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it’s not easy being a Gator…

Watching the game between the Florida Gators and the Georgia Bulldogs was especially hard yesterday. It’s not easy to see my team beaten by our biggest historical rivals in the SEC for the third year in a row.  It’s not easy to see my team play so poorly in the first half that they were behind by 20 points less than a minute into the second quarter. It’s not easy to see my team lose three games in succession and have four losses when it’s only the beginning of November and we still have FSU to play. It’s not going to be easy to watch that one either. But what was really difficult yesterday was witnessing the utter lack of discipline exhibited by the Florida players and the total disregard by the coaching staff.

I’ve been a Florida Gator for a long time. I was there the year we went 0-10-1. For those of you who don’t speak football, it means we didn’t win any games that season. Our best game was a tie. They don’t have ties any longer. They have overtime now. We lost to the Rice Owls on Homecoming that year. No offense to Rice University; I’m sure it’s a fine institute for higher learning, but a football powerhouse it is not. I’ve also seen the Gators win three national football championships. It was evident from the start that this wasn’t going to be our year. That’s fine. I don’t live and die by football scores. What was evident from the beginning of the season was a lack of sportsmanship in the players, the coaches and the fans.  I’m aware that Gator fans aren’t the only ones who boo the other team when it comes on the field, but just because lots of people do it, doesn’t make it right. It has become more important for a louder majority of the fans to shout boos down to the opposing team than to continue cheering for their own team who is still making its way onto the playing field. Come on, people, it’s tacky, it’s rude, it’s unnecessary. I’ve witnessed several times this season when one of our players was ejected from the game due to too many unsportsmanlike conduct calls. What do the fans do as he heads back to the tunnel? They cheer him. He’s just been thrown out of the game for playing like a bully, and he gets hailed as a hero? Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t get it. The way I see it, if he put that passion into playing the game within the confines of the rulebook, maybe we wouldn’t have so many losses this season.

I’ve seen the coaches get up in the players’ faces when they make a mistake. I’ve certainly seen Will Muschamp, the Florida head coach, show his temper. But, I’ve never seen the players reprimanded for playing like thugs. Yesterday was just too much. I lost track of the number of times that actual fights broke out on the field between the opposing teams. I could look it up, but the actual number of penalties handed out in Saturday’s game just for unsportsmanlike conduct was ridiculous. That game looked more like a street fight than it did a game of discipline and rules and codes of expected behavior. I was embarrassed by my team. I know ; the Georgia Bulldogs didn’t exactly act like gentlemen either, but they aren’t my concern. Maybe, just maybe, if we didn’t have so many penalties, we would have had just a few more points, and that would have made enough of a difference to affect the outcome of the contest.  One thing was perfectly clear yesterday. The Florida Gators are not the Florida Gators of old. There was a saying when I was a student at UF. “A Florida man needs no introduction.” It implied that the upright behavior of a University of Florida student showed his true colors even when he (or she) was not wearing the orange and blue. The attitude that is prevalent with our team and so many of our fans now, we may as well just wear solid black.

The motto now is, “The University of Florida is in Gainesville. The Gator Nation is everywhere.” If that’s true, we live in a world where discipline and sportsmanship are not only unneeded. They’re booed right off the field of play.

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