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It's the story of my college football fanhood as a kid, and why I can't hate on FSU even though I'm the die-hardiest of diehard USF fans now.
We haven't done a Position Paper in a long time, but the idea of these is to lay out our blog's stance on major topics that affect USF athletics. In this case, though, it's my opinion and mine only.
I don't remember exactly when it was for me, but growing up in Tampa in the 1980s, at some point in elementary school, they made you choose. Are you a Gator or a Seminole? What's it going to be?
Those were the only two choices back then. (If you picked Miami, everyone assumed there was something deeply wrong with you.) Most of my classmates picked the Gators, and a lot of them ended up in school there, probably like their parents before them. As always, I was the contrarian, because I picked Florida State. There was something about them that seemed more compelling and fun to watch. Maybe it was Bobby Bowden and his willingness to take on challenges and roll the dice. (The "puntrooskie" against Clemson in 1988 was one of the first really crazy FSU plays I remember.) Maybe it was the uniforms, or Chief Osceola and Renegade, or all those great Marching Chiefs songs and chants, or maybe there was some kind of underdog factor. But I spent most of my childhood quietly, and sometimes not so quietly, rooting for the Seminoles.
I guess I was channeling my inner 10-year-old hipster by being a Seminoles fan back in the day. They were actually better than the Gators for a few years in the late 80s and early 90s, but before they won their first national title, FSU football was still a bit like an underground movement. They were independent for a long time, it could be hard to find their games on TV, and they didn't feel like "the institution" the way UF football did. Plus they were one of the few teams that could stick it to the Gators on a regular basis. As a college football fan, I eventually grew to appreciate the Steve Spurrier era in Gainesville. At the time, though, I just thought he was an ass, and I enjoyed Charlie Ward and "the Choke at Doak" and that defense pounding Danny Wuerffel until the echo of the whistle.
(By the way, as a Bucs fan, I'd like to offer my gratitude for Warrick Dunn and Derrick Brooks. They worked out a lot better than Reidel Anthony and Jacquez Green did.)
Despite all that, I never seriously considered attending FSU. I knew a number of people who were going there from my high school, and my goal after graduating was to never see anyone I went to high school with ever again. (So far, so good.) And my fandom disappeared the minute my acceptance letter to USF arrived in the mail. Now, like the fight song says, for USF I'll always be. But even now, as the Bulls and Seminoles get ready to face off on the football field again, I can't muster up any real hatred for Florida State.
A couple of years ago Collin explained why he has such dislike for the Florida Gators. It wasn't the losing to them that bothered him, or their money, or their academic prestige. It was mostly the Jorts Nation contingent -- the arrogant, front-running, didn't-finish-high-school, WOOOOO YER GATOR BAIT fans.
Florida State doesn't have nearly as big of a problem with the Daywalkers, at least not where I lived. Most of their fans are connected to the school in some way. They're students, they're alums, they're parents, they're donors... they have some reason for rooting for the Seminoles other than "hey, they win a lot." I will never have any problem with those kinds of fans. There isn't anything even approaching the UF levels of arrogance among the Seminole fan base.
Yes, FSU generally has the advantage over USF in academics (depending on what you measure). However, it's not a sneering, looking-down-your-nose kind of advantage the way it is with UF and their AAU membership and their prestige and their bajillion-dollar endowment. Every spring, USF and FSU are fighting the same battle in front of the Legislature, trying to keep Gainesville from sucking up all the academic oxygen. If FSU is the big brother here, it's not the one who holds you down and gives you noogies.
And yes, FSU has the advantage in athletics, too. Especially in football and baseball. But at least USF can beat them in most sports and it's not considered some huge upset, like it is with Florida. It's a shame the two schools haven't played more basketball against each other recently, because that's been a very competitive series even when the Bulls have been down. Since the Sun Dome opened in 1980, the Bulls are actually 10-9 against the Seminoles. They've only played once since 2002, though, and that was in an invitational tournament on a neutral court. Let's get this going again, what do you say? USF and FSU, home-and-home, first team to 40 points wins. How about it?
Bottom line: Do I want to beat Florida State on Saturday? Of course I do. It would be fantastic and unexpected and the butthurt would be unbelievable. But even if it doesn't happen, after the final whistle, I'll wish them good luck and we'll go our own ways until next time, whenever that is. No hard feelings here.