The first step in my Gator fandom was not when I realized the dumb kids at Claywell Elementary were all FSU fans. It was not when my family would drive through Gainesville to go from I-75 to 301 on the way to New York and I saw campus (I used to think the Florida Farm Bureau building by 75 and Williston Road was part of UF too). It was when a neighbor gave me a Gator sticker when I first moved to Florida at age five. Luckily, I got into UF and I'm able to put enough words together to write about the school and team I look at as part of my personality.
So, with the level of fandom and snobbery associated with UF I have, why do I not remember the 1996 National Championship season?
I remember the bad things (the Choke at Doak when I was 10), which makes the good memories even sweeter (January 8, 2007 is the greatest day of my life). But at some point I would have remembered Danny Wuerffel slinging it, right? If I can remember the Yankees winning their first World Series in my lifetime in October of '96, surely I'd remember the months around it.
The idea behind reliving the 1996 season comes from this blog post about reliving the Brooklyn Dodgers' 1955 season in real time. For those of you who are not baseball historians, the 1955 Dodgers were one of the most important teams in baseball history. They defeated the Yankees in the World Series, had one more good season in 1956 (losing to the Yanks in the Don Larsen World Series), and moved to Los Angeles after the 1958 season. The '96 Gators are not nearly as romantic as the Brooklyn Dodgers, but to some of you they are.
Over the next several weeks, just as the season would be staged, we will breakdown each game for the '96 Gators. We can even do stories about how Peyton Manning is overrated and he can't hold Wuerffel's jock. Thanks to online archives, especially the SI Vault, it is easy to find pre and postgame reports. The hard part is finding people who were there.
That's where you come in. Any memories you have of the '96 season, if you were there or remember watching as a kid, drop them in the comments or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. How good was the '96 team? Were people surprised when they beat FSU the second time around? What was Gainesville like during all of this?
Next week, the Gators host Southwestern Louisiana. Get ready.