As a UM fan, I offer apologies to my peeps in South Florida for having adopted the Gators and pulling for them in the National Championship game. I say that knowing that every UM fan is still bitter about the Canes’ loss to OSU in 2003 Fiesta Bowl, and were smiling to see the Buckeyes get annihilated by the Gators.
So it is with apologies to all my Gator friends that I declare my desire for the Colts to win the Super Bowl. As the Midwest descends on my hometown over the next two weeks, I sit here anticipating what should be a spectacular game and hoping Indianapolis ends up the victor in the contest. What does this have to do with the Gators and why am I apologizing to their fans?
To fully understand, you need to go back to Peyton Manning’s career as a college quarterback. Although he left the University of Tennessee as the Vols’ all-time leading passer with 11,201 yards and 89 touchdowns, Manning was always dogged with the fact he never won a national title and never beat the University of Florida. Until last night, the same label plagued him as a professional, having squandered playoff opportunities and having seemingly been owned by the New England Patriots.
So the showdown on February 4 pits Peyton Manning, a Tennessee Volunteer, versus Rex Grossman, a Florida Gator and one of the school’s most prolific passers. Having shed the burden the weighed him down as a pro – beating the Tom Brady and Patriots in the playoffs – Manning now has the opportunity to metaphorically bury the pains of his collegiate career. Not only will a win in Super Bowl XLI secure his place in the Hall of Fame, it will also mean he emerged victorious over a Gator in the big game.
And if you think college allegiances don’t run that deep, think again. I hate the NY Jets, but I like see Jonathan Vilma play well and receive national recognition. The same is true with the Bills and Willis McGahee. I am sure that outside of Indianapolis, the largest concentration of Colts fans can be found in Knoxville, Tennessee. Even Smokey, the Vols’ mascot, will be sporting a blue jacket with horse shoe logos.
Throw in my allegiance to the AFC, my affinity towards Tony Dungy as a person and a coach, the fact I have more friends and acquaintances from Indiana than I do from Chicago (sorry Maggie and Christie), the choice for me is obvious. Come February 4, I will be pulling for the kid from New Orleans by way of Knoxville, Tennessee to hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy and secure his spot in the pantheon of NFL greats. Right now, however, I’m still relishing the fact the Patriots lost!