Growing up in the deep south, you have to choose, and you have to do it early. Most choose based upon family affiliations. My family is a Florida State bunch. My father was still a student at Florida State when I was born. The first few years of my life were lived in Tallahassee. I chose the Noles.
It is not enough to choose your team, your team has to have an enemy. Enter the Florida Gators. Around my house all that mattered was the Noles winning, and the Gators losing.
Bobby Bowden had yet to arrive in Tallahassee back then. The chances of enjoying a Gator loss was far greater than a Seminole win. Thus began my fascination with SEC football and eventually the Georgia Bulldogs.
Florida always had great football players, Nat Moore was a favorite of mine when he was with the Dolphins. But the Gators always seemed to under achieved. And they cheated, a lot. I assume everybody was cheating back then, but Florida was really bad at it. They always got caught.
In those days, the Gators didn't win a ton of games, but they could beat just about anybody. They had the talent to beat anybody, but they couldn't beat the Georgia Bulldogs.
Vince Dooley and his Dawgs, with their cool helmets and those silver britches, flat out owned the Gators. Vince went 17 wins, seven losses and one tie against the Gators. From an emotional standpoint, many of Vince's wins against the Gators should count twice.
The more that was riding on the game, SEC Championships, undefeated season, winning season, whatever it was, if Florida had a lot riding on it, Vince would beat their eyes out. I loved Vince Dooley. Vince Dooley could make a Gator sad for a month.By this time I had fallen in love with Georgia. They had this cat named Herschel back then. Herschel had the Dawgs on television every week, and that meant something back then. My family moved, as luck would have it, to Georgia in time for me to begin high school in 1982.
My cousin enrolled in Athens that same fall of 1982. I would follow years later.
My first Georgia-Florida game was 1986. The season had not been great, we had lost earlier to Clemson and at LSU and barely survived in Columbia. A victory over Florida would make our season. The Dawgs lost 31-19.
Florida had done to me what I had watched Vince Dooley do to them so many times. As I watched Boston College whip us for Christmas in Tampa, I could not take comfort from the sprinkler game in Auburn, or the win over Tech. I was fuming over the Gators.
Coach Dooley would win the next two and retire. Ray Goff gets the job. I was a Ray Goff fan. I fell for the narrative about the Georgia boy leaving Moultrie for Athens and never returning, yada yada, yada.
Goff would win his first against the Emmit Smith led Gators. He would not win another. Steve Spurrier returns to coach the mighty Gators he once led as a Hiesman winning quarterback. Not only did things change, things got ugly. 52 - 17 in Athens ugly!
Donnan takes over in 1996. He beats the Gators in 1997 behind Mike Bobo's arm and Robert Edwards' legs. Donnan would lose the next three ushering in the age of Mark Richt.
Richt has started our two and six. All I really want from Coach Richt is to win 16 of the next 17. I am only half kidding.
Go ahead, scoff. This is serious business. My original attraction to Georgia had nothing to do with the school, the beautiful campus, or the wonderful people. For me, part of being a Georgia Bulldog is kicking Gator ass.
My contempt for the Gators is not new. It is not a product of ESPN or CBS. My scorn for the Gators began is not the product of three wins in 19 years. It's the product of a lifetime. The record is 19-21-1 in my lifetime. Take 3-16 and blow it out your 19 year old ass. 46-38-2 is great and all, but "my" lifetime record is what matters to me.
This is no knee-jerk reaction. The passion with which I hate Gators is eclipsed only by my love for the Dawgs. One feeds on the other.
Saturday night my love of the Dawgs and Hate of the Gators collide once more.
Another chance to settle the score.