Thursday, January 15, 2009

It's Great To Be A Florida Gator!

Boy, are we missing Florida these days. As I write this, I'm watching the snow fall outside and it is currently 17 degrees, although Achilles and I are bundled up in blankets on the couch so we're pretty oblivious to that. My poor husband, however, is probably painfully aware of the cold temperatures because he walked to work this morning, as he does every morning. It is supposed to get all the way up to 24 degrees today, but tomorrow the predicted high is 13 degrees. That's just not very many degrees. And it's a little hard to stomach when you think that a week ago, we were at the beach and enjoying Florida sunshine. As I mentioned in my last post, I now understand the mentality of those snowbirds I used to hate while we still lived in Florida - now, a January through March Florida vacation sounds like a great idea. Now that the Christmas decorations are down, the snow and cold are not so enjoyable. But, we brought this on ourselves, so we will just have to deal!

Anyway, back to business! Time to talk about the NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME! Are you ready?

We left my dad's house around 7:30 a.m. the day of the game to make the drive to Miami. We were all Gator-ed up (even more so than we would be for the game), and were armed with a CD of Gator music that Heather gave us for Christmas. The drive went smoothly, and the CD got us pumped up! Plus, we finally learned all the words to the fight song! That came in handy later in the evening.

Ready to leave my dad's house! I'm sporting my new Gators pajama pants, courtesy of Wal-Mart.

Our driver!

We got to Miami around 11:30 a.m. We drove right past the stadium on our way in, which got us even more excited! We made our way to Eric's friend Eric's (we'll call him Eric P.) apartment, where we would be spending the night. Eric P. is currently in St. Pete with family, so his apartment was unoccupied and he was kind enough to let us crash there. We got in and finished getting ready for the game, then went out in search of lunch. In doing so, we encountered a gas station cashier who did not speak any English whatsoever (not even "$18 on pump 6"), and lots of Burger Kings. We finally settled on a Taco Bell, then continued on to the stadium!

The stadium, as seen from the car

Showing off some of the details of my Gator attire: my spririt fingers, if you will.

I also had spirited feet! Don't you just love the Gator shoes???

We arrived at the stadium, paid the exorbitant parking fee, parked the car, and headed out to start the fun. The first thing we did was track down some old friends of mine that I used to work with at Calico Jack's in Gainesville. We miraculously found them amongst the tailgating, and visited with them for a bit. They were recently married, and used the same DJ we did for our wedding based on our recommendation! So we talked weddings and what's new in life for a bit before Eric and I headed back out on our own to explore some more. I should mention that the parking lot was a sea of Orange and Blue, just like a home game for the Gators. Judging solely from the parking lot turnout, it was probably 90% Gator fans and 10% Sooners. Wow.

The stadium

With my husband amongst the tailgating fun

With my friend Erin

Eric practicing his Gator chomp!

We wandered around for a bit, and stopped at a souvenir stand to get Eric some Gator beads. They had a t-shirt that I wanted but it was $45!!! Highway robbery, I tell ya. Eventually our wandering led us to the ESPN College Gameday set, something we are familiar with from our college days. Gameday would sometimes come to UF before a big game, and if we were feeling ambitious, we'd get up early (early in college standards, mind you, so like, 9 or 10:00) and go out to where they were broadcasting from and stand behind the stage to try to get on TV. There's always lots of craziness and chanting and sign-waving, so it's a good time. In fact, here's a picture of us at College Gameday before the 2008 UF v. FSU game:

Mr. and Mrs. W., circa 2003. Ah, college days.

This time, we decided that instead of jumping around behind the stage to try to get some TV face time, we would stay in front of the set to try to get a good look at the commentators. We were so close to the set, and did we ever get a good look! Desmond Howard, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit walked right in front of us, and I even got a picture with Kirk! He's known as the good-looking one, and he is even better looking in person. Yum. All the ladies were freaking out!

The Gameday set

Eric at College Gameday

Desmond Howard. I love how it looks like he's wearing a full suit on TV, but really he has jeans on under the desk!

Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso on the set (they were actually wearing full suits)

Lee Corso doing the Gator Chomp!

Me with Kirk Herbstreit! Isn't he a cutie?

After spending some time at Gameday, we decided to move on. From there we just wandered around the parking lot a bit more and took in all the tailgating fun.

Eric "catching a pass" from Tim Tebow

For some reason, Gators have a reputation for wearing jean shorts, or "jorts," if you will. I think Georgia fans started it. I'm not really sure why, but it has apparently caught on. Come on Gators, get your life together! Let's kill this stereotype.

Think the owner of this car is a Gator fan?

We finally decided to pay to get into the official tailgating tent, to see what was happening in there. And in there we discovered all the Oklahoma fans! There were many more Sooners in there than in the parking lot, which makes sense if you think about it. Florida people could drive to the game, and therefore tailgate in their cars in the parking lot, but Sooners flew down and didn't have as many pre-party options. They were still outnumbered, but they were much better represented in the tailgate tent. I'd say overall the proportion was 70% Gators and 30% Sooners.

In the tent they had all kinds of things going on. Food and drink to buy, the bands performed, football stars signing autographs, photo booths, a Ferris wheel, games (including a Rock Band station!), and even a tent where you could take your picture with the National Championship trophy! So we killed a fair amount of time in the tailgate tent.

The tailgate tent

With the trophy!

Before we knew it, it was time to head into the stadium so we could get some food and find our seats in time to see all the pre-game happenings.

Stadium at night - it's almost game time!

Inside the stadium!

Our seats were in the VERY TOP ROW of the stadium. But, we still had a great view and we were on the corner of the Florida end zone, so it was just fine. It was just a pretty good hike up to our seats!

Waaay up in our seats. See the top of the stadium behind me?
I was also trying to show off my orange and blue glow stick bracelets, but they didn't come out too well.

Our view of the field from our seats. See? Not too bad at all!

Up in our section, ready for the game!

We watched all the pre-game warm-up stuff, the band performances, and the National Anthem (complete with a poorly-timed flyover).

The Gators before the game

Florida band pre-game show: they're making the state of Florida! (upside down)

Oklahoma band

The National Anthem

And was time for the teams to take the field! They played the same intro that they play in the Swamp for the Gators, which includes menacing footage of alligators in their natural habitat set to the Jaws theme, followed by the warning: "The Swamp...only Gators get out alive!" as the Gators run onto the field. It's so awesome. It gets us Gators so pumped up every time! Then, you know, the Sooners took the field too.


Heeeeeeeeeeeere come the Gators!

The Sooner Schooner leading Oklahoma onto the field

And then it was time for the coin toss and the kick-off, and the game was underway! We have no pictures from the first half. It was way too intense. The Gators scored first, but the Sooners tied it immediately after and went into halftime tied at 7-7. Twice the Sooners were poised to score, but the Florida defense held them off. As you may remember me mentioning in the past, I do not handle close games well. I tend to cover my eyes (or at least the lower half of my face) and get very tense. This is how I watched the majority of this game:

Eric, however, took a louder approach. Well, I helped with the yelling while the Sooners were on offense, but Eric was much louder throughout and ended up losing his voice!

It was just so intense. I mean, close games are always tough, but we felt like we had so much riding on this one. The money we spent to get there, the time, the hours in the car, everything. I kept thinking about all the fun things we did all day and the great pictures we took, knowing that if the Gators lost, all of that would be tainted. I wouldn't want to look back at those pictures, because the whole day would be ruined. So much pressure!

Halftime was a somewhat welcome break from the stress, although not entirely because we knew that when the second half began, it would be as if the first half didn't count for anything. Tie game. Yikes. But, I tried to relax and enjoy the halftime show.

Florida band halftime show. Band members are dancing with the Dazzlers!

More halftime show

Ah, the second half. The Gators scored again, and then blocked an Oklahoma field goal to keep the score 14-7. However, the Sooners scored again, tying it back up at 14-14. The Gators answered with a field goal with just under 11 minutes left in the game. The Sooners got the ball back and were driving down the field, but an incredible interception by Gator Ahmad Black put a stop to that! The Gators got themselves back into the red zone, but a couple of false start penalties kept pushing them back. However, they would not be deterred, and largely through Tebow's will they scored again - with a JUMP PASS! My favorite! It was incredible, and the crowd went absolutely nuts. 24-14 Gators with just over 3 minutes left in the game!

3rd down and 6 yards to go in the 4th quarter

Huddling up before 1st down and goal

Taking position for the JUMP PASS!

Gator Nation Celebration! If only this picture could convey the NOISE at this moment.

The Sooners got the ball back, but the Gators held them and nothing came of it. Then the Gators got the ball back, and had nothing left to do except run the clock out! Everyone was so pumped. Tebow even got his first unsportsmanlike penalty for chomping in the face of an Oklahoma player who had intentionally pulled on Gator Percy Harvin's ankle, the same ankle that had kept him out of the SEC Championship game because of a sprain. Look at that, Mr. Tebow may not be totally perfect! But the Gator Nation ate it up with a spoon, and the Sooner fans began to clear out.

I would like to mention that the Oklahoma fans were very classy about the whole thing. We know a few people from Oklahoma, and every Oklahoman we've ever met has been just the nicest person. The fans at this game did not do anything to alter that opinion. I was even sitting next to some Sooners, and as they left the game they congratulated us on the win and wished us safe travels.

And so the clock ran down, Urban Meyer got the Gatorade, and the celebration erupted on the field! Such a great feeling. Everything we went through to get ourselves to this game was worth it, and it was amazing! GATORS ARE NATIONAL CHAMPS!

VIDEO: The final seconds of the game!


Celebration on the field

As Eric once said, "Any statement about Florida is an understatement."

It's great to be a Florida Gator!

I nearly broke my ankle to get this picture. I had to climb down to the row in front of our seats and didn't realize that my beer had spilled on the ground below my feet, making my adorable Gator shoes very slippery. As I was stepping on the seat in front of me, my foot slipped and the seat folded back up with my foot stuck in it! I ended up with a real pretty bruise on my ankle. So, please fully appreciate this picture so that my pain was worth it.

National Champs!

Final score: 24-14 Gators!

Gators on stage to receive the trophy

Urban Meyer and the trophy


We watched the celebration from our nosebleed neck of the woods for a bit, then started to make our way down towards the field to take it in from a closer point of view. We got to see the players and press milling about on the field and got some pictures of all that, before finally making our way out of the stadium, accompanied by the band and lots of celebration!

Brandon James

Ahmad Black, the one who made that great interception in the fourth quarter

Carlos Dunlap, Defensive MVP

Eric down by the field

VIDEO: The Florida band leaving the stadium

Outside the stadium, the celebration continued in full force. Most of the people still out there were the fans who did not have tickets to the game, but came out to tailgate all day anyway and watch the game on TV while drinking excessive amounts of beer (and it showed!). It was pretty crazy! We made another quick stop by the College Gameday set for their post-game show, then began our journey back to Eric P.'s apartment. Eric was wired and wanted to drive back to St. Pete that night, but I was much too tired so we just spent the night at the apartment as planned then drove back on Friday.

And that was our National Championship experience! It was so much fun. GO GATORS!

So give a cheer for the Orange and Blue, waving forever. Forever pride of old Florida, may she droop never!
We'll sing a song for the flag today, cheer for the team at play. On to the goal we'll fight our way for Florida!

No comments: