AUBURN, AL - OCTOBER 15: A fan of the Auburn Tigers celebrates after the game against the Florida Gators at Jordan-Hare Stadium on October 15, 2011 in Auburn, Alabama. Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Last year, we tried 50 For 50, and got halfway done before things cropped up. This year, Alligator Army is coming back with 100 For 100, with 100 articles in the 100 days leading up to the first Florida Gators football game of the 2012 season, and will run down storylines, profile players, examine history, and make some predictions, possibly all haphazardly. The only thing we can promise is that each day's entry will bring us all one step closer to "Herrrrrrrrre ... come the Gators!"
And maybe that you'll get a couple of these a day for the next couple of weeks or so.
Florida fans know well that there is a lot of fun to be had in taunting rivals. Seniors sang "Four and a Heisman," something no other school's students could ever cheer, after the Gators' 2008 national title; fans chanted "JUMP PASS" at Tim Tebow and the Florida offense at the end of the 2009 Florida State game, begging for another bit of insult for the Seminoles. And we do our best to remind the rest of the SEC East who has ruled the roost in the divisional era.
But there are right and good ways to go about taunting and teasing your rivals, and bad and wrong ways to do it.
The right and good ones, to my mind, take harmless things and lampoon them. Texas A&M's ludicrous SEC welcome video is one of those harmless things; so is the Texas bookstore's "Call Me Maybe" video. They allow fans to laugh at things that are silly and goofy and indicative of breaks from the ruggedness of football or the innate coolness of your specific rooting interest's passionate fan base.
For example: Teasing Alabama fans for their penchant for claiming more national championships than the Tide have won is just acknowledging that they like claiming national titles; making fun of the eternal storyline about Florida State being back is making fun both of the narrative that demands Florida State be good and the 'Noles inability to actually be good.
But it's easy to cross the line from having fun and being fair to going a little too hard.
The best illustration of that this week is a fake Missouri "Northern Heart, Southern Pride" graphic, mocked up with Confederate flag trappings as a purported we're-joining-the-SEC image. It is, of course, not real, and Missouri's pretty upset that Throw The Flag posted it and is milking it.
If you've been around here for any length of time at all, you can probably guess how I feel about the Confederate flag. (You might not know Steve Spurrier feels the same way, more or less.) But mocking up a Mizzou image with bits of the Stars and Bars is a feeble and off-putting attempt to smear Missouri as either clueless or racist, and it's a shame that the school has to defend itself from some idiot with PhotoShop and a limited understanding of how painful some memories are.
That's definitely crossing the line. Making light of the horrors of Jerry Sandusky in poking fun at Penn State is probably crossing the line. Joking about Tuscaloosa being hit by tornadoes or Tyrone Prothro's tragic broken leg is just mean. And the key is having a sense of humor while realizing that it's often not worth being cruel for a laugh. (I'm not innocent here, either; I've got a thing in the pipeline about Xavier Nixon that addresses that.)
And so the politics of rivalry and humor provide a tricky tightrope to walk, sometimes. Teasing Florida State fans about the plight of the real-life Seminoles is too far for me, because it's piling on a people that were brutally evicted from their homeland; teasing Florida State about using an "Unconquered" uniform scheme and promptly conquering nothing is more fair, and funnier.
Even the jokes based on truth can be tough to make funny. Joking about FSU being a women's college is grounded in fact, but it's never struck me as particularly funny: Is it supposed to be funny because schools for women were inferior schools, or because women are inferior? Isn't FSU still having a literal circus (it's not a clown college, per se) funnier, anyway?
Likewise, you remember all the half-joke, half-barb bits about Florida having arrests by the dozen under Urban Meyer, right? Did those ever make you laugh, or were you sadly, uncomfortably chuckling?
There's no hard and fast rule about what is safe to joke about and what isn't, but I try to keep in mind that the person I'm making fun of could potentially make fun of me someday. That works well for me.
I like jokes, and laughing, and making fun of other schools and other schools' teams. I've got a lot of pride and time invested in being a Gator, and a member of the Gator Nation as both a student and a fan. I don't want us to sacrifice the bits of humanity that make me proud to be in that family for a few jokes.
So I'm pledging to you that I'll be funny and fair, and challenging you to do the same. And if you ever find yourself thinking you can't be both, just wait: Florida State will probably lose to Wake Forest or Tennessee will hire someone worse than Derek Dooley or something before long.