Our organic city

Three snapshots in time:

Snapshot 1. It’s 1974 and I’m writing for the Alligator. During a staff lunch in a nicely appointed courtyard across from campus, one of our reporters looks around and opines that the space is a good example of urban renewal.

Snapshot 2. It’s 2010 and I’m sitting in that same courtyard. My favorite restaurant, Cafe Gardens, is closing after a three decade run. As a last meal it’s a sad occasion.

Snapshot 3. Now it’s 2020 and another favorite haunt, The Swamp, is gone. So is the courtyard and the building that once housed Cafe Gardens.

Things change. By definition urban renewal is never a one-and-done.

We’re all upset over the loss of The Swamp as it used to be. It was a Gainesville institution. But I don’t buy some of the bitter comments I got on Facebook when I posted a photo of the demolition: “This is what infill and gentrification look like. Congrats to all of you who voted for this. You won!”

Not sure when exactly we voted for infill and gentrification. I do remember that Cafe Gardens closed because the family that ran it got out of the business. And that the old Swamp is no more because the people who owned it made a new business plan.

And I’m not sure what we as a city could have done to keep those buildings, that courtyard, or those institutions just the way we liked them.

I do know this. A city, any city, is like a living organism. It can simultaneously grow (Midtown), stagnate (downtown), and even germinate in unexpected and wonderful ways (check out the 4th Avenue Food Park).

But it is always changing.

A lot of us miss the old county hospital…my kids were born there. But its replacement, Innovation Square, is slowly transforming and strengthening the town-gown fabric that is Gainesville’s urban core.

Would we be a better community if thousands of UF students were driving in from apartments near I-10 instead of walking to campus? Maybe. But it seems to me that the clustering of apartments around UF – yes even the high rises that we love to hate – is urban renewal as it’s supposed to work.

I know we’ve all got a hate-on for The Standard because it ruined the town forever. But personally I blame that notorious South (of here) Florida developer W. McKee Kelley for destroying Gainesville’s village-like ambiance.

He’s the one who started constructing the Segal Building. In the 1920s.

No, seriously. Gainesville used to be a railroad town, but the railroads left. Then it was a college town. Now we’re a university city. And I believe we are a more mature, interesting and diverse community for our growing pains.

Does that mean our land use and development codes are where they should be? No, we clearly need a better vision for how we grow and what that growth will look like. I assume that’s why we’re getting ready to have a moratorium on development.

Gentrification is an issue for another day. But if they ever do put infill on the ballot I’d vote for it. Because we know what the alternative is: Celebration Point, and Butler’s “town” center. Big boxes. And traffic jams on Archer and Newberry roads as people funnel themselves to and from sprawling subdivisions that keep spreading west toward the county line.

We have already met the enemy, and it isn’t The Standard.

Ron Cunningham is former editorial page editor of The Sun. Read his blog at www.floridavelocipede.com. Email him at rondarts2008@gmail.com.

The new downtown market

Listen, we’ve got your fresh artisan guacamole here, your speckled peas, broccoli and radishes across the way and your microgreens at the booth next door.

On the paleo diet? Wild Man’s got your wild hog, wild gator and wild shrimp. Is organic your bag? Here’s Frog Song, Grown-N-Grace and Weavers Whimsey.

A couple of guys over there are playing cool jazz for a hot summer afternoon.

Oh, and there’s beer. Because what’s the point of having a farmer’s market at Cypress & Grove Brewery if you can’t get a beer?

I know, there has been much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth since we learned that the Union Street Farmer’s market abandoned its longtime venue at the Bo Diddley Plaza and decamped to Celebration Point.

But you don’t have to drive clear to the other side of I-75 to get your smoked mullet-fresh honey-and-home made tempeh fix.

It’s just that Monday is now the new Wednesday. And Gainesville’s center of home grown produce gravity has shifted 10 blocks north.

“We are the new downtown farmer’s market,” says Monica Albert, founder of the Grove Street Farmer’s Market. And sure enough, some of the same folks who hawked their goods at Bo Diddley on Wednesday are among the 30 or so vendors now setting up at the brewery on Monday.

“I think it’s all going to work out beautifully,” says Albert, aka “The Blade,” proprietor of Mo’s Garage, where they fix hair, not cars, on NW 4th Street.

And talk about timing, good and bad: Albert began organizing the Grove Street Farmer’s Market before anybody ever heard of coronavirus and without a clue that the venerable downtown market’s days would be numbered.

Almost as soon as the new market began putting up tents the town was locking down. But food being an “essential service,” the Grove Street show went on.

“The biggest challenge has just been absorbing the whole crisis itself, keeping spirits high and the momentum going,” she said. “It’s imperative that all vendors wear masks and gloves while handling produce. We encourage patrons (to wear masks). When the majority of people are practicing common sense, people kind of fall into line.”

The Union Street Market is no more because the city closed the Plaza and is not yet willing to open it up again. “We are able to continue to operate because we’re on private property,” Albert said. “Vendors have come (from downtown) to bridge the gap”

Which is not to say that the market’s current footprint is, um, set in stone. Albert hopes that, eventually, it will expand to the adjacent 6th Street rail-trail and stretch down NW 10th Avenue and around the corner to her own shop. “It’ll fluctuate some, but I have this number in my head. By the beginning of the year I hope to see 75 vendors here.”

Nobody is happy about losing a farmer’s market that has been a downtown tradition for years. But on the plus side, Grove Street is an up and coming center of home-grown entrepreneurship…eateries, galleries, clothing stores, coffee shops, pet stores and a community food pantry that is needed now more than ever. So why not a farmer’s market to help glue it all together?

“I have my business here and I love this neighborhood,” Albert said. “We are now up and running, and as we move forward, everybody’s happy.”

Long live the downtown farmer’s market.

Ron Cunningham is former editorial page editor of The Sun. Read his blog, http://www.floridavelocipede.com

River of no return

For our latest edition of Armchair Traveler we take a look at one of America’s most scenic, yet threatened, river.

Because rivers run through me.

The gentle Suwannee. The gutted Apalachicola. The algae-breeding St. Johns. The doomed Ocklawaha.

So many great Florida rivers sacrificed on the altar of hyper-growth.

In my nearly half-century journalism career I have been obsessed with our rivers, returning to them again and again. And each time finding them a little dirtier and more stressed.

So naturally, while on vacation in northern Arizona, I wanted to get up close and personal with America’s “hardest working” river, the Colorado.

The liquid artist that carved nature’s ultimate sculpture, the Grand Canyon, out of the living rock.

The 1,450-mile behemoth that funnels life-sustaining water from Rocky Mountain snow fields to 36 million people scattered from Wyoming down into Mexico.

And a downstream rowing trip did not disappoint. Threading our way amid towering red sandstone canyons, from Horseshoe Bend to Lee’s Ferry, we could see large game fish lazing in water nearly as transparent as the Ichetucknee. And almost 25 degrees colder at that.

If Paradise had a river it would be the Colorado.

That is, if the federal Bureau of Reclamation built Paradise.

The word Colorado means red. So named by the Spanish explorers who discovered a much darker, more turbid and warmer river. Indeed, the abrasive power of its silt-laden water helped make the Grand Canyon what it is today.

But improving on nature is an American tradition.

At the Glen Canyon Dam Visitors Center you are informed that the dam was constructed “to benefit ecosystems and communities downstream …” That they made the Colorado run “cold and clear … so all can benefit.”

But other federal employees — rangers at nearby Grand Canyon National Park — complain that since the Colorado turned “cold and clear,” native fish and other species have gone missing and the ecology of the canyon floor has changed dramatically.

A small price to pay for progress, perhaps.

Because Lake Powell is itself a marvel of nature … or rather of artifice.

Flooding 185 miles of canyons has spawned a multibillion-dollar tourism trade. Marinas now host luxury house boats every bit as grand as any yacht tied up in Fort Lauderdale.

And then there’s Page. Built in the 1950s to house dam construction workers, it now sprouts hotels, resorts and luxury villas.

And a manicured emerald green golf course. And lush grass lawns and mediums. All fed by sprinklers that run in the middle of the day.

In the middle of the desert.

Since the turn of the millennium the Southwest has endured a drought of near biblical proportions. America’s two largest reservoirs — Lake Powell to the east of the Grand Canyon and Lake Mead to the west — are less than half full and falling fast.

As famous as the Colorado may be, it’s equally infamous for the stresses placed upon it due to over-allocation, overuse, and more than a century of manipulation,” says American Rivers, the monitoring group that has designated the Colorado America’s most endangered river. “Following decades of wasteful water management policies and practices, demand on the river’s water now exceeds its supply.”

Yes, more water is now taken out of the Colorado than goes in. It is the law of diminishing returns in action.

Four centuries ago, Coronado ventured into the great southwestern desert in search of the legendary Seven Cities of Gold. He came up, well, dry, because cities could not exist in such arid conditions.

Today the Cities of Gold all have names: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Tucson, Flagstaff and more. All are growing and all fight for more of the Colorado’s diminishing supply.

Throw in competing demands of the region’s multi-billion dollar agriculture and tourism industries, and America’s hardest working river is also its most litigated.

And what will happen when the Colorado is expected to feed, not 36 million people, but 40 million? Fifty million?

John Wesley Powell told us this would happen. In 1869 the great scientist and Colorado River explorer warned: “You are piling up a heritage of conflict and litigation over water rights because there is not sufficient water to supply the land.”

Powell was booed down. But long after he was safely dead, they did name a reservoir in his honor.

Talk about adding insult to injury. Powell would have been appalled.

Perhaps in the end we are destined to join other civilizations that briefly flourished in this dry, arid and ultimately unsustainable landscape.

And the Colorado will once again run wild and free and untamed.

GNV Meander

Listen, “Cycling is red hot!” I heard that on NPR, and who am I to argue with NPR. Plus I noticed that the last time I walked through Walmart there were hardly any bicycles left.

The good news is that Gainesville is a great cycling city, especially if you stick to neighborhood streets. This is a nearly 13 mile ride I like to do that takes me through some of the the great neighborhoods of Gainesville proper. The best way to see a city is on the back of a bicycle. So why not take the GNV Meander? Here’s the Ride With GPS link: https://ridewithgps.com/trips/54807124

I begin in Forest Ridge because everybody has to begin somewhere and that’s happens to be where I live. Home of the world famous Alfred A. Ring Nature Preserve.

At 1.1 mile I enter Oak View neighborhood (be careful crossing 13th Street, wait for a break in traffic.) It’s an appropriately named neighborhood because it’s got some of Gainesville’s best tree canopied streets. Plus I saw this nifty classic Ford pickup that, according to the hand-written sign on the back window, still has its original engine and runs great!

At 1.6 miles enter Grove Street neighborhood (be careful crossing 6th Street). It’s home to the world famous C&G Brewery, Mo’s Garage and the Monday Farmer’s Market. Plus its got kickass murals and street art. What’s not to like?

At 2.2 miles you are in Pleasant Street. One of my all-time favorite neighborhoods it’s got historic buildings, classic shotgun houses and an intimate feel. Plus the Big Red Church! You can feel the neighborhood renewing itself all around you.

At 2.5 miles you will arrive at Main Street (be careful crossing). If you want to refresh I recommend Charlie’s Snow Shack for saved ice or, just across the street Vine for something hotter. Also, before you cross Man Street check out the murals right around the corner from Charlie’s. They’re great.

Cross Main and you are in the Duck Pond. Sweetwater Branch meanders through here. You’ve got the Santa Fe Spring Arts House, the LaCosta House, the weird wooden winged sculpture and the world famous “Dump Trump” sign. Great neighborhood.

At 2.6 miles you have arrived at the Thomas Center. Giant oak trees, great fountain, wonderful Spanish style architecture and a sculpture that looks like dried fish hung out to cure. You will likely see folks doing yoga or picnicking on the lush green lawn. Need a break? Go inside and catch the latest art exhibit.

Continue your meander through the Duck Pond and, at 3.5 miles, you will enter the Bed & Breakfast District. You’ll know you’re there when you see the oddly disturbing mural on the wall of the convenience store just on the other side of University Avenue. Cross with the light. The old homes turned B&Bs are spectacular. Not to mention the quaint cracker style cottages that dot the neighborhood.

At 3.9 miles you enter Sweetwater Branch Park. To the right is the Matheson Museum complex. It’s a skinny park and before you know it you’ll exit where the library headquarters faces off against the federal courthouse. The courthouse is where Nixon tried to railroad the Gainesville Eight, but failed in the face of stubborn Gainesville jurors who had a better concept of justice than the whole Justice Department. (By the way, for about half a block you’ll be headed the wrong way on a one-way street, so maybe use the sidewalk for that stretch).

Downtown is Hipp! What more is there to say?

At 4.6 miles you are back in the B&B District. Why? Why the hell not? It’s a great neighborhood to meander through.

At 5 miles you are going to take a right onto the rail-trail that will take you through Springhill to Depot Park. Check out the Cotton Club and Perryman’s Grocery. But whatever you do don’t miss the collection of murals on the GRU walls at SE 5th Avenue and SE 8th Street. They are spectacular!

If I have to explain why you want to ride through Depot Park (at 5.5 miles) you might as well stay at home. It’s simply Da Bomb!

At 6.8 miles you will get onto a rail-trail that will take you past First Mag Brewery (where you can cycle-through to buy beer), after which you will skirt Porters and enter the Innovation District. Watch out for sunbathing students.

At 8 miles you will cross University Avenue at the light and enter UF campus. Gator Country! And you will be in the heart of the old historic campus district, which will one day be car-free if the UF strategic planners are to be believed.

At 8.6 miles you are going to make a right out of Newell Drive (which nobody drives on since it’s a pedestrian mall) onto University Avenue. You will immediately get into the turn lane and turn off University Avenue onto NW 16th Street (ALL THE WHILE BEING VERY CAREFUL TO WAIT FOR A BREAK IN TRAFFIC SO YOU CAN CROSS SAFELY). Now you are in Midtown, home of more student apartments than is humanly possible to count. But it’s got some great restaurants and cafes as well.

At 9.1 miles you are going to cross University Avenue at the light to once again enter campus. This so you can see The Swamp, the O’Dome and other monuments to athletic braggadocio. Get your photo taken with the big gator or the three UF football legends.

BTW: When I did this ride Stadium Road was closed for construction so I had to retrace my route back to Emerson Hall and then proceed west on University Avenue (there’s a bike lane) to get to NW 23rd St. If Stadium Rd is finished when you go proceed west and then take a right just past Presley Stadium. From there you can cross University Avenue at 23rd Street (AFTER WAITING FOR A BREAK IN TRAFFIC TO CROSS SAFELY OF COURSE).

At 10.3 miles you will enter Palm Terrace, one of Gainesville’s great hide-in-plain-sight neighborhoods. It’s very classy with a few Tara-like mansions and what not. But the best thing about riding through Palm Terrace is the steep hill that will take you down to 8th Avenue. It’s a thrill ride. Short but sweet.

OK, 10.7 miles and you have arrived at NW 8th Avenue. If you want to linger and maybe add some mileage, hang a left and follow the Solar Walk exhibit to Loblolly Nature Preserve. It’s well worth the extra effort. Otherwise cross 8th and take the boardwalk that will connect you to Mason Manner.

At 11.5 miles you are going to turn right on 16th Avenue (wide sidewalk and bike lane, take your choice) and then turn left unto NW 23rd Street (ALWAYS BEING CAREFUL TO WATCH FOR TRAFFIC AND CROSS SAFELY) for a brief swing through Brywood and back to Forest Ridge.

End of ride. Congrats. You’ve done the GNV Meander.

Happy New Year GNV

Happy New Year, Gainesville.

I know, but it’s an old habit with me.

When I became higher education reporter for The Sun, in 1976, it felt like this town ran more on the academic calendar than the Gregorian. And so, as editorial page editor, beginning in the ‘80s, I got into the habit of issuing new year’s greetings at the end of August. Because who wants to wait until January to celebrate the obvious?

This is supposed to be our time of renewal. When we shrug off the old and embrace the new. Right now, while tens of thousands of students and educators descend on Gainesville from the world over.

It’s when you feel the quickening of social and cultural life. The football weekends. The Accent speakers. New performing seasons at the Hipp and the Phillips Center.

Gainesville comes alive and anticipation is in the air. Downtown rocks until the wee hours…every night. And we are confident that, this year, there will be no need to “wait ‘til next year” for that championship.

Ah, but this year…

If this indeed be Gainesville’s new year, we face it with more trepidation than anticipation.

Some students will do more learning on line than face-to-face. We know when live classes are supposed to commence, but we don’t really know whether the new semester at UF and Santa Fe will last into December or fold within days in the face of an uptick of Covid cases.

And we know that when UF sneezes Gainesville gets a cold.

Football? Maybe a 10-game conference schedule. Maybe just a game or two….or none at all.

Fest? Forget it, Downtown clubs may or may not open for business. We’ve already lost some familiar local landmarks, like Leonardos 706 and Civilization. And more will likely follow. And when January does get here, the forecast for fireworks at Depot Park is not looking good.

Talk about a sign of the times. Cycling through Midtown the other day I saw one that read “No Lease: Month to month.”

We desperately want a return to normalcy. But now we don’t even know what the new normal is going to look like in two weeks, let alone two months.

Oh brave new year that has such uncertainty in it.

But here’s the thing about our new year. About any new year.

It is always a good time to look ahead to better days than these. To resolve to do better. To work harder. To double down on our city’s depth of intellectual resources and spirit of innovation.

We are a university city. We are a city of educators and health care professionals and scientists and entrepreneurs. We, of all people, ought to be capable of shaping Gainesville’s new normal rather than having it thrust upon us.

And make no mistake, Gainesville already has a lot on its plate. Issues of equity, an affordable housing shortage, a looming eviction crisis, mounting unemployment and questions about how to build a more resilient local economy.

If there was ever a year for the much heralded Gainesville-University of Florida strategic partnership to prove its worth, this is it. We are limited only by the bounds of our collective imagination.

With so much at stake, it’s never too early to start the clock on 2021.

Ron Cunningham is former editorial page editor of The Sun. Read his blog at www.floridavelocipede.com. Email him at rondarts2008@gmail.com.

Just another ride

Things I saw on my ride today from Micco to Sebastian, Fl. Suffice it to say it’s a happening place.

Wanted to make a phone call but she just kept talking and talking

What can I say? He’s hooked.

The route to the brewery and back. If you even want to come back.

Sometimes you go down some strange roads in search of a beer.

Not sure what to make of this. Either someone’s got a really bizarre sense of humor or you can literally get away with murder if you are in the agritourism business in Florida.

There are times when your mouth can really get you into big trouble.

Her name was Rosie. His name was Gus. Gus Gator. They were made for each other.

Signs of the times.

A short walk off a long pier.

Birds of a feather. And Karen.

The regular people play at the Hardback Cafe.

Rumor has it that you can’t eat just one.

Just another brick

One of the joys of cycling in Gainesville is coming across murals that I haven’t seen before. Today while meandering through Springhill on my way to Depot Park I spotted a freshly painted wall on SE 7th Street behind the old GRU complex.

The artist who did this wall put me in mind of the classic old Yes albums designed by Roger Dean. So I’ve taken the liberty of adding some old R&R lyrics from the old days to add, um, context.

When the levee breaks I’ll have no place to stay. Mean old levee taught me to weep and moan.

With apologies to teachers everywhere.

Deadheads never die.

Cue the posse.

Yes lives.

These last few murals I found on an obscure wall tucked away in one corner of the Cade. Gator stuff but sort of surrealistic nonetheless.

I love this town.

Ah Venice redux

Continuing our armchair travels in these home-bound times of coronavirus. Recalling a few days in Venice before things really went to hell.

In the spring of 2014 Jill and I stopped for a few days in Venice on our way home from Croatia. Never did get to climb out of a sewer in St. Marks Square while being chased by religious fanatics and rats, like Indiana. But it was still fun.

We quickly learned that if you want to see anything worthwhile, like the great cathedral at St. Marks, you had to do it early in the morning, before the cruse ships discharged their armies of walking zombies. After that it was all elbows akimbo.

On the other hand, you could jump aboard one of the water taxis and spend the rest of the day exploring the outer islands in the lagoon. Few cruise shippers chose to spend their off day ashore afloat, oddly, so the outer islands were beautiful and uncrowned.

Legend has it that Travis McGee initially wanted to berth in Venice. But they told him the Busted Flush wasn’t up to code.

Oddly, I’ve been to Venice twice. Once as a 19-year old sailor, and once just a few years ago. Still haven’t been on a gondola. It’s rather like paying that guy to pole you across the River Styx.

Murano Island was a riot of color. Colorful buildings competing with colorful boats.

Walking through Venice at night is the most seductive exercise imaginable.

I have to wonder if Venice masks are selling out now that we’re all, you know, wearing masks.

“We’re lost in a masquerade.” Leon Russell.

If Venice were run by a Gainesville council we would all be complaining about the leakage.

What could be better than hanging your socks out on a balcony that’s been around for 200 years?

Lions and babies and nymphs oh my!

What’s the difference between Venice Italy and Venice Florida? You can ride a bicycle in Venice Florida.

This was the Golden Age of Venice, before the floods put everything under water.

“Spill the wine, dig that girl.” Eric Burden.

The opportunity to quietly stroll St. Marks Square in uninterrupted solitude is disturbed only by the cruise ship debarkation schedule.

No to homophobia. No to the mafia. Signs of the times.

“One of the things I like about Venice is that it’s so safe for me to walk.” Julie Christie said in “Don’t look Now” (a slasher flick disguised as an art house film) just before everything went to, um, shreds.

They say that cockroaches will ultimately inherit the world. But I’m not ruling out pigeons.

On the other hand, if Disney had built it there would be moving sidewalks.

On the plus side, they’re not in danger of running out of water any time soon.

What would RQM say?

In these times of Covid chaos and confusion I wonder: What would RQM say?

That would be Robert Quarrels Marston. Scientists, physician, scholar, and the man who invented the modern University of Florida.

Marston was a sort of an early Dr. Fauci who believed in science and didn’t mind questioning authority.

As a Rhodes Scholar he studied at Oxford under the tutelage of Sir Howard Florey, one of the Nobel Prize winners who gave the world penicillin. As the nuclear era blossomed he did groundbreaking research on what happens to the human body after total irradiation. He edited a book called “Medical Effects of Nuclear War.” At the University of Minnesota his speciality was bacteriology and immunology.

Marston bucked the politicians when necessary. He integrated the University of Mississippi School of Medicine in the face of resistance from then-Gov. Ross Barnett. And when Richard Nixon wanted to declare “war” on cancer, Marston, then director of the National Institute of Health, said it was bad science to concentrate all resources on one form of illness to the neglect of others.

Nixon fired him.

But never mind all that. RQM’s finest work, his masterpiece, was remaking a backwater southern football school into top ten world class research university.

I was writing for the Alligator when Marston was named president of the University of Florida, in 1974. And during much of his tenure in Tigert Hall, I was higher education reporter for the Gainesville Sun. I talked to him and wrote about him on an almost daily basis, and it was clear that UF hadn’t seen his like before.

Marston’s predecessor hailed from the ranks of good old boy politics. Stephen C. O’Connell longed for the days when freshmen still wore beanies, and he simply couldn’t cope with the rising anti-war, pro-civil rights sentiment among students who came here to learn and ended up occupying O’Connell’s office in protest. His chief fund raiser once told me that the only time he could get O’Connell to leave the state was to go to SEC meetings.

When Marston came to UF, Shands hospital was pretty much housed in a single building, its finances were in disarray and an influential state senator in South Florida was talking about blowing the whole thing up and starting over again…preferably in Miami.

But Marston changed everything. He raised tens of millions of private dollars to improve and expand UF academics and its research capabilities. He paved the way for entrance into the prestigious Association of American Universities. Under his leadership UF became one of three state universities housing the broadest range of academic disciplines on a single campus.

He created UF’s Eminent Scholars Program and turned the university into one of the nation’s top destinations for National Merit Scholars.

Just this week UF announced that its faculty and scientists raised a record “$900.7 million in research funding in fiscal year 2020, despite many activities being paused for more than two months by the pandemic.” UF’s powerful research and grants machine owes its very success to the culture change and mission refinements that Marston oversaw during his 10 years at Tigert Hall.

A Renaissance man in the fullest sense of the term – he even dabbled in the science of fisheries – Marston passed away here in Gainesville in 1999. He was a gentle Virginian with a dry sense of humor and a wry smile.

I only bring all this up because I’ve been thinking about what RQM would have to say about the politicians and university presidents who are so insistent that we play college football in the midst of a Covid pandemic.

Gov. Ron DeSantis argues that “To take away (the football) season would be short-circuiting the dreams that so many of our student athletes have worked for, in many cases, their whole lives.”

Which is poli-speak for: What doesn’t kill these kids may possibly make some of them richer…at least the few who will eventually get to the NFL.

And FSU President John Thrasher, surely our latter-day Stephen C. O’Connell, assures us “We know that we can do it safely. We think it’s in the best interest of our student athletes.”

Which is NCAA-speak for: We will lose a ton of money if we can’t exploit our unpaid student athletes to rake in ESPN royalties.

Make no mistake, we are talking about turning student athletes into lab rats for our viewing pleasure. Throwing them into close contact in a sport that punishes the human body and lowers its resistance even when there isn’t a plague to complicate things.

All for our personal entertainment and the glorification of our alma mater.

Marston wasn’t anti-sports. His administration built the O’Connell Center, the O-Dome, so UF could up its basketball game. But neither did he salivate over the prospect of national titles. He used his Saturdays in the President’s Box to win Bull Gators over to his vision for a stronger, smarter and more comprehensive graduate research university.

Personally I think RQM – scientists, physician and scholar – would have been rendered speechless, at least initially, by the insistence that the game must go on no matter the consequences. Never mind the inevitable infections. Never mind all of the things scientists are still learning about the long term negative impacts of the coronavirus on the human body.

On the plus side, even as we continue this, um, infectious tailgate culture of head-banging and old school rivalry, a whole army of scientists and physicians over at the health center will continue to frantically search for treatments, cures and vaccines…all of which require lab rats.

What would RQM have said? Not no. Not even hell no!

“What in the world are all of you thinking?” that gentle, soft-spoken and always polite scientist, physician and scholar would have asked.

Because Marston would have understood the coronavirus. He would not in a million years have understood what strange malady infects a body politic that breeds the likes of a DeSantis and a Thrasher.