Time to Pack the O'Dome

For most of this season the Stephen C. O'Connell Center has borne little resemblance to the so-called "House of Horrors" it became around the turn of the century and continued to be through the 2006-07 season. Oh, some of the students are similarly passionate, but not enough of them.

The grownups have always been reserved, but lately there have been more moments that make me think about a library than ones that evoke memories of what was one of the toughest places in the country to win.

That has to change, starting Tuesday night.

I write stuff like this every few years because it's not really my place or my role to be cheerleader-in-chief. Yet there are times when using this forum can serve a purpose and this is one of those times. Gator fans needs to realize that the younger your team is the more likely it is to be influenced by the crowd, its passion and its energy. Well, the Gators have a team that is dominated by freshmen and sophomores and they have not been getting that energy boost this year.

Some of it is understandable. The decision to bump several pre-conference games to 8:00 to accommodate doubleheaders with the women didn't sit well with most of the season ticket holders I've spoken to. The non-conference schedule was filled with enough cupcakes for a bake sale. The economy has caused people to cut back. Thus season ticket sales are down and no-shows are up. Not only got that, but Gator fans spoiled by consecutive NCAA titles and nine straight tournament bids.

But it's now crunch time for this Gator team and those who sit in the stands have a role to play in this team avoiding that fold down the stretch that cost last year's team a return to the big dance. Florida has five games left on the schedule, including showdowns with the three other contenders in the SEC East. There's no reason for the O'Dome not to be rockin' for these games, and it just might affect the outcomes.

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