Sam Burnham, Curator
I was in college before I found a rivalry that equaled this one in intensity. The Lord be praised that I have no family to have fallen on the misfortune of enrolling at troy state. That takes a bit of the personal touch out of that rivalry.
When it comes to the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, I was never so fortunate as a child. I grew up in a Georgia Bulldog home. Vince Dooley, Erk Russell, The Weaver Brothers, and Herschel Walker were folk heroes on a par with Pecos Bill or Johnny Appleseed. Larry Munson's call of the Belue-Scott miracle in 1980 was equal to an Arthurian legend and the broken steel chair was Excalibur.
The twist is that my grandparents lived less than 30 minutes from Gainesville. No, not that Gainesville. THAT Gainesville. We had to use a Gainesville exit to get off the interstate when we went to visit. "University of Florida NEXT RIGHT"
My mother was blessed with seven brothers. At publication time, I was still waiting on the US Census Bureau to contact me about my request about how many cousins I have on that side of the family. With the rare FSU exception, every last one of them is a rabid fan of the Fightin' Gators. My uncle Mike, arguably the most rabid of the bunch, lived here in town. He incidentally taught me my earliest lessons in trash talking. He is really good at it. Needless to say, the game each October was an important one as it would be a major topic of discussion at Christmas, one way or the other.
My dad and my uncle Mike made a few trips to Jacksonville for the game. They came back with stories of a man grilling rib eyes on the back of his RV and handing out the steaks to passersby free of charge. They were reportedly sitting at a red light across town from the old Gator Bowl stadium with the windows down when a car pulled up next to them. The driver held a frosty cold can of beer out his window to my uncle and asked "Hey buddy, want a beer?" These are just a couple of examples of how this game came to be known as the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
Jacksonville is a border town. Planted on the banks of the St John's river, the city lies between Oglethorpe's Ft Fredrica and the Spanish Castillo de San Marcos in St Augustine. Georgia and Florida have been fighting on and over this territory for almost 300 years.
This game was first played in 1916 and has been played every year since 1926, with the only exception being in 1943. It has been played in Jacksonville every year since 1933 with the exception of the two year home and home series while Jacksonville tragically updated the stadium. There has been discussion pf moving the series to home and home permanently. There has been even more talk of rotating the game between Jacksonville and Atlanta. Both of these are ridiculous. Jacksonville is gloriously neutral. It's in Florida but also home to one of the largest populations of Bulldog fans anywhere outside the state of Georgia. Atlanta would not offer such a neutral environment. The festive tailgate atmosphere greatly benefits the local economy, the weather is usually great for football - even when it rains. This is just another great thing that Atlanta should stop trying to ruin.
Keep in mind. This is the Georgia-Florida game. Not the other way around. Florida-Georgia isn't a game, it's a terrible imitation country band. And for the love of everything good and right about the world, leave it in Jacksonville. And it will always be the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, no matter how hard the reconstructed uppity bourgeois scalawags try to say otherwise.
And, most importantly, Go Dawgs!
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire