I'm fascinated by the concept of fandom. Or fanhood. Or Fanthropology, which is the core of the Hyundai Fanthropology Sweepstakes that is giving y'all a chance to win a big, big prize: Two tickets to the 2012 college football game of your choice, including bowl games, and an expenses-paid trip to see it.
Most of y'all have been around here long enough to know that my stock answer for why I root for the Gators (or the Packers, or the Braves) is that I started following sports when I was six, in 1996. But that's not totally accurate, because I know I was watching things in 1995, or at least early 1996: I vaguely remember seeing replays of the 1996 Fiesta Bowl, I know I saw Green Bay beat Atlanta and lose to Dallas in the 1995 NFL playoffs, and I remember that the Braves beat the Indians.
But while I remember those seasons and games pretty well, I don't consider that the formative period of my rooting allegiances. That came later.
In 1997, I was as frustrated as a seven-year-old gets while watching sports by the Marlins, who beat the Braves in a series
Eric Gregg stole they won because of Livan Hernandez. My grandmother got me a Marlins shirt for some reason; I never wore it, and I'm pretty sure it's still in my parents' garage.
Later that year, in second grade, I was happy when Florida beat Florida State, allowing me to smile at my FSU-educated teachers. In 1998, my mom and dad got me a Florida State hat for some reason. I never wore it, and I'm pretty sure it's covered in dust somewhere in my childhood home.
In 1999, I was outraged, truly outraged, that Peter Warrick was only going to be suspended for a couple of games for the infamous Dillard's heist ... partly because I knew Florida wasn't going to beat FSU if Warrick was eligible for that game. (30-23 kinda supports that thought.) I also remember Casey Calvary's shot to beat Florida. Screw you, Gonzaga.
In 2000, Florida lost to Michigan State in the final Citrus Bowl. Then, after I got home from school early enough on a Friday to happen upon Mike Miller's runner to beat Butler in the first round, I pretended I was Teddy Dupay in the backyard on a tiny hoop throughout Florida's run in the NCAA Tournament, and was crestfallen when Michigan State felled the Gators in the final. Screw you, Mateen Cleaves.
By then, I knew I was a Gators fan, down to the minutiae: I cared about the Rex Grossman-Brock Berlin quarterback battle, and about the recruiting class of Kwame Brown, James White, and David Lee, and patiently waited for Dallas Baker and Reggie Nelson to make impacts, and loved Adrian Moss' quotes on the road to those two titles. And I paid attention to the smaller sports, too, and cultivated a level of respect for Jeremy Foley that I usually only afford to elected officials.
I didn't come to Florida because of the Gators, per se, but they played a part, with my admissions essay definitely being framed around the idea that I could tell the stories of the players on the sideline and contribute to the Gator Nation that way. And now my job is virtually indivisible from my rooting interest: I get paid real American money to read and write and talk about and follow the team I care about more than any other. My avocation has become my vocation.
I think my story's atypical, and sort of boring when written out like that, but I know many, many, many people who tie memories of people, times, and places to sports. I want to hear yours, and I want to help you get rewarded for telling them.
So here's what you're going to do:
- Below this post, leave one original comment exemplifying your fandom. Replies aren't going to count for the contest, but there's a much better chance that I'll pick you if you're having this conversation about loving the Gators with other fans; if you leave multiple original comments, I'm going to only consider your first. For best results, try answering one or more of these questions: Why are you a Gators fan? How do you root for Florida? Do you have any bizarre superstitions? Do you have any specific memories about the Gators? What's the craziest story of your devotion?
- I'll go through those comments by the end of the weekend and select one finalist, then announce who it is on Monday.
- That finalist and I are going to have an email conversation next week about the Gators -- all about the Gators, really -- and we're going to put together a post based on that conversation that some of the best and brightest of SB Nation will judge.
- And if (or when) that conversation gets chosen as the best on the network, we're gonna get you hooked up with tickets to the college football game of your choice, courtesy of Hyundai.
There are some rules and such below in the linked terms and conditions of the contest, but I've said enough; y'all can get to it now, and leave the sort of comments that make all of our hearts swell.
Why do you love the Gators? Let the world know, and win.
By commenting below, you are subject to and accept the terms and conditions of the Hyundai Fanthropology Sweepstakes.