Things To Give Some Thanks For This Weekend

What I'm thankful for in the football world on this Thanksgiving weekend:

Urban Meyer's quality as a person, and for his courage to bare his emotions instead of hiding behind a mask …

Meyer's emphasis on developing the whole person, something that prepares young men for life after football, not just the game itself …

Fans with perspective who think beyond immediate or literal meanings … there are many of them out there, but they're often the types to not post on message boards or chime in on talk shows. For members of the silent majority, thank you for looking at the big picture, and for your deep and considerable displays of humanity …

I'm thankful for Chris Leak, a great kid who has had to endure one wrenching football transition after another. One can debate just how talented or good he is, but no one can argue that with better and more seamless coaching throughout his first three years in Gainesville --- a product of circumstances more than the men who have tutored him --- Leak's career portfolio would look more attractive. Chin up and nut up, Chris …

For Reggie Nelson, whose late tackle in the Cocktail Party prevented "Run, Lindsay, Run!" from happening for the second time in a quarter century. Nelson's been nothing short of sensational this season, the Gator who has maximized his abilities more than anyone else …

For Dallas Baker, for showing a heckuva lotta guts against South Carolina … that was admirable …

For Charlie Strong, who for the most part has done a nice job with this defense. Here's hoping you one day get a head coaching job in a profession still outrageously lacking in African-American representation …

For a bunch of seniors who have had to put up with an extraordinary load of distractions and slings and arrows over four grinding seasons. May you be stronger when you leave UF's doors as a result of all you've gone through. Thanks for always fighting and competing, and may you kick FSU in the tail this Saturday …

Beyond Florida football, thanks to Steve Spurrier for returning to college football. Thanks to Spurrier for refusing to shake Urban Meyer's hand and thereby doing a big PR favor for UF's coach and the football program. By not giving the media a cheap photo-op, Spurrier prevented the national press from being able to pile on Meyer beyond the point of reason. Spurrier, even while beating his old school, still made a lot of gestures, small and large, to shield the University of Florida from a harsh public spotlight. Thanks as well to all Gator fans who actually don't think he's a traitor or that his actions are unforgivable …

Thanks to LSU's players for showing a lot of humanity after Hurricane Katrina, and for giving the people of Louisiana something very meaningful in the midst of their hurts …

Thanks to USC and Notre Dame for staging an all-time epic that captured all the magic of college football. Notre Dame gets way too much love from the national press, and way too much respect in national rankings, but even the biggest ND hater has to admit: when a big game is played in South Bend, it captures the nation's imagination, for better or worse. College football has more life when ND is in the public eye. (But thanks to USC for beating them; it would be hard to take the sanctimoniousness if the Irish had prevailed that day.)

And thanks to Joe Paterno, who has taught America that patience needs to be rewarded, and that longevity is something to be deeply respected. The rise of JoePa and Penn State is one of the great second acts in American sports at any time or place. It's something to be deeply thankful for on this Thanksgiving weekend.


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