The Super Bowl Giveth, The Super Bowl Taketh Away

Tomorrow, the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks will compete in the Super Bowl. Once the game is over, so will be football.

Percy Harvin, Seattle Seahawks

For some of us, that may be a good thing. The Florida Gators posted a record of 4-8 during the 2013 regular season. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won as many games despite having four more chance to add to their victory total. That’s eight combined wins for the teams I consider myself a fan of. Eight total wins and 20 losses. The end of the current football season can’t come soon enough for me.

I will miss it of course. I’m not completely dead inside. I will miss the victories, though few and far between recently. I will miss the anticipation and hope. I will miss those that stuck together in all kinds of weather. But there is plenty I won’t miss.

I won’t miss poor offensive play, and poor is a nice way to put it. I won’t miss injuries. I won’t miss coaching hot seats. I won’t miss the fan 20 years my senior that hates Jeff Driskel with a passion reserved for, well, I can’t really imagine where you find that kind of hate within you. I won’t miss losing two or three times as many games as you win.

Luckily, football never really comes to an end. Mere days after the Super Bowl is National Signing Day–a recruiting fan’s dream date. Following NSD, we gear up for the NFL Draft. During the summer, we talk recruiting and anticipation and hope begins to build again. All along, if you’re so inclined, you can bet on the upcoming season (find the latest odds online with Betfair). The games may end, but football doesn’t.

Tomorrow, the final game of the 2013 season is played. For us Gators, we have Percy Harvin and Andre Caldwell and Jeremy Mincey to cheer for. One team will be wearing orange and blue, even if their quarterback could never beat Florida. We have 60 minutes of game time left. 60 minutes before the offseason truly begins and hope returns.

Numbers Beyond Sports and the Tragic Death of Odin Lloyd

We immerse ourselves in sports for many reasons. For the sports fan, it’s far more than entertainment; it’s an all encompassing passion that has us cheering unconditionally for our favorite teams regardless of the circumstances. We spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars on merchandise and we do whatever we can to make ourselves a part of the team. That passion also has us checking various sports-related websites before we’re even fully awake in the morning. We have alerts set on our cellphones so we know exactly when news has broke. We compare the heroes of today with those of the past and we debate endlessly with each other over what the future will bring.

Odin Lloyd

There is one part of sports where we can’t fall on different sides of the argument though–numbers. Numbers occur and are hard to debate. (Aided by performance enhancements or not) Barry Bonds hit 763 homeruns. The Miami Heat won their second-consecutive NBA Championship with a 4-3 series victory over the San Antonio Spurs. Whether you agree with the way participants in the title games are chosen or not, the Florida Gators football program has won three National Championships. Those numbers happened. We witnessed them and there’s no way to erase them. Even when we attempt to delete them due to sanctions handed down, we know they really occurred.

As Aaron Hernandez’s story continues to be written there are many numbers that will be focused on. One of those might be 11. In the fourth quarter of the 2013 AFC Championship game, New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady completed a pass to Hernandez. The former University of Florida star tight end gained 11 yards. Those 11 yards may turn out to be the last yards he ever gains in the NFL. That number and others will be discussed. The career that could have come and the statistics he could have achieved will be debated. Many will wonder what could have become of Aaron Hernandez the football player. Few will focus on one of the most important and saddening number of the entire story–27.

I started dating the woman who would become my wife when I was 27. In the seven years since then, we bought our first house together, got engaged, got married, and–almost one year ago–brought our amazing son into the world. Saying the last seven years have been the best years of my life is not an overstatement. I’ve lived more in those seven years than I had before and look forward to what the next seven will bring. Odin Lloyd won’t get those seven years. He was 27 years old when he was murdered. He won’t get those seven years. He won’t even get one more.

Life is fragile. We can barely make it through a week without hearing how one was cut short needlessly. Tragically, when that story also involves someone as high profile as an athlete or celebrity or other well-known personality, we hear too much about that person and not the victim. If we didn’t already know the victim, we may never truly discover who they were. Odin Lloyd’s tragedy will be well-documented, but not always from the right angle. The story will be sensationalized to focus on Aaron Hernandez’s role. From time to time, a piece will pop up that will make us think more about Lloyd and what could have become of the 27-year-old semi-professional football player–like this one–but those pieces will be few and far between. We may never learn much about the 27 years Lloyd spent in this world, but we’ll surely be presented with a detailed account of Hernandez’s remaining years.

At 27, you’re still figuring out what to do with your life. At least I was. When I turned 27, I enjoyed many things about my life. What I didn’t know was how much more I would enjoy the future. I was naive in thinking it would only get better, but at the same time I was somewhat of a prophet because it has. We’ll never know what the future would have brought for Lloyd. Maybe happiness. Maybe despair. To steal a line, it could have been the best of times or the worst of times. Or, probably more accurately, it could have been both.

A few short months after I married the love of my life, I lost my mother. My mother, teacher and best friend passed away on November 27, 2009. There’s that number again–27. She encouraged my obsession with sports from an early age. She put up with a son that read her box scores and statistics that she never wanted to know. Her life was cut short after an eight-month battle with Leukemia. It wasn’t fair then and it isn’t fair now. That number–27–sticks out to me and always will because of the day that I lost her. There was no November 28 for my mother. There is no 28th birthday for Odin Lloyd.

We’ll always remember Aaron Hernandez. That was already a certainty for Florida Gators’ fans. Now it’s a certainty for all sports fans and even those outside of that realm. We’ll know him like people across the world know O.J. Simpson. Whether he is guilty or innocent, we’ll remember this one instance over all others in the life of Aaron Hernandez. But will we remember Odin Lloyd?

I hope we will. I hope that months from now, years from now we talk of a life that could have been. I hope we wonder what the next seven years would have brought Lloyd. I hope we think of his family and friends. I hope the tragic loss of life at a young age is what we remember. I hope we won’t forget what we often do–that there are victims as well as killers. I hope for all of this just like Odin Lloyd hoped for a better life, or at the very least more life. Lloyd’s hopes have ended; there is no tomorrow for him. But we can choose to remember him and what he may have hoped for. We can think about the 27 years he was given and dream about what he would have done with those that were taken away.

DON’T FEED THE ALLIGATORS!

We all love alligators around here. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you were to see my son’s room, you would think he’s the world’s leading alligator expert even though he’s only three weeks old. But even he knows that you shouldn’t feed them (okay, he probably doesn’t know that yet considering he has no idea what an alligator is, or what I am for that matter).

Don't Feed the AlligatorsWallace Weatherholt (ALERT: THERE IS A CHARACTER FROM HARRY POTTER MASQUERADING AS AN AIRBOAT CAPTAIN IN THE FLORIDA EVERGLADES!) attempted to feed an alligator during a recent tour and (spoiler alert!) it didn’t go well. For his trouble, Weatherholt now has one less hand then he originally came with.

And to add to the fun, he’ll now be charged for doing so because feeding alligators is against the law in the state of Florida.

So love the alligators, just don’t feed them. Not only can it result in the inability to do anything two-handed ever again, but it’s illegal.

The EA Sports NCAA Football Collection

Once upon a time, I might have considered myself a “gamer.” That is not as true anymore, but I still purchase one game every year without fail – EA Sports NCAA Football. With the addition of NCAA Football 12 to the family, I now have 20 in the collection all the way back to Bill Walsh College Football. Some will find this to have an incredibly high nerd quotient. Others will believe it to be cool. I am pretty sure it is a little bit of both, but I am fine with that.
A few things you will notice:
1. None of the Sega Genesis ones have cases. I have absolutely no idea where these went over the years. All of them are missing, yet I still have PGA Tour II box and all.

2. 2004, 2005, and 09 all look better with Florida players on the cover. Guss Scott, Chris Leak, and Percy Harvin were the choices.

3. There is both an XBOX and an XBOX 360 version of the 07 game. The XBOX version had spring drills, it was a must buy at the time. I do not know why. I actually also had the PSP version for a day before I discovered the ball carrier glitch. The glitch would occur every time you ran the ball. You were marked down where you were first touched, not where you were tackled. So yes, for a brief period of time I had three versions of the same game. I am completely aware there is something seriously wrong with me.

4. Mrs. TBG has been with me for the last six versions of the game at this point and yet she sticks around. Bless her.

5. I am not the world’s greatest photographer.

Gators Are Nuisances!

Did you know the state of Florida has a nuisance gator policy? You may have. I didn’t. I’m probably further removed from these tidbits of knowledge than any other person who lives in a place with O’ in its name.

In Florida, alligators (Something else you may not have known: the American alligator is also known as the alligator mississippiensis. Wonder how they came up with that name.) over four feet in length that are also classified as a nuisance are put down (a nice way of saying destroyed). The trapper (you must apply and be authorized to do so) is then allowed to keep both the gator’s hide and meat. I would apply for this job in a second if I didn’t fear most of my days would consist of me running and screaming like a little girl. Alligators are scary, but they don’t jump. Remember that important fact. If they did, they would rule the world and there might be a nuisance human policy (which there should be anyway).
Why is this important to you? Well, it’s not. But there are some Gators (with a capital G) who we might wish fell under the umbrella of this policy. And also because gators appear everywhere. In your backyard. In your pool. In your house. Even attached to your patrol car.

The Flagship University in the State of Florida

I’d like to think I’m pretty tame when it comes to taking jabs at rivals. I could be wrong, but I like to think that. I did have second thoughts about posting this, but to be honest those thoughts were short lived for two reasons: 1) begging is awesome; and 2) isn’t this a little like Geo asking to be named GM’s flagship brand over Cadillac?  Proceed with your own thoughts.
From President Eric J. Barron: Oppose SB 2442, designating a “flagship university”

We have received numerous messages of concern about Senate Bill 2442, which would create a flagship university designation for the State of Florida. We share your concern. The bill includes criteria that limit flagship status solely to the University of Florida.

This legislation is unwarranted. Florida State University is designated as a Research University (Very High Research Activity), the highest status granted through the national organization charged with classifying universities, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Because this bill would exclude Florida State University from flagship status, we ask that you contact your local legislators immediately and urge them to vote against SB 2442.

National Signing Day Open Thread

Good morning everyone. It’s finally here. National Signing Day. Throughout the day, I’ll be updating this post with some of the news of the day. I’ll try to stick to the bigger happenings and not every little detail (that’s what Twitter is for), so come back often and feel free to leave your comments below.
Chris Dunkley and Dominique Easley became the first Florida commits to send in their LOIs this morning. Neither were wavering, but it’s nice to know two of the bigger names are officially Gators.
Wide receiver Kadron Boone, who was once linked to Florida, will sign with LSU today.
Tyler Murphy sent his LOI in to Florida bright and early. He becomes the third Gator to sign.

Tampa’s Michael McFarland becomes the Gators fourth signee of the day.

Welcome Cody Riggs and Jonathan Dowling to Florida. There was some minor doubt with Riggs in recent weeks, but he’s all Gator now.

Chris Veron becomes USF’s first signee of the day.

Quinton Dunbar is the latest Gator to sign. His teammate Lynden Trail can’t be far behind.

Gideon Ajagbe signs with Florida. I’ve always like him a lot. Felt he’s extremely underrated.

Looks like James Louis may have stuck to his word. He appears to be Ohio State bound.

Offensive lineman Tony Kibler becomes the Bulls’ second signee.

Mack Brown sends in his signed LOI to Florida. This is a big one. He had also received a package from FSU.

Hearing a lot about Gator commit Michael Taylor possibly ending up at USF.

Sharrif Floyd sends in his LOI to Florida. Not many Gator commits left to sign.

Markeith Ambles will head to USC.

The Bulls have received Jamius Gunsby’s signed LOI.

Michael Taylor ends up sticking with the Gators.

Looks like Lynden Trail has sent in his LOI to the Gators.

If Trail has indeed signed, Florida is just waiting on Ronald Powell and Travon Van of the commits.

It appears as if Darrin Kitchens will be a Gator after all. Great pickup. Very solid player.

Hans Louis (previously a Marshall commit), Jake Kaufmann, and Marcus Shaw sign with USF.

Don’t remember the LOIs coming in so quickly in past years. It’s not even 10:00 AM EST and Florida already has 23 of the 26 commits signed and rumors of Adrian Coxson and Chaz Green being the final two.

Thanks to armygator for letting us know Ronald Powell has sent in his LOI to Florida.

Michael Hayes and Mark Joyce have signed with USF.

The Bulls have inked Reshard Cliett and Todd Chandler. Chandler is a great pickup for USF and a bit of a surprise. Many thought Louisville had the edge.

Travon Van is officially a Gator. And so is Adrian Coxson. Coxson was a Florida lean, but wasn’t committed before today.

Many expect the final Florida spot to go to Chaz Green. He announces at 3:30 PM EST.

Terrence Mitchell to USF is official.

Former Florida commit Demar Dorsey is headed to Michigan.

Name of the Year candidate Quinterrius Eatmon signs with USF.

LATEST UPDATE: Florida welcomes #28 – Chaz Green.

5 Things to Prepare You for National Signing Day

My wife thanks Jebus that National Signing Day is in the middle of the week.  That way, she doesn’t have to hear me gush endlessly about 18-year-olds and their “potential” for an entire Saturday.  Don’t get me wrong, Mrs. Bull Gator is a big college football fan, but as with many a fan, the games are where it’s at (cue hit song by Beck that makes you scratch your head as to why it was so popular in the first place).  For the rest of us, the diehards, it’s of the utmost importance.
With Signing Day coming on a Wednesday, you have to be prepared.  Odds are you are grinding away at your job that day.  It’s not as simple as waking up on a Saturday morning, wiping the drool/whiskey off your chin, and stumbling to the television.  Most of your information will be provided via the World Wide Web and you need to be ready for all the day can throw at you.  Last minute switches, high school kids showing off their acting skills when pretending they aren’t sure which hat to pick up, grown men getting giddy over the latest blue chip recruit.  This isn’t a day to mess around people!  It’s National Signing Day.  Pay it the respect it deserves.
By now, you’re a little bit nervous.  Maybe even scared.  But it’s alright.  Everything will be okay.  I’m here for you.  To console you during the rough times and toast with you during the good ones.  And most importantly, I’m here to help you prepare.  So listen up and welcome the day that’s coming.  Don’t fear it.
1. Work productivity be damned.  Don’t kid yourself.  Don’t try to be the hero.  Don’t put more on your plate than you can handle.  It’s just you and Signing Day.  Realize that now and you’ve already won the battle.  Treat it like a lady.  It needs special attention.  Singular attention.  As much as you fantasize about the you/work/Signing Day threesome, it just isn’t gonna happen.  Inevitably you’ll neglect one and screw the whole thing up.  If it’s you, you’ll end up nothing more than a useless heap of sobbing human curled up on the floor under your desk sucking your thumb and wondering where it all went wrong and where the hell your pants went.  If it’s work, mistakes will be made.  Don’t sacrifice your station in your organization because you took on too much.  When rushed, mistakes happen (let’s hope that’s the last time I offer up career advice).  And if it’s Signing Day, well, don’t leave out Signing Day.  If that’s your choice then you’re clearly in the wrong place.  Go back to reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and get off this site immediately.  So pick the obvious two.  You and the recruits.  Work can wait until Thursday.  You’ve surely perfected ways to make it seem like you were working already.  Now’s the time to put them into action.
2. Make sure someone keeps the coffee pot full.  And throws out that decaf crap while they’re at it.  (Speaking of, what in the world is the point in decaf coffee?  Does coffee really taste that good to some people that they drink it free of its ability to keep me from falling asleep and putting myself into a coma as my head smashes against the particle board that makes us my desk?  The answer is no, it doesn’t.)  Coffee isn’t a necessity here.  Whatever does it for you will work just fine.  Coffee, a cola or two, whatever flavor of Mountain Dew is Taco Bell’s drink of the month, Pixy Stix powder, enough pills to break the homerun record.  Just make sure you’re awake.  This isn’t a day in which to take your early morning, mid morning, before lunch, after lunch, mid afternoon, or late afternoon nap.  Stay alert and don’t worry about the shaking.  It’ll pass.
3. Sit in style.  Signing Day is not a day to skimp on your seating of choice.  Make sure you have ample butt support as you’ll be glued to your computer and the refresh button for many an hour.  Choose your throne wisely.  Whether it be luxury in leather or recliner heaven, make it comfortable.  You won’t get up, and if you do, it’ll only be for but a moment to recharge.  This one could be the most important of the bunch.  That last thing you need to be doing is thinking “ugh, I better get up and move around a bit, I’m stiff.”  NO!!!  You aren’t stiff!  Your mind won’t let you be stiff!  And if you are stiff, you’re weak!  Man up and pick your seat out the day before.  Steal it from a coworker.  Order it from facilities now.  Do what you need to do.  Your ass will thank you later.
4. Know the names.  Every year without fail I get an email or instant message or phone call that goes something like this: “What do you think about this Harvin kid?  I hadn’t heard of him until today, but are you sure he will fit into the Gators’ offense?  He can’t really be that good can he?”  Yes he can be that good.  In fact, he’ll be better.  Much better.  But you’d already know that if you woke up and did your homework.  This isn’t time to jump on the recruiting bandwagon.  It’s time to drive the damn thing.  You need to know who your team already has and who they’re expected to pick up.  Surprises will happen and you can’t be blamed for that, but you can be blamed for not knowing Tebow from Jarboe.  Do yourself a favor and spend some time on the recruiting sites over the next day.  If you don’t know what they are then you’re already a lost cause.  If you do, well, get to researching.  Don’t be that fan in the fall who says “who’s the new guy?  #5?  He’s pretty good.”  You’re damn right he’s pretty darn good.  He was the MVP of the Army All-American Game and can bench press your entire family while catching touchdown passes one handed.
5. Relax.  While National Signing Day is basically Christmas in February for college football fans, the end result isn’t something to get too worked up about.  And by that I mean in terms of your reaction toward specific prospects.  Think a recruit made the wrong decision?  Okay, but let him figure it out on his own (I’m looking at you Nu’Keese).  In the end, these are kids making a choice on where they want to play ball.  It may not make sense.  You may scratch your head as to why a recruit will choose a team that typically goes 8-4 over one that year after year competes for conference titles, but it’s his choice.  Four years ago, Gators fans wanted a speedy back by the name of Spiller.  He didn’t come to Gainesville and ended up a star all the same.  Sure he would’ve been a nice addition, but two National Championships and three 13-1 seasons later, who cares?  He made his choice and it may have been the right one for him.  Just like you can’t choose your neighbors (damn lady better stay off my lawn!), you can’t pick the school these kids end up at.  Sometimes your team may not end up with your man-crush (it happens more often than not).  It’s okay.  You’ll survive.
By now, you should be prepared.  If not, you have all day Tuesday.  National Signing Day is just around the corner.  Don’t let it pass you by.