Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Florida/Georgia, one fan's perspective

As a child I was never interested in College Football. My earliest memories as a football fan are rooting for the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles. I lived in Philly until the age of 8 and football in Philly is spelled E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles!

My family moved to Miami in 1978, but I wasn't really aware of college pigskin until the early 80's when the University of Miami put itself on the map. But even then I never really rooted for Miami. My dream at that time was to play football for Joe Paterno at Penn State.

In 1983, my parents went to a conference in Atlanta and they brought me back a Georgia Bulldogs beer stein. You might be asking what a 14 year old boy would do with a beer stein. The answer is drink a lot of chocolate milk. And I still do, except that beer stein is old and faded now.

Even at that age I had no thoughts of where I would attend college but I loved that beer stein. "11-0, The Perfect Season, S.E Conference Champions" it says on it, with the scores from each game to prove it.

Fast forward a couple of years to 1987 and I'm a freshman at The University of Florida. But I really didn't have Georgia on my mind. My immediate goal as a baby Gator was to beat Miami and Florida State, where my sister had just enrolled as a junior. But I quickly learned about the cocktail party and the rivalry I never knew existed.

That year the Gators lost the trifecta, going down to Miami, UGA and FSU. In fact we lost the first three meetings against Georgia and the first 4 against Florida State. Miami was dropped from the schedule after that game in 1987 and I'm still waiting for the Gators to win one against the Hurricanes (thanks Ron Zook, you horse's ass!). We did break through and beat FSU in my final semester at Florida, thank God it took me 4-1/2 years to graduate. That 1991 game against FSU is probably still the best game I have ever watched in person.

But back to those Dawgs. After those first 3 losses to UGA the Gators have gone 14-2 against the Bulldogs (one of those losses was under Zook, thanks again!). It hasn't been much of a rivalry, for us at least. The Bulldogs have taken a backseat to the Vols as the marquee SEC rival for the Gators.

But all this recent one-sidedness means this game is the one that Georgia fans circle on the schedule every year. And with Georgia having seemingly nothing left to play for other than pride, the Gators need to be very careful to not overlook that game. I don't think they will after the painful loss at Auburn. Our "perfect season" is out the window, but some realistic preseason goals are still within reach: a berth in the SEC Championship game, an SEC championship and a BCS bowl appearance.

If we are fortunate enough to send the Bulldogs back to Athens with their tails between their legs in two weeks, I'll tip a glass to them...

A glass of chocolate milk.

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