Location: Jacksonville, FL
States Visited: Georgia, Florida
After some solid rest, relaxation, and reminiscing in Charleston, I hit the road prepared to tangle with Gators, Dawgs, and whatever epithets they heaped upon one another. On my way south, I had a major lunch craving, but couldn’t stomach the idea of fast food. I’ve had enough cardboard-flavored burgers and chick’n-crispies to last me a good decade. But on the highway, the signs never list the local joints. Upon any freeway exit, you are likely stuck with the value meal or dollar menu after all. So when I was approaching the Florida/Georgia border and spied a sign for Larry’s Giant Subs, I knew it was the place for me. Of all the “road food” I’ve consumed on this trip, nothing hit the spot quite like Larry’s, even if it did turn out to be a chain. Furthermore, they had an enormous display of King Kong busting through the wall. I asked the kid working there if it was OK if I snapped a picture. He cautioned me against using flash photography, but I risked the beast’s escape and got this beauty.
Friday night, I hit the Jacksonville Landing which is best described as a mall with bars right on the river. The night before the Cocktail Party, it is a mass of people from both sides, getting their drink on. Rather than go into detail, I’m just going to give you some quick hits on things I saw.
Many gorgeous women: Kitschy T-shirts:
Zealous fans: A man wearing a tuxedo up top, but only Georgia boxers on the bottom:
“Funny” Florida guys:
I would be remiss if I did not make mention of the absolutely horrendous music. The DJ played a littany of the worst tunes you could think of. Here is a short list: Tag Team, Robert Palmer, Rednex, Scatman, Sir Mix-A-Lot, some weird oldies mashup, KC and the Sunshine Band (twice), and Kris Kross. It's 2007! My God, man! By 11, the place was completely mobbed. I decided it was time to make my exit, particularly because my neutral colors meant people had no idea what to yell at me. Plus, I had a big day of sampling at the Worlds Largest Cocktail Party starting early the next morning.
The nickname may no longer be officially applied, but I can attest that livers remain active in Jacksonville. Drinks of all varieties were consumed, shared, and sampled throughout the day. Though bourbon appeared to be the most popular pick. Florida and Georgia fans razzed one another with calls of “Jean shorts” rebutted by quotes of recent head-to-head records. Toy alligators and bulldogs were stomped, dragged, and generally abused throughout the day. I was surprised to see many Florida and Georgia fans arriving together. Aside from the groups that came that way, there was little commingling of the two fan bases. Very few of the Bulldog fans I spoke with gave their team even a slim chance to come away with victory. Gator backers were all rather confident that victory would be theirs again.
There’s a somewhat subtle, yet significant difference between NFL stadiums and those on campus, even when the arena is loaded with college football fans. It could be because there’s a “Bud Zone” or maybe that there are seats instead of bleachers. Whatever the case, I greatly prefer a college stadium. I almost felt like we were watching the action on TV. My seat was in the Florida section, though there were two extremely vocal Bulldogs directly behind me. These ladies were awfully lit up. It was clear they’d been partaking of the day’s libations in order to perform at their squawky best once toe met leather. Several rows in front of me, a guy who took himself pretty seriously brought a whistle and led the crowd in cheers. He was way into it and people followed his routine. If you saw the game, you knowshon what happened. Every team should have a blueprint on how to beat the Gators’ young defense now. If you have an even remotely speedy wideout and a QB with any arm strength whatsoever, deep passes for touchdowns are yours for the taking. I’m sure their DBs will mature and they’ll have three years of excellent play back there. As Charlie Weis says, take your opportunity now.
A special thanks to Paul Westerdawg of Georgia Sports Blog who showed great hospitality with food, drink, and friends. I’m off to Atlanta for a few days before trekking to what would normally be considered enemy territory for me. Columbus Ohio. I’ll try not to cause offense to wind up in traction or worse.