Florida running back Mark Thompson wants to talk about football and the Florida Gators. That’s understandable. He’s a football player for the Florida Gators, so usually, that’s what he’s asked about. On Tuesday, that changed.
Thompson instead fielded questions from reporters about Hurricane Irma. He answered as you might expect at first. His mother is concerned. He’s not used to hurricanes. He’ll be safe. Etcetera. But he got tired of it.
“Bro, I’m trying to talk about football and the Gators,” Thompson said. “I’m not trying to talk about the weather, so that’s it.”
I don’t wanna scold Thompson too much for that. Again, he’s a football player, so it’s OK that he expects to talk about football. But his comments are a microcosm of a larger problem: All of us, myself included, care way too f***ing much about football.
I get this much: Sports are important. Football is fun. Both serve as a necessary escape from what sometimes feels like the futility of daily life. You may not have gotten what you wanted done at work this week, and your hands may be calloused, your back tired and your arms weak, but by God, none of that matters if your Gators come out of the weekend with a win.
I feel the same way about my job. Pretending to care about who the Gators are starting at quarterback this weekend or who the honorary Mr. Two Bits will be is — and I’m being sincere — a great way to escape from any real problems I have.
But most of the time, those problems don’t need immediate attention. Maybe my mom is mad at me. Maybe I’ve been putting off an assignment. Maybe you’re frustrated by your coworkers. Maybe your apartment maintenance crew hasn’t fixed your washing machine and you’re wearing your underwear inside-out. As nice as it is to escape all that with football, none of it is going to kill you, me or anyone else.
A Category 5 hurricane can. And with the most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever recorded approaching Florida, the last thing you should be worrying about is whether the Gators are going to play Northern Colorado this weekend.
Get gas. Get water. Call your parents. If the game gets moved again, great. If it gets cancelled, oh well. Some things — especially a storm that will result in many deaths across the Caribbean, if not Florida as well — take precedence over some athletic guys running leather up and down a rectangle.
Also, for goodness sake, it’s Northern Colorado. Not Alabama. Yes, it’s the home opener, but wait one more week, focus on avoiding death and the “home opener” is now against Tennessee. That’s a win-win to me.
Now, I do understand the frustration. I also understand the lack of concern from the team. The players want to play this game as much as I want to write stories. It’s just what they do. Heck, I’m played an intramural softball game Wednesday night and I would have been frustrated if it got cancelled because of rain.
Missing a home opener could also be frustrating for fans who’ve waited eight months for their favorite pastime to return. But again, if you’re really concerned about missing one game against an FCS team with many people nearby likely to be affected by the storm, don’t you think it might be time to re-evaluate football’s importance? Even if you’re Mark Thompson, while it’s not your job to talk about a hurricane, shouldn’t you be a little less focused on football and football only?
If you don’t believe me, ask coach Jim McElwain.
"How important is a game,” he said, “when you're talking about people's lives?"
Ethan Bauer is a sports writer. Look out for his next column on Sept. 15. Follow him on Twitter @ebaueri and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UF running back Mark Thompson runs for a touchdown only for it to be called back due to a penalty during Florida's 33-17 loss to Michigan on Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.