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SPURRIER MEMORIES: PART THREE

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We finish up our three-part series on memories of our own beloved Football Lucifer, former Florida HC and current South Carolina HC Steve Spurrier. (Parts one and two are here and here, respectively.)

1. The crack-up. When Spurrier quit to go to Washington, the shock seemed universal--and that included the OBC, who conducted his final presser as Florida coach with the nonchalance of someone reading commodity prices off a stock sheet.

But emotion was, and is still clearly part of the Spurrier gestalt. The visor-throwing is infamous, as are the ear-scorching tirades and putdowns his quarterbacks endured whenever they made a throw that Heisman Stevie never would have made. (Terry Dean just shuddered somewhere, hunched over a spreadsheet somewhere in a cubicle.) Whether it's for his ego or not, the guy fucking cares, which is what made the stoic admiral act Zook pulled on the sidelines so agonizing to watch. (Keep in mind, that's what Zook wanted to project. It came off more like the Tick, captured just seconds before crashing to earth from a great height.)

Zook's leadership model.

The best example of this comes from an apocryphal story from the 1990 season. Following their second loss of the season, a shaken and worn-looking Spurrier came to the podium for his post-game press conference.

Confronted with the lights, the tape recorders, the scratching of pens and the questions of twenty paunchy men asking him the same questions repeatedly, Spurrier pleaded with them quietly for a reprieve. Turn off the cameras. Turn off the mikes. Let's talk.

For ten minutes Spurrier lost his mind. He wasn't the right coach for the program. He couldn't coach his way out of a paper bag. He'd let down the players. There was way too much work to be done and he wasn't capable of doing it. Spurrier did all of this with a stream of tears coming winding down his face and a desperate, ragged edge in his voice.

He went on to win six SEC titles and a national championship. But for a moment in the semi-public eye, he was right down on the bathroom floor with the rest of us, a bottle of gin in one hand a stack of unpaid bills in the other. Which, in its own weird way, is oddly comforting.

Spurrier, in one of his less composed moments.

2. One minute and ten seconds left to go in the fourth, UGA, 1995. The memory is particularly powerful for us for two reasons. One, and we swear we weren't on acid at the time: we couldn't stop looking at the trees just over the rim of Sanford Stadium. Really. Watching them sway along the edges of our vision made us swear we were playing a game in Middle Earth. That and the disorienting sensation the UGA hospitality guides gave you at first sight was enough to cast a weird air around the whole day. (Hot ladies wearing wool knee socks and tight red sweaters will do that.)

The other thing burning the game in our memory forever: our head as the direct recipient of Spurrier-induced violence. The game, at least following the end of the second quarter, had little to remember besides a rain of points in the first half for Florida and a laugher of a third quarter. The fourth quarter doldrums were in effect when Eric Kresser handed the ball off, took the pitch of the flea-flicker and tossed the ball into the hands of a leaping receiver to make Florida the first team ever to ring up fifty on Georgia at home.

A Georgia fan, evidently displeased, decided the best way to vent this anger was by throwing a bolt ripped from his seat at our flowing mane of hair. It clanged harmlessly off of our Causasia-fro, but the sentiment still staggered us: here was a coach so despised his tactics not only made him a marked man, but was powerful enough to spill over to you, as well.

3. Dave Brown, Duke. We read this in an interview with Brown following the tussle over the demotion of golden boy Terry Dean in favor of the lumpen-headed, shotputting wooden indian Danny Wuerffel. Brown said that in a practice at Duke, Spurrier had him practicing a certain elaborate route that Brown simply could not hit on time. "I don't think it's working, coach," was something like Brown's response. Spurrier glanced at him like a bug and told him to step aside. Spurrier went under center and hit the throw several times in a row. Brown stood dumbfounded.

Spurrier threw the last ball, turned to Brown and announced, "I must be a better quarterback than you."