But the difference between that and most rivalries — because, come on: most rival programs that compete against each other every year do not “like” each other — for the last few years has been a seeming lack of respect to go with it.
That all started with the postponement and later move of the 2016 game between the two teams thanks to Hurricane Matthew. Florida officials tried their best to play the game in Gainesville as scheduled until that was no longer tenable, leading LSU officials to play hardball about the rescheduling of the game and essentially stealing a home game from the Gators that fall — with the recriminations along the way including allegations that one or more of the schools’ athletic directors were liars and that Florida was “scared” to play the game as scheduled.
These allegations were always at least a little overblown on both sides — with distance, I think it’s fair to note that Jeremy Foley and Joe Alleva both fought hard for their preferred outcome, but that Alleva was better able to leverage the situation to his and LSU’s advantage then, which is essentially the same conclusion I came up with back then — but the bad feelings that resulted from them were genuine, especially for Jim McElwain, whose post-game comment that “they got what they deserved” has left LSU fans sore since, despite it being directed as much or more at the morons who suggested Florida was “ducking” LSU than the LSU officials who did what they had to do with the situation presented to them.
But Foley is no longer Florida’s AD, and McElwain no longer Florida’s coach; many of the Gators who sang “Bitch, I’m From Louisiana” in the visiting locker room on their last trip to Baton Rouge are no longer on the team. And while Florida is up 2-1 on the football field since then, the Gators have also gotten big wins over LSU in Omaha and on basketball courts since. Mostly, to my eye, this rivalry is now being sustained by LSU frustrations with that state of affairs — perhaps, this week, stoked by Ed Orgeron seemingly encouraging his players to let the hate flow.
And, honestly? I don’t like this very much.
It’s okay for Florida to not like LSU, and for LSU to not like Florida. Both programs have their share of success over the other, and wins both as behemoths scoring beatdowns and nettlesome underdogs staging upsets. Some of those wins have been especially satisfying; some of the losses have been utterly dumbfounding. It’s a weird, wild series — and has been — but it doesn’t need to be one with bad feelings in the fan bases.
So Florida players had a cat skeleton. So LSU’s band played over Florida’s Tom Petty tribute. So Burrito Bros. is no longer anything but a spice-and-sauce-by-mail company.
At some point, these memories are going to be memories, fading in importance and in tartness. At no point are Florida and LSU going to stop playing annual football games, unless the SEC decides that it actually wants fewer golden geese laying golden eggs.
So we’re stuck with this rivalry. But I’d like to not be stuck with the testiness.
I’d like to have the jokes about moving every Florida sporting event to Baton Rouge be funny, rather than embittered. I’d like Florida fans to maybe not reference one of the greatest tragedies in American history as trash talk fodder. I’d like to eventually feel okay tailgating and joking with the fine folks at And The Valley Shook, on the off chance I actually get a chance to tailgate. (Hell, maybe PodKATT will unblock me and the AA account on Twitter!)
I miss what Florida-LSU was when it was weird and wild — and not war.
War is hell. Let’s have fun — and a little respect — instead?