Thursday, December 9, 2010

There's no running from the Gator Nation

Like Coach Urban Meyer, I've run away from the Gator Nation before. When I graduated the University of Florida with a Journalism degree in December of 1989 I jumped in my VW bug and zoomed as fast as I could south on I-75 away from Gainesville. I told myself I needed a break from the insanity that revolved around the college town - the broken hearts and dreams of my well-intentioned, yet naive youth. The years of working hard, yet being torn down creatively.

Of course, I wasn't the focus of intense pride or anger (or being paid $4 million), like football Coach Meyer, but the chaos that revolved around being part of the Blue and Orange brigade became overwhelming, to put it mildly.

Like Urban, though, my first abandonment of the Gator Nation was short lived. Coach returned after a brief hiatus involving his health and so did I. I had created a newspaper career, yet I made periodic visits to see my then boyfriend who was finishing up a nuclear engineering degree. When my beloved graduated, I vowed that would be it. We would make our way away from the Swamp and create a life of our own sans Albert and Alberta.

"We'll be back someday," my new husband claimed. "Maybe I'll even work there." The thought to me was humorous at best as my beloved had chosen a career in nuclear power. The nearest plant to Gainesville was Crystal River, FL. Destiny can be tricky, indeed and we ended up back in Gainesville two years ago for a job here at the University of Florida.

So, what does this have to do with Urban's latest abandonment as head coach? He says he needs time with family and to pursue other interests. This all sounds terribly rehearsed and not at all the real reason. As human beings we're always searching and striving for balance in our lives, yet not quitting on the things we love. But his reasons are his business, not mine.

My point is, no matter how much you quit the Gators one can never really leave the Gator Nation fold if you love it with your whole heart. Gators suck you back in with pride and an ability to cajole (just as my husband did oh so many years ago). The old ball coach, Steve Spurrier, said it right when he coined the phrase, "The Swamp -where only Gators come out alive."

We're all a little battered and bruised, but that's what being a REAL Gator is about. It's not easy. It's damn hard. If Coach Meyer is gone for good this time, well, that just shows he never truly bled orange and blue.

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