By BUDDY MARTIN
Florida-Georgia: Let’s call it what it really is
The other day I started trying to explain the significance of the Florida-Georgia football game to a friend who has never experienced it. Even though I’d been there dozens of time, I struggled for an appropriate definition. The best I could come up with was:
“A Mardi Gras without the costumes.”
“An ongoing adult fraternity/sorority party that never stopped after college.”
Or perhaps, “A fall football holiday festival with a game sandwiched in between.”
Although it IS a football game, Florida-Georgia week really more about the social interaction among people who actually like each other all except one day a year. It’s not so much about booze as it is about smooze.
Every year the last week of October, up and down the coastline of Georgia and Florida, from the Golden Isles to Amelia Island and Ponte Vedra, Gators and Bulldogs break bread, play golf and Party Like It’s 1969. And yes, they do throw back a cold one or two.
Many Georgians plan their entire fall vacation around that week. That’s why when one of the alternatives mentioned for rescheduling the Florida-LSU was trading places with the Florida-Georgia weekend, they might as well have been talking about moving Christmas to January.
In reality, the perfect description has been banned: “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.”
Some well-meaning administrators at the two schools decided the use of “Cocktail Party” implied the endorsement of alcoholic beverages. Ten years ago following two alcohol-related incidents causing deaths of students, Georgia President Michael Adams made an appeal to the media not to reference the term and Florida AD Jeremy Foley wrote a letter to SEC it not be used in network broadcasts or referenced in promotions.
So the event was stripped of its nickname and identity.
Retiring CBS play-by-play announcer Verne Lundquist playfully referenced the term by name last week, saying it previously had been known as “The World Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.” When reminded by his broadcast partner Gary Danielson that this was his “last year,” Verne quipped: “What are they going to do, fire me?”
On his weekly radio show, Georgia coach Kirby Smart declined to embrace the term and asked his co-host if he was trying to trick him into saying it. When asked what it should be called, Coach Smart said: “Call it this Georgia-Florida game.”
Ah, but it is so much more than that Coach Smart.
Yes, we get the idea that glorifying the use of alcohol could be viewed as an endorsement of the product and that the embargo of TWLOCP by the university presidents was well intentioned. It was a noble gesture which sent a positive message, but remains a tad hypocritical. While the term is frowned up, long-standing fans still refer to it as WLOCP on social media. And ticket brokers also refer to it as “The Cocktail Party.”
While no doubt the politically correct decision to drop the “Cocktail Party” brought attention to the dangers of alcohol abuse, I doubt one less drink was consumed after that bold declaration.
Not everybody goes to Jacksonville parties to get drunk or stoned or high. But yes, there are large quantities of beer, liquor and wine consumed, just as there are at any holiday festival. That’s why the companies selling alcohol hammer home the mantra “Drink Responsibly.”
So rather than have it appear the two universities were embracing the evils of Demon Rum, the named was changed. Except to what?
Certainly not the lame suggestion of “River City Showdown” as some tee-shirt vendor suggests this year. I loved the Tweet by a fan who responded:“The ‘River City Showdown’ sounds like fun. Too bad I can’t attend, it’s same day as the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.”
Political correctness forced the administrations of both schools to distance themselves from the alcohol emphasis, just as it did apparently when the traditional Oklahoma-Texas rivalry’s nickname was changed from “Red River Shootout” to “Red River Showdown.”
I can’t wait to see what they do with:
The Holy War: BYU vs. Utah
The Backyard Brawl: Pitt vs. West Virginia
The Bedlam Series: Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State
The Civil War: Oregon vs. Oregon State
As tragic as the fatalities of students may have been, “Cocktail Party” isn’t so bad in and of itself. I know lots of people who attend such events without getting over-served. Some don’t even drink but still enjoy the social occasion. I’m not even much of a drinker – two glasses of wine is a big night – but I can see how others enjoy an adult beverage or two.
There is still a football game to be consumed as well. There was a time when the Bulldogs were the Gators’ most hated rivals because Georgia was regularly coming out on top. In the last 26 years, thanks to Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer, Florida has narrowed that Georgia advantage to 49-42-2, winning 20 times.
And the good times continue to roll as they wake up the echoes of Florida-Georgia and the loud ovations for “Run Lindsay” and “Half A Hundred in Athens” and praise for the greatness of Herschel Walker and Tim Tebow resonate all up and down the banks of the St. Johns River.
They can call it whatever they want to, but the celebrations will go on forever during the last week of October. And maybe they will lift their glasses, too.
Buddy Martin is a veteran columnist, talk show host and author. A longtime observer of college football, Martin is heard weeknights on the Buddy Martin Show in Ocala/Gainesville Fla. and on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network, where he also co-hosts The Terry Bradshaw Show. Buddy won an Emmy while he was with Terry at CBS as an associate producer. His columns also appear on Gridironnow.com and Southernpigskin.com. More of Buddy’s work can be found at BuddyMartinMedia.com where his show is streamed live. Buddy’s most recent book is Steve Spurrier’s autobiography “Head Ball Coach: My Life in Football” published by Blue Rider Press. He also wrote Urban Meyer’s authorized biography, “Urban’s Way,” and Terry Bradshaw’s autobiography “Looking Deep.” Contact him at Buddyshow@aol.com, Facebook/The Buddy Martin Show and @Buddyshow on Twitter.