This picture is interesting for several reasons. Not the least of which being the fact that we are standing in the background of it looking like, how do you say… a chump.
We’ve been interested in Florida since we first started hearing about them early on in our relatively young Ultimate careers. They are a polarizing figure in the Ultimate scene. We have yet to find someone who feels just so-so about the Gators. You either like them or you hate them and it’s no secret that the vast majority of people hate them.
After spending a weekend studying the character of the Gators and those teams around them, here is our take.
We found the claim that Florida lacks spirit to be categorically untrue during AC Open Regionals. We’ve seen Florida at a tournament once before this weekend and were certainly unimpressed with their spirit. The showcase game at Florida Warm Up between the Gators and Georgia was dissapointing to say the least. The one moment that stands out in our minds is, just prior to a Georgia player getting off a wide open huck to an even more wide open receiver, a Gator came from behind and, with obviously no intention of actually playing defense, ran right through the thrower.
That being said, when we, as a part of the lowly South Carolina team, took on the Gators on Sunday of that very same tournament, we were fully satisfied with Florida’s playing style and spirit. Sure they beat us 13-1, playing mostly their bottom seven players, but they did it respectfully.
They have their low points and they have been known to act like fools on the field. Our question is: What team hasn’t? The arguments abound against Florida’s on and off field antics but in our opinion, from what we’ve seen, there isn’t much strength behind them. Not to mention, from the opening horn at Regionals, were it not for the jerseys, we don’t think any person could have separated Florida from the rest of the team’s in the field by its playing style or attitude.
The photo at the top of this post is the perfect example. Here is the background to this photo:
Florida vs. Georgia, game is all tied at 12-12. The Gators have been putting together somewhat of a comeback in an effort to make up some ground that they lost against the Dawgs earlier in the game. Finally, the hard cap comes on, next point wins. This game carries a huge amount of weight for both teams. The No. 1 seed for Sunday’s championship bracket is on the line. If ever there were an important point in these two teams’ seasons, this would be it.
The Gators put up a huck that leads to this photograph but the receiver is called out. It is our opinion, and we believe this is fairly clear from this photo, that the receiver was in. One would expect the Florida reaction to be uproar and anger. One would expect the Gators to cause a scene and throw fits and refuse to play on. However, instead of doing any of those things, the Gators picked up and got back on defense only to lose on that very next possesion.
We don’t want to get people all riled up and play the “What if?” game about what would have happened to Florida at Regionals if it weren’t for this call. Instead we want people to take a step back and try and think objectively about the Gators. They are Ultimate players just like the rest of us. It’s our opinion that the only thing that truely separates them from the rest of the Ultimate teams in the College division is a lot of talent and a load of baggage that they (rightfully or not) have inherited from their predecessors.
We would argue that the worst spirit shown when it comes to the Gators comes from those watching them. We cannot count the number of times that players from teams that, to our knowledge, have never lined up across from UF were shouting insults from the sidelines that go far beyond heckling. Of the 16 teams playing at Regionals only three teams played Florida this season prior to this weekend. Yet we think it is safe to say that every team we encountered had a pretty negative opinion of UF regardless of lack of personal experience. One of those teams that did have personal experience is Georgia and Jojah senior captain Peter Dempsey told us after the Bulldogs’ game against the Gators on Saturday that Florida was a “really fun team to play against.”
On a similar note, one need look no further then RSD’s reaction after the Gators were eliminated from play to see exactly what we are talking about. When user names such as suckitflorida and brodiesucks start showing up, you know there are problems.
We spoke with Florida captain Brodie Smith on the subject prior to Regionals and when we brought up the perception that surrounds Florida and Florida’s reaction to it, Smith seemed more frustrated by the whole situation than anyone. It seemed that he was sick of fighting a perception that he could do nothing to stop. While we’ll admit that the Gators’ actions at Florida Sectionals didn’t do much to “fight” the reputation there are plenty of other things that make it seem like Florida is tired of criticism of their play being a one way street.
These videos that Florida has been putting out are compelling on a number of levels. We realize that they should be taken with a grain of salt considering that they are Florida’s point of view. Heck, all of the plays in the above video are from the very game that we mentioned earlier that contained a horrible, obviously intentional Florida foul.
Nonetheless, we do think that this video, along with the others produced by the Gators this season are a testament to the state of college Ultimate. Perhaps things have gotten too competitive, perhaps we need observers/referees. One thing is certain though, all of the horrible things that are said about Florida and its players can in some ways be reflected back on to the rest of the elite college scene. There are bad eggs in every batch and Florida had and has its share. But the Ultimate community’s reaction to those bad eggs displays a lack of dedication to the idea that many of us claim to hold so dear.
We leave this rant with one question: What, to you, is worse? The team that has the bad spirit or the people/teams that react to that bad spirit with just as bad spirit?
We would argue that neither one is better than the other and hope for a future where neither exist.