The First Coast sports year in 2012 was a year of decent highs, record-setting lows and one irreplaceable loss.
The football Gators’ season clearly was the highlight. Their 11-1 record was totally unexpected and never quite believable until that fourth quarter offensive explosion in Tallahassee wrapped up the regular season with a convincing victory against Florida State.
It was as enjoyable to watch the season unfold for me as it was painstaking for die-hard Gator fans. This Gator edition nearly always seemed on the verge of defeat before finding ways to win, the lone exception being against Georgia when a late Florida fumble ended hopes of another “ugly” victory.
Despite a pitiful offense, the 2012 Gators found ways to win with outstanding defense and special teams. When the regular season finally ended, these Gators were ranked third in the nation but minus any titles. Bittersweet, perhaps, but an incredible and memorable season nevertheless.
Runner-up for highlight of the year came at The Players where Matt Kuchar grinned and birdied his way to a victory against the strongest field in golf. It was an impressive victory as well as major triumph for one of the good guys in professional sports. What says good guys finish last?
The lowlight of the year is the performance of the Jaguars, which, unfortunately, hasn’t ended yet. While most outsiders predicted doom and gloom for our NFL team, locally we saw signs of encouragement nearly everywhere we looked. Perhaps it was getting a new owner in Shad Khan; a new coach in Mike Mularkey; the return of holdout Maurice Jones-Drew, easily our brightest star; and dreams of quarterback Blaine Gabbert fulfilling the expectations of a 10th overall draft pick.
What the Jaguars have given us is the worst season in franchise history. We’ve watched a team void of excitement, low on talent and offering little hope for the near future. Khan is patiently learning the business; Mularkey is befuddled; Jones-Drew hasn’t played since early October because of an injury; and Gabbert looked almost as bad as he did as a rookie before being injured himself.
The worst of 2012, however, came in early July when long-time Suns baseball team owner Peter Bragan Sr. died at age 89. Bragan not only made the Suns one of the most successful and fun franchises in all minor league baseball, but he did so with flair that made him a Jacksonville icon. Wisely, the Jacksonville City Council made certain his name will live on, naming the field at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville in his memory.
Just thinking about my long-time friend makes me want to go ring a bell.
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