I don’t remember the first time I picked up a newspaper or magazine, turned on a TV or a radio, but I do know when I first sat down and turned on a personal computer. The biggest commonality of all those sources of media delivery has been that those are the main ways I have followed the Florida Gators in my lifetime.
This is the first of a three-part series where I will look back at my love for media and the ways and means that I have used it to keep up with Gators over the years.
Today will be my infatuation for many years with the printed media, whether it be newspapers, magazines or books and the length I would go through to make sure I had as many of each that I could afford to help me stay informed on the Florida Gators.
The following segments will focus on TV and how it has changed since 1962 not only in sports availability, but also in the product delivered. I will conclude with radio and the internet and how it has placed information so close to us, for the good and the bad.
Everything I look at is comparative to how it has been in my lifetime. I will complain and write about the lack of media in my early life (1960 and beyond) and older Gators will have even bigger horror stories of not having the means to follow their favorite sports teams or even get more important information that media provides in such abundance in 2015.
I grew up on the Westside of Jacksonville after being born in 1952. I was there until my employer moved me in 1985. Since then I have been all over, but now in my sixties I have returned to the Jacksonville area and reside in Orange Park.
In the early 1960’s when I first started following sports it was the Florida Gators and the Jacksonville Suns (baseball). Between the two of them I had something to keep my sports interest just about year around and I did that with the Florida Times Union, which we subscribed to. For a preteen in that era that was about the only way to get “in depth” sports news.
While we did have two or three televisions stations most of the sports news then was relegated to about four-five minutes each week day afternoon delivered by a half dozen or so personalities, but I will get to that later.
The newspaper was the source for sports news. In fact, in those days you would get much better coverage from the newspaper than you get now. Each day you would get the stats from each baseball game, football game and even basketball. I was perfectly satisfied with that view of sports because it was all I knew.
In my early teen years we started getting the afternoon paper as well, it was called the Jacksonville Journal and while it did not double the information received each day it certainly did add to it and my parents were happy that I would read it and started subscribing to that as well.
I remember vividly reading the headlines of Journal when it was announced that Florida Gator Steve Spurrier had won the Heisman Trophy. Back then, the announcement came mid-week and (newspaper dated November 23, 1966 which was a Wednesday) and Spurrier was awarded the trophy on December 1, 1966.
It was when I started high school that my media world began to blossom.
I went to Robert E. Lee in Jacksonville and I had a little Honda 50 that I rode to and from school. One day I discovered if I turned left on Park St (instead of right to go home) I could be at a place called the Five Points News in about two miles.
I could save a little money and each week get a Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, Football Digest, Baseball Digest and College Football Weekly to enhance my sports information input. It was not long after that at the same store I would discover Gator Bait, which in its time, was a treasure to have.
I believe it was the Christmas of 1967 that I received a subscription for SI, TSN and Sport for a year, which meant I could start using my lunch money for lunch.
Married Life and Waycross
That pattern on buying magazines and newspapers went on for years until I was transferred to Waycross, GA.
Now in Waycross they had a local paper (that I would end up working and writing for as a Stringer), but the amount of Florida Gator news there was scarce. The Georgia edition of the Florida Times Union was available, but the Gator news was filtered to more of a Georgia slant, plus the high school coverage was Georgia related.
Then sometime in those Georgia years USA Today debuted and added some information to an information starved town, as far as the Gators were concerned.
By the time 1990 rolled around and Florida football had taken off I was up to four newspapers a day. My wife never said a word about the cost, but the stack of newspapers around the house did not win me any points.
Of course around this time the SI, TSN and Sport had grown to Street and Smith, Athlons, Lindy’s and perhaps a half dozen more of those annuals that would come out. Of course, I would have to make a trip to Jacksonville to get my annuals to avoid those ugly Georgia covers.
Speaking of trips to Florida…
The Georgia edition of the Florida Times Union just did not cut it any longer on Sundays. The Gators would often play later in the afternoon/evening and all the Gator news would be “catch us tomorrow in Florida Times Union” and as far as Gators, tomorrow never came.
So, after church and dinner on Sundays I would tell Donna I was going to get a paper which would take me to Jacksonville to get my Jacksonville edition of the FTU. Of course along the way I would get an Atlanta Journal Constitution and if I was feeling lucky I would go back to the old Five Point News to see what they had in store.
On To Kentucky
The railroad sent me to Kentucky in 1995 for two years and thus my information with the Jacksonville papers came to an end. So did Florida magazine covers in the spring and well, you get the picture?
Not only that, I was there from April 1995-September 1997, not exactly a time to be five hundred miles from Florida. (However it was not a bad time to be around Tennessee fans. In Southern Kentucky the people were all about Kentucky basketball, but they were Tennessee football fans).
One night though, in a dimly lit room in Corbin, Kentucky sitting at the foot of my youngest son’s bed as he slept, I logged on to the family computer and discovered a web site named “Gus Garcia’s Gator Country”.
I doubt if I have purchased twenty newspapers for Florida Gator news since.