Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Gator Nation

I am an unabashed Florida Gator fan. Scratch that. I am a Florida Gator. I did not attend there, but I grew up there, 2 minutes away from the Swamp, 2 minutes away from the Rowdy Reptile section. I ate, lived, breathed Gator sports. (I still do, I just don't live as close as I used to.) I went to UF baseball games. Heck, I even went to a Gators gymnastics meet or two. So I'm trying to write down how this 2 year stretch affects me, as a Gator. The 2006 Men's Basketball Championship. The 2006 Football Championship. The 2007 Men's Basketball Championship.

I mean, holy crap.

That's a hell of a decade for most schools, and Florida did that in a year. A single year. Not a year and a half, close to two years - a year. From April 3rd, 2006, to April 2nd, 2007, the Florida Gators won two men's basketball championships and one football championship. Three championships in a space of 364 days.

I mean, wow.

I don't think it will ever get better than this. Maybe if the Florida football team wins the 2007-08 championship, but that will only make this run even better. This is as good as it gets. Champions in football and men's basketball. Three championships in 364 days.

Not too shabby.

So how does it affect me? It doesn't earn me money, or get me a promotion, or imbue me with any special talents or abilities. Being champion in both football and basketball doesn't make me a better person, or give me any sort of special knowledge. But it makes me happy. Really happy.

When your team wins a championship or a big game, people will offer their congratulations. Those who aren't big fans of any one team in particular will laugh at this, will scoff at this, wondering what we did to help the team win. These are the same people who laugh at us when we talk about how "we won," or why "they couldn't beat us." Laugh all you want, but we are a part of it all. You know what we did? We rooted for our team, and we suffered when they lost. We worried about our team, but we smiled and cheered when they were down. We yelled at them when they screwed up, we applauded them when they succeeded. We went through every emotion in the book watching our team game in and game out. We did the little things to help them win, wearing the lucky shirt, making sure we did the same thing we've done on previous games, asking any sort of deity we believe in to help our team out in their hour of need. We did whatever we could to help our team win. And when they do win, when they win the whole kit and kaboodle, we can say "we helped them get here, we were there every step of the way."

So now I smile every time I think of Horford's shimmy after his fastbreak dunk, or Noah's fist-to-chest bump after pretty much anything, or Green's calm, cool, collected demeanor even when Ohio State was making a run, or Humphrey hitting big three after big three, Richard doing the selfless duty of banging with Greg Oden, Hodge holding his daughter after the game, or Brewer with one of the greatest smiles in Florida history. I think of Billy D who sweats more from the armpits than any Coach I've ever seen. I think of Jeremy Foley who stuck with Donovan even when the basketball team wasn't playing up to par. And I think of all those Gator fans, the Gator Nation, who all had smiles on their face after our third championship in 364 days.

The Gators winning their second straight men's basketball championship didn't make me a better person, but it made me a happy person. And I think that counts for a lot.

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