I’m 29 years old. I’m too young to remember Florida football before the program’s Golden Era that began in 1990. My memories of the Gators in the ’80s are confined to Emmitt Smith and the two or three games my parents took me to and that’s all. The Florida Gators became my favorite drug after the ’91 Florida/FSU game. A thrilling, hard fought 14-9 victory for Florida. I was 9 years old and I lived and died with every play on that final series like everyone else who watched.
During the ’90s, Florida beat Georgia with relative ease and I just thought that was the norm. I didn’t understand why so many older Florida fans took so much pleasure in watching Florida dismantle the ‘Dawgs. My hatred in the early ’90s was primarily focused on Florida State. At least half my friends in school were FSU fans and incessantly ran their mouths about the Noles. I hated them–my friends and FSU.
My hatred shifted toward Tennessee during the late ’90s and early ’00s (I hate you, Travis Stephens. Now and forever. I hate you so much. WHY DID YOU HAVE TO RUN FOR SO MANY GODDAMN YARDS THAT NIGHT?????????). I still didn’t have much hatred or even dislike for Georgia. I was told again and again that Florida/Georgia was a huge rivalry, but it didn’t feel like a rivalry. My emotions were the same against Georgia as they would be against Kentucky or Vanderbilt. I had no reason to hate Georgia.
Then 2007 happened. Georgia finally gave me a reason. With six minutes left in the 1st quarter, Knowshon Moreno scored on a 1-yard touchdown run and his Georgia teammates stormed the field igniting not only a wild celebration, but a hatred deep inside me that I have never felt for an opposing team–professional or collegiate. My first reaction was to throw the remote through my television. My second reaction was to strap on a helmet and hit anyone wearing red and black. Chicago Bulls fans, Atlanta Falcons fans, Arkansas State fans–if you were wearing red and black at that moment you would not have been safe around me. I wanted to run outside and look for lady bugs just so I could stomp them. I heard Chancellor Palpatine behind me saying, “Yes, let the hate flow through you.”
Forget about whether Georgia’s dance party was classless or if it was a great motivational tactic by Mark Richt because I don’t care about that. The act itself, seeing the entire team celebrating the first touchdown of the game, pissed me off. Not the game-winning touchdown, but the FIRST touchdown of the game. Few, if any, remember that Florida scored in three plays on a 40-yard pass from Tebow to Louis Murphy on the very next possession. The majority only remember that Georgia stormed the field and in the end, won the game. That’s fine because that’s all you need to remember.
In that moment, everything about the rivalry became crystallized for me. I suddenly realized why Gator fans much older than myself hated Georgia more than Tennessee or FSU. I understood why Steve Spurrier wanted to rain fire down upon the ‘Dawgs every time he coached against them. My appreciation for Spurrier running up the score in ’95 immediately increased, which I didn’t think was possible. All because I now HATED the Georgia Bulldogs.
For me, the 2008 Florida/Georgia game was one of the five most satisfying Gator games of my life, right behind the three national championship games and the ’97 FSU/Florida game. From the very first play of the game to the very final play, it was the perfect revenge game. But one win isn’t enough.
Every year since ’07, I’ve wanted Florida to not only beat Georgia, but absolutely humiliate them in the process. Florida could win 800-0 and I would scream for 801. I’m glad Urban Meyer called those two timeouts at the end of the game in ’08. I’m glad Florida blew them out again in ’09. I’m glad one of my favorite Gators of all-time, Chas Henry, sent them home crying last year. And I hope the misery for Georgia continues until the series ends because I will never forget that moment in 2007. I hope you don’t either.