What do you call the Gator fan section at Saturday’s UM-UF game?
A full set of teeth.
OK, that was low. But brace yourself nonetheless, Miami: They’re coming. So break out the earplugs to shut out the banjo music. Pinch your nose to block the stench of the moonshine.
Everything South Florida hates about the Sunshine State’s hinterlands will wear orange and blue and worship the dumbest and meanest of graven-image reptiles at Sun Life Stadium.
Unlike the simple gator of the swamp, though, the Gators of The Swamp are actually complex creatures, walking contradictions. Gators carry themselves like cosmopolitans, replete with a sense of entitlement and an affectation of Southern noblesse oblige entirely out of proportion to the charmless burg of Gainesville.
Make no mistake: Gators are more Honey Boo Boo than Scarlett O’Hara.
They’re pretenders. They’re takers not makers, a constant drain on a state budget funded by taxpayers from places like, say, Miami.
“What bothers Miami fans is the arrogance the Gators have, that they’re so powerful they own the state,” former quarterback Steve Walsh explained. “They have this attitude that they’re the best.”
And they’re not.
Florida’s national titles: three.
Miami’s titles: five (about 67 percent more for all you Gators who can’t do something called “math”).
Miami also holds the lead in the series: 28-26.
The statistics are a clear indicator of why UF dropped UM from its regular-season schedule after 1987, when Walsh led the Hurricanes to a 31-4 victory.
The Gators do hold an edge in classlessness. They made the rivalry an official grudge match in 1971 with what became known as “The Gator Flop.” Up 45-8, UF had its defense fall down on the field to let Miami score so the Gators’ quarterback could surpass a passing record.
“The infamous ‘Gator Flop’ was a story that was drilled into my head at a very young age to explain just how shallow the Gators are,” Miami native Chuck Todd, NBC’s political director and chief White House correspondent, said in an email.
“As someone who was raised a Cane fan, the very first team I was taught to loathe was the Gators … not just hate, but something a step further,” Todd said, adding that he hoped Hurricanes coach Al Golden will get the chance to run up the score the way Howard Schnellenberger did in 1980 when UM kicked a gratuitous late field goal because Florida fans pelted the Miami sidelines with oranges.
Like former Gov. Jeb Bush, Todd supports the Canes because they’re the home team. Neither went to UM, but each identifies with the program, with the city. Like the city, the fan base is dynamic, multinational, multicolored.
To wit: UM was proudly one of the first major Deep South schools to have a black player on scholarship, Ray Bellamy, in 1966. Two years later, the school band stopped playing Dixie.
UF has historically been a school for elite Old Florida. Multicultural Miami is the future, a newcomer. And as such it will always have, as Todd calls it, “an orange-and-blue chip” on its shoulders.
Gators talk endlessly about the scandal at UM involving Ponzi-schemer-booster-liar Nevin Shapiro. They don’t want to talk about the NCAA record 44 Gators players arrested since 2005.
And pious former UF quarterback Tim Tebow threw in his college days to two unsavory characters: former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez (facing murder charges) and Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper, who used the “N” word on video.
Cooper said it at a lily-white Kenny Chesney concert. Of course.
Cue the banjo music.