When you factor in all the pre-game activities, this past Saturday was perhaps the strangest game experience I have ever had. For something that started with such promise, then joined with events both humorous and practically hallowed (More on this in a bit), to have ended so disastrously, is virtually surreal. And in the end I felt practically responsible for the outcome of the contest.
I must offer this story, if for no other reason than to confess my sins against all things Gator, and ask for your absolution.
My initial mistake in this matter began sometime last summer. A female friend had married an Auburn fan, and at dinner one night I casually offered this fan 2 of my tickets to the September 29th game at Florida. While this Auburn fan is a gentleman of the first rate, in that careless moment I forgot one of my past cardinal sins against the Church of Albert – never, ever, ever, EVER invite opposing fans to the game on your tickets. When I have done this in the past it has always ended badly. (I once brought a gal friend – a Vol fan - to the Florida –Tennessee game in 2001. We lost, of course).
Were that initial error not enough, I then invited a co-worker who was also a Auburn fan to the game sometime later this past summer. Thus at this point for my 8 tickets we have –
2. My wife
3. Auburn fan One
4. Auburn fan One’s wife
5. Auburn fan Two
6. Auburn fan Two’s wife
I should have realized this math was unsalvageable. But I didn’t. This time would be different.
By game day, the other two tickets were –
7. Florida fan
8. Wandering nomadic USC fan (More on this in a bit).
The math was still bad.
Oh, did I mention? –
Auburn fan One’s wife – FSU fan
Auburn fan Two’s wife – Alabama fan
The pallet of disaster was poised to be painted.
The day dawned overcast with foreboding, but I merely thought the clouds a welcome relief from the Gainesville heat. We started tailgating early. Real early, considering my tailgate was set up by 11:30 for an 8:00 game.
Shortly after the above picture was taken, Florida’s now life-time tenured athletic director Jeremy Foley actually walked by on his way to the stadium. He stopped, looked at his watch, and asked, “Do you guys realize it is a night game?”
“Of course”, said I, “that’s why we got here last night!’
My line was of course untrue, but it elicited laughs.
The tailgate atmosphere began to gather steam as noon came and passed, and at 1:35, I received the following text –
“I’m coming by” - Jonathan Tu.
For those of you who have been following Jonathan’s adventures on 82 Sluggo Win, he needs no introduction, but for the rest of you slackers, Jonathan is traveling the nation virtually broke in his car (which doubles as a hotel room) going to top caliber college football games nationwide. I had agreed to contribute to the cause by giving Jonathan my spare ticket (number 8 if you are following). Jon arrived shortly thereafter –
Some Auburn fan, his wife, and the daughter showed up, all wearing identical jerseys. Turns out their kid plays for the Tigers (More on this in a bit).
Oh, did I mention that Auburn Fan Two accompanied me to the 1994 game at Florida in which Auburn beat the undefeated and then 1st ranked Gators by 3 points? Did I?
It was the last time Auburn won at Florida. And that I swore never to bring him back.
I’m such an idiot.
Anyway, back to the story.
Not realizing the tsunami of ill omen I had been creating, the party rolled on –
Eventually the sun set in Gainesville, and we prepared to go to do battle with the Tigers.
We couldn’t lose.
If only I had paid a bit more attention to the other jerseys at my tailgate – the ones on the Auburn fans (More on this in a bit).
No need to go over what happened. If you have read this far, you know the heartbreaker of universal proportions that followed.
As for the jersey worn by the family of that Auburn player? The family I gave beer, food and hospitality to for 3 or 4 hours?
Well, take a look at that early picture again, and note the name on the jersey at the far right.