My Journey to the Final Four

Gator Country’s Ryan Moss travelled to the Final Four and participated in the festivities with the Rowdy Reptiles and shares his experiences through his journal so you can see what it was like to be there if you weren’t able to make it. Enjoy!

Saturday March 31, 2007

I awoke Saturday morning very sick from the night before where I slept in front of the Georgia Dome. I had a fever, but there was no way I was going to let it stop me from cheering on the Gators or enjoying everything that is the Final Four. We headed into Atlanta around the middle of the day to walk around and enjoy the festivities. We saw rap and hip-hop star Ludacris perform at an open concert at Centennial Park. I was accompanied by a group of around 12 of my fraternity brothers, all die hard gator fans, so we were stopped many times by people asking for pictures. A lot of the UF fans made comments to me about how great my Joakim Noah shirt was. It is a white shirt with a drawing of him in green, which I had purchased on e-bay last year. UF definitely seemed to have the most fans, but by far OSU had the most obnoxious fans. Georgetown and UCLA were pretty civil, but every time we saw a group of OSU fans that made some comments or did their ridiculous OH-IO cheer. To be honest I don’t even understand what is so great about the cheer. It sounds to me like it should be the cheer for the University of Ohio, not Ohio State.

We headed into the arena with a couple hours to spare before the opening tip of the Georgetown-OSU game. As much as I would have loved to beat OSU in the football and basketball title games, I was rooting for Georgetown. Being from the Washington D.C. area I had to root for the home team, plus I really don’t like OSU. We took our seats, which were not very good at all. UAA had put the students in the corner and because we were so high up it was often easier to watch the game on the large TV’s. Thankfully we had the first row because I couldn’t have imagined how bad the view would have been if we had been higher up. The Georgia Dome and the NCAA had provided seat cushions for everyone, which was a nice gesture. As we settled in to watch the first game the rumor started circulating as to why the students had been put in the high seats. We had heard from some unnamed sources that there had been a big battle within UAA over what to do with the students and that AD Jeremy Foley had made the final decision. This has not been confirmed but was simply the rumor that was told by some officials to the students.

Last year, the UF-George Mason game was the first of the two games and I certainly liked that better. It was so hard to pay attention to the game, as I was so nervous about the UF game. For the most part I tried to watch the highly anticipated match up of OSU’s Greg Oden vs. Georgetown’s Roy Hibbert. It certainly was a let down as they were rarely on the court together as they both struggled with foul trouble. As the game continued to drag on I became more and more impressed with OSU’s freshman PG Mike Conley Jr. He is a tremendous player and I knew if we faced OSU he would be tough to stop. Finally, the game ended and I got ready for what I had been waiting for UF-UCLA, the big rematch of last year’s title game.

I was pretty confident heading into the game and at no point throughout the game was I at all worried. The Gators looked good. The student section tried to make noise and cheer on the Gators, but we later found out that most of the arena couldn’t hear any noise from us. We remained standing the whole game and cheered as loud as we could while most of the alumni and boosters sitting down below were quite and just sat in their seats. When the game ended we were all really fired up for the big showdown with Ohio State. This was the rematch everyone had wanted. With Atlanta being so close to Gainesville, our phones were ringing off the hook with our friends who wanted us to buy tickets for the title game. Most of the UCLA and Georgetown fans sold their tickets, but they were going for top dollar.

The stage was set for UF to top OSU in both title games. As excited as I was, I was grateful that I had a day to relax and recharge my batteries, as I was still sick.

Sunday April 1, 2007

I woke up Sunday still fired up from the night before. We had an offer to go back to the Naismith Awards for $30 a person, but we decided it wasn’t worth it. Rather I spent the day in Knoxville at the University of Tennessee where I visited my girlfriend. Most of the Vols fans were pretty split on whom they were cheering for. Half of them wanted us to represent the SEC and were still upset that they choked against Ohio State. The other half had such a hatred for us, being their biggest rival that they were rooting for the Buckeyes. I returned back to where I was staying in Marietta and made sure I was well rested for the big game tomorrow.

Monday April 2, 2007

I woke up Monday morning ready for the game and immediately watched ESPN where I saw Joakim Noah’s comments in response to OSU’s Ron Lewis. Noah has such an incredible personality and it really is a shame that he has to deal with so much criticism. I have talked with him several times on campus and he is one of the nicest and friendliest guys you will ever meet. I found his comments to be hysterical, but at the same time I knew Lewis’s comments would help pump up the Gators, as if they needed any more motivation.

We headed into Atlanta early in the day and went to Hoops City. While there we played college basketball on Xbox and killed time until the arena would finally open. As we walked around later we came across invitations for the Razorgator Fan Experience. After some smooth talking with some employees, four of my friends and I were able to gain free access to the $75 per ticket event. At around 5 P.M. we went into the event where we had a free dinner, featuring Atlanta cuisine. In addition, we participated in trivia contests and a three-point shooting contest. Just for participating we all got a wide variety of free merchandise. We also saw several dancing performances and a trampoline-dunking act. One of the nicest parts about being there was that we had exclusive access to a gate at the Georgia Dome so we didn’t have to wait in any lines.

We entered the dome and immediately began loudly cheering for the Gators. The majority of the ushers joined us in our cheers. We headed to the place where the players walk from the locker room to the court and once there we heckled OSU players and cheered loudly for the Gators. Noah, who normally plays off the crowd, was so focused that he didn’t even look up when we cheered for him. Lee Humphrey and Marreesse Speights both acknowledged our presence, but before long we were ushered out of the area and to our seats.

The Rowdy Reptiles were pumped up and we were determined to make our voices heard this game. No matter how loud we had to cheer we were up for the challenge. Unlike the BCS Championship Game in Glendale, OSU fans didn’t outnumber UF fans. There was definitely a large contingency of red clad fans but there was clearly more fans wearing orange and blue.

Finally the moment we had all being waiting for, the tip-off and the start of the Gators attempt to bring another title back home. We went crazy throughout the entire game, doing all that we could for the Gators. I’m not sure whether or not our efforts could even be heard on the court, but we did all we could as fans. At no point during the game was I legitimately worried that we would lose. Oden was impressive but from where we were sitting (yes it was very far away) it looked as if he was getting every call including a couple of cheap fouls on our big guys.

When the final horn sounded we went crazy. To be honest, this victory wasn’t as great as the first one. I think part of it was because of how far away we were. After the win in Indy, we were right there and some of the players came into the crowd with us. This time, we were so far away that we couldn’t fully enjoy the experience.

With our adrenaline still running high we decided to make the drive back to Gainesville right after the game. We drove throughout the night and returned home around 5 A.M. These past 12 months have been amazing and I am so fortunate to have been able to go to all three championships. I truly am one of the luckiest people and now, more then ever, IT IS GREAT TO BE A FLORIDA GATOR!