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On Alligator Army in the time of coronavirus

There is going to be a new normal. And none of us knows how long it is going to last.

NCAA Football: Orange Bowl-Florida vs Virginia Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The world has kept on spinning since last week, when most of the major American sports organizations ceded to public health concerns and the wisdom of the scientists handling them by calling a halt to their sporting events, hoping that diminishing the number (and numbers) of crowds congregating to enjoy their leisure time, they could do something to slow the spread of what is a a growing worldwide pandemic that seems to be unprecedented in both lethality and virality in the modern era.

And I haven’t posted anything here at Alligator Army since Thursday because, well, there really hasn’t been that much to post.

Many of the developments tagged as news — like the NCAA making the obvious first step toward granting blanket redshirt years to any student-athletes in spring sports — are obvious first steps in what will be a longer process. Any discussion with people in charge about what’s going to happen next — like the one Scott Stricklin sensibly had with media members on Friday — was based on incomplete information about what’s going to be a swiftly-shifting and difficult situation for months. (Consider this: One week ago, Kerry Blackshear’s arm injury, which also didn’t really rise to the level of meriting a full post from me, was maybe the biggest news in Florida sports.)

And, incredibly, at least one site made multiple posts out of initial betting lines for games this fall — games that, I hesitate to note, are going to be very much up in the air until kickoff, with plenty of guidance on this COVID-19 virus suggesting it could recede in the summer months and then flare back to life by the fall, quite possibly outpacing the effort to develop a vaccine for it.

One argument for that sort of content churn? Anything’s news when there’s no news. It was “news” that Gorjok Gak, who played in just two games for Florida this season — and announced he was leaving the team on December 30, the day Florida’s football team played Virginia in the 2019 Orange Bowl, unbeknownst to many — was entering the transfer portal late last week, and it is “news” today that Dontay Bassett, who played three years at Florida while never claiming a bigger role than third big and is set to graduate this summer, is entering it now.

But any day when a never-healthy player and the 10th man in a rotation departing a college basketball program is the news of the day is a slow news day. Same for when the news of the day is a five-star recruit obviously getting blocked from visiting a school by a pandemic — and the idea that it is the effluvium of the actual news should not be lost on you.

For at least the next three months, there isn’t going to be a new Florida Gators game for Alligator Army to report on or write up or live-tweet or analyze. My hunch is that we’re actually going to go significantly longer without such an event — though, while I’ll cop to being pessimistic on that front, I’d be delighted to be wrong about this in five months, with college football in the midst of fall practice.

And as a result, my job — as I see it — is going to be either racing to get those orts of “news” written up and propagated to an audience craving coverage of something other than an all-consuming pandemic that is going to be a depressing reality for humanity this year ... or doing something slightly different, and focusing more on deeper analysis, smarter observations, and entertaining departures from news and analysis.

Those of you who have negged from the comments about delays in getting up the news posts and those of you with any familiarity at all with what I prefer to do should probably realize which pole I’m going to lean toward.

That said, though: There are going to be days without news whatsoever regarding Florida, and I’m not going to apologize for not inventing things to write out of whole cloth or reaching for illogical takes on days when things are settled. You deserve better as a readership, I think; we, as a sports-loving public, could really probably use a seismic, world-reshaping crisis to consider just how good we have it on the days when the thing we care about most is some pundit disparaging our favorite team.

And your and my primary concern over the next several months must be mitigation of the spread of coronavirus by any means possible. That is so, so, so much bigger than sports, and it will be very important to maintain sanity during this process. If I need a day when I’m not staring at a laptop during self-quarantine, I’m going to take it — the world will keep spinning if I’m not first to write up a recruit committing to a school he hasn’t visited, for example. (If you need a vacation from working at home, I encourage you to take it, too, if you can afford it — and, if you can’t afford it, consider that we should maybe remake a political system if it is presenting options like “work yourself to the bone during a pandemic” as rational choices for people outside of fields providing essential services.)

I do have some ideas that I think you’re going to like about content here until the games return, and I also welcome your suggestions. We’ve got a long way to go, so I won’t be revealing all or even most of that planning today.

But the most important thing to note is that we’ve got a long way to go, and we’re going to deliberately be doing this traveling at a very slow speed. It’s for the best, for all of us.

Remember that, and be kind to others doing the same.