Where Were you When UF Became National Champions in Football?
Published: Friday, January 12, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 11, 2007 at 11:23 a.m.
I had been wearing orange and blue long before I actually became a student at the University of Florida. It has always been the school of my dreams, so I have always been proud to be a Florida Gator. The night of the National Championship football game, though, I was proudest to be a Florida Gator...and that was before the game. Every time I turned on ESPN, they would constantly be talking about how UF shouldn't even be in this game and if Ohio State will show any mercy. In spite of the predictions ruling against UF in their match versus an undefeated team, the boys of Old Florida marched out onto the field in Glendale, Arizona. UF fans were significantly outnumbered by Buckeyes in a 3-1 ratio yet annihilated the Ohio State Buckeyes, shocking the entire nation.
I chose to watch the game in the comfort of my dorm room along with my boyfriend Kyle, who calls himself a Gator only because of the school he attends, but is and always has been a Buckeye at heart. I had always known he was a Buckeye fan and had agreed to support the Buckeyes as long as he agreed to support the Gators, which he gladly did. We thought this would never cause much of a conflict since the Buckeyes and the Gators have never played each other in football in the history of their teams. As fate would have it, though, during our freshmen year of college, they would battle for the BCS National Championship title in the most important game of the year for college football.
Before the game began, we promised we would keep it clean: as in, no jeering or name calling and only mild celebrations. So, together we sat; him, decked out in scarlet and gray, and me in my orange and blue, and watched the game, hoping for the best. When the game ended, he remained silent and watched as hundreds of rambunctious students gathered along University Avenue to celebrate. Watching that, he had to crack a small smile, because he knew the better team had won.
On Monday night, I witnessed the death of two poor souls. At about midnight, after almost four hours of torture and suffering, the Ohio State Buckeyes succumbed to defeat. Their death was not mourned. In fact, here in Gainesville, as the timer on the jumbo screen in the O’Dome counted down the seconds left in the Buckeyes’ life, it looked more like a house party than a funeral. At about half past twelve, a tree on University Avenue also was brutally murdered after fifteen minutes of being jumped on and shaken by University of Florida students, who were so ecstatic about the Buckeyes’ demise that they decided to reenact the football game, using the tree to play the part of Ohio State. As I stood there in the middle of the street, surrounded by throngs of fellow revelers, I pitied the tree, especially as it was ripped into several pieces for people to wave in the air, shouting, “Go Gators!” I wondered about the force that could cause people to commit such a violent act on something that only asks that it receive an adequate amount of sunshine, water and carbon dioxide. However, I couldn’t dwell on this too long because I was being pushed by too many drunk- I mean pleasantly inebriated-people. Holding onto my friend’s jacket for dear life, I moved on, passing a guy in a red thong and another guy shooting fireworks, and made my way to the Pita Pit to get a celebratory Baba Ganoush pita.
The Chaotic Orange and Blue
The Stephen O’ Connell Center was in an uproar. The Buckeyes might have scored during the first few seconds of the game and quieted everyone in disbelief, but it was anything but quiet now. As my ears rang, I bit into a steaming victory hot dog. Ketchup splattered my face just like water-cooler Gatorade splattered Urban Meyer’s shocked expression. “We are the Champions” was on everyone’s lips as they swayed in unison. Thousands of arms mimicked each other during gator chomps. "Two bits, four bits, six bits…" everyone stood up and hollered. After everything was over, UF students took over the city and ‘swamped’ University Avenue. Underdogs no more, we all held that sparkling, crystal trophy for a night.
Sunday afternoon, on an emergency food run, I was listening to commercials on the radio and heard something along the lines of, “if you’ve never been in Gainesville for a championship game, get ready.” Being a freshman, and not having experienced the insanity of last May’s basketball victory, I did a little dance of excitement in my car. Monday was sure to be one of the better “first days” of my education. With partying and a promising football game ahead of me, 8:30 a.m. class was no problem. The walk from class in Weimer Hall to my friend’s apartment by the post office was a blur of orange and blue. As early as five in the afternoon, people were swarming University Avenue in a way that resembled Gator Growl weekend. My sister, two friends and I watched the game at Copper Monkey, where people stood on booth tables and seats to get a better view of the game. Driving from Miami the day before, waking up before the sun, and standing in rowdy swarms of drunkenness took a toll on all of us by half time. We finished watching the game at my friend’s house, where the pre-game festivities had taken place. With about 34 seconds left on the clock, we put on our shoes and an extra sweater (it was freezing), and ran out to the streets. In what seemed to be an enormous fraction of the student body running, dancing, and screaming in the street, it suddenly didn’t matter that I had class at nine thirty the next morning, or that I had been awake for sixteen hours. As I hugged my friends, screamed at the top of my lungs, watched people climb light posts (and cheer them on), and ran through the streets that night, I realized two things: this extreme feeling of excitement and release of school spirit was obviously what they meant on the radio, and it truly is GREAT to be a Florida Gator.
There are all sorts of friends that we make throughout our life. There are best friends and casual friends, work friends, drinking buddies, and family friends. There are some friends that we have only for one crazy night and don’t remember the next day as well as those who have stood by us our whole lives. Sometimes, you can become friends with someone just by sharing a special experience with them. This is how I made my newest friend, my BCS buddy. You see, I didn’t really know the boy who sat next to me during the game. We had attended the same high school and had some mutual friends but had never really talked much. However, had you been sitting behind us at the game, that is the last thing you would have thought. This is because, in the dome, we changed. We were no longer two strangers, but comrades, cheering for our team, giving them our all, spilling our emotions. When the gators scored, we shared the joy, when the buckeyes scored, we shared the sorrow. This roller coaster of intense emotions seemed to magically bridge the gap between us. By halftime we were jumping up and down hugging each other, discussing football tactics intensely, and breaking it down during time outs. This was all with a kid who I talked to probably no more than five times is high school. However, with each Gator touchdown, the past was melted away, leaving nothing to spoil the pure joy of the moment. While I may not know his dog's name or what he did in middle school, we share something special, a divine moment that will live forever in our memories. I know that whenever I look back on the glorious night the Gators won the National Championship game, I will also remember my BCS buddy and how sometime between the jumping the screaming and the first and 41st point, a friendship was born.
I walked back from my afternoon class to meet friends, in the line at the Stephen C. O’Connell center, who had been waiting for a few hours, and was mesmerized at the sight of hundreds upon thousands of people waiting to go and watch the game. You would think that we were hosting the game with the amount of people parading around dressed, painted and yelling orange and blue from every corner. It was an amazing night of cheering together in support of the Gators and even better when we knew we had won and the crowds were roaring and headed straight to the streets to party and celebrate.
Coming from high school in London, England, it is definitely a shock to see the amount of school spirit that overcomes UF in situations such as a national title win. Thousands were pouring to the streets, even more than when we won the basketball match, all supporting our number 1 football team. What an experience to be a part of a university that encompasses so much pride and success. As I was pushed and cramped along University Avenue, I was thinking it would be great to leave and not be crushed, but my mind was racing and rooting on for the Gators!
As I frantically scrambled to provide change with one hand while mixing drinks with the other, I heard wild cheering and evidence of hysterics as the crowd in the Orange and Brew went berserk.
“What happened?” I asked my cohort, having been slightly distracted myself.
“I think we won the coin toss.”
For nine hours straight I worked with a fanatical passion at the Orange and Brew. My fervor was made possible due to the excitement of the National Championship and my quick-draw with a bottle opener.
Most of the patrons called for beer, rum, or their alcoholic spirit of choice, partly due to the more aged nature of the guests, but also because most of the other drinks were potentially lethal. The Pepsi and Dr. Pepper were flat enough to make you gag, but the Mountain Dew was so inundated with carbonated water so as to burn a hole in their tongues.
During game time there were fewer orders, allowing us to prop up our feet and compare the OSU head coach’s appearance to that of an accountant. Students and professors alike lined the bar, sitting on top of it due to a lack of stools, trading laughs and jests as they took swigs of their grog, cackling in piratical revelry.
After watching the lurid and semi-drunk mass of people depart, I grabbed a mop and began wondering how long it would take me to get the champagne off the ceiling. It was going to be a long morning…
I was enjoying a self-absorbed evening at home until my father called to tell me that the Gators were losing. He was watching the game on TV at the gym. Shrug. I'm the first to say that I'm not a fan of American football. A little later, a friend of the family called to tell me the Gators were winning. Darn. Now I'll be up all night listening to fireworks, car horns and yahoos, instead of getting some desperately needed sleep before my 7:25 a.m. class. Around midnight, I knew the Gators had indeed won the game. Well done. Now shut up out there so I can sleep!
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