I am a die-hard Florida Gators fan. No doubt about it.
As far back as I can remember (a heartbreaking 20-17 loss to Tennessee in 1998), I have watched my beloved Gators play on sunny Saturdays in the fall.
I enjoyed Steve Spurrier's success, I despaired during the Ron Zook era, and I now praise the name of Urban Meyer. I've seen Gator quarterbacks from Doug Johnson to Rex Grossman to Chris Leak, and now Tim Tebow.
However, a very different challenge has arrived for me as a Gator fan. A challenge that requires great bravery, strength, and Gator loyalty.
My sister, Claire, just graduated high school in late May and will be attending the University of Georgia. She is now a Georgia Bulldog.
She'll be one of them. A 'Dawg.
It gives me chills when I think about it. Claire, come on! Georgia? How could you do this to me? I thought you loved me! All kidding aside, let's recap my dislike for these ‘Dawgs, shall we?
These are the same ‘Dawgs who stopped Doug Dickey and the Gators on the infamous "Fourth and Dumb" in 1976. These are the same 'Dawgs who beat Florida on a 92-yard, last-second touchdown pass to save Georgia's only national championship in 1980.
And lest we forget, the most painful memory: "The Celebration," where these ‘Dawgs rushed the field to taunt Florida after their first touchdown in the 2007 contest.
Although I was only around for “The Celebration,” all of these memories nauseate me. And now I have to deal with my sister, my own flesh and blood, rooting for and becoming one of these ‘Dawgs.
The worst part of the entire ordeal was helping my sister move into her dorm. One, because her status as a ‘Dawg became official. And two, because she’s my older sister and I’m going to miss having her at home.
Well, being the proud Florida fan that I am, I decided to wear my Gators hat while helping Claire unpack, much to her dismay. Sure enough, I felt like a valiant hero as I gallantly marched into Russell Hall with a refrigerator, a laptop, and my blue Gators hat with an orange “F” on it.
To me, the hat was a symbol of Gator pride. A symbol of resilience. And, as my mom said, an act of stupidity.
Luckily for me, I didn’t face too much ridicule since it was summertime in Athens and many of the die-hard ‘Dawgs were relaxing at the beach or hanging out at home.
Although this experience has been painful for me, it was also a learning experience. I learned that, as a Florida Gator, it is perfectly acceptable to continue my hatred of rival Georgia, even though my sister attends school there.
It is a situation I find very similar to the division of families during the American Civil War. We both have our affiliations but the rivalry is strictly business. I love my sister and I will miss her, but I despise her school and I look forward to engaging in trash talk over the holiday breaks.