MY TAKE: By DAN BOND
How it all started in The 70’s for this Gator Fan
Our babysitter would turn on the radio for my brother & I.
When asked about my first trip to the Swamp, I said, “Wow that’s a hard one!” My family grew up Gator fans. My mother went there in the 50’s and grew up in Jacksonville, so of course I was a Gator fan from the start.
We were not big on taking pictures back then, where you document everything from dusk to dawn. It’s just a part of life now and so much the better.
I was born in 1970 so that’s where we begin. The 70’s were not the best of times for Florida Football: 59-53-3 and 0-4 in Bowl games.
Some of the earliest game day memories are of are of my brother and I, he is a year older than me, being picked up by our babysitter and taken to her house. We would play but she would turn the game on the radio so we could listen. TV games were few and far between back then.
I was always excited to hear what happened at the game when my parents picked us up and when I was older I made the 80-mile trip from Jacksonville to Gainesville. We would ride down to the game in our conversion van and tailgate at our regular spot. We parked in a wooded lot on the south side of Stadium drive. Dad and I would walk up to the ticket window and pick our seats.
I was just tall enough to see the counter back then. The little window at the ticket office. Mom liked to sit close to the field so we usually found seats in the endzone in section D.
Florida was playing Houston in 1976, however, I was more interested in watching players and didn’t really follow what was going on too much. They won that day 49-14.
ALL-AMERICAN WES CHANDLER WAS A JOY TO WATCH
Chandler is still in the top 10 in receiving touchdowns (10) and single game yards (187) and finished as an All-American in 1976. That says a lot considering what Spurrier, Meyer and Mullen have brought to Florida. It was still three yards and a cloud of dust mentality back then and Tony Green was their running back in the old days. Green finished his Gator career with 2,590 rushing yards, good for fifth all time and I had a cheer towel with his name on it for years.
Scot Brantley and the next year David Little were my favorites on Defense. Little is still first in tackles, 475 and Brantley second with 467 on the all-time list at Florida. They just flew around and stomped some dudes back then. Later I would start watching the NFL and Pittsburgh just because of Little.
Defense was always a point of pride in the old “Wait ‘Til Next Year” days of Florida. Dad would take me to the little Gator shop in the stadium that was basically a small room. I know some of you remember it. It’s an office now, I think. I could pick something out and still I have a few things from then. An old “Genuine Florida Gator Hat” is one of my favorites Gator possessions. Just an old molded plastic Gator head but I’ve moved it from state to state, here and there over the years.
The stadium was very different then today in some ways but the same in others. You were allowed to go out on the field and run around after the game on the AstroTurf. That was a blast, running around pretending to be a player and score a touchdown. Too bad the kids today can’t do that.
The 70’s soon would be over, Charlie Pell was the new coach and we sat through 0-10-1 in 1979 and still kept going back. So stay calm you young fans when Florida “only” wins 9 or 10 games, or that 5-star recruit flips on signing day. You could have been a Gator in the 70’s, surely, the best of times.
Dan Bond lives in Dallas where he is deprived of good college football, which is why he often returns to the Swamp.