There needs to be a reckoning.
Before Florida’s next coach arrives and either restories the program to its former glory or continues the trend of mediocrity, Florida fans need to breathe. They need to take a long, sharp inhale and hold it. When they release, they ought to exhale not just carbon dioxide, but the venom many of them have spewed at players, coaches and UF’s program over the past months and years.
As Feleipe Franks watched his third interception of the day land in the arms Matthew Thomas, the only thing Florida’s quarterback could do was stare.
Perhaps no one associated with Florida has drawn more criticism than offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. Much of it is justified. His offenses at Florida, both in points and in yards, have all ranked worse than 100th of 128 FBS teams. So if your criticism of him is that he shouldn’t be employed next year because of his poor coaching, I agree. But unfortunately, it often doesn’t stop there.
If you type Doug Nussmeier’s name in a Twitter search, you’ll find plenty of criticisms of his play calling. But wedged between them, you’ll also find tweets from fans saying that this Thanksgiving, they’re most thankful he’ll no longer coach at the University of Florida. Or that he’s “seriously the biggest asshole to step foot in Gainesville.” Or just a classic f*** you.
Feleipe Franks has also been scrutinized. His name on Twitter pops up next to trash emojis and accusations that he’s the worst starting quarterback in Florida football history. Like Nussmeier, Franks’ performance warrants criticism, and plenty of it. Fine. But being so emotionally invested in football that you feel the need to debase a 19-year-old college student from the safety of your room behind the anonymity of a keyboard is probably a good indication that you should be doing something better with your time. The same goes for verbal crucifixion of Nussmeier.
Sure, it’s frustrating to watch Florida’s offense. And sure, every fanbase has its fringe idiots. But radical hatred feels especially pervasive in the Florida fan base, and even if that’s just my proximity bias talking, any such hatred should be flagged as unacceptable.
Whether you’re a man or woman, student or child, investing so much in a football team that you feel the need to curse at coordinators and insult college students says more about you than it does about them. And if you’re someone who engages in it, I beg you to reevaluate your priorities and realize that no matter how much football provides a distraction from your everyday life, it shouldn’t be important enough to foster legitimate hatred.
And aside from just being a nice person for the sake of being nice alone, it seems clear the hatred gets to the players. Franks’ frustration with it showed after the game.
“No matter what I tell you guys,” he said, “I’m going to go on to say the same thing and it’s going to be twisted around and things like that.”
Whether Franks needs thicker skin is another question. The point is the constant noise bothers him. It bothered McElwain, too. So if you really care about the team, stop treating people — yes, people — like the unfeeling ghosts you want them to be.
There are real problems in the world. There’s genocide happening in Myanmar. War is raging in Syria. Victims of sexual assault continue to come forward every day. Direct your hatred accordingly.
You can follow Ethan Bauer on Twitter @ebauri, and contact him at email@example.com.