I am trying to write this as an observation not from a rival fan but that of a casual observer of UF football. I admit from the start that I am a long time Nole fan and that I watch many UF games in hopes of seeing them lose. I was raised in Jax, Fl, but have for the last 15 years or so been living in Louisville, Ky. Most football games that I watch are viewed with fans that have no allegiance towards FSU or UF football. In fact, most of these parties that I view with are more College Basketball fans than anything. My goal is to try and write this from their point of view which Ive been observing for a few years now.
The University of Florida sports program, namely the football program and to the lesser basketball also, has reached a point that they are no longer simply a sports team representing their schools; but instead are representatives of a fanbase, or a group that seems to live or die based off their performance. This group no longer reacts as a normal fan base but instead reacts as if the fate of their whole world rests upon their sports team.
This group behaves with an air of superiority about them. They look down on all other teams and their connected fans and how those teams act is seen as juvenile and childish. I dont want to use the word cult to describe anything like this, but I would relate this to a religious group or gathering. I am a Christian and at times, Christians can look down on others while turning a blind eye to their own sins.
The previous paragraphs may be to the extreme, but just take a look back at the last 5-6 years of this program. The success of the basketball program helped bring some national attention to the school. The cohesiveness of this group was applauded and people raved about how they played with such emotion and heart. With the hiring of Urban Meyer, the football program quickly followed suit. The team garnered many praises and much attention. The fan base seemed to grow and grow and these fans seemed to be fanatical about their team beyond the usual fan.
I think the first time my friends and I really took notice of this, was in the viewing of the Florida/Auburn football game in 2007. Auburn hit a game-winning field goal with time expiring. To see the look of devastation on the fans faces was... odd. These werent fans just saddened by a loss, these were fans that looked like their lives were turned upside down. This was a regular season game and people were in tears, vividly shaken by the defeat. There was a even a youtube video of a Florida fan going insane after the loss, cursing his TV, etc. It was after this game that I really noticed that the Florida fan base had grown to something more than fans... it was almost like a large family, a like-minded group that's world was the University of Florida. In the following year, my friends have made several comments about the numerous tears and emotion displayed in their victories and defeats.
Flash-forward to this past weekend. Meyer's resignation and now leave of absence turns the sportsworld into a frenzy. The press conference seemed like a cover up of sorts. The program was trumpeted and all was right in the world. Leaving in the shadows the fact that Meyer obviously has some health concerns and that the weight of the program and it's followers was a main contributor. Yet, here we are and Meyer is on his way back to coaching in 2010 and neglecting the fact that his own personal health and the lives of his family could be greatly affected by this... it's an all too familiar story to a lot of those who have family in the Ministry.
My dad has been a pastor now for 30+ years. In that time, he has had several heart and chest issues and though he is a good father, he has not always been there for his family. He's now in his late 50s and his health is not great. The years of the burden that was the church and it's members has taken a huge toll on his life. His health and his family have been affected. But the need of the church was great and he couldnt stop giving his all to it.
The need of the Florida fan base is great and I think Urban feels as if he owes it to this program, to these fans to keep on going. He cant leave his "followers." The burden of the University of Florida football program will take a toll on his life and his families.