Updated: Dec 14, 2020
Despite an excrutiating loss, Kadarius Toney was brilliant. (SEC Photo)
There was an old woman who lived in one. Nikita Khrushchev banged on the table with one at the Cuban Missile Crisis talks. Cinderella lost hers fleeing the prince’s castle at midnight. Steve Spurrier called out FSU for giving them away being free. But in my lifetime of covering college football, nobody has created more controversy with a shoe than Marco Wilson.
In your life, as Verne would say, you never saw the outcome of a bigger SEC football game decided by a shoe, unless it was the special-made square-toed one on the foot of Spurrier when he kicked the winning field goal against Auburn -- which probably won him the Heisman Trophy.
Ironically, the shoe that Marco Wilson threw in frustration and anger Saturday night in the last few minutes of what will likely be his final appearance at The Swamp may have cost Kyle Trask his shot at a Heisman that only a few weeks ago looked to be his -- and maybe even his statue. Wilson’s fit of anger and stupidity eliminated Florida’s chances for a playoff shot. (Or maybe not – see “Alabama” reference later on.)
In the most unthinkable of scenarios, the redshirt defensive back let his anger and pride get the best of him as he reached for the shoe of LSU tight end Kole Taylor and flung it South toward oblivion. The penalty wiped out the third down stop of the Gator defense – one of their best and most critical of the year – allowing LSU another clock-milking set of downs.
Game, set, match and maybe the season. And perhaps even a Heisman and a statue. But there was another shoe that would play a part in this drama.
Now Marco Wilson is the poster-child for failure of the 2020 Florida Gators. And we are left to wonder, “What was he thinking?” And, of course, the obvious response of “HE WASN’T!”
As much as we place the blame for the loss on Wilson, who was once considered a crafty and versatile player from American Heritage High in Fort Lauderdale and has been the frequent target of derision from fans for what seems like an eternity of blown coverages and missed tackles, several other teammates played a big part as accomplices. Not the least of which was the Heisman contender Trask, who had three turnovers (one not his fault) and missed some open targets in a miserable night of red zone trips without the injured TE marvel Kyle Pitts.
The difference being that their mistakes were not selfish ones made out of anger and temporary insanity.
The football that later came off the shoe of reliable Evan McPherson was – in golf parlance – one ball outside left as it disappeared into the night of mysterious fog, along with the hopes, dreams and expectations of all Gators as the scoreboard lights flickered 0:00. LSU 37, Florida 34.
Now Marco Wilson is the poster-child for failure of the 2020 Florida Gators. And we are left to wonder, “What was he thinking?” And, of course, the obvious response of “HE WASN’T!” Plus the epithets that followed as fans probably threw their pillows and plastic cups and other nearby objects at their TV screens in their ultimate fit of anger, frustration and dejection.
This was one of the most embarrassing and excruciating losses in Gator football history and will go down with Doug Dickey’s “Fourth and Dumb” and Ray Graves’ “Go For Two – Again and Again” in the 1966 Sugar Bowl as the stupidest decisions known to Gator mankind.
Perhaps it was by the grace of God that Dan Mullen says he didn’t see it “but I guess it was a penalty,” as he explained in his post-game presser. But he chose not to blame the loss on that play and in that restraint took semi-blame for the offense’s red zone impotence.
(Later for the SEC Championship press conference, Mullen was asked "Have you had a chance to speak with Marco Wilson, how he's doing after the last 24 hours?"
And he commented:
"I talked to him. We spent some time with him last night after the game. Obviously I know he's disappointed. I mean, it's a shame. I went back to watch the play. He made the tackle. I mean, part of the football move, the kid's shoe was in his hand. He kind of threw it, jumped and celebrated with his teammates. It's pretty unfortunate in that situation. I don't think there was any intent to taunt. It wasn't like he was throwing it at their sidelines, doing any of that. It was a huge play, possibly a game-winning play. Threw a shoe, went to celebrate with his teammates. Unfortunately it was a penalty.
"I think that stuff, really an unfortunate situation and a mistake instead of somebody really trying to disrespect the game or taunt the opponent or anything of that nature. You know what I mean?
"Just really unfortunate it happened. But I know for him, I think he'll look at things and realize, Hey, that's certainly not the reason that we lost the game. There's many, many factors that went into that. That's just an unfortunate one in that situation. It was a key moment in the game.")
These are the times when the vigilantes amongst us want blood, whether by expulsion, suspension or beheading. You can’t blame them, because their pain is too great. We’re all looking for answers.
So as I turned on my computer to write this Sunday morning, I also flipped my phone on to Facebook livestream to listen to my friend and pastor Mark Cummins, himself a former football coach. Oddly enough he was showing a video to his Church of Hope congregation of – what else? – Marco Wilson tossing the shoe of Kole Taylor.
The message was about the destruction caused by choices made in anger. It hit close to home. Once I warned a close friend and colleague that unless he learned to control his anger it was going to cost him his job, his wife and his relationship with his kids. Sadly, it did, and he sits alone unable to even see his only grandchild. And it breaks my heart. It made me think how easily our anger – my anger – is triggered over this Pandemic and isolation. There but for the grace of God, go I.
Dr. Cummins went on to say that anger usually results from feeling you were deprived of something. “Anger is not getting my way ... what I think is owed me,” he said. And then he added, “Anger is one letter away from danger!” He also went on to say that all anger is not bad and can be channeled into worthy causes.
We realize it won’t matter as much when Alabama beats the Gators 62-24 next Saturday and Mac Jones throws five TD passes to Donta Smith to win the Heisman, with Najee Harris running for three more, as I’m sure most Gator fans are thinking right now. We’ve seen this movie before, starring Nebraska at the 1996 Fiesta Bowl.
Of course, we realize some of Marco's spontaneous behavior was out of jubilation and frustration as well as anger, but the officials must have thought there was some defiance and taunting it.
What will happen to Marco Wilson? He was planning to come out in the NFL draft, but what now? Can he be forgiven if he decides to stay or is he tailor-made for the transfer portal? One lousy decision made out of anger could destroy his career.
My wife Joni, who by osmosis has watched hundreds of football games in our house, had this thought:
“What would have happened if he had picked up that shoe and handed it back to the LSU player?”
What indeed. Unfortunately, he’ll never get a chance to do that or make things right. The question is, in the meantime what will we and all the others learn from that mistake?