Saturday will be the 52nd game in the Florida-Florida State series. That is the same number of games played against Mississippi State, and less than Miami (53), LSU (54), Kentucky (57), Auburn (82), and Georgia (85). You would think that those teams would have a much stronger rivalry than FSU. In the case of Auburn and Georgia, that might be the case. But for those of us who started following Florida football recently, by either moving here or becoming a student, Tennessee (37 games played against) and FSU are the ones we want to destroy every year.
Personally, I want to beat Georgia and LSU, but I respect those schools (I had a chance to attend UGA actually). And while I hate Tennessee basketball and football, I don't have anything against the school. Even as a Yankee fan, I absolutely hate the Red Sox, but even I can recognize that Ortiz and Ramirez are two of the best hitters ever and I don't hate the city of Boston (they've given us Sam Adams Beer after all). But, I reserve a cold dark place for my hatred of FSU.
I jumped on the Gator bandwagon because of a UF sticker and all the FSU fans at Claywell Elementary were stupid kids. As I grew older, the loss to Nebraska, the National Championship, and the 1997 FSU game solidified me as a fan. Plus, since driving from Florida to our ancestral home in New York took us through Gainesville, I saw UF's campus every year. The hiring of Billy Donovan, who grew up a few houses from my father in Rockville Centre, NY also helped. Thankfully I was destined to go to UF.
Since I have such an affection and loyalty towards UF, I have opposite feelings towards FSU. I hate their cheap stadium, and I hate how in their new commercial they claim to lead the state in family medicine despite only having a med school for a decade. I hate losing to them in baseball, and I hate how one of their professors butchered the Godfather series. Their campus sucks and so does Tennessee Street. And I really hate when they get money from the state legislature when Florida is clearly the better university.
The way older alumni feel about Georgia is the way I feel about FSU. But the difference is that FSU competes with us for the hearts and minds and wallets of the state. This is a rivalry that is unlike any other we have. Auburn, Georgia, Tennessee, even LSU, are good schools. FSU has a freaking circus.
But I love chanting "U-F RE-JECTS" at the FSU band and seeing the look of horror on their faces. And I loved my brother screaming at the 2005 game for FSU's A.J. Nicholson to get another DUI while we were behind the FSU bench and four seats from the Nicholson family. And despite the 2003 FSU game being one of the worst moments of my life (I still hate Jack Childress), it was great seeing my father threaten to break someone's arm for doing the chop on the student side.
Is my level of hate unhealthy? Yes, of course it is, especially when the only FSU guy I admire is Derrick Brooks. But, that is what makes a rivalry. Neither team has a chance at a BCS bowl, but there is something UF is playing for; to send FSU to San Francisco to defend their Emerald Nuts Bowl championship.
Pictured: Alligator Army's writers prior to the 2005 FSU game.