About four years ago Judd and I made a promise to begin our own football game day tradition. Knowing that we were SEC rivals we decided to go to every Florida vs. Tennessee football game no matter the location. It would be fitting that we begin this tradition during our first year of marriage. This year’s game was scheduled to be in Gainesville at the swamp a week before our first wedding anniversary. It was perfect timing! We bought our tickets in July and invited Judd’s brother to come with us. (He is also a Tennessee fan.) Months, weeks and days passed by quickly and before we knew it it was game day. Our plan was to tailgate with family friends then head to the game.
We got to the stadium an hour before kick-off in order to find our seats. It was a hot day in the swamp-the stadium has earned it’s name! The game started and the crowd was loud. One of my favorite things about sporting events is when the crowd gets really loud. Florida Gators sure know how to cheer on a team! We sat near the Tennessee band and other fans so that Judd and Ryan could also enjoy their team’s cheers. I am pretty sure I heard Rocky Top at least 10 times that day. (Rolls eyes, sighs deeply.)
The game was intense! Tennessee held the lead for most of the game. It was starting to look like it would be a long ride home for me. Tennessee played very well. They took the lead in the second quarter and held onto it tightly through the majority of the game. In the 4th quarter, a Florida miracle occurred: we made an opportunity out of a 4th down and 1 to score a touchdown and tie the game up 27-27. With a field goal that followed my Florida Gators game through with a one-point-lead with 5 minutes to go in the game. I was in shock. Judd and Ryan were in shock. We eagerly watched as Tennessee tried to take advantage of another possession. With 3 seconds remaining, Tennessee was forced to a field goal, their kicker missed. (He was just about close to scoring which would have tied the game.) Gator fans went wild as the clock hit 0:00. Game over. Gators 28, Tennessee 27. A one-point game just like last year.
It was an interesting experience for us. Judd and Ryan were upset at the coaching and to be honest I was convinced Tennessee was going to end their losing streak with us this year. I was in shock. I celebrated with other Gator fans around me kept it to a minimum. I knew Judd would be upset about the loss. The lady who sat behind us tapped me on the shoulder as we were about to leave. She said, “Your husband is incredibly respectful of your choice in team. I can tell he really loves you.” NIGHT MADE. No win or loss could make up for that comment which made me so emotional that I teared up. A week before our first wedding anniversary and I hear a comment like that. I lucked out when it came to my husband. He is been nothing but supportive even if I am a Gator fan. At the start of the fourth quarter, Gator fans come together and sway as the sing “We Are The Boys From Old Florida.” Judd wrapped his arm around my shoulder and swayed with me for it though not singing the song-which was totally okay!
Our new game day tradition is going to continue for many years to come. Next year we plan to head to Neyland stadium in Knoxville, TN to watch our rivalry play out for a second year in person. We are making a vacation of it and will spend a few days up there exploring Judd’s favorite college town. Here’s to a Gator win and a new Mahaney Tradition!