Why I’m a fan of the Florida Gators

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images Welcome to the refreshed Alligator Army.

To celebrate the new look and feel of our sports communities, we’re sharing stories of how and why we became fans of our favorite teams. If you’d like to share your story, head over to the FanPosts to write your own post. Each FanPost will be entered into a drawing to win a $500 Fanatics gift card ( contest rules ). We’re collecting all of the stories here, and featuring the best ones across our network as well.

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I am not a fan of the Florida Gators because of Tim Tebow. Tebow’s great and all, yeah, and he’s probably the primary reason a plurality of Florida fans are Florida fans, having been the greatest — if maybe not the best — player on the field during the Gators’ most dominant stretch of football.

But my love for Florida is older than that.

I am not a fan of the Gators because of Joakim Noah or Teddy Dupay, two guys I admired and aspired to be at different stages of my life. Noah was the thoughtful, skeptical college student I wanted to be around the time he was rampaging through the post for the Gators; Dupay was the squirrelly, irrepressible shooter I loved to imitate on the backyard grass that substituted for a blacktop around the turn of the century.

But my love for Florida is older than that, too.

It’s older, even, than Danny Wuerffel responding to hitting through the echo of the whistle by authoring the triumph that will echo loudest in the history of a rivalry the fans of the Sunshine State’s most popular football programs are desperate to dominate.

It’s because I got into sports when I was five, and I was five in 1995, and the Gators were good — great, really — at football then. It’s because I would be up early for school every morning, and started reading the sports pages of the Orlando Sentinel daily and watching SportsCenter almost as often then, falling for the Gators and Atlanta Braves and Green Bay Packers and Orlando Magic because they were all prominent and potent in 1995.

I was a bandwagoner then, of course — but we who are fans all are bandwagoners at least once, whether we jump on the back of the wagon, or are placed on it by parents, or amble up onto it as children who would have no use for the word “bandwagon” in the first place.

(An aside: I was one of those latter kids. Neither of my parents cared so much about college sports in the 1990s, and both thought Bobby Bowden was a little less of a jerk than Steve Spurrier back then, to the point that they bought me a never-worn, long-forgotten FSU hat as a present at one juncture.

Now my mom watches essentially every Florida football and men’s basketball game — she loves Chris Chiozza like every mom does, naturally — because of my […]