I wrote this column hurredly over the course of about an hour after driving 6 hours home from St. Simons Island. But I mean every word! (Original post here)
Georgia-Florida isn’t just a game.
It’s the epic and insane Frat Beach. It’s watching a Vietnam veteran named Horace with a ponytail in his beard shotgun a Natty Light. It’s gawking, quite overtly, at the latest royal blue and orange fashion don’ts.
Georgia-Florida is an experience — a rivalry, a cocktail party, a spectacle and a rite of passage for any sports fan. But for me, a senior, this time around marked a significant point in my college career. I smelled, for the first time, the oh-so-sweet scent of victory as it radiated throughout the salty Jacksonville air.
I lingered in the stands after the game to celebrate, overwhelmed with pride and tinges of disbelief. Afterwards, I watched in slightly sadistic euphoria as tacky, dejected, jorts-sporting Florida fans emptied Everbank Field.
“So this is what victory feels like,” I thought.
It’s not like I’ve never been at a game the Dawgs won. But Georgia-Florida isn’t just a game. In years past, I never ventured into the contest itself. I’d sat outside the stadium, hearing the opposing crowd roar and watching the game on TV with my face in my hands. Those very Florida fans who left the game before it ended this year got three chances to heckle me relentlessly in the past. And oh, they did.
Despite the verbal abuse and losses we experienced from 2008 to 2010, though, I still enjoyed myself. But for three consecutive occasions, the weekend ended with a void. A good weekend would’ve been great if only we had won.
So this year, when I walked into the Jacksonville stadium for the first time since I watched my beloved Boston College Eagles lose the 2007 ACC Championship title to Virginia Tech, I pleaded with the powers that be for one thing: a win to finally fill that void.
I imagined indeed how glorious it would be if I could sing “Glory, Glory” with my peers as our school posted the champion’s score. I realized I hadn’t ever been there — in the flesh — to see a team I rooted for get a major victory. I also understood this would be my last chance as an undergraduate to do so.
And when all those game day daydreams actually came to fruition on Saturday night, I found myself in a state I’d never experienced. In between my cheers and hugs and high fives, I nearly broke down in tears.
For the first time in my life, I felt an unadulterated sense of pride in my team, my school, my state and my community. An air of joy seemed tangible as it echoed among the thousands of Bulldog fans who occupied the stadium and rejoiced the win. The moment moved me.
As I shared that moment with my best friends and peers as well as strangers in the parking lot, I understood the importance of this University in an entirely different sense. It’s not that I ever needed a football game to serve as a reminder; it simply felt like a special, long-overdue reward.
This year, for this senior, it was also a damn good day to be a Dawg.
Oh, and just so you know Horace is real, here’s him shotgunning a Natty Light:
Coming soon: a GA/FL/Frat Beach diary and photoset.