The Florida Gators have put out a lot of content since sports went silent in mid-March in response to the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus. I’ve liked a lot of it — the recruiting graphics and videos have remained top-notch, the gymnastics content has been pretty damn good, and the videos highlighting Florida men’s basketball’s exploits at each round of the NCAA Tournament as we progressed through when those would have happened was a real highlight that I’ll return to in future years, I think.
Nothing previously released, though, comes close to the program’s farewell to McKethan Stadium, released on Sunday night.
"I've always been more than just a ballpark. That's why this isn't the end. This is just farewell."— Florida Gators Baseball (@GatorsBB) May 17, 2020
McKethan Stadium ️ pic.twitter.com/4PS6yO5uu2
This stirring tribute, apparently the sole work of fairly new-to-Florida producer Nicole Reighter — the latest talented worker that has come to Gainesville from Starkville after working at Mississippi State — is a masterful paean to the idea that it’s the memories made by the people inside stadiums and on fields that mean more than the dirt, grass, concrete, and steel themselves.
The script isn’t totally perfect — I would bet anything that the mention of postseason rain delays just jinxed us into one happening in 2021, for example. It probably makes more of what was an average to subpar facility in terms of its construction and amenities than anyone who spent multiple games on the bleachers — especially out beyond left field — would have. Making the main character of the piece more or less an anthropomorphized Mac is also a choice that has some interesting consequences; I wonder if something from a fan’s or multiple fans’ perspectives would’ve worked as well.
But I’m also quibbling, and I assure you that this made me bawl, missing all my own McKethan memories, when I finally watched it this morning.
Florida’s awesome baseball team is getting an awesome park in 2021, which the Gators’ first truly new state-of-the-art facility open to the public since Florida lacrosse first played matches in Donald R. Dizney Stadium. That cluster of stadia in the southwest portion of campus, where Florida Ballpark will join the Diz and KSP — Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium, softball’s newly-renovated digs — will now contain three gleaming jewels. The space cleared when McKethan is demolished will be used for utterly palatial facilities.
What has come and is coming will be new and glorious.
What has come and gone was glorious, too.
I thought, prior to watching this video, that I was going to ultimately be okay with not having made it back to Gainesville this spring to see one final game at The Mac, for one last weekend sunset greeting a 7 p.m. start or one more drenched-rat special besieged by a springtime shower or storm.
Now, after thinking about it some more and really internalizing that I never got that chance, I realize there’s going to be a hole in my Florida fan heart forever when it comes to that dirt, grass, concrete, and steel structure south of Second Avenue and west of the O’Dome.
When next I am back in town, it will likely be gone. I’ll have the memories from the past; we all will. But we didn’t really get a last chance to make more.
That, as much as anything else, we’ll remember.