It's great to hate the Florida Gators.
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The Gator genuflection reached DEFCON level Saturday when 70,000 fans piled into The Swamp to celebrate the 41-14 national championship victory against Ohio University, er, State. Can you believe it? More fans showed up for a UF pep rally than show up for two Miami home games.
They cheered and chanted and swayed and swaggered Saturday, letting the whole world know that the Gator gall and orange-and-blue braggadocio is back and more grating than ever.
One fan held up a sign that said, "Back on top. Back where we belong."
And Coach Urban Meyer stood up and told the roaring crowd: "Our goal when we came here was to make this place, this school, this stadium, the one place in the country everybody wants to be. And now this team has done that."
Ah, the Gator arrogance. How we missed it so. It was a little sad during the Zooker years when you'd run into Florida fans at a cocktail party and they'd be bragging about their golf and volleyball teams. And then the subject of football would come up, and the Gators would slink over into the corner alone to drink their Natty Light and eat those miniature corn-on-the-cob thingies off the hors d'ouerves platter.
Not anymore. Those days are over. Florida is so red-hot these days that President Bush called up Meyer the morning after the championship game to congratulate him and perhaps to ask if he'd like to be recruiting coordinator for the military. Even FSU president T.K. Wetherell wrote a letter-to-the-editor in Saturday's Gainesville Sun to congratulate the Gators on beating Ohio State.
"It was a great win, not only for the Gators, but for all Floridians," Wetherell wrote. "Achieving national championships in both football and men's basketball in the same year has made history, and we salute the University of Florida."
Will somebody please tell T.K. we don't need the chief Seminole kneeling down and kissing the ring on the Gator claw? For crying out loud, we don't need the Seminoles saying how great it is to be a Florida Gator when the Gators tell themselves that every day.
Hey, Seminoles, you thought the Steve Spurrier years were annoyingly arrogant? This Urban Meyer character could be 10 times worse. This cat could be in Gainesville for life.
"I'm a college coach," Meyer said Saturday when asked if he has any NFL aspirations. "I love coaching college football. I can't imagine coaching NFL players."
And, unlike, Spurrier who at least had a golfing hobby, Meyer is football, 24/7. You know what he was doing an hour before kickoff of the national-championship game? Text-messaging recruits. You know what he was doing an hour after the game? Text-messaging recruits.
He had the consensus No. 1 recruiting class in the country last year and is well on his way to pulling off another unbelievable haul. One of the nation's top quarterbacks, Ocala's John Brantley, originally committed to Texas but has changed his mind and says now he will attend Florida. Brantley was at the Swamp celebration Saturday, as was Arizona schoolboy wonder Everson Griffin, a defensive end and Southern Cal commitment who is arguably the nation's best recruit.
"Everybody wants to be a part of this," said Brantley, the Gatorade National Player of the Year. "What's going on here is incredible. This is the place to be in college football."
Did you hear that, Florida State fans? UCF fans?
The Gators think Gainesville is THE place to be in college football.
It's time for all of you to give the Gators and their fans what they love most:
They've certainly earned it.
Mike Bianchi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org