I’ve opened up a new blank document far too many times over the past week and a half. Each time, I’ve starred at my laptop’s screen wondering what would come out of my head and onto the ‘paper.’ And each time, the result was the same—nothing. No words, no thoughts, nothing to say. Just a blank document looking right back at me wondering what to make of the Florida Gators football team as much as I am.
Today was a different day. Any other season, it was would have been a day of hope. A day during the week leading up to the Georgia game and a rivalry renewed for another season. As our venerable friend Lee Corso would say, “not so fast.”
I’m not excited. I’m actually as close to the exact opposite as any one person can get. In effect, my perpetually half full glass of hope has spilled all over my desk, ruining my keyboard and destroying my just-win attitude in the process. I’m a forlorn Florida fan of the worst kind.
Let me say that losses happen. They happen in a variety of ways. They happen against an Alabama team that at this moment in college football history is superior in every way. They happen in a wild few minutes against LSU where a win was within reach a number of times before it suddenly wasn’t. But they’re not supposed to happen the way they happened against Missouri. The Gators managed to lose a game during which they allowed just 119 yards of offense to the Tigers. And not only did Florida lose, they lost by 29 points. There’s getting kicked in the stomach and then there’s getting kicked in the stomach, sucker punched in the back of the head, drug into the alley, and thrown in a dumpster.
That game—game six of the season I remind you—left far too many questions. The first of which is where exactly are the Gators improving? Florida should have done what it did to Eastern Michigan. It was fun to watch and, despite the opponent, raised our hope level a couple of notches. Then came Kentucky and an overtime thriller. But these Wildcats may have more fight in them than the Wildcats of old, so we can come up with enough excuses to accept the outcome. And, hey, a win is a win. Right? RIGHT??? Alabama is, well, Alabama. All hail thee Nick Saban. The Tennessee game brought another win-is-a-win feeling even as concerns mounted. Then back to The Swamp and LSU. A catch is made and we’re looking at 4-1. Issues aside, that’s 4-1 with one loss to the mighty Tide. I could have accepted that and continued to be my happy-go-lucky self. Glass half full I tell you.
But that catch didn’t happen. Things turned. The Tigers won and then a different set of striped beasts pushed us down the stairs we were playing too close to in the first place. 10 days later and the Gators are still stumbling down those steps, the bottom nowhere in sight. There’s talk of a new coach before Will Muschamp is even given the notice to clear out his office. There are looks to an old friend or two, new hot options, and even the NFL.
Where no one is looking is at Muschamp himself. With five games left, we’re looking to 2015 and a new leader. Let me say that again, with five games left it appears that Gator Nation has given up hope on the 2014 season and on Muschamp and has moved on. That’s sad on many levels, but it has come to that. Is it justified? In the eyes of some, yes. In the eyes of others, maybe not. But one thing is very clear, there are glaring issues that need to be fixed lest our beloved Gators fall further down the college football ladder.
In two days, the Gators will head to Jacksonville for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party and a less-than-favorable matchup against the Georgia Bulldogs. Yes, I’m still calling it the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Yes, the Bulldogs are favored and should be.
I don’t have my usual hope at the moment. I’ve searched high and low for it, but it’s nowhere to be found. Maybe it made the road trip to Jacksonville. That would be good—my hope there in the stands, wearing orange and blue, cheering on the Gators. I doubt it though. In reality, it’s probably hiding under my bed or in the woods behind my house waiting for the right moment to return. If we’re being realistic (which we obviously are, because I just said “in reality”), then that moment isn’t just around the corner. There are coaching holes and execution holes and scoring-more-points-than-the-other-guys holes. My love of the Florida Gators hasn’t diminished, but my hope for the remainder of the 2014 football schedule may have.
It’ll be there in spurts as we continue our approach toward Saturday. There will be moments of “why not?!?” and posts of pictures of games past. There will be a #justwin here or there and more than a few To Hell with Georgias yelled out. This is a great game and a great rivalry and I won’t let my melancholy ruin that. Then again, you may want to steer clear of me for the first few hours after the game depending on the outcome. I can only handle so much.
So we go into the final stretch. No more rain outs and no more bye weeks. Instead, five consecutive November games—two against hated rivals, one against a rival we can’t quite decide if we want to call a rival or not, another against an SEC East opponent that embarrassed every fiber of our being one season ago, and Eastern Kentucky. (If 2014 Eastern Kentucky becomes 2013 Georgia Southern, I’ll have a hard time watching another minute of college football this season.)
I feel a dash of hope just writing this, despite its reached-a-point-of-no-return overtones. It’s the “wait, is the glass really half empty?” part of me. At the moment, I feel like it is indeed. Here’s to praying the next 48 hours bring me back to life.