Florida vs. Miami, Game Thread: Find the joy

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My world’s on fire

How ‘bout yours

That’s the way I like it

And I never get bored

— Smashmouth, “All Star”

You know the world is literally on fire, right?

The Amazon rain forest is burning, and it’s both a scary new frontier in the growing fight against global warming and a consequence of the political climate in Brazil. So is Siberia, where it’s at least actually summer. So is, improbably, Alaska.

California isn’t burning, somehow, but I probably jinxed a blaze or two into existence.

This college football season — more than most, more than ever — seems to me like a refuge, like manna raining from heaven.

If you are in the world, and want to see the world and know of it, it has been a hard run for you in recent years. You know where there is suffering, and pain, and anguish, and you know it almost immediately. And if you focus on that, and let the darkness blot out the sun, then you may succumb to that darkness yourself.

But what if you see the sun?

Two years ago, just before the only Florida game in my lifetime that really resembles the one the Gators are playing at 7 p.m. Eastern on ESPN tonight, I wrote about how nothing could steal my sunshine.

Michigan tried its damnedest that day, and a hurricane made the next week an unplanned bye for the Gators and a bummer for much of Gator Nation. But there was still joy to be had in what became a lost 2017 season, in improbable wins and one late fun rump.

There’s joy in all of this: In men who are nearly grown playing a game for our entertainment, in people who are living out their dreams on big screens, in the spirit and passion that we share as fans who believe in one team as fervently as some of us do deities.

Finding that joy is a skill. And it’s not the easiest thing to do all the time, and not the simplest thing to do when one is aware of complications — but it’s worth it.

Florida has great stakes before it this season. If they past Miami tonight, the Gators will have cleared a high hurdle before a season that could see a top-10 Florida team in College Football Playoff contention.

But if they don’t? If Florida’s rebuild is a little bigger than it was thought to be, or if luck costs a team that’s about half teenagers the outcome it wants? This could still be fun.

150 years of college football have been leading to this moment, sure, but every moment as a fan is a fork in the road between choosing to enjoy and choosing to endure.

Choose to enjoy. Choose joy. Choose fun.

And go Gators.

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Andy Hutchins


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