Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

It's the Climb That Spurrier Enjoys Most

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

It's the Climb That Spurrier Enjoys Most

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Woods, Times-Union sports columnist

There is a moral to the story.

It apparently ends with Steve Spurrier in Washington, coaching the Redskins. It begins, though, with a quote that we've heard so many times that it just registers as another cliche.

Someone asks a coach or athlete what he or she thinks about not being the underdog -- about not being ranked higher, about not being expected to beat a certain opponent, about going to a place where they have struggled in the past -- and the answer is predictable.

We like being the underdog.

I did a database search for variations of the we-like-being-an-underdog theme and found hundreds of such quotes that appeared in newspapers in the past year. From high school coaches in California to NFL players in Jacksonville, people kept insisting they savored it when others didn't necessarily believe in them.

But the most telling quote -- the one that should remind us that there is truth behind the cliche -- came on Jan. 4, when Spurrier held a news conference in Gainesville to explain why he was leaving a job where he had won 127 out of 150 games.

"I'd like to be the underdog again," he said.

As he recalled the favorite games of his 12 years at Florida, Spurrier focused on the early years -- on a victory over Georgia in 1992 and a narrow loss to eventual national champion Alabama in the SEC title game that season.

"Both those games," he said, "we were the underdogs."

As time passed, and the victories piled up, that became more of a rarity. It got to the point where last season, Tennessee came to town 9-1 -- and an 18-point underdog.

If you're looking for reasons why Spurrier left, start with the emotions surrounding that 34-32 defeat, then throw in the feelings about victories against the Louisiana-Monroes of the world that left fans and media wondering why the Gators "only" won by a few touchdowns. …

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