Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gator Skin Nation Waits for Nov. 10

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Gator Skin Nation Waits for Nov. 10

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlie Patton, Times-Union columnist

It took me a while to figure out what was going on, to understand why I kept encountering so many unhappy faces Tuesday.

Then it hit me. Gloom had enveloped the Gator Skin Nation.

Ever since the Head Ball Coach decided he needed a bigger arena, Jacksonville loyalties have been divided. Mostly we're still a Jaguars town, even if the passion has cooled. But along with pockets of enthusiasm created by older loyalties to franchises like the Miami Dolphins, there has been this large contingent of Gator Skins, created by the Cult of Spurrier.

The enthusiasm is easy to understand. When Steve Spurrier, the most celebrated football player in the University of Florida's history, came back to Gainesville in 1990, the Florida Gators were a regional also-ran. By the time Spurrier decided to seek new challenges, the Gators were a national power and the most feared offensive force in college football.

Spurrier resigned because he wanted a head coaching job in the National Football League. When he got the job coaching the Washington Redskins, the Gator Skin Nation (aka the Swamp Skin Nation) was born.

"It's a story obviously," said Dan Hicken, sports director at WTLV TV-12. "We cover it a great deal."

Last weekend, George Joseph, a partner in The Players Grille sports bars, went with eight friends to Washington for the Monday Night Football game against the Philadelphia Eagles. They all wore Redskins caps with the word "Gators" etched on the side; one member of the group had a shirt with a Gator in a headdress. "We went up to show our support for Steve," Joseph said.

None of this has gone unnoticed by Jaguars fans, many of whom resent it. "I get phone calls and e-mails all the time from people who say, 'Dan, you don't live in Washington' or 'Dan, why don't you move to Washington? …

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