Gainesville a lot less colorful since Spurrier rode into the sunset
GAINESVILLE, Fla. » Two of my best friends when I lived here 10 years ago were The Mayor and The Source. Not the actual mayor, but an avuncular fellow liked by enough people to get elected if he'd wanted. The Source would call me with inside information on University of Florida sports, some of it even worthy of print. Both remain heavily involved in the local sports scene as officials and coaches.
"Spurrier is as refreshing and honest as Meyer is dull and deceitful."
Comment by Stevie B. on Mike Bianchi's blog, Aug. 26, 2008
We enjoyed dinner last night amid an animated crowd of orange and blue Gators from all over the state, eagerly anticipating today's start of the season against the Hawaii Warriors. The meal was full of funny stories, like The Source's one about Florida State baseball players sneaking Gatorade into their Powerade bottles at the regionals here last spring.
I wanted to confirm something with these longtime residents that had snuck up on me gradually as I spent the day before and after UH's walk-through at The Swamp driving around Gainesville, seeing what had changed and what hadn't.
The realization was that this is not as fun a place without Steve Spurrier here. Now, I didn't know him very well at all, only interviewed him a few times. But the Ole Ball Coach knew how to make a newcomer from Hawaii feel welcome: He made me the butt of a joke.
Me: "What would you say the percentage is of Doug Johnson playing this week?"
Spurrier (stroking chin): "Oh, I'd say 37.3 percent. (Dramatic pause). No, make that 37.6."
If you couldn't handle being ragged by Spurrier, no sense you being around him. He spared the needle with no one. But he meant no harm and it was kind of an initiation.
The Mayor and The Source quickly supplied stories to support my premise of a Spurrier-less Gainesville being a less joyful Gainesville, no matter how many national championships Urban Meyer might bring.
"I was coaching a basketball team playing against one of his kid's teams. He was just sitting in the stands, watching, like any dad would," The Source said. "They clobbered us, We did our best, but they were just a way better team. Afterward, someone taps me on the back. I turn around, and, in all sincerity, Spurrier tells me, 'Good game, Coach.'"
Then it's The Mayor's turn.
"I T'd up one of the Spurrier kids in a basketball game. Now, most parents don't like that - at all. Steve's wife, Jeri, is there. She comes up to me after the game and says, 'Good job! He gives you any trouble, you take care of it!' "
Urban Meyer has kids who play sports, too.
"At a flag football game, the PTA president asked Urban for a picture after the game," The Mayor said. "He copped a real 'tude. The unwritten rule is let them be dads during the game and then they hang out after. Billy Donovan's good that way, Spurrier was, too. Urban, he's out the door."
Added The Source: "Urban Meyer's problem is he's a CEO, not a football coach."