They have awkward dancing white guys, awkward white guys dunking, a coach who is married to a supermodel and they just became the first No. 15-seed to ever advance into the Sweet 16. So, it’s pretty easy to understand why Florida Gulf Coast University is our favorite story in sports right now. On Monday, that meant an ESPN crew at their pep rally as they prepare to take on the Florida Gators this week in their regional semifinal.
What ESPN found when they got there was a rambunctious student body that seemed anxious to prove that this wild and crazy basketball team we’ve become so enamored with is crafted in light of the university, not the other way around. When Andy Enfield mentioned the Florida Gators, some bros being bros decided to throw caution to the wind and rain down a “F*** the Gators” chant that has become a time-honored brodition at schools throughout the Southeast.
Of course, in the Twitter age, we don’t have to wait for a Mike Lupica column to absorb the intense outrage at such juvenile behavior, and as ESPN broadcast FGCU’s new message of solidarity into a couple million homes, the general response seemed to range from very very mad to tepid to HAHAHAHA. I have to admit, my initial reaction was to cringe a little bit.
But, that’s because as a 23-year old young professional in the social media age, I constantly struggle with the need to be edgy/cool/funny and not wanting to look like a jackass to potential employers or business contacts. However, it took all of three seconds to realize that there was a time when I was a little bit less self-conscious about saying or doing those kinds of things.
As a matter of fact, anyone reading this who actually knows me on a personal level probably laughs at the notion that I’m self-conscious now. I can still be pretty colorful after a drink or two.
Which takes me right back to a time where I can relate to the students at FGCU. Before I was routinely accused of being biased towards and against every school I’ve ever written anything about, I was biased towards just one as a student at the University of Tennessee.
And when I was a freshman at UT, when being a student/fan of Tennessee didn’t mean never-ending despair, I was the root cause of an FGCU moment of my own. It was 2007 and the Tennessee Volunteers were taking on the Gators in The Swamp.
Three friends and I decided to take the road trip, and we were lucky enough to score a couple of face value tickets in the raffle, but we had to do a sketchy Craigslist deal to score the other two. In hindsight, I was probably the shadiest person at the exchange when I showed up with a knife and it was two non-threatening looking girls and some dude who I assume was a boyfriend of one of them. In my defense, one of those girls had a really big purse that could have easily concealed a Mossberg, though.
Regardless, we got our tickets and nobody got stabbed or shot. Well, none of the seven people involved in this particular transaction got stabbed or shot. North of Cumberland Ave. was a pretty dangerous place back then.
A week later we loaded Tupperware containers with rice and pizza from the dining hall, which you may consider stealing, to which I will reply, I had a dining plan. And then we set off for a campground 15 minutes north of Gainesville in Alachua where they let you sleep in a tent for $15/person, thus allowing us to save our limited resources for things we had deemed more important.
The safest way for me to describe everything that happened the night before the game and leading up to the game is to say that we did what college kids do. Needless to say, by the time we were in our seats (sixth row of the UT student section) and Uncle Verne and Gary were ready to roll, I had been shirtless for at least four hours.
The game itself was a lot of Florida, a little Tennessee and then a whole lot more Florida. However, there was a point where it looked like the Vols were more than a team being coached by the propped up corpse of Phil Fulmer (think Weekend at Bernie’s).
After falling behind 28-6 late in the first, the Vols scored going into the half. To open the second half, Florida went on another long drive, but that’s when Eric Berry stepped in front of a Tim Tebow pass just in front of the goal-line and then made the anointed one look legendarily silly on his way to a 96-yd TD return.
The play cut it to a one-score game and silenced the jean short-wearing masses, and, for at least a couple minutes, several thousand hill people from Tennessee—almost all of whom were some form of shirtless or wearing overalls—took over Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Once the Pride of the Southland band finished up their post-touchdown routine, I decided to prolong the stadium-wide agitation and sprang into action.
Without going into too much detail because I’m not particularly proud of some of the “being a bro” moments in my life, but still leaving plenty of room for you to insinuate, let’s just say that Tebow was the subject of my alliterative disdain. Coming out of the commercial break, under the chortling of Verne Lundquist, the chant had gathered enough momentum in our section that it was audible on TV.
The rest of the story is well-documented: Arian Foster fumbled and then the Vols got beaten senseless in the fourth quarter. Like all bros before me, I knew when to tuck my tail between my legs and run. By the time the 59-20 score was finalized, we had already made it back to our car.
I guess the point of this story is that it’s easy to judge a bunch of people based off what we see in 60 seconds of TV, but a lot of people (this person specifically) do things they might not do normally when they adapt a mob mentality. What we saw Monday on ESPN probably made a lot of people uncomfortable, but sometimes you just have to accept it for what it is:
Sometimes we all have a little too much fun.