Gator Nation

I’m definitely a Gator now.

I don’t know why I was so hesitant. I suppose, when I moved to Gainesville, the whole “Go Gators!” thing seemed so…virulent, like a really pervasive flu bug that just keeps reinfecting whole populations. I didn’t want to just roll over, abandon my Wolfpack, and become a Gator. It seemed like a betrayal of sorts.
But tonight I went to my first Gator football game. I was decked out in Gator gear–blue and orange, even to the top of my head. I sat with a bunch of people from Institute, several of whom knew that it was my first game and were pretty invested in making sure that I was getting the full experience. It was awesome. I knew I would have fun with those kids. And some of them are RABID fans–and that was fun to watch. That passion is pretty contagious.

But what was really hard to predict–honestly–was being in The Swamp (that’s the enormous stadium that dwarfs any other building on campus–it seats more than 90,000) on a game day. It’s not that I hadn’t seen the stadium before, because I frequently walk through it to get to my office.

But tonight, when I walked in as a fan to my seat near the 20 yard line, it was electric. The players seemed so close and it was pretty amazing to look around and, with a very few exceptions, see a sea of blue and orange around me. It was awesome in the truest sense of the word.

UF students don’t take football lightly. UF fans don’t take the Gators lightly. We stood for the whole game–the entire student section stood, on their seats, for the entire game. There was amazing energy, and when the Gators scored (and they did…six times), there was high fiveing and screaming the likes of which I’ve never heard.

A friend of mine likened his love of Gator football, and the peace that comes over him when he gets near the stadium on game day, to how a drug addict must feel when he gets his next fix. I’ll admit that I thought he was a little nutty when he called the ticket to a Gator game his “pearl of great price,” but I think I might sort of get it now.

There’s a community in the Swamp that you don’t feel anywhere else on campus. Sure, every Gator is connected, but we’re all so disconnected in so many ways–I’m a grad student and a TA, which means that I am involved in much different activities than the freshmen that I teach and the friends that I make in Institute, who are all actively engaged in so many distinct activities.

But being a fan transcends all of that. When you’re screaming bloody murder because your team just trounced their opponent, nobody cares who you are or what you do. All that matters is that you’re a Gator.

Of course, the reality of my world came crashing in on me when I heard one of my student’s names announced after a defensive play. Apparently, there’s a star in my midst. Who knew?

Back to reality in the 4th quarter, I guess. But I’m pretty excited to have had this experience. And way more upset than I was initially that I didn’t get season tickets.

Next year, I guess.

But in the meantime, I’m pretty excited to own some blue and orange, because now it means something to me.

Now if the Wolfpack could just stop sucking…

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