It’s finally here.
We got an appetizer from South Carolina vs. Southern Miss the other night, but our main entrée is coming out.
Gator fans know (and lately, have drawn ridicule for this) the first game is not going to be against a great team. For years now, we’ve followed the formula of:
1st game- cupcake
2nd game- Bowl eligible team from a “mid-major” conference
SEC West team that we’re bound to lose to
SEC West team
There’s been some variance over the years when Miami (FL) is thrown in the mix and when the 12th game was added, but for the most part, that’s the schedule every year.
So you’d think… why get excited for the opening game when it’s a team you’re going to demolish anyway?
The answer is simple… it’s not about the game at all… it’s about being a Gator.
It’s about the Friday Night Lights. Think about what we’re really excited about for Saturday… I don’t think many people out there are wondering how Teryl Austin’s defense will match up against the Redhawks, or if Steve Addazzio can remember to call Johnny Brantley’s roll out passes to the right side now, instead of the left. It’s about getting the text from your buddy at 6:45pm on Friday saying, “I’m a block away”, going out your front door to greet him and having him get out of the car and scream at the top of his lungs, “”Konichiwa Bitches!!”.
The prodigal son has returned.
All the buzz is about walking down University Ave on Friday night watching 20% of the underage girls in dresses that are about 17% too short get turned away from the bars, while the ummm “upper” 80% still get in and 100% of the underage guys get shot down. After all, it’s a numbers game.
It’s about fighting through a crowd like Brandon Spikes would shed a block to get a terrible beer, but it’s $1.50. You and most of your friends have moved somewhere that a beer of the same size is $4. Natty Light in a plastic cup never tasted as good as it does this weekend.
The fuss is about arguing for 20 minutes with the guy from “Broke Phi Broke” fraternity on the front lawn of the Swamp about whether Tim Tebow held on to the ball too long or not all last year and John Brantley’s odds of finishing higher in the Heisman balloting than Christian Ponder.
This is the weekend where you and your friends reiterate the argument about the merits of going downtown or staying in midtown and how nobody in the group is going to dance anyway. But you’re all married now, so this is the wife’s part of the night. Fat Tuesday calls, and once again proves the rule at Fat Tuesday; “One is not enough… Two is too many”.
We love opening weekend because we stay out until 2am despite one of the group clamoring since 10:30, “Hey, we should go home soon. We have to be up early tomorrow” and “Hey, we should mix in some waters… it’s a Noon game tomorrow”. This guy is the killing everyone’s buzz. Tragically, he’s 100% right. After 5 Star Pizza has done its duty, you finally get to bed, only to wake up about 4.5 hours later to drag all your stuff down to your tailgate spot.
8:30am… the first BOURBON MEYER hits your lips. Life is good.
Now, somebody who’s never experienced this, or on a limited basis will critique Florida’s non-conference schedule and the fact that the only game we’ve played West of the Mississippi River in quite some time has been in Glendale, AZ (I think we won that one though). I give those folks the Brandon Spikes middle finger to the eyeballs. It’s not about you… it’s not about the BCS… it’s not about our strength of schedule… it’s not about filling the seats.
The stadium will fill whether it’s Miami of Ohio, or Miami of Florida. It will likely empty much earlier with one of those. Orange and Blue will be everywhere whether we’re 13-1 or 7-5. It’s about being a Gator and spending the best of times with your friends cheering on the boys. This happens in Gainesville, in Gator Club bars, and households across the world every weekend.
So why all the fuss and pomp and circumstance around a 12 noon kickoff against a 1-11 team from last year?
Because I get to see my boys again.
Because I get to abuse myself with too much sun, alcohol, fatty foods, and not enough sleep.
Because my wife understands.
Because I get to drink BOURBON MEYER’S again.
Because the lights never shine as brightly as they do on the Friday night when your boys and their families get into town and you get to be 22 years old again before Sunday when your body reminds you that… well, it reminds you that you’re not.
Go Gators! Beat the Hawks!