Happy Fourth of July, Gator Nation. Again, we re-run one of the most American pictures of a Gator ever: Dominique Easley, as intense as can be, with the Stars and Stripes in hand before Florida's game against UAB on September 10, 2011.
It's a brilliant picture. Easley was one of the Gators brandishing a flag on the day before the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks on America because of his father, David, who served in the Iraq War (along with his older brother, David Jr.), and no one could ever match his intensity. The result is about as fiercely American as can be.
And that ferocity is sort of at the heart of this holiday, which this year marks the 239th anniversary of a bunch of people deciding the crown didn't truly fit. America has flaws and issues, and has had them since before ever declaring independence — but America declaring independence from the British Empire remains one of the most radical things a nation has done in human history. It's still cool to be proud of that spirit.
Ask a six-year-old what she likes about the Fourth of July, though, and the answer might be swimming. Maybe it's the picnic her family has. Most likely, it's fireworks.
So Florida should have a fireworks show in The Swamp on the Fourth of July.
We know the UAA can fire off fireworks at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, because it made fireworks after touchdowns a central part of its pitch to get fans to come out in 2014. (Which, uh, whoops?) We know Florida's amenable to and capable of staging events in The Swamp during the summer, as it did by showing Remember the Titans on one of the stadium's video boards this May. And there's no question that Florida should be making efforts to give locals who are and aren't Gators fans reasons to have a fondess for the program's stadium, especially young ones.
There's no better place in Gainesville for a fireworks show, either, except maybe for Paynes Prairie, and that would defeat the purpose of going to Paynes Prairie. And Florida held an annual fireworks show on Flavet Field on Friday night; it's not as if there isn't know-how and manpower on hand to move that a quarter of a mile northeast.
The one major drawback is the potential for wear on the field in The Swamp as Florida moves into the part of its summer in which its field has to to be in tip-top shape for the program's annual Friday Night Lights camp for high schoolers. But the solution to that potential problem is simple: Have any performing band play in the stands, not on the field, and keep the marching to a minimum. Surely, someone could figure out a way to make this a fun event with minimal stress on the facility.
And a new generation of Gators (and Gators fans) to be could get an awesome memory of The Swamp to cherish every year. Letting Gator Nation celebrate the greater nation on the Fourth of July on hallowed ground for the Gainesville community is an idea whose time has come, I think.
But until it happens, we can still say what we always will: Happy birthday, America.