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June 25, 2012

The Silver Lining: Harvin must decide



The Silver Lining comes to you each Monday shining a spotlight on some of the biggest stories in sports and entertainment.

  • The NFL has done a superb job making off-the-field news as big - if not bigger - than what actually happens on the field each week during the season. That is why Percy Harvin deciding to first skip practice and then request a trade from the Minnesota Vikings last week was not just a big story for fans of his team but across the entire sports landscape. Harvin was discussed on every major network, radio station and website, and he was even a worldwide trending topic on Twitter for an entire day last week despite very little information actually being known about why he was demanding a trade or how the team convinced him to forget those demands in one afternoon and return to practice the next day. No matter what story Harvin wants to tell, I can promise you he wants a new contract. And he deserves one, too. But that does not mean he will get what he deserves - especially not this year. If Harvin treats 2012 like a contract year, scores double-digit touchdowns and proves to be a must-have commodity on the field, the Vikings will extend him in the last year of his deal in 2013 rather than deal with him next off-season and use the franchise tag on him in 2014. (That being said, his coaches have to give him that opportunity - 58.4 percent of offensive snaps and no red zone packages will not cut it again.) However, if he decides to keep acting out and throwing around blame, Minnesota could simply choose another playmaker in the first round of the draft next year and either let his contract expire or lock him up against his wishes in 2014, trying to get as much out of him as possible before letting him go elsewhere as a then-six year NFL veteran.

  • It is not often that a new show will blow me away but that is exactly what The Newsroom did Sunday night on HBO. Everyone may have their own opinion of writer/producer Aaron Sorkin but when it comes to smart writing, few do it better with as much consistency. The laugh track may have been awful but Sports Night was one of my favorite shows when it was on the air, and no one can question the quality and success of The West Wing. I did not necessarily believe Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip got enough time to grow and blossom into what he wanted but that is certainly up for debate. If The Newsroom can grow on the ideas planted in the first episode - that it is going to be a show taking an honest look at the problems with television news (notably the hypocrisy that a station can be unbiased or "fair and balanced" but still have a slant while being directed by ratings and sponsors) - it has an opportunity to become one of this decade's best shows.

  • There was plenty of action at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials over the weekend in Eugene, OR though only two of the nine current and former Florida Gators that have already seen action have qualified for the 2012 London Olympics. Junior sprinter Tony McQuay - who turned pro last week and signed with adidas - finished second in the men's 400-meter dash with a personal record of 44.49 seconds, and former Florida jumper Will Claye earned his spot in the games with a 8.23m/27-0 mark in the long jump. Senior sprinter Jeff Demps performed well in the preliminary and semifinal races but faltered in the final, running a 10.27-second 100-meter dash that placed him in seventh and outside of the qualification area for the Olympics. Demps may have had a rough go of it in the final, but it is important to remember that he has only been a one-sport athlete for six months and spent a good portion of that time rehabbing to ensure that he was as healthy as possible for the trials. His inability to make the Olympic team this time does not mean he will or should quit and concentrate on football. Instead he will spend the next four years competing in international competitions, attempting to win titles both home and abroad and preparing for the 2016 trials when he gets another shot to represent his country on the world's biggest stage. Eight more Gators will compete in the track & field trials through the event's duration: Claye, Omar Craddock and Christian Taylor (men's triple jump), Dwight Barbiasz (men's high jump), Cory McGee (women's 1,500-meter run), Kerron Clement (men's 400-meter hurdles), Dedric Dukes (men's 200-meter dash), Eddie Lovett (men's 110-meter hurdles).

  • For a young coach without much experience being on the bench at the sport's top level, new Florida assistant basketball coach Rashon Burno sure comes off s impressive and looks to be another quality hire for head coach Billy Donovan. Aside from his tough childhood, Burno appears to be a model of persistence and a man who knows how to work relationships to succeed in his business and advance his career. He spoke to the media last week about being a self-proclaimed "tenacious" recruiter, someone who does his best to adapt to each athlete he speaks with and prides himself on using his "own experience to try and help educate a kid on why [playing for the Gators] is a good opportunity for them." Burno also said he actively sought out Donovan a few years ago to pick his brain about what it takes to be a good college basketball coach. Wouldn't you know it, when Donovan had his fourth assistant leave in as many season and was looking for a talented young man who planned to stick with him for a long time, Burno was at the top of his list and was in the position to jump at the opportunity presented to him. "It was over a 4-5 year span of really picking [Donovan's] brain about how to be a productive coach," he explained of how he got in position to land the job. "I think that helped in the process because he got to know me off the floor. I think it paid dividends obviously with the opportunity to work for him." If he keeps that mentality for the rest of his career, Burno could very well be another successful branch of Donovan's coaching tree.

  • Watching Twitter explode as former Gators guard Mike Miller dominated Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals by scoring 23 points in 23 minutes on 7-of-8 shooting from downtown made me think back to the 2000 NCAA Tournament and his epically clutch buzzer-beater against Butler, a moment he told the Sun-Sentinel a year ago was "one of the best" of his life and one he doubted he could ever top. Things fell into place for Florida in that game. The Gators were down three, hit a layup and saw the Bulldogs miss a pair of free throws, giving UF the ball back with 8.1 seconds left. Miller then drove the lane and hit a lay-up of his own at the buzzer in what some believe was a broken play, though Teddy Dupay had the option of where he wanted to go with the ball. But that was one shot - one moment at the end of the game. Miller got the chance to celebrate his entire career on Thursday - one three-point bucket at a time with an unusually boisterous home crowd of Miami fans cheering him on louder and louder as they inched closer and closer to a championship with each swish. He finally reached the mountaintop and did so in style. Sure he had superstars taking care of the heavy lifting all season long, but Miller joined their ranks when it mattered the most. The tears of joy were a long time coming and were undoubtedly well-deserved. So if Miller a year from now has a different answer when he is asked what he will always remember as the greatest moment of his basketball-playing career, I'd say he has every right to say it is one that took place while wearing white and red rather than Orange and Blue.


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