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Fair and square: Please stop treating female sports fans like lesser fans

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Being a woman doesn't make me any less of a Florida fan. And it doesn't mean that I should be subject to informal testing.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

It's crazy to think Florida's game against Florida State this Saturday is basically the end of my first Gators football season as a student. So much gets crammed into any one season.

I've collected more orange and blue apparel than I can fit in my closet, learned the shortcuts on campus when it comes to making the trek from Lake Alice tailgates to The Swamp, and continued to chant "move back, you suck" with the rest of the student body, because I'm rebellious like that.

I've learned it truly is a cardinal sin to leave a game early because the game ain't over 'til it's over. I've also learned that a night game in The Swamp is one of the coolest experiences ever, while noon kickoffs are like being thrown into a furnace.

One thing that I haven't learned, though, is how much it hurts to have to prove and re-prove my credentials as a sports fan just because I'm a girl. Andy asked me to think about this and write about my time at the Florida Atlantic game, and so I have a little rant that I think any girl who enjoys watching sports of any kind can relate to.

Just because I usually make the effort to look cute on game days, think a player is attractive, or take a picture or two at games, doesn't mean I don't know what an extra point (or even a touchdown) is. It blows my mind when guys sitting near me at games find it bizarre that I know what is happening on the field below at a game that I paid money to attend.

And yet that happens all the time.

It often starts as "Oh, sweet, you know about sports!" But then it takes a turn for the worse. Some guys — not all; some of y'all are cool about it, and so we bond over the game, like most guys do with all their guy friends — become walking sports encyclopedias, questioning my knowledge on anything they can think of sports-wise.

Do you even know who our quarterback is? (Yes.) Do you know why third down is considered the money down? (Yes.) DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT A THIRD DOWN IS? (...) Do you know how many years McElwain has been at UF? (...really?) Can you name the entire football roster and identify each and every player by just a picture? (No. Can you?) Do you know the difference between offense and defense? (Defense is what you play when I punch you in your face.) Do you know Demarcus Robinson's cousin's favorite ice cream flavor? (Fudge ripple.)

I may not know each and every single thing about football, or who every single recruit in the stands at any given Florida game is, but I can assure you I have a pretty good idea on a lot of it. I'm still learning, though, and always looking to broaden my sports knowledge every day — and, no, the fact that I'm a girl doesn't make that some bizarre phenomenon. Chances are, if you ask a dude about any completely random obscure stat, he may not know right off the bat, either.

But that's not how I and my allegiance get treated. And why do gals and guys have to be split up into separate groups when it comes to being able to watch a game?

Can't we all just cheer, yell, cry, and have heart attacks together as we watch the Gators on the gridiron?

My tickets this season have been in the middle of the sorority and fraternity blocks for the most part, with the exception of lucking out with Champions Club seats with my family (thanks, family!) for the FAU game.

I've found that it's way more important to the guys my age in those blocks to test my sports knowledge than it is for anyone anywhere else I've watched all the home games this season. And maybe this is just a phase. Maybe, as guys "mature" and grow older, they grow out of the territorial, attack-the-girl-because-sports-are-my-domain mindset.

The older guys give me hope.

When I sat in the Champions Club on Saturday, there was a slight change in atmosphere than the rowdy Greek life sections. Everyone got their (delicious, oh my gosh) food from the buffet, found their comfy seats, and watched the game without really conversing with each other. There was still whooping and cheering, but nothing compared to the obnoxious yells and drunken trash talk I am usually immersed in at every other game. And the only "trash" talk I got related to being a girl watching a football game was from my little sister — who told me to go with her to get food instead of watching the game, because "It is just a game."

It was nice to watch a game without being reminded that my gender unavoidably impacts how my love of sports is received.

All I'm really trying to say is this: Guys, it is okay for a girl to watch sports, and in my case, Gator football. I promise.

How about instead of lighting us up with questions about minutiae, you talk to us like we're fellow fans, not female ones. That way, at the end of the third quarter, we can all get along like civilized men and women and sing "We Are the Boys" — because I'm of "the boys," and as square as I am fair — without wanting to punch each other.