You think the pressure is palpable for any of the Florida players taking the field tonight for the home opener?
How about the people taking the field before it kicks off?
The grandchildren of George Edmondson and their families will do the Mr. Two Bits routine prior to kickoff and they don’t have the luxury of the celebrities who have come before them.
Because they’d better get it right.
After all, it should be in their genes to be spot on, right?
“I’ve watched him do it a bunch of times,” said grandson Kevin King, who lives in the Atlanta area. “We’re just going to try to respect him.”
It will be a poignant moment for the family, and by family, I mean all Gators everywhere. Every college football program has some kind of traditions, but only the Gator Nation had Mr. Two Bits until he passed away in July at the ripe old age of 97.
In the 150th year of college football, it certainly is a bittersweet way to honor a 70-year-old tradition.
Tonight as Florida opens the season against Tennessee-Martin, Edmondson will be honored with fans wearing his trademark yellow shirt and orange and blue tie (if you really want to complete the ensemble, find some white saddle buck shoes).
The players will wear a sticker of his tie on the back of their helmets. There will be a video presentation and the Two Bits cheer with the family firing fists into the air.
But you know what Gator fans could really do to honor George Edmondson? I mean REALLY honor the great man?
You heard me.
No matter what happens, an errant throw or a three-and-out or a late-hit penalty, take the day off from negativity.
Lord knows there has been enough of that around for the last decade.
I believe in freedom of speech and the right to voice your displeasure because you paid extraordinary amounts for your ticket. I’ve never understood how booing has ever helped a football team or program, but I also have never understood how throwing your remote and smashing it into pieces helped your team win a game.
It’s part of being a fan and I get that everyone reacts differently to bad news. But tonight, just for a little more than three hours, shouldn’t everybody try to bring back a little civility to a game that is so beloved?
Because that’s exactly how Edmondson got started in 1949.
You probably know the story (and, no, I didn’t cover that game, ha ha). Edmondson went to The Citadel game because a friend had an extra ticket. A young George couldn’t believe the Gators were being booed as they ran onto the field.
(It was the opening game of the season. Those dudes needed to calm down.)
So he started doing the cheer to get the crowd to support the team, and it evolved organically into this beloved tradition.
“People thought he was crazy,” Kevin King said.
Naw, he was just a guy who saw the positive in everything, even a team that was 5-5 the year before and would eventually have a losing season in ’49. Gator football was hardly thriving, but why boo the kids who were trying their best?
“He was such a positive guy in everything he did,” King said. “I never heard him say a cuss word.”
Oh, but he heard plenty as he would run from portal to portal, popping up where you least expected him to get a Two Bits cheer started. By the time I saw my first Florida game (Auburn, 1962), he was already a fixture. Later, he would become a legend.
After he retired, UF brought him back for the really big games. Now it’s left to great Gators from Steve Spurrier to The Oh-Fours to Cris Collinsworth (I’m guessing you’ll see Peter Alonso for one of the big home games this year), except for tonight.
King will be down there on the field with his children — Edmondson’s great grandchildren — including 12-year-old Fletcher.
“He gets it,” King said.
We all get it. And for one night, we should all respect a man who tried to see the good in every play and every player.
“Exactly,” King said.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.