Football in Florida: An Experience Like No Other

Matthew SchiffmanAnalyst ISeptember 8, 2008

On Saturday, September 6th, I had the privilege of attending a college football rivalry game.  Some people would argue that when the Florida Gators and the Miami Hurricanes play, the game can’t be considered a rivalry, after all Saturday was only the seventh time that the two storied programs have met in the last 23 years.

But the people who make that argument have obviously never attended a Gators-Hurricanes matchup.

A record 90,833 fans filled Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.  And that’s in a year in which the Hurricanes aren’t even ranked.

The stadium noise was deafening at kickoff and fans from both schools were on their feet shouting encouragements to their players and obscenities to the opposing ones.

Now, to put things in perspective, I attend the University of Missouri, home to the currently ranked No. 6 team in the country.  Last year, Mizzou packed its football stadium to capacity for the rivalry game with Nebraska.  But even that matchup can’t compare with the game on Saturday.

The only time I was able to give my legs a rest was at halftime.  But even then, I didn’t dare leave to go get something to drink in fear that my “seat” (standing position would be more appropriate) would be gone when I returned.  That is if I was able to squeeze my way through the crowd and get back to that same spot at all.

So I lasted a whole game without a sip of water or a bite of any food.  But it was well worth it.  Sure, it was hot and humid and I was stuck standing on my set shoulder-to-shoulder between two Gators fans with sweat pouring down my face.  And sure, I’m a ‘Canes fan and they were beaten by 23 points.  But it was worth bearing the endless chants of, “It’s great to be a Florida Gator,” in order to be a part of a Florida rivalry game, which is something sacred in a state where football is god.

I had been to a Florida game the prior year when they played Florida Atlantic University.  That was also an in-state game, but the drama was a bit different.  I’d have to consider the Miami game the first real taste I had of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium alive and kicking.

Add to that the fact that Gameday was there, the game was televised nationally on ESPN, and it was an 8 p.m. kickoff, the experience was that much more intense and, consequently, that much more memorable.

The only downside now is that I can no longer look forward to home football games at Mizzou as much as I had prior to the start of the college football season.

We have a great team here in Columbia and great fans supporting the players, but to put it simply, it’s a different mindset in the state of Florida. 

I now believe that the old cliché is true, Florida Gators fans honestly do bleed orange and blue, while Miami Hurricanes fans really bleed orange and green.