed player, I would venture to guess that each Heat player played in the AAU prior to their college and/or NBA career. Those on the Spurs roster did not.

I can speak somewhat intelligently about AAU Basketball since my 10-year-old son currently plays in a league. At least twice per week, not including tournament games, I sit back and watch the coaching in these games. Not just my son’s group, but the others, too. They participate in a series of drills to improve their dribbling and shooting, but passing and defense is often ignored.

In today’s basketball world, we want to see superstars. The players who can dazzle us with their dribbling and shooting skills are the ones that every college coach in the land wants. Therefore, the AAU leagues are now focused on giving the colleges what they require. If a kid is extremely talented, e.g. LeBron James, they bypass college basketball all together, and enter the NBA Draft immediately out of high school.

A paradigm shift in sports has occurred to a degree where defense has taken a serious back seat to offense. Look at football—the running back position has all but disappeared from relevance. The NFL is a pass-happy league, and it’s all about airing it all over the field. If a college QB has any semblance of passing proficiency, they are given a long and hard look by every NFL coach in the league. If you watch a Major League Baseball game, then you’ll see people sleeping in the stands, if they even show up, if the score is 2-1.

Then there’s the San Antonio Spurs, the anti-NBA team. A group of team first, “me” second players that make up a small-market team that gets very little fanfare outside of Texas. Their head coach, Gregg Popovich, known for his post-game interviews as well his success with the San Antonio Spurs, leads a team of starters that never sniffed an AAU team. They pass in order to get the best shot possible, not just a good one. They play incredible defense. They are a team, and have undefined the word “me”.

And they are about to win another championship.

Perhaps it’s time to re-think AAU basketball here in the United States. Clearly, the Miami Heat are still in a different reality since they are flirting with signing Carmelo Anthony, the poster child of the anti-team movement. Give Anthony the ball, and his teammates turn immediately to the hoop hoping they can get the offensive rebound in case he misses. But he tends to hit quite a few shots, so surely he’ll be offered a gazillion dollars to play in South Beach.

As for my 10-year-old son, his basketball future may not include AAU. Don’t get me wrong; his coaches do a great job coaching the skills they focus on, but in my opinion the training is incomplete. My son is also on a YMCA team, and the coach puts an emphasis on the team and not just scoring points. The conundrum for me is that I may make a detrimental decision that negatively affects his development.

I guess that’s life in a nutshell. We make decisions that are larger risks than others.

One thing is for sure: The San Antonio Spurs are proving what most of us have known for a very long time that synergy outperforms individual efforts. Great teams outperform superstars all the time, and the 2014 NBA Finals are proving it once again.

Accepting vs. Embracing Diversity: Donald Sterling Did Us A Favor

Thank you, Donald Sterling, for shining a light on an issue that is known to exist, but still goes unaddressed. An old man, wealthy and set in his ways, was recorded saying what everyone knew he felt. Once it went viral, the voices of reason could be heard from the top of any nearby mountain shouting for Sterling’s head.

What I find striking about this recent revelation is that it further demonstrates that a huge problem still exists in the United States.

I have been outspoken about politicians and political parties since the beginning of President Barack Obama’s presidency. One of the great divides today in our country thanks to the GOP is racism and diversity. The Republican Party has gone out of it’s way to widen the divide courtesy of the birther movement, voter fraud scares via voter ID, and refusing to raise the minimum wage just to name a few. The top tiers of the Republican Party has plenty of Donald Sterlings and that will not change anytime soon.

You see, it is quite easy to state that you value diversity. Check out corporate America today, and you can find diversity statements everywhere in their mission statements. See, what most folks don’t understand that there is a huge difference between acknowledging diversity, accepting it, and embracing it.

Baby Boomers were introduced to the idea early in their professional careers. Every Human Resource department immediately incorporated language into the corporate environment to prevent lawsuits; not just to fight off racism, but to ensure that good old white boy club didn’t take total control. Women, minorities, and the disabled were to be given equal opportunity, and every suit within ear shot would shake their heads in total agreement for all to see.

By the time those within “Generation X” worked their way into leadership roles diversity was no longer simply acknowledged, but accepted. Racism would not be tolerated, and they would welcome a diverse culture anywhere a team was formed. Forward progress, yes, but the journey was not near complete. Too many baby steps, and not nearly enough marathons.

Today, we have Generation Y, Millennials, taking hold of society and corporate America, and they continue to excel and grow their influence. Now, diversity is not simply acknowledged or accepted, but it is embraced. It is welcomed. Forget the fact that more and more opportunities are now available for women, minorities, and disabled individuals, but they are viewed as natural equals and differences are not pointed out, but looked for. Those differences are what improves ideas, methods/procedures, and creativity. In the end, the world is becoming a better place.

Unfortunately, there are those that still hold positions of power and influence that remain closed-minded and set in their ways. Jokingly, I often tell people that every four years, when we elect or re-elect a President, old folks die off and younger people enter the voting pool. Those turning 18 years of age and registering to vote are for the most part welcoming and nurturing diversity and doing their best to rid society of racism.

I realize that the statements made above were broad-stroke in nature and you can find racism everywhere. Also, you can find Seniors that embrace diversity across our land. I speak in generalities, and the law of averages are followed. All I know is that as a father of a 10 year old son, I hope that the disease known as racism never enters his heart, and he sees it for what it is: hate and ignorance.

To quote one of my favorite musicians, Neil Peart: “Quick to judge, quick to anger, slow to understand. Ignorance and prejudice and fear walk hand in hand”.