I made my first trip to Gainesville this weekend with my wife and a few friends. I left West Tennessee for the trip to the swamp with many expectations and mixed feelings of what to expect. We flew into Orlando(my buddy lives there) and met a couple of Vol fans at the airport.
After dinner, we were watching ESPN and they were still playing the Kiffin comments, and talking of the upcoming beatdown. We left Saturday and saw many Gator fans on oue way to the game. Nobody flipped us off or honked at us as I was expecting them to. We got to the stadium and parked in a student's yard for 10 bucks. Pretty good deal I thought. As we were walking in we got the "Tennessee Sucks" chant, and "Go Gators" as well. The ladies had to go to the bathroom, so we found one. Right after that we ran into Billy Donovan. I can't you tell how bad I wanted to ask if he had figured out a way to beat the Pearl yet. I'm still regretting that one by the way.
We were trying to go to the Big Orange Tailgate Tour and we didn't know how to get there, so a little lady gator fan helped us out. She was a real sweetheart. We met a few gator fans who welcomed us to the swamp. As my friend Josh would say, "Their Sweethearts". We finally made it to the Tailgate Tour and had a blast. The UT band and cheerleaders were there and we sang "Rocky Top" and ate some great food. I was feeling great at this point. Talked to several vol fans and we had an awesome time. After the Tailgate Tour we headed to the stadium. We found our seats in the nosebleed section of the endzone.
I was ecstatic while we were waiting for the kickoff. I was surrounded by Vols and Gators. I was there to see my team. The team I was born to root for. The team that I love so much and the team that my dad taught me to love and the team I have taught my son to love. When people refer to my dad, they always say, "The guy that wears the UT shirt and hat everyday". I have been going to games for a little over 20 years and I'm 29. I have never seen us lose a game. I've been to other stadiums and I always compare them to Neyland. This was my first time to the Swamp and I started my comparison as soon as we got there. After the opening kickoff, the Gator fans were already chanting, "Let the slaughter begin".
It didn't last long. They were pretty quiet for the most part. They didn't have a lot to cheer about, thanks to my team, the Vols. I want to take a second and discuss The Swamp. There is no comparison to our tradition in Knoxville. "The Chomp" looks kinda intimidating on television. It's not in person. I don't know how a bunch of clapping can intimidate anyone. They don't have a tradition in Gainesville. They have a bunch of fans who wouldn't be there if they had a season like we had last year. Some of our fans were more vocal than them in the streets. That's one thing about our fans that I hope will continue, the passion, the emotions. That's what makes our fan base so great. We love our team through thick and thin. I love everyone these guys.
I went to Gainesville and watched us lose for the first time in my life, but I saw them outplay and outcoach the #1 team in the nation. Most of their fans don't know who coached there before Spurrier(Gaylen Hall). I can remember since I was a kid, driving down I-40 and honking at other vol fans and rolling our windows down and yelling at each other. I did not see that once on the way to Gainesville. They worship Tim Tebow aka Superman. I can't tell you how sick I got of hearing that. It felt great to cheer against Florida right to their face Saturday. I enjoyed watching my team come in unintimidated and play a great game.
The fact is, that there is no comparison to Neyland. The Swamp was weak, the crowd was nothing like our crowd. I will end on this. The Swamp won't ever catch Neyland, but the Vols will catch the Gators. And judging by Saturday, it won't be long until "We will be singing Rocky Top all night long"!
Believe it, IT'S TIME!