Saturday’s meeting between Florida and Georgia is important for several reasons:
- The SEC East crown — complete with a coupon for a free MRI at any Atlanta area hospital on the dates of December 3-4 — is still up for grabs (yes, UF still has a shot).
- The Bulldogs are looking for their first SEC title game appearance since 2005 and first win over Florida since 2007, and they have to be thinking that this new era in Gainesville is their shot to reverse a one-sided rivalry.
- The Gators are trying to stem the bleeding from three straight embarrassing losses and build some momentum.
- Mark Richt is tired of the swamp ass he gets from that warm seat he’s been sitting on.
- Will Muschamp wants to keep the Urban Meyer-esque dream of beating all of UF’s rivals alive. Then, he wants to sternly remind everyone that no, the fact that he once played for Georgia did not make the victory any sweeter and he totally doesn’t even remember that he guaranteed a victory in this game.
- John Brantley wants to: A) Walk without a limp, and B) Show that his One Quarter of Glory against Alabama wasn’t a fluke.
Those things are what this game is about.
Here’s what it’s not about: The Gainesville Sun’s most read story online today, “Gator Stomp still motivates,” which says that UF players are using UGA’s 2007 end zone celebration to fuel them for this weekend.
Before I rant, an aside. Covering UF these days, by all accounts, blows. Media access to players is tightly controlled, assistant coaches can’t talk to reporters, coordinators are only available one day a week (and not after games), and Muschamp isn’t exactly Steve Spurrier. Understandably, reporters struggle to come up with original content in this system, and we all suffer for it. I know because I’ve been there. I wrote stories that I thought and knew were weak simply because something had to be written. Maybe that’s the case here, but this is a story that’s simply too stupid not to see through.
Yes, in 2007, Georgia drew the ire of Gators everywhere by piling into the end zone and wildly celebrating a first-quarter touchdown. A stunned Florida team never recovered and went on to lose, 42-30.
Moses Jenkins is the only current Gator who played in that game. Since 2007, Florida has pummeled Georgia 49-10 (with Meyer calling some late timeouts to rub it in), whipped them41-17, and pulled out a heartbreaking 34-31 OT win last year. The Gators have won 18 of the last 21 against the Bulldogs.
But oh, that excessive celebration penalty still cuts deep, so much so that the video of it is being shown in Florida’s football facilities again this year.
That was completely understandable for 2008 and maybe even 2009. But now? If that’s what it takes to get the Gators motivated for a rivalry game that could make or completely break their season, then UF’s problems are worse than we thought.
Do you think the Dawgs are sitting around fuming about Meyer’s timeouts this week? Has Brandon Spikes’ eye-gouge come up?
Maybe as part of some video montage of the rivalry, but other than that, I doubt it.
Today’s sports culture is seemingly fueled by hate. Athletes and coaches are either trying to “prove the doubters wrong” or saying they “don’t listen to the haters,” and they must punish people for each and every misdeed of years past.
I understand these forms of motivation. But they are often unnecessary.
This is one of those cases. Georgia has plenty to play for, and none of it involves Meyer or Spikes.
Florida does too. Rather than right a wrong that has already been thoroughly righted, the Gators should focus on writing a new chapter in this rivalry: the one where they stopped sucking ass, beat the Bulldogs and turned their season around.