Because it’s Father’s Day, I’ll share a quick Florida-related story about my father and I.
I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to see the Gators play. In the 2006-07 basketball season — Florida’s repeat season — UF had a game in Auburn, fairly close to where my family lived.
My dad bought a couple tickets. It was a Saturday. Before the game, he gave me a tour of some spots on campus, pointing out buildings and saying what it was like when he was a student there. He wore an orange jacket that read AUBURN on the front. I wore a blue one in a similar style that read FLORIDA.
We ate a pre-game meal at Cheeburger Cheeburger. He reminded me of the time he played pick-up basketball at the activities center. “I got dunked on by Charles Barkley and Bo Jackson.”
We made our way to the game to watch No. 1 Florida take on helpless Auburn. It was my first Florida basketball game. I was probably in ninth grade. We had amazing seats about three rows up from under the basket and to the right.
The physicality of the game was what stuck with me the most. You don’t get a sense of every grab, hack and shove when you watch basketball on TV.
Florida was pouring it on early, and an Auburn fan close by said, “And that’s why they’re the No. 1 team in the country.” I smiled.
Following the game, which Florida won convincingly, my dad and I went around to the back of the arena to see the Florida players. It was insane how many people — Florida and Auburn fans — were lined up outside the gates.
Most all the Florida players came out and signed autographs. Lee Humphrey and Taurean Green were the big players missing, but they had left with some family.
Joakim Noah walked out. A woman asked him to take a photo of him holding her baby. He held the baby and it started bawling. “I’m a scary lookin’ dude!” he said.
I got my Florida jersey signed by Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer, Marreese Speights and a few others. Noah signed his name with a big J and turned it into a smiley face.
It was easily one of the best days of my life, and it was awesome I had the chance to spend it with my dad.