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Florida Gators Countdown to Kickoff 2021: The treasure we take is No. 24

Life is what you make it. So is fandom.

Florida v Georgia Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Life is what you make it, the flows are makeshift
I draw this off inspiration, you fake shit

— Pusha T, Re-Up Gang’s “Ultimate Flow”

There is an idea weirdly common in college football fandom — really, in sports fandom as a whole — that the median or mean fan’s experience is what every fan of a certain player or team or sport or concept is experiencing.

It’s wrong, of course. Fandom, like life, is what you make it: You, or I, or anyone else, can choose to feel whatever way we feel about what we’re seeing on the field or court or ice or what have you. You can mourn Tim Tebow’s professional career as “the saddest story ... (you) have ever encountered” or mock it or try to find a happy medium between recognizing the dignity in dogged pursuit of dreams and the folly and futility of tilting at windmills. You can find nothing except ire and irritation in Marco Wilson tossing a shoe and helping a team lose a game, or acknowledge the humor inherent in that being what everyone remembers from a game wackier even than most Florida-LSU contests.

In life and in fandom, almost all things are relative, our experiences and sentiments and ideas filtered through the prisms of our personal perspectives. (For example, take the infamous and immortal line from another rapper who went by a name and an initial: “Elvis was a hero to most, but he never meant shit to me.”)

We — you and I, probably, though not every you reading what I write here — love the Gators. But what we felt after Florida fell to LSU last year or Georgia Southern in 2013 or Alabama in 2009 is obviously not what most Florida State fans or Georgia fans or Miami fans felt. We are all part of our own minorities in the big tent of college football fandom, every team’s following a small tribe part of a much larger nation.

And even within those tribes, there are fractures and factions. There’s a loud but small group of Florida fans that has been baying for the firing of offensive line coach John Hevesy all offseason; there’s a segment that wishes defensive coordinator Todd Grantham had been shown the door last year, too, with some but not total overlap with the first group. But then there are also other fans who don’t pay attention to the minutiae of recruiting or track the percentage of third downs converted against Florida, fans who couldn’t give a hoot about Twitter and have no concept of “Third and Grantham.”

And that’s the thing about having freedom of perspective and belief: All of these viewpoints are valid, to one degree or another, and they’re usually not about things so serious that disagreements should be cause for rancor. Some might stand up to intellectually rigorous examination; some might be irrational but deeply-held, “truths” that only feel that way. Probably, no one’s life is going to be meaningfully diminished by even another person bellowing their beliefs about a football game.

But one of the things I’ve increasingly learned as I do this job and live my life is that extracting as much joy from the experience of being a fan as I can is my optimal use of sports. I try to celebrate and revel in excellence, absurdity, and novelty: I loved chanting “MATT JONES!” “Who?” “MATT JONES!” as a call-and-response cheer with close friends who also enjoyed “Still Tippin’” back in the Aughts, rolled my eyes in mirthful wonderment while in attendance at both of the Will Muschamp-era losses in which Florida held opponents under 100 yards of total offense, dubbed the infinitely talented and immensely frustrating Andre Debose “THAT MOTHERFUCKER” and uttered that on Twitter often enough for his big plays that my dad worried about my prolific profanity.

If your favorite win of the last decade is Florida blocking a punt to beat Louisiana in the final seconds? More power to you. If it was that game in Jacksonville in which Matt Jones — WHO!? MATT JONES — helped trample the Dawgs? That’s a choice I’ll support.

And if you haven’t picked up that the @AlligatorArmy house belief is that Trent Whittemore is the best, most physically gifted wideout to ever play football in the history of the sport, well, you don’t get the show.

Sometimes, in the midst of this whirl that is our world, the best thing to do is pick a perspective and make the most of it — to take things, even trash, and turn them into treasure yourself. That’s what I’ll be doing this fall, as often as I can.

I encourage you to try it, too.