October 13, 1979. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. This was my senior year in college, and the state of University of Florida football was at an all-time low. My freshman year, the Gators were 7-4, but lost to Texas A & M in the Sun Bowl. Sophomore year was 6-4-1 and no bowl game. Junior year brought a 4-7 season, capped off by the highly anticipated firing of Head Coach Doug Dickey. Charlie Pell took over my senior year; the optimism was high, but the results were miserable. Although many of the games were very close and very competitive, the Orange and Blue finished the season with a 0-10-1 record. The tie came at the hands of Georgia Tech in week two, after a 14-10 heart breaker to Houston in the season opener. Adding salt to the wounds, the guest headliner for Gator Growl was Helen Reddy (of Delta Dawn, I Am Woman and Ruby Red Dress fame).
October 13, 1979. This was the day that the number one team in the land, the Alabama Crimson Tide, would be visiting Florida Field. This was very exciting, because it would mark only the second time in my life I would be seeing the number one college football team play in person. The other time was when the University of Texas lost in a major league upset to the University of Miami in 1973 in front of 30,080 fans at the Orange Bowl.
October 13, 1979. What also made the Alabama vs. UF matchup so highly anticipated was that my close friend Mark Popkin provided both Glenda and me press passes for the game. This helped ease the pain, as the Gators were crushed 40-0 (Alabama went on to win the National Championship that year).
October 13, 1979. This was the last time I had watched a University of Florida football game absolutely knowing that there was no chance in hell that the Gators could win…That is until now. It is a weird, different and sad feeling knowing that when the Gators take the field this Saturday against FSU (November 30, 2013), I will probably be making my way out of the stadium by the middle of the third quarter (if I’m lucky).
That being said, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I have a lot to be thankful for. Since 1979, the team I bleed Orange and Blue for has not had one losing season. I never thought I would ever see the Gators win an SEC title, let alone three national championships in football. I’m thankful that all the teams I root for in all sports (Dolphins, Mets, Heat and Gators Basketball) have won championships at one point in my life. There are many passionate fans out there that will never see their teams win a championship in their lifetime.
I have only missed four University of Florida football home games since 1980, and have not missed a game in the past 17 years. To be honest, I’m not looking forward to the beat-down this Saturday. If not for the streak, I would seriously consider selling my tickets.
Who am I kidding? In all kinds of weather we all stick together…For F-L-O-R-I-D-A!