After reading about it over and over and over again, it’s finally time I pick up my proverbial pen and add my thoughts to George O’Leary’s plea to college football fans to join UCF’s cheering section.
Those of you new to this site see “The Bull Gator” and probably think of the Florida boosters well known throughout the state. Those of you that have been around for a while know that’s only part of the tribute. Back in 2008 when I started the site, the name came easily to me. I attended both Florida and USF, have had football season tickets at different times for both the Gators and Bulls, and cheer for both teams. I am, by all accounts, a Bull Gator. Although I suppose O’Leary would refer to me as a Gator-Bull because as I’ve stated numerous times before, I’ve had a fling with the Bulls for quite some time, but I’m married to the Gators. (Side Note: Let’s not get into this again; the name is remaining what it was the day this site came to life.)
I’ve never seen anything wrong with this. Some others do – you may remember a certain commenter who resurfaces about once a year to tell me what a disgrace this site is to the University of Florida (he’s a treat!) – but for the most part many understand. Many are actually in the same boat. They have their one true love and they have their mistress. They are a diehard fan of one program and enjoy seeing the other do well.
For me, the USF connection is there for many reasons. I attended USF and watched the Bulls program grow from an idea to the team you will see take the field at Notre Dame in a few weeks – and yes, I’ll be there. For most of my life, I have lived within 15 miles of USF. I’m sure O’Leary would classify them as my “hometown” team. I have had season tickets in the past and while I don’t anymore, I still attend between two and four home games each season. I have cheered for the Bulls in every game they have played except one and even in that instance I was accompanied to that game by six USF fans including Mrs. TBG who sat next to me in the sweltering Florida heat cheering on the Bulls. 50 years from now, I’ll still be a Gator and bleed orange and blue, but I’ll be tuning in to every Bulls game to see how the green and gold are doing.
Not long ago, I halted my coverage of USF on this site
. It had everything to do with refocusing my efforts and nothing to do with dropping the Bulls from my radar. Since I started this site, other USF blogs have surfaced and they are among my daily reads. Just because I don’t write about the Bulls anymore doesn’t mean I don’t have a special place reserved for them.
All of that said, I support the idea of a “Gator-Knight” in theory, but O’Leary has gone about it in the wrong way. I became a Bull Gator because of the connections I had to both programs. I wasn’t told or asked to be one. No one openly pleaded with me to cheer for USF when I wasn’t doing so for Florida. No one ever said “hey, the Gators aren’t playing this weekend, why don’t you put on a green shirt and head down to Ray Jay?” It didn’t happen and it never had to. Again, connections made me a Bull Gator.
What O’Leary is doing is asking, almost desperately. He thinks he is asking you to route for your hometown team and in some ways he is, but he’s also pleading with you to wake up one day and magically transform into a hybrid fan. Is there anyone out there who thinks “this guy has a point, let me print out the Knights’ schedule?” No, because it can’t be forced. There will be those that go to UCF games because they love the team and there will be those that go because they love college football, but who is actively seeking another program to cheer for? Plenty cheer for one, some of us cheer for two, but none of us are trying to find our next team. They find us. They aren’t forced upon us and we definitely don’t pick them because “why not?”
True college football fans are a different breed because they have a connection to the program they support. That connection lies deeper than “my team isn’t playing today, so let’s go Knights!” For me, I cheer for USF for reasons stated here and others not. The Bulls were never picked as a backup. To me, there is no such thing to a college football fan. A diehard Seminole also might cheer for the Bulldogs because of a connection. A Cane may watch every Longhorn game because of a connection. A Gator may start a site and give the occasional shout out to the Bulls because of a connection. No one will pick a backup because of a coach’s misguided pleas.
O’Leary comes across as someone asking for support (and some could even say money) desperately. It may not be what he intended to do, but go ahead and look around and see how most are taking it.