I have to admit, I almost feel sorry for our scaly rivals, these days. This has to be the worst year ever to be an Orange and Blue adherent. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating, a little. There was that "little" NCAA thingy, but who's counting (107).
What has brought me to this unlikely point of sympathy?
First, after 12 years of planting ulcers into Phil Fulmer's considerable tummy, slinging insults at Bobby Bowden, and playing Bop – a – mole on whomever was coaching Jawja, the muse of UF football decided to take his bawl and move north.
Adding insult to injury, old Shiny Britches decided, not only would he leave his sacred haven, but also take the reigns of a team whose uniforms most resemble UF's hated rival. I always said he was a cross-dresser. Gators will cry "That's burgundy, not Garnet!" I'll counter with: "Yeah, but them ain't arrows. They's Spears."
So while Coach Spurrier was busy getting his Walter Mitty on, Gators were left to contemplate the inevitable high profile hiring. There was much to look forward to. After all, UF is the best coaching job in America. Right?
Weeelll, as Jeremy Foley played Major Tom across the USA in a non-state funded plane, Mike Sha-naa-naa, & worst of all Bob Stoops, played coy, then played Foley. I honestly did feel for Foley, who, by all accounts, is one of the top administrators in college sports. A guy who was about to be Joan-of-Arc'd by Bull Gators because of a supposed riff with his employee that sent our pal to the land of Marion Berry.
Ultimately, Foley made lemonade out of lemons (probably gathered from the field in 2000). Ron Zook seems like a good enough guy (Gatordom notwithstanding), but he's got a big challenge ahead of him, like any coach following a lege ... uh, a legen ... another really good coach.
And THAT's were the conundrum really begins for the Gator faithful. As Steve coaches Sage Rosenfels on the fine art of throwing at Steve Mariucci's coconut, Gators have to ask themselves "How hard should I root for Zook to succeed?"
After all, if Ron Zook goes twelve and naught and wins in Tallahassee for the first time since Herb Gainer's phantom holding penalty, what does that say? I mean, for the past 12 years, all we've heard about is that ‘ol Steve was about the best coach this side of Rockne. Yet, he was never able to complete an undefeated season, nor win in Tallahassee. Is it possible that a guy named Zook, once demoted to Team Launderer, could unseat his former boss as the Golden Child? If that occurs, how much longer before he changes the name of their stadium to something more seemly? The Zook Nook has a nice ring to it.
A rocking debut by Zook basically invalidates every mobile home shrine north of Leesburg and south of Lawtey. How can this guy, Zook (who, if you haven't already seen, has his "own" website) can tromp into Hawgtown and melt the legend into a puddle of anonymity? What happens to old Spurrier's country club locker, if Zook runs out and wins with a team that "under achieved" at ten and two?
On the other hand, in order for the Gator faithful to keep their myth alive, they have to "cheer" for the failure of their beloved reptilians. I don't see that happening on a large scale, but I'm guessing somewhere, in a linoleum-lined bathroom, in the back of a sand-strewn Perry, Florida doublewide, there's a guy poking cocktail swords into a Zook doll.
Adding to Excedrin headache #2002, and obviously unrelated to Spurrier's departure, Florida resumes its friendly antagonism with the University of Miami. The problem for us non-gators (Can we use that term, instead of Gator Haters, now that its Coiner is gone?) is that this rivalry is unlikely to include much of the joyful past acrimony.
Much to our chagrin, Ron Zook and Larry Coker are less hateful than Mr. Rogers and Andy Griffith, and are unlikely to kick late field goals to rub the other's nose in it. Instead of "We are the boys", can we expect a UM/UF chorus of Cumbaya in the fourth quarter? Where have you gone Howard Schnellenberger?
This last week, of course, it seemed the cloud over the Gator Nation had finally lifted. Their salvation came from an unlikely source. From out of the blue, Bobby Bowden, UF Tormentor, and good guy extraordinaire seemed to hand them the break they've needed to arise from their funk. It seems old Bobby decided to use the still sensitive "Let's Roll" phrase to drive his charges to the Valley of the Sun. Unfortunately, as us ‘Noles know, Jeff Womble took the phrase quite literally and earned himself a free weekend in Tallahassee.
Surely, this was the break they'd awaited all these years; a chance for the rest of the nation to see what they'd known all along. The sheep's clothing finally torn from the Snake Oil Salesman and expert media types, no less esteemed than Keith Olberman were leading the charge. Salvation appeared to be at hand.
Alas … just as it seemed old Liver Spots was about to be drawn and quartered, an unlikely, yet irrefutable statement stormed the party and "Smokey Beared" the flames of dissent. This morning, "Let's Move On" seems to be the motto of the neutered mob.
I know, I know it's only August. The first urine bag has yet to be flung, the first insult yet to be hurled, the next Mercedes yet to be financed. The Gator Nation still has time to salvage their pride. There's still the business of that five and six season to tend to. There is plenty of time to numb the pain of the first half of the first year of the Ron Zook era. There's time to mull the method by which Jeremy Foley will be tortured, time to tune in all those Redskins games, time to practice their War Chant. Come to think of it, things aren't so bad for the Gators, after all.
Of course that's just my two bits (four bits, six bits a dollar, all for the Zooker, stand up and holler!).