For those of you who sneer about Georgia traveling to Jacksonville every year to play its annual rivalry game against Florida, I suggest you read this excellent tribute by Joe Vitale at CFN.
The SEC border clash between the Georgia Bulldogs and Florida Gators is one of the great spectacles in all of sports. Pulling out of Saint Simons Island and Jekyll Island, the Bulldog faithful head south down I-95 towards River City. Driving down US Route 1, car loads of Georgia fans cross the St. John’s River over the Hart Bridge, with its green girders reminiscent of the old Gator Bowl. Reaching the crest of the bridge, the red and black and blue and orange clad fans come into view. RVs as far as the eye can see, school flags flying in the breeze, tents dotting the landscape, thousands of people tailgating, music blasting and the mesquite aroma of countless BBQs create the most festive atmosphere in college football.
Not only for the fans of both schools, but the atmosphere is electric for the players. They are amazed by the size of the crowds around the stadium. Including Sanford Stadium and Florida’s Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, most college campus stadiums are situated in compact spaces and have a limited amount of open space. EverBank Stadium is surrounded by open fields and large parking lots, so the players are witnessing many more fans congregated in one spot than they are usually accustomed.
“I remember coming over the bridge and seeing tailgates set up everywhere, people walking around, and the festivities going on,” former Georgia center Ben Jones once said. “I’m like, ‘Wow! It’s 12 o’clock in the afternoon. How long have they been out here doing this?”
Ben, if they’re doing it right, at least since the sun came up.
The series dates to 1904, but Florida doesn’t count that first game, as it occurred before the modern establishment of the university by the Florida legislature in 1905. The first game was played in Macon between Georgia and the Florida Agriculture College, one of four predecessor colleges of Florida, based in Lake City.
However, it shouldn’t be Georgia’s fault that a majority of Floridians remained uneducated for 120 years after the establishment of the University of Georgia. Legendary Georgia sports historian Dan Magill summed it up best when he so eloquently stated, “That’s where Florida was back then. We can’t help it if they got run out of Lake City.”
It’s time for Georgia to do a little more running out this year. Get after their asses, boys.