Florida vs. Louisiana: On perceptions, and why being there matters

Al Messerschmidt

Will you remember Florida's win over Louisiana fondly? You were probably there. Do you want to forget it forever? You were probably watching on TV and the Internet.

Spencer Hall and I have some different opinions on Florida this year, but his opinion of Florida's win over Louisiana on Saturday is probably the one most different from mine: Instead of writing about the game in his weekly post on Florida, Spencer tells us all about the times he has shit his pants as an adult, which is funny beyond belief, and writes that he did it because "Even though the Gators won, I would rather write about this all day than ever watch Florida's game tape from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette again, for any reason."

I get that. We see things differently depending on our perspectives. But I'm not going to apologize for enjoying the end of that game more than pretty much any other that I've ever seen: There is a fundamental difference between how fans react to a game in person and how fans react to a game when watching it on TV at The Internet, the greatest sports bar in the world.

For example: I think Florida's 2009 season was excruciating, because the weekly grind of headlines about Florida made each week a slog until Saturday, and Steve Addazio's offense left Gators fans muddling through Saturday when it did come.

The only 2009 games I saw in The Swamp were the win over Tennessee, a brutally boring game, and the win over Florida State, which was a win over a bad team; from my living room, I watched Tebow get concussed against Kentucky, watched Florida choke out LSU without an offense, watched Florida nearly get swallowed up by Starkville voodoo, and watched some highly questionable calls give the Gators their win over Arkansas.

One of my best friends, who went to every game and has been going to games forever, thinks I'm crazy for thinking of that season as a painful one.

I was on the in-person side of a big divide between watching and being at a game for one of the first times in my life on Saturday.

The best, most charitable reading of Florida's win over Louisiana I can give:

  • For any team, even a great one, trailing 20-13 in the final two minutes of a college football game and winning 27-20 in regulation is evidence of dark sorcery.
  • Louisiana had some dark sorcery of its own in the form of a couple of suspicious defensive holding penalties that led to 10 points and a crippling missed block by a defensive tackle in protection that led to another touchdown.
  • Florida's offense did what it had to do when it needed to do it, and missed on a few big plays that would have brought the gavel down earlier.
  • Florida's defense stood tough and allowed just 13 points, well in line with how it has played in every other game this season.
  • 60,000 fans got a thrilling end that is easily among the top five finishes ever in The Swamp.

The least charitable reading:

  • Florida's offense is a bumbling mess of missed assignments and moderately talented players triggered by two quarterbacks who haven't gotten coaching commensurate with their talents.
  • Florida's defense got outplayed and pecked to death by a middling offense that found holes.
  • Florida's special teams nearly gave away the game before they saved it.
  • Those 60,000 fans are idiots who stuck around hoping against hope, and got lucky, while the rest of the world saved its time and money.

Guess which reading was more popular at The Internet on Saturday?

The Internet — I'm talking about the Internet and not the fictional bar now — is a haven for diversity of opinion, but it's also got spaces that foster groupthink, and one of them is unquestionably the college football realm, and many of the subrealms within it. Spencer's done an incredible thing in building EDSBS into a massive cacophony of irreverent voices that knows the teams and the players and the stories of college football cold, but even wielding that power of his platform as benevolently as he does has repercussions.

Spencer's the Internet's loudest Gators fan voice, and should be, but he's a Florida alum who lives in Atlanta and comes down when he can, and he's got a ton of other responsibilities beyond following this team every day. His perception of this team is different from mine based on our differences in age, the difference between being a student and an alum, and the difference between living in Gainesville and not living in Gainesville even before we get to philosophical differences. And his platform's bigger because he's been doing this longer and better than I have: He was the first to pierce the veil on the bullshit-spewing that is the traditional sports media industry when it came to college football (how I write about sports is informed by how he'd done it before), and .

He's gritted his teeth through much of the Muschamp Era so far; I've been smiling about Muschamp's Gators' grit. He sees missed passes and close wins; I see how hard the defense works to keep every game close despite the backfiring offense. He was aware and alive for all of Spurrier's heyday, and there for some of it; I fell asleep during the 1996 season's title game because I was six years old and not good at staying up all night.

His megaphone's bigger, and his words are usually prettier, and his jokes are almost always funnier. But there's no value judgment to be done how we feel, as both of our perspectives about Saturday are valid because all perspectives are valid when it comes to subjectivity. And feeling how you feel about your team is almost pure subjectivity.

Spencer thinks Saturday was pretty shitty, not even worth watching again. I think it was defined by the greatest "Holy shit!" moment I have seen in person as a sports fan, and will think of it as the Shock Block for years to come. His view is the majority view. Mine is the minority dissent.

We're both right and we're both wrong.

And I think Saturday's win is destined to be a game a small segment of the Florida fan base remembers forever as a thrill while the rest of it laments or forgets it.

So I'm curious: How'd you see the game? Which side of the divide are you on?

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