March 11th: the Day the Sports World Went Dark


It started much like any boring March Wednesday does.

I skipped my 9:30 am American Federal Government lecture because it was optional, and I slept in. Lying awake at 10 am staring at the LEDs on my alarm clock, I had no idea what this day would hold.

The University of Florida already recommended professors to move their classes to an all-online platform because of coronavirus. The invisible threat loomed.

I grabbed my longboard and rode to the newsroom as I usually do on Wednesdays. My only availability to do my newsroom shift is that afternoon, so naturally from 2 pm to 6 pm you can find me buzzing around Weimer Hall at ESPN Gainesville.

As the men’s basketball beat writer for the station, my editors tasked me with writing a few preview articles about the upcoming SEC tournament. I wrote about how the Gators would face off against an unknown opponent, and how Missouri looked to beat a Texas A&M team that they already lost to twice in the season. Neither of these games would take place.

Near the end of my shift, Steve Russell, the sports director, walked frantically out of a J-school meeting in the upstairs conference room.

“They’re shutting the whole thing down,” he said.

Everything. My trip to cover the first round of the NCAA Tournament, shut down. All in-person classes, shut down. The University of Florida was shutting everything down.

The rest of my shift was like a rollercoaster. In the last hour alone: the Warriors announced that they would play all home games with no fans and the SEC announced that their tournaments would have no fans. Little did I know that this was just the tip of the iceberg.

By the end of the night, the NBA’s Jazz v. Thunder game broke the internet, and the league suspended all games. By the end of the next day, there were no major sports playing games. No March Madness, No baseball, no basketball, no hockey, no football. All was silent.

It’s a bit jarring, having nothing to cover.

The lack of sports is something that never really happens in society. Fans on Twitter are outraged that during their self-quarantine they will have to watch re-runs of the NBA All-Star game on TNT instead of actual games.

There is this idea of, “Well, what do we do now?”

The fact that I’m a sports writer and have nothing to cover is something I’ve never experienced. It makes me introspective about what really matters. For months on months, years on years, I’ve only worried about the next thing I need to cover. What time is that media availability? When’s the next game? What feature can I write? Stop.

Maybe we all can take a step back during this sports hiatus. Sport dominates our culture and dictates many aspects of our lives. It is important to remember that it is just a game sometimes. They are not gone, just on hold.

So stay safe, wash your hands, and be mindful of those around you. Coronavirus is not something to panic about, but it also is not something to take lightly.

Concord Coffee aims to change the coffee-shop dynamic

Concord Coffee opened its doors to the public on Monday, Sept. 23, and had its grand opening on Wednesday, Sept. 25.

This is not your average coffee shop. Located at 1380 W. University Ave, Concord Coffee aims to bring peace and harmony into people’s lives in a coffee shop setting.

Bailey McDonald is a second-year student at the University of Florida studying art and technology. He is one of the first employees for the new coffee shop.

According to McDonald, Concord Coffee aims to take the community aspect of a coffee shop to a different level.

“Concord is about harmony between people,” McDonald said. “That really just means that through the coffee we serve we hope that we can create a space that people can come and make conversation, meet people, and just form a community.”

According to McDonald, the shop has already seen a boom in business. In their first week open, he says that they are already beginning to form regular customers and have large rushes of people.

McDonald credits this success to the quality of Concord Coffee’s product. 

“Concord is very coffee forward,” McDonald said. “They care a lot about the drink that they make all the way down to the farming, the processing and the roasting of the coffee. Concord roasts all of their own beans at their Lakeland location and they work very closely with the farmers where they get the green coffee beans to roast.

According to him, Concord pays international farmers premium prices for their products. This is one thing that sets Concord Coffee apart from companies such as Starbucks.

“All the way from farming to when the coffee reaches the cup we oversee it all and make sure that farmers are paid a premium price for their work, and that the coffee that’s served to your customers is the best that they can get,” McDonald said.

Nate Parodi, the store’s manager, says that Concord Coffee sets itself apart not only by fairness but also in quality. According to him, Concord is in a whole different category than the likes of Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts.

“It’s not what Concord differs to Starbucks, it’s this third-wave movement that we are a part of,” Parodi said. “That’s what makes it different. If you look up third wave on Google, if you look up any shop, there is something different that you sense when you walk into a specialty shop.”

Parodi defines third-wave coffee as specialty shops like Concord. Second-wave coffee is the Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee that has been heavily commercialized. First-wave coffee is the cheap coffee one can buy at Walmart.

Community is something that the entire company emphasizes as part of its mission. Both McDonald and Parodi mentioned building communities through a coffee shop setting.

“It’s not about money, it’s about people,” Parodi said. “We’re trying to connect people through coffee here. It’s not a brand, it’s more of a community.”

Concord Coffee is currently inside the current Gator Wesley Foundation building, where they share the space. Gator Wesley is a Christian campus ministry as part of the United Methodist Church.

Heather Pancoast is a co-director of Gator Wesley with her husband Joel. According to Pancoast, this collaboration between Gator Wesley and Concord Coffee had been years in the making.

“When we first arrived at Gator Wesley three years ago we began to pray about how we could use this space in such a way that it would be helpful to the student body and to the community outside of our Gator Wesley students,” Pancoast said.

According to her, the idea came to them when visiting another coffee shop in the area. Pancoast then reached out to her friend TJ Zimmerman, who is the owner of Concord Coffee, to see if bringing them to Gainesville was a possibility. 

Altogether from start to finish, it took Concord Coffee two years to move into Gator Wesley with a year of planning and a year of construction. 

Pancoast says that having Concord Coffee in the building has been beneficial to Gator Wesley. According to her, several Concord Coffee customers have inquired about the Wesley Foundation and even joined their Gator Wesley Students’ Facebook page.

According to Parodi, Concord is doing several events with Gator Wesley for homecoming week. 

Florida football and the influence it has on local businesses

Walking in the door, the first thing that catches the eye is the immense amount of Florida Gators gear on the walls.

Adam Brewer knows his hometown well, having lived in Gainesville all of his life. Brewer built Adam’s Rib Co. from the ground up, and he knows the effect of football season tourism on his business. 

All for the Gators

Hundreds of thousands of fans flock to Gainesville on game day. According to the official Florida Gators website, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium holds 88,548 people. Those who don’t buy tickets to the games travel to Gainesville exclusively to tailgate and be in the city.

On Saturday, Oct. 5, the Florida Gators football team hosts Auburn in their 2019 homecoming game. This game is one of the six Florida Gators games this season that are in Gainesville.

Trickle-down effect

The city of Gainesville greatly benefits from games like this. When asked about tourism during football season, Visit Gainesville’s tourism program coordinator Jodi Biggar provided some insight.

According to documents provided by Biggar, in 2017, tourists coming to football games accounted for $10 million in spending in the Gainesville area. Hotel occupancy rates tended to increase by about 20% during the months of football season as well.

According to Brewer, Adam’s Rib Co. sees a boost in business from game weekends.

“Out of a 52-week year, we’re blessed to have those six weekends where we really have an influx of traffic,” said Brewer. “We’re blessed, we’re thankful, and we’re appreciative of the alumni and what all of the football season and the Gator sports bring.”

For Brewer, his company recognizes the diversity of what Gainesville has to offer. To him, Gainesville is so much more than just a college town with a football team.

“Certain groups of people, depending upon what their association to the area is, find different outlets within the area,” said Brewer. “When they burn their calories from those outlets, they’re looking for a good place to eat. This is a great area for calorie burning.”

Business success for Adam’s Rib Co. comes from more than just football season tourism. Among the multitude of community awards Adam’s Rib Co. has received, Brewer said his favorite outreach achievement has been his involvement with the Boys and Girls Club of Alachua County. According to him, he sits on the board of directors for the club as the vice president. 

Adam’s Rib Co. also reaches out to the community when hurricanes come through the area. According to Brewer, he works closely with utility companies to get his restaurants back up and running so he can feed people who don’t have food.

This community outreach seems to have paid off. According to Brewer, his company sees consistent business year-round.

“I’m busy all year because we have a consistent influx of people looking for a good meal,” said Brewer. “That could be people locally or from the area, from the county, even from a neighboring county like Ocala-Marion county area. People drive up the interstate to come try Adam’s Rib Company.”

Adam’s Rib Co. looks forward to cooking barbecue for the community and cheering on the Gators this season. 

Green Bay is undefeated, but it doesn’t really feel like it

After outlasting the Denver Broncos on Saturday 27-16, the Green Bay Packers moved to a 3-0 record on their season.

The Packers are now one of eight undefeated teams in the NFL. That number drops to seven undefeated teams if you don’t count the 2-0-1 Detroit Lions, who tied the Arizona Cardinals in week one.

Defensive turnaround

Green Bay’s defense has played lights out to start the season. As of week three, the Packers rank 1st in takeaways, 2nd in sacks, and 13th in yards per game.

Oh how the turn tables.

Green Bay is notorious for having a potent offense combined with a porous defense. Looking back to 2011, the Packers had the number one scoring offense in the NFL. Pair that with the 32nd ranked defense in the league and the Packers found themselves bounced by the Giants after a 15-1 season.

This season has been like waking up on opposite day. Ever since the Packers fired Dom Capers and hired Mike Pettine, the defense exponentially improved.

Offensive woes

Green Bay’s offense is struggling this season. Wow. Thats a sentence I didn’t think I’d ever type in the Aaron Rodgers era.

Thus far this season, Rodgers is posting a 46 QBR. The offense itself is ranked 28th in the NFL in yards per game.

But it all doesn’t matter. They’re winning.

Rodgers’ lack of statistical prowess isn’t due to lack of excellence. He’s played great in the first three games of the season in terms of keeping the Packers in games.

Even with his lack of passing yards, he’s not throwing turning the ball over much. This isn’t a surprise, as Rodgers prides himself in taking care of the ball.

This is also due to a turn toward the run-game. New head coach Matt LaFleur ran a run-heavy offense as the offensive coordinator for Tennessee, and seems to have carried that over to Green Bay.

Rodgers seems to be under center more this season, electing to get running backs like Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams involved early.

This doesn’t mean Rodgers hasn’t taken over at times.

When you have a quarterback like Rodgers, you’ve always got a shot. He makes throws that leave defensive coordinators scratching their heads. That bad man will change the calls at will and read defenses like the playbook that Favre never did.

So what?

3-0 looks pretty good, not going to lie.

The Packers currently sit alone on top of the NFC North, with two division wins under their belt.

Look for the offense to pick it up down the stretch of the season. This team will more than likely make the playoffs barring something major happening.

Once in the post-season, that stout defense will play a larger role in trying to get Rodgers to his first Super Bowl since the 2010-2011 season.

Next, the Packers play the Eagles on Thursday Night Football. This is the Packers’ second primetime game of the season.

Orlando struggles versus Toronto

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Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic is currently averaging 16.3 PPG in the playoffs, which is the best on the team. (Image/@orlandomagic)

The Orlando Magic currently sit down three games to one in their first round matchup versus the second-seeded Toronto Raptors.

The Magic were able to steal game one behind DJ Augustine’s heroic late-game three-pointer. Some would say it was magical (I’ll see myself out).

Since this shot, Orlando has struggled to even stay in the lead this series. In game three, the Magic led for a grand total of ten seconds. Once Orlando took the lead in game three, the Raptors would score twenty unanswered points to more than reclaim the lead.

One bright spot of this series has been the play of Aaron Gordon. In game three he scored 25 points and grabbed 7 boards, leading the team in scoring.

Vucevic and Fournier have shown their true colors this post-season, which leads to interesting discussions in the Magic front-office this off-season. Should you re-sign Vucevic or move on to Mo Bamba, who was drafted to eventually take over.

In my opinion, the Magic should move on from Vucevic unless he wants to take a team-friendly deal. He’s poised to get a huge contract after his All-Star level year, but the Magic are looking to build upon this year and have more post-season berths in the near future. Vucevic is not improving, but Bamba will be. Gordon looks poised to make an All-Star jump next season, and Jonathan Isaac will be a force to be reckoned with on defense.

This season was one of those, “It’s a year too early for them,” type of situations for Orlando. They’ll be back to the playoffs, but with or without Vucevic is the million-dollar question.

Orlando defeats Boston 105-103

Live look-in on Magic fans beating Boston last night.

In true Orlando Magic fashion, this win was nearly a loss. With seconds left on the clock Boston had the opportunity to tie the game. Poor execution down the stretch had Orlando almost blow a 9 point lead with 2 minutes left.

Regardless, the Magic pulled out a win. Aaron Gordon finished with a team high 28 points and grabbed 12 rebounds en route to the Magic’s 2nd win in 7 games. This season has been one of untapped potential for Gordon, who signed a 4/yr $84 million contract this offseason. With a potential ceiling of a Blake Griffin, Magic fans are holding their breath that Gordon can grow into that role in his 4th year in the league.

This win puts the Magic at 18-24, good for 24th in the NBA and 10th in the East. Even at that low in the standings, the Magic are only 1 game out of the 8th seed in the East. On the other side of that, Orlando is 10.5 games out of having the best odds at the #1 pick in the 2019 NBA draft. With a draft class this loaded with the likes of Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett, one wonders if the Magic should aspire for the playoffs this season, or play the long game by gaining top talent, a la the Philadelphia 76ers.

2019 NFL Divisional Playoff Preview and Predictions

patrick mahomes

Patrick Mahomes looks to continue his success from the regular season into the postseason and overcome the ghosts of Kansas City’s postseason past.


by: Steven Walker


(6) Indianapolis Colts at (1) Kansas City Chiefs

This game, on paper, shouldn’t be close. Quite literally this is the bottom of the AFC postseason versus the top, but Andrew Luck changes this dynamic completely. The Colts offensive line has played a major role in their turnaround this season, allowing only 18 sacks this season (best in the NFL). This is contrary to last season where the Colts offensive line gave up 56 sacks, and that’s good for worst in the NFL. Indy is, excuse the lame pun, but a wildcard in this AFC playoff picture. But who is coming to spoil the fun? That’s right, its the 2nd year quarterback out of Texas Tech: Patrick Mahomes. Saying that Mahomes has played well this season is certainly an understatement. Leading the NFL in touchdown passes (in his second year!!!!) is no small feat, and throwing 50 in one season is something that only the likes of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have accomplished. Kansas City led the NFL in points for this season at 35.3, and it wasn’t particularly close. Tyreek Hill and Patrick Mahomes have been terrorizing the league all year, but what’s their kryptonite? That would be the Kansas City defense. Being the team that lost a game in which they scored 51 points, its no doubt that the Chiefs have some issues on that end of the ball. Kansas City gave up the most first downs this season, at 419. That’s 42 more than the next team, Cleveland at 377 first downs. Kansas City also gave up the second most total yards this season, second only to Cincinnati. I could write on and on about the woes of the KC defense, but it is mostly summed up by the fact that they’re in company with lower tier non-playoff team defenses. If Kansas City loses this game, it’ll be because of their defense and the right arm of Andrew Luck throwing daggers into an already weak defense. The Chiefs have a history blowing playoff games, as well as a history blowing playoff games to the Colts! I don’t see a way where the Kansas City defense overcomes Andrew Luck.

Prediction: Indianapolis 35  Kansas City 24

(5) Los Angeles Chargers at (2) New England Patriots

Wow does this matchup look entertaining. I really hate to say this but outside of New England fans and maybe those in the AFC West who isn’t pulling for the Chargers in this one? The narrative is set out in this one to play out like an old NFL playoff classic. You have the 41 year old Tom Brady looking to avenge last season’s Super Bowl loss to the Wentz-less Eagles, and Angry Tom is someone who no one wants to see in the playoffs. But then there’s the story of Philip Rivers. His is a story of anguish and desire, longing for a Super Bowl which he hasn’t even sniffed in his career. No one can deny Rivers’ achievements, but a ring would certainly validate his career in what has already been a Hall of Fame career. The Chargers seem like a team of destiny, a la the 2013 Denver Broncos where Peyton Manning rode off into the sunset, while also riding the best defense in the NFL to a second ring. Speaking of defense, the Chargers have a top 10 defense in points allowed per game. It’s easy to overlook the Chargers, but they actually finished the regular season with a better record than New England, at 12-4. The stars are aligning for the Chargers to go far this postseason, but why is it still hard to pick them over the Patriots? It’s the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick factor. No matter the struggles that the Patriots have had in the regular season, year in and year out this team finds ways to win in the postseason. I won’t even bother bringing up stats for this, because they don’t matter for New England. This team just knows how to get it done come postseason time, and I don’t see any reason why this year will be different.

Prediction: New England 27  Los Angeles 13

Now, to the NFC:


(6) Philadelphia Eagles at (1) New Orleans Saints

Another 6 seed taking on a 1 seed this divisional round weekend, yet this one seems less interesting to the eye. The Eagles are coming off of a miracle win against Chicago where Cody Parkey hit the posts not once, but twice in order to miss the game winning field goal. Looking solely on matchup, the Eagles should get blown out. In week 10 the Eagles faced the Saints and would go on to lose in spectacular fashion 48-7. This game featured Carson Wentz throwing 3 interceptions and the Eagles mustering up a paltry 196 yards of total offense. The X factor in this game will be Nick Foles. As we’ve seen in the past this man is capable of carrying the Eagles to great lengths and even Super Bowl wins. The magic of Foles is real, and if the Philadelphia defense can over-achieve like they did against the Bears, then they may be able to squeeze out a close one. Containing the Saints offense is a rather tall order, and every part of the Eagles defense will be tested come Sunday. The Eagles secondary ranks 3rd in most passing yards given up behind only Cincinnati and Kansas City. The Bears didn’t have a Michael Thomas on their team like New Orleans does, which changes the whole gameplan for Philadelphia. Thomas is a deep threat to score from anywhere on the field, and finds the wholes in zones to gobble up catches. He led the NFL in receptions this season with 125 and was 6th in yards at 1,405. On the business end of those Michael Thomas receptions would be Drew Brees, who would have won his first MVP this season had it not been for the other-worldly performance of Patrick Mahomes this season. Brees is a whole other monster to deal with for Philly, as he is a little bit better than Mitchell Trubisky for the Bears. Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram top off one of the most potent offenses in football, which combined with an improved defense seek to knock of the defending Super Bowl champions this Sunday.

Prediction: Saints 35  Eagles 14

(4) Dallas Cowboys at (2) Los Angeles Rams

Last but certainly not least we have the night cap of NFL Saturday Divisional football. This primetime slotted game will be sure not to disappoint, as these two teams match up rather favorably. Coming into this game, Rams RB Todd Gurley leads the NFL in total touchdowns, and ranks 3rd in rushing yards this season. The Rams are a very balanced team, and thrive on that balance. Dallas will look to take away that balance through locking down the run game. In a 5th ranked rushing defense led by Leighton Vander Esch, if Dallas can force the Rams into long passing situations on third down, they can pull off this upset. Part of this upset by the Cowboys would have to come of course from the offense. Led by Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot, Dallas is riding hot into the divisional round having won 8 of their last 9 games. A big part of that has been the resurgence of Ezekiel Elliot. After a shortened season in 2017 due to suspension, Elliot turned things around to win the NFL rushing title for the second time in three years and led the Cowboys to the postseason. The Rams gave up the 10th most rushing yards of any team this season, and if Elliot can get going in this game then Dallas can control the clock and run the Rams out of their own building. On the other side of that coin, Los Angeles has been playing lights out pretty much all year. On the offensive side of the ball, LA ranks 5th in passing yards per game, 3rd in rushing yards per game, and 2nd in points per game behind only Kansas City. This team schemes week in and week out and will expose weaknesses in their opponent’s defensive gameplan. Sean McVay has this offense firing on all cylinders, and with his creative playcalling he is able to get receivers like Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods open in space to give Goff easy throws down the field. Both Cooks and Woods have over 1,200 yards this season, and they will be tested come Saturday night against an above average pass defense in Dallas. This will be one of the closer games this weekend and is sure to not disappoint. 

Prediction:Dallas 28  Los Angeles 24