Archive for the ‘Florida Gators’ Category

Wardrobe Malfunction (Or So I Thought)

On Saturday, The Gators will face the Seminoles in The Swamp in their last regular season game of the 2009 campaign. A win will allow Florida to accomplish something they never have before. It would be the first time ever that they completed the regular season with no losses or ties. That would be a nice accomplishment to add to Florida’s record book. Unfortunately, because of the fact that FSU (6-5) just barely crossed the threshold for bowl eligibility, this is the least anticipated season finale in my lifetime. ESPN doesn’t agree, however, as they have sent College Gameday to set up camp outside The Swamp. Personally, I feel that there are more competitive match-ups on the docket, namely Miami @ USF. Nonetheless, Corso and co. will be in town, going through the motions of wearing Albert’s head for the world to see.┬áSome might argue that ESPN chose Gainesville because they adore Tebow, and in light of the absence of any real marquee match-ups, they might as well feature the top-ranked (and currently undefeated) defending National Champs. That is all fine and good, but I suspect there is more at work than just that.
Sponsorship.
Earlier this season, Nike unveiled their new line of football gear called Nike Pro Combat. “Ten storied programs” were chosen to wear their “game-changing uniforms.” Taking the template of the Oregon Ducks’ current uniforms, and making slight stylistic tweaks, Phil Knight (Nike CEO) has fashioned uniforms to be worn by the Gators in their home finale. When I first heard the news, I rolled my eyes. Having seen what Phil Knight’s fashion sense can do to the credibility of a football program, I feared the worst. Fortunately, the uniforms created for Florida are not half bad. In-fact, I actually kinda like them. Admittedly, I hated them at first. But, the more I looked them, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this would be a nice change of pace, especially for an SEC school. Although Florida is a bit ahead of the curve, the┬áSEC as a whole is known for wearing boring uniforms in the archaic styles of their 1950’s predecessors. FSU’s helmet design screams “we stab and hurt people (or at least we used to)”, and UF’s helmet design meekly whispers “we remember how to write in cursive…except for those damn ‘Gs'”. It will be nice to see a uniform that is a bit more aggressive, and to that point, progressive in the SEC.
Having ESPN’s Gameday brodcast the game which features two of the ten “Pro Combat” teams is good press. Gameday broadcast from Fort Worth earlier this year. As luck would have it, TCU unveiled their Pro Combat uniforms that day against Utah. The Horned Frogs won 55-28. I guess there is no conspiracy to cry foul about, but I am just not a big fan of promotions like this. “We are the all-powerful Nike. As a show of our magnanimity, we will bestow upon a selected few, garments worn by Zeus himself (when he played back-up tight end on Olympus High’s J.V. squad. He quit football to concentrate solely on baseball. It was a tough decision for him, because he liked football more, but was better at baseball, and thus got more playing time).” Nonetheless, The Gators’ inclusion in this campaign cements their place as one of the elite commercial pillars in college athletics. And I am sure the athletic department will be making a few bucks off this, so that is nice.
As you may remember, in 2007, Nike had a similar marketing campaign wherein Arizona, Florida, Ohio State, and Syracuse were selected to wear prototype uniforms. It worked out better than Nike could have possibly hoped, as both Florida and Ohio State wore those jumpsuits all the way to the Championship Game, with The Gators besting the Buckeyes for their second national title in as many years. Here is to hoping that the Gators’ football counterparts can walk a similar road to repetition.
Advertisements

My First Word Was "Ball" (And Have Not Stopped Talking About Balls Since)

~

I have been a huge sports fan since even before I can remember. The first words out of my mouth was “ball.” I don’t remember saying it, yet my mother is constantly reminding me. Practically every picture of me as a kid is of me kicking/thorwing/dunking a ball. I loved sports, and in return, sports have been good to me.

The Miami Dolphins have been the most steady NFL franchises since their birth in ’66. In my life, they were always good, but never great, but that was good enough for me. There was Shula, there was Marino, and there was always hope.

The Miami Heat came to town in 1988. I was immediately hooked. That’s what happens when your mom’s boss has season tickets, yet doesn’t really like basketball. Add Alonzo Mourning, Pat Riley, and you have a team good enough to compete with Michael Jordan in the Eastern Conference Finals. I consider 1998 a win. One Dwyane Wade later, and boom, Championship.

The Florida Panthers wasted little time going from expansion team to Finals runner up. That was truly the most fun I have had during any playoff run, as I was young enough to lose myself in it completely.

The Florida Marlins also jumped straight from expansion team to winners, taking the 1997 World Series in only their fourth year. They won again in 2003, making in two in 10 years. A far cry from the curse of The Bambino, and other such dysfunction.

The Miami Hurricanes, Florida State Seminoles, And Florida Gators, all of whom I have followed at some point in my life, are three dynasties that have controlled the landscape of college and professional football for the better part of three decades. 10  National Titles in 26 years made watching college football in Florida exciting year-in and year-out.

My college years were exciting at UF. Besides the 2 Football Titles, The Gator Basketball team won back-to-back titles. I was living in Title Town.

All told, I have seen 15 championships wins, plus 8 championship game runner-up performances. That’s the whole point, right? Championships.

That’s what I thought.

But recently, during the current run that the Gators Football team is on, I have realized that being the best is not what it is all about. As we speak, Coach Urban Meyer is leading the Gators on an unprecedented run, winning 2 out of the last 3 BCS Championships, and 19 consecutive games. But why is this season not enjoyable? The Gators are the best and everyone expects them to be the best. As expectations mount, appreciation for what they have done dwindles. Any other team would be chomping at the bit to get where the Gators are. Yet, all you hear from ESPN is how they have not produced explosive scores, and instead of cheers from the stands, you hear complaints about the playcalling. Simply winning is no longer good enough. They want perfection. They want title after title. But to me, the best part was getting here.

Do you remember 2006? Do you remember how much it hurt when Auburn beat the Gators on some close/questionable calls in October? Do you remember how loud the Swamp got when Jarvis Moss blocked that field goal to stave off Spurrier’s Gamecocks in November? Do you remember having your friends over for Bowl Selection Sunday in December, fingers crossed to see if the Gators would get a crack at the Buckeyes in January? Do you remember the deflating feeling of watching Ted Ginn Jr.run back the opening kick-off? Do you remember the subsequent rush of watching the underdog Florida Gators smack around, befuddle, and completely dominate the Heisman Trophy winner and the #1 team in the country?

I remember, and it was awesome. It made me want to jump around on University Avenue like a crazy person. Not because you are obligated to do so when you win, but because you feel great and you can’t keep it inside. You felt like you were part of something great. Maybe the voice you lost along with 90,833 of your closest friends made the difference. Maybe that group of 85 players was just the perfect mix of talent and heart to get the job done. Maybe it was both. Instead of demanding another championship, hope that you are lucky to see another, and appreciate that it is still a possibility.

The time has come to appreciate the moment you are living in. Just ask any Cubs fan, this feeling is rare, and championships can be few and far between.