Note: This post contains highlights of Florida's 20-17 loss to Auburn in 2007, and, consequently, the above jackass, Wes Byrum, doing the Gator Chomp. I apologize, but warn you that they are after the jump and that this post is exclusively to get you in the right mood for Auburn Hate Week.
Auburn may be the team I hate the most. It is irrational, and I don't care that that might make me a "bad Florida fan" in some way; we all have our heresies, and this probably isn't nearly the most heinous of mine. I blame Wes Byrum for almost all of the hate, too.
Notes on Florida's first home loss under Urban Meyer and my eternal loathing of Byrum after the jump.
- Florida was No. 4 at one point in 2007! Holy crap.
- Remember when a Florida defense could make plays like the forced fumble Major Wright causes?
- Remember Cornelius Ingram? Remember Percy Harvin? Remember Tim Tebow taking approximately a month to wind up and throw a pass?
- Urban in 2007: Not prematurely wraithlike!
- I had no idea who Auburn's quarterback in this game was until I watched this video.
- I can't help but notice that the sign on Ben Hill Griffin behind Mike Patrick and Todd Blackledge in their discussion of the game has changed since 2007.
- It's really cute that ESPN used a graphic that featured the stat "Tim Tebow interceptions" five games into Tebow's Florida career as if it meant anything. Keep on keeping on with your arbitrary endpoints and garbage statistics, folks.
Okay, so, yeah, all that, but also this: This was the first Gators loss I experienced as a Florida student, and the second straight loss to Auburn in as many years.
Of the two, it's also the one I remember far better; in the fall of 2006, as a high school senior (you may feel old ... now), I spent a lot of time at my then-girlfriend's house, and her family was just not the sort of sports-watching crew my family was. (She's the second of four sisters, if that explains anything.)
I think that there was some sort of dinner party at her place that night, and I'm pretty sure that I found out Florida lost after the game was already over. I still haven't seen all of that game (nor, if I'm being honest, more than a few games of the 2006 season; I really don't remember the 2006 SEC Championship Game), so while I know there was some premium head-scratching decision-making from Chris Leak and a blocked punt, I'm not sure when those things happened. I remember being pretty upset about it, and about Florida not going undefeated — if I'm ever not upset about Florida's first loss of the season, please check to make sure I have not been lobotomized — but unable to completely articulate why, both because I wasn't with football fans and, more specifically, because I wasn't with Florida fans.
In 2007, I watched the whole game with most of my all-male floor at Hume, accepted that Tebow and Harvin were pretty good, learned that that defense would be the bane of my existence, found out that people in Gainesville get really upset when the Gators lose, and realized that it's ultimately a lot better for me to experience my team losing with a lot of people I can commiserate with nearby. The Internet — especially SB Nation's fan-centric sites and Twitter — makes it easier for me to talk with fans/friends flung to the four winds, but even last year's losses, mostly shared with the three roommates I lived with in some capacity for four years, were a different experience because I've been living in an off-campus apartment.
Watching Byrum hit two straight kicks burned me, and so did feeling my first funereal Gainesville Sunday. And when I spent the following weekend visiting that girlfriend at her college for her fall break, I spent a fair bit of that Saturday night alone with her in her dorm room ... checking the ESPN GameCast for Florida's 28-24 loss to LSU on her computer. She was cool with that, in case you were wondering, but it burns me to this day that I haven't seen all of that game.
Since that Auburn loss, I have tried my damnedest to watch or listen to the entirety of every Florida game. That game convinced me, more than anything else, that I'm a Florida Gators fan for life, and that this school, this team, this fan base, all of it comes first among the many rooting interests I have in sports. It was a loss, and it was in an underwhelming season, and it involved a freshman kicker from Florida with a terrific name for a sports villain killing my Gators with the sort of impudent disregard for how things should go in The Swamp, but it gave me an abiding faith in the value of being a Florida fan. Nights like those made the night I spent honking out various bits of Gators fight songs and wandering up and down University as seniors yelled "Four and a Heisman!" a lot sweeter. In the end, it was worth it.
I say this grudgingly: thank you, Wes Byrum. You almost completely ruined one night of my life, and at least partially ruined one I spent with a girl I loved. (I find it fitting that Byrum's birthday and my anniversary with that ex are the same day.)
But that relationship came and went, Wes, and you didn't kill my passion for Florida football. Not nearly.
And, of course, that's why I hate you, too.