Writers note: I aim to contribute more "well rounded" articles in the future, discussing more than just Gator sports, but this is something I feel I need to express and get off of my chest. It's a wonderful thing to be a Gator and wherever I end up in life, I will never forget what it feels like.
It Means Donning the Orange and Blue at a Young Age
"Train 'em while they're young!" A popular phrase among any fan base concerning their beloved team, but never in my life have I heard more people express this sentiment than Gator fans.
As babies, the little boys and girls grow up with a shirt, a football, basketball or softball with the Gator logo strewn across the front. If they're lucky, they get a jersey or a cheerleader outfit as well (I was fortunate to have a No. 12 Terry Dean jersey as my prized possession).
Watching the Gator games with your dad, mom, uncle, aunt, cousins, friends and strangers becomes a way of life as a "Gator in training."
If you don't get the game, you order it on pay-per-view and have a huge block party or go to the local sports bar. It's tradition that eventually turns into habit, turns into necessity, turns into addiction.
It Means Having More Brothers and Sisters Than You Thought You Could
All you have to say is "Go Gators" and you remember what kind of fraternity you are in: one that knows no borders or boundaries. All you have to do is hear those two words and it'll put a smile on your face as you get butterflies in your stomach thinking of the season ahead—even if you are staring the Mona Lisa straight in the eyes.
It means making allies in the office or at school as the Big 10 groupies (i.e. Ohio State) try to convince you that "three yards and a cloud of dust" will win you a national title.
It means never being alone.
It Means Being on Rock Bottom
Every Gator fan knows, at least once a year, some how, some way, they will disappoint. It's a natural progression, but is never taken lightly. We prefer not to talk about the Zook years.
It was an anomaly as far as we're concerned. The 0-10-1 season, well, you don't remember that very well, because the alcohol was running through you. Or at least that is your excuse.
It means having so much passion for the game that you lose your mind (DO NOT CLICK IF YOU ARE OPPOSED TO EXTREME MELTDOWNS AND LANGUAGE!!).
It Means Being on Top of the World
Back-to back-to-back. A lovely sound to a Gator's ear and a lovely vision to behold. People find our claims to having the greatest run in collegiate sports history a bit arrogant, but we triple-dog dare any fan, any college, not to brag about that if it happened to them.
We thank Jeremy Foley for firing Zook (we try to forget he hired him, though), and for hiring Billy D. and Urban Meyer. We thank Steven Orr Spurrier for essentially putting us on the map and making the University of Florida relevant in sports (and for the unbelievably hilarious remarks towards other SEC schools and the "School Out West").
We thank Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow for representing the University with their outstanding characters and showing that it's more a golden arm that makes a true man.
We thank the "04's" for staying. We thank Youngblood, Smith, and Marshall for being just so darn GOOD.
Most of All, It Means Having Pride
After the youthful traditions are kept; after you've seen your 1,000th Gator fan outside the state of Florida; after you're at the lowest of lows, the highest of highs, at the end of the day, you thank your lucky stars you are a Gator.
Bleeding Orange and Blue, singing the Alma Mater and high-fiving after a tremendous dunk or home run, there is nothing like it. It's Great to be a Florida Gator.
All Hail Florida Hail.