Keith and Lulu sit in the Gator Swamp end zone. Note the green sweater.
The University of Florida is in Gainesville about 140 miles from Tallahassee. It is the home of the Florida Gators Football Team - the favorite sons of the state of Florida. For years it was the boys school and got the lion's share of the state education budget. They have this giant stadium called The Swamp. Unlike Doak Campbell Stadium - The Swamp fills every game - and tickets hold their price. One going there can expect to pay near $100 a ticket.
Six years ago - Keith - Lulu - and I decided we would go there for a game. We thought every Seminole fan should visit the mecca of the Orange and Blue once. Keith had flown down from DC for the holiday - and was more than willing to give it a try. Lulu booked a hotel room for the night - even if it was only a Days Inn. On football weekends - Gainesville hotels fill quickly and charge a premium.
The weekend started with the Gators and Seminoles locking up in a basketball game Friday night. The Seminoles won and the weekend was looking good - all the way up to when we walked into our hotel room. It was a dump. It was midnight - and we made the best of the situation. Keith refused to sleep in the bed. We had two woolen furniture blankets in the van and he spent the night between them. When we went down for breakfast we found out that the state leased rooms there for homeless people - really. We passed on the breakfast - while Keith and Lulu shopped - I stood out on the highway with a sign looking for tickets. After an hour or so - one guy sold me a pair of seats in the end zone for about $70 each. We figured buying a single ticket at the stadium would be easy.
We parked on the street about 1 mile from the stadium. At the time we had a Honda Van - and it appeared a safe place to leave it. We walked to the stadium and started shopping for a ticket. We worked the area for over an hour - it was near kickoff time - and no one was selling a ticket for under $150. This was near the end of the Bobby Bowden Era and the Noles were near .500 on their record. The Gators has Tim Tebow and they were challenging for winning the national championship and Heisman Trophy every year.
I was willing to sit out the game in the van and give Lulu and Keith the two tickets. No way was I going to pay $150 to see FSU get pasted. Lulu had an idea. She went up to the ticket collector and asked him if anyone gave him an extra ticket she could use. He said he did not have any extras but if she walked up in a crowd he would let her go by. She came back and told us that - so we got in a crowd - and approached the ticket guy. To his word he shook Lulu's hand and let her in - free! Things were looking up. Maybe not all the Gators fans were miserable.
Inside the place was packed with Gator fans looking for blood and they were not disappointed. The place was loud and so orange and blue - these fans were not friendly. They were not disappointed - they manhandled the Seminoles - one of the worst defeats I re-call. Just 10 year before - we drove to New Orleans to see the Gators and the Noles play for the national championship. This was the Rematch in the Bayou - and that was a tough drive home with our tails between our legs.
Lulu and Keith sat in the end zone - I found an empty chair a few rows away. I eventually was able to sit with them as some seats went empty. It was hopeless. Gator fans booed everything. Just miserable nasty people - even when they are winning. At the gun - we escaped to our van. As we cruised up I-75 - we vowed never to return to Hogtown.
So here we are in an odd numbered year - and it is time to go south again. This time the Noles are 11-0 and the Gators are 4-7. It is pay back time.
Lulu insists we are going. She wants to take the Roadtrek. As fate would have it - the Noles and Gators lock up in the basketball arena Friday night. In Mom's world - FSU will win the basketball game - then we will find a super parking meter spot to spend the night. Then by Saturday at noon we will buy two excellent tickets - and the Noles will redeem us from the night 6 years ago.
The Gators are a mess - they just lost a game to Division 2 Georgia Southern - at home. This is one of those teams you book to fatten up your stats. Florida had NEVER lost to a Division 2 teams before. Not only did GS get a million dollars for being cannon fodder in the Swamp - they had one class A game of the ages. They beat the Gators without completing a pass.
With the Florida State quarterback scandal still brewing - it appears he is going to be available for this game. FSU is scoring an average of 55 points a game. They just beat Idaho by an 80-14 score. The mob has the Noles winning in a landslide. So it looks like a little bravado and testosterone could get us in and out of the Swamp with a victory.
If we beat the Gators - then the Dukies - then go to Pasadena - FSU will have their third national championship. Barring any major arrests or injuries - it could all happen. We might even play Clemson again and have an All-ACC Championship game.
Bobby Bowden needed two cops to protect him at half time - even though they were getting pounded.
The Gator band picture taken from my squatter's seat.
The Noles before being introduced - the Christians march into the Coliseum.
I cannot understand why anyone would pick orange and blue as their colors. It always reminds me of a Gulf gas station attendant - remember those?
Keith and I enjoy a picture of my 20 year old Seminole jacket.