Have you ever had a person bark at you like a dog? Welcome to Jacksonville for the Florida-Georgia border war which has raged on the banks of the St. Johns River every year since 1933 (except for two years in the mid-1990s). The game is no stranger to colorful characters and some of the best tailgating in college football.
Some folks arrived in style.
This is a rivalry that divides friends as much as states, these two men exchanged some electronically amplified banter outside the stadium before the game.
If you think that outfit was outrageous, I humbly submit to you this gentleman.
He wasn’t the only man in a tutu. This fellow even brought some friends with him. Perhaps they were confused on their way to Tallahassee.
Sometimes you have to earn your right to be there the hard way, like these fraternity pledges found out when they had to swim to a fountain and back to shore in a pond near the stadium.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch I suppose, or a free tailgate experience.
As much fun as I had outside the stadium, I did go to Jacksonville for the game. 364 days of anticipation, and stewing after losing in the same place the year before finally came to a head when the Gators burst out of the tunnel.
Unfortunately for the Gators, besides an 83-yard pass there were few other fireworks in the first half.
That didn’t stop the pride of the sunshine from trying its best to pump up the orange and blue faithful.
When the band wasn’t playing, some fans did their best impression of them.
His pitch might have been a tad off, but his heart was in the right place. That’s one of the things that sets this game apart. It’s played in a professional stadium that has luxury suites, perfect sightlines and no bleachers. There’s legroom between rows and cupholders on the back of all the seats. There are field goal nets and a “Bud Light party zone” there’s even enough room between the benches and the fans so the entire crowd isn’t on top of either team. Before it’s full it has all the drab corporate trappings that many can’t stand about the NFL, but it’s the fans that fill EverBank Field that make the environment colorful and pleasantly collegiate. There is a pageantry about Florida-Georgia, a neutral field that is neither between the hedges or in The Swamp that makes this game such a wonderful experience no matter how good the teams are.
Never was that collegiate atmosphere more apparent than at the end of the third quarter when half the stadium began to swing and sway.
Then the other side throws up four fingers to signify the beginning of the final stanza accompanied by the Redcoat band blaring the “Krypton” theme from Superman.
Was it hard to hear? That’s probably because the Florida fans around me had no time for the Georgia band, they were too busy trying to spur their team on to finally take the lead in this game.
Alas, one side of EverBank Field was jubilant at the end of the game and for the third year in a row and it wasn’t Florida’s.
Every year, when the sun sets near the end of the game a stiff, cool breeze greets fans as they exit the stadium after the contest. That wind can either carry a fan base as they go to celebrate a rivalry game victory or add freezing insult to injury in the minds of the losing team’s patrons. By the end of this night it carried something other than hoots and hollers from the Georgia faithful. It was a sound oddly reminiscent to that of thousands of grown men and women, barking like dogs.