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Archive for the ‘university florida gators hawaii warriors football gainesville swamp’ Category

Once we got to Florida it was immediately clear that we were in Gator Country. For one thing the weather in New York was absolutely fabulous. It wasn’t too hot, it wasn’t too cold. It didn’t rain. We could wear shorts and t-shirts and everything was fine. Not so much in Florida. It was hot and humid. Literally, it felt like we were in a swamp. Even at night it was still hot and humid. There was seemingly no relief from the heat.

But everything got better once Scott Whipple picked us up (his van and his house had air conditioning). It was very nice to reunite with Scott and his family. They used to come to Hope Chapel but moved to Florida about six years ago.

Luckily for us, I saw him at the Sugar Bowl in January and told him we were thinking about going to Florida. He immediately opened up his home to us and even let us use hi s car! So it was a very good deal for us.

The reason we came to Florida was to watch the University of Hawaii Warriors play the University of Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field aka the Swamp! Unfortunately for us the University of Florida was in Gainesville which was about 3 hours away from where we were staying. Then there was the problem of the crowds. Florida has had 117 consecutive sellouts and this one was different. In comparison to Aloha Stadium which holds 50,000 the Swamp holds 90,000 (announced attendance at the game was 90,575!). Then to make matters worse, the stadium is on the UF campus (which is a learning institution first and a sports arena second) so it’s not like there’s a dedicated parking lot just for the game.

We were told to get there by 6:30am, 7:00am at the latest if we wanted to find on campus parking. So if you’re doing the math at home that meant we had to leave at 3:30am! Oh well that was the experience we wanted to have. SEC football at it’s finest. It was the first SEC game that all of us (including Scott and his boys) had ever attended so we were all kind of awestruck. Tickets for these games are very hard to come by (remember the consecutive sellout streak?) so it was a real treat to even be able to go.

Luckily Scott agreed to drive so me, John and his three boys, Ellis, Zach and Shea all got to sleep on the way to the game. We made good time and got there a little early. We were in the parking lot before 6:00am and had our choice of parking stalls. The problem is that Scott’s wife (the only one who had actually attended a game at the Swamp) graduated from Florida’s arch-rival Florida State University and their van had a FSU license plate on the back and a Hawaii plate in the front. Either way it didn’t look good. When Scott asked a man in the parking lot what he should do, the man casually responded that he “should take it off and get it off the campus”. It’s a good thing he was joking (or at least we thought he was).

But the first thing is that the campus is huge. It’s way bigger than Manoa. Second, even at 7:00am in the morning, it’s already hot and humid. Third, the atmosphere on game day is electric. Everyone was wearing Gator colors and logos. We checked out the bookstore to see what they had available and you’d be shocked to see what they put a Gator logo on. There’s the usual suspects like t-shirts, polos, sweatshirts and whatnot, but then there were also other articles of clothing that I don’t think UH ever thought about putting a logo on.

I know a guy back home that would be in heaven with this rack

I bet you feel warm and safe with Gators on your robes and pajamas

Gator flip-flops or as they call them here, thongs

And of course, Gator Crocs…does anyone else see the irony in this?

After we looked at the Gatorwear we decided to find the stadium. I mean how hard can it be right? It was probably the largest structure on campus. I gotta say, the place is huge! It’s very impressive. If you’re ever in doubt where you are, there are reminders every where.

Scott’s wrestling the Gator

The Gator Gate!

I don’t know if you noticed, but Florida managed to win two National Championships in 1996 and 2006. There are very proud of their football there (there’s a huge book called 100 Years of Florida Football) and with good reason. They have the national championships, the SEC championships, the Heisman trophies and the other national awards. John’s friend Tamar’s dad is a coach for the Gators so she arranged for us to check out the trophy room. This room is normally closed on gameday, but she totally hooked us up.

The National Championship Trophy

Tebow’s Heisman

Wuerffel’s Heisman

Spurrier’s Heisman

The poster above the interactive display

Us and the Whipple’s between the National Championship Trophys

Then once we got into the stadium I could understand why it’s rated the 3rd toughest place to play in the nation. Steve Spurrier nicknamed the stadium the swamp because he said that swamps are hot, humid and intimidating. They should not be welcoming to outsiders but Gators should be very comfortable there. There are reminders everywhere of where you are.

Is there any doubt that you’re in the Swamp?

The Ring of Honor that runs over the player’s tunnel

The newly added luxury boxes

This was the 117th consecutive sellout (announced crowd of 90,575)

Unfortunately for Hawaii we were a little outmatched. Actually we held them close in the first quarter. It’s too bad the first quarter had to end because that’s when they turned it up. They scored on offense, defense and special teams. After a scoreless first quarter, the Gators hung 28 points on us in the second and third quarters. They took a 56-0 game into the fourth quarter. We actually held them scoreless again in the fourth while we put up 10, but it was a little too late and we lost the game 56-10.
But for us just the experience of being in a big-time college football program was an experience I’ll never forget. They have so many traditions that make the experience for the fan an incredible one.

This year’s Whipple Christmas card

Me and John after the game

Oh well, let’s put that game behind us and get ready for our home opener next Saturday.

To see the rest of the day’s pictures click here.

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