Maybe I’ve been doing this for too long.
That’s something I thought this Saturday, the first of a 12th straight year spent writing words about college football on at least a semi-regular basis.
I haven’t been doing it for money this entire time. That first season — that magical 2007 season — was spent writing a lot of words in a Facebook group I started. I blogged for myself in 2008, and not every week. In 2009, I was getting paid by Sporting News to man The Sporting Blog on the weekends; in 2009, Tim Tebow getting kneed in the head by Taylor Wyndham was enormous news.
2010 was my first year doing things for SB Nation. 2011 was my first year managing Alligator Army. I’ve been here or there or both every fall since, with one brief detour to Deadspin in 2013 — where I wrote that Jameis Winston would be “your new favorite college football player,” and tried to give him the “Famous Jameis” nickname, which I might have been right and near-seerish about had he and Erica Kinsman, unbeknownest to us all, not had the night they disagree about some six months earlier — and I’ve been writing mostly about the Florida Gators since that detour.
So I’ve seen this before. I wrote about Will Muschamp’s first game as Florida’s head coach and Jim McElwain’s first game as Florida’s head coach. I’m old enough to remember Urban Meyer’s, and Ron Zook’s. I’ve read about Steve Spurrier’s — and, you know, Florida smoking Oklahoma State 50-7 in that 1990 game before a 9-1 regular season does kind of stand out in the collective memory of Florida fans.
First games are a chance for the renewals of hope and faith. It’s really more of a chance for faith than hope — hope comes every fall, and every spring, as fans cling to the good things, magnifying and extrapolating them.
Faith is something I haven’t really had since 2013, or maybe 2014. I’ve written about that before. My eventual loss of faith in Muschamp’s ability to take Florida to championships is why I ultimately conceded he should be fired; my inability to find a similar faith in McElwain’s program made it easy to write him off last fall.
Now comes Dan Mullen, saying some of the same old things and promising some of the same old heights and hoping to recapture some of his own old glory. He wore one of the two rings he won at Florida throughout that first day on the job, the beginning of the PR blitz of “We will be back.” The message wasn’t subtle.
Maybe Florida gets there this year. Maybe Florida does something tonight that makes me think that’s more likely than I do right now. Feleipe Franks could look totally different in Mullen’s offense than he did in McElwain’s; he could also look like the skittish giraffe in pads and a helmet he often appeared to be last fall. Florida’s assortment of skill position players could look faster and smarter. Florida’s defense could be more aggressive and more disciplined.
We won’t know until we know.
But where I sit, right now, I have far more hope than faith when it comes to Florida, far more reason to tune in to the SEC Network at 7:30 p.m. on a Saturday night and dream than I do to tune in and believe.
Maybe I’ve been doing this too long, and my hope and faith are out of sync.
Or maybe I’ve been doing this too long to believe you get anything but hope to start.