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The End of Innocence

My son is eleven years old, and for as long as I can remember, he’s been a Florida Gators fan. Maybe it’s the fact that he was born in Florida, where we lived for fifteen years before moving to New Jersey. His memory of the Gators is mostly of Tim Tebow, the quarterback of the Gators, who has been called the best college football player in the history of the sport. And it’s not just football that makes Tim great—it’s his way of life, his Christianity, and charitable way of life. It’s the same life my son has followed since he was three. And last night was the end of the line for the Gators, when they lost the SEC championship to Alabama.

Conor knew that they were going to lose. He felt it from the first quarter. By the end of the game, he was in tears, and after the game, he was crying his eyes out. He was sad, angry, and depressed. How could this happen?

Conor only remembers the Gators as champions, winning the national championship last year and being undefeated this season. But so was Alabama, and one team had to lose, and unfortunately, it was Florida. They just didn’t play their “A” game.

After the game, there was a short interview with Tim Tebow. He was teary-eyed as he gave homage to Alabama, and was the true gentleman he is. He said they played better and had a great team. And that Florida just couldn’t stop them. That brought on the sobbing of my son. I heard him in his room, crying. I called him into my room, and tried to explain that teams don’t always win. The Gators have had a remarkable two seasons. But there have been seasons where they weren’t the best. And they lost games. But that was when he was too young to remember. He only remembers the victories.

He’s still a Florida fan. He still wants to go to UF for college. “How can you even ask that question?” he said when I asked him. “Of course I do.” And even though he won’t play football for the Gators, he wants to swim competively for Florida. And he follows in Tim Tebow’s footsteps with charitable works and good grades. He’ll be proud to be a Gator and part of this great Gator Nation.

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