I am a Seminole! We are Florida State!

I say that proud and strong. So it is with some mixed emotions that I write about the choice of Urban Meyer to step down as coach of our biggest interstate rival, the Florida Gators. You might think that because I am a proud Seminole in every sense, that I would be happy to hear this news and there is definitely a part of me that isn’t disappointed that our new head coach will not have to face a Meyer-led team next November. However, to fully understand my feelings about this rivalry and today’s news, you should first know a few things about me.

I am a Florida native. Born and bred in the Sunshine State in a time where even as a working young adult in my early 20’s, people would ask me where I was from, I would reply Florida, and they would look at me with questions in their eyes. “You were born here?”, many would reply in disbelief. As if in the 1970’s, no one was really ever born in Florida. We all just came here from someplace else and apparently went back there to have babies. “Yes, I was born here.” “Hhhmmm…. a native!” (Then, because I worked in retail an many of these conversations happened during the fall and winter months with those we affectionately call Snowbirds)… “Honey, this nice young lady was born here! A real Florida native!” (Which I was always amazed wasn’t followed by something like… “And we aren’t even at Disney World or the zoo. She’s a real live girl!”)

So yes, I am a born and raised, Florida native who loved growing up near the beach and all the things that make Florida special, but I’ll get back to that on another post.

My high school career was spent at Manatee High School in Bradenton, FL. Just about an hour south of Tampa Bay on the Gulf Coast, during my time there from 86-90, we had pretty much the best high school football team around. Years after I graduated, and even after graduating college, I would on occasion meet people who would find out I was from Florida and ask me where I went to high school. “Manatee”, I would say. That would inevitably be followed by a long pause and then something like “Oh, you guys beat us in football every year.” Yes we did.

So on to college. Many of my friends and peers chose to go to Florida colleges. I mean after all, we are from the state that has Florida State, the University of Florida and the University of Miami. Pretty impressive schools in the South. Especially for kids who pretty much lived and breathed football on the weekends. And off we went. Some to FSU, some to UF, some to Miami and of course, some chose other schools too and left the great state of Florida.

Since the year I entered college, Florida State, my chosen school, has won two national championships and 12 ACC championships. In addition, they have the longest running bowl history in college football with 37 consecutive bowl games. Meanwhile, the University of Florida has won three national titles, eight SEC championships since 1990. They have also made 35 bowl appearances over the years. Not to mention that the University of Miami has won two national titles and nine conference championships in the same time period. Needless to say, records we as alumni or fans could all be proud of.

Which brings me to today, December 26, 2009. Urban Meyer has just announced that he will step down as head coach of the Gators. Less than one month ago, on December 1st, Bobby Bowden announced his retirement as head coach of the Seminoles after 34 seasons. Two coaching legends ending their careers within a month. Astounding. While I think no one was really surprised that Bobby’s time had finally come, though many held out hope for just one more season, Urban Meyer’s announcement was indeed a surprise. Sports Illustrated broke the news that he has been dealing with a non-life threatening arachnoid cyst since 1998, which causes headaches, especially when under stress.

So today as I read through all of the status updates that my friends and family have posted about this announcement on Facebook, I just have this to say. Shame on many of you. Whether a Seminole or a Gator, shouldn’t we really just be proud of our respective coaches? One a legend who has built a dynasty and had many successful seasons over his tenure as arguably one of the greatest coaches in college football and the other who has become a coaching legend in a very short time, not only winning national championships and conference titles but also legions of fans and supporters?

I love to smack-talk with the best of them. It’s part of what makes college football rivalries so much fun but I read the name calling and insults with a bit of disbelief. In a state that most of us came from and chose one of these schools with excitement and optimism for the future, regardless of who you support, be happy that they represent OUR state. Wear you school colors, be proud that these legends call Florida home and quit fighting already.

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