This month we asked our writers to revisit their most indelible memories of 2012.
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This was my first year seeing a lot of college football from the press box. One of the weird things about football press boxes is that they’re often glassed-in, so you’re watching the game through a window. You can hear the crowd, but it’s muffled. To me it feels like being outside the club, stuck on the wrong side of the velvet rope.
But at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium -- The Swamp, where the Florida Gators play -- the press box is wide open. Florida played LSU there in October. The defenses dominated. LSU kicked two field goals, the only first-half points. The wind kicked up in the press box and blew our stat sheets around. There wasn’t much on them yet.
In the third quarter, Florida running back Mike Gillislee scored. The crowd let loose after nearly two hours of tension. But the score was still just 7-6.
Later in the third, Florida started another drive. They ran the ball on every play -- this was in the midst of a stretch where they ran the ball 25 times in a row. The third quarter ended. The fourth quarter began. Florida made it to the LSU 12. And then Gillislee went up the middle, took one hard step to the right, cut around the edge, and scored again.
The Swamp moved.
What I’m saying is, the stadium actually moved. I felt the concrete sway side to side like a belly dancer. The power of that crowd, screaming and stomping, rocked an entire building to its foundation.
Stadiums, like skyscrapers, are built that way -- they have a little give in them to handle high winds or other forces of nature. South Carolina fans used to say about Williams-Brice Stadium, If it ain’t swayin’, we ain’t playin’. So I knew it might happen. But this was the first time I’d felt it.
I’ve had roughly 8 million people ask me why I’d leave a great job as a news columnist to come write sports for a place that, when I signed up, didn’t even have a name yet. There were a lot of reasons, but one of them is simple: I believe in the power of sports. It’s a power that can build or destroy, but it’s an undeniable power. I feel it when I scare my dog because I’m screaming for my favorite teams. I feel it when I get choked up over some Little Leaguer crying on the field. I feel it when our swimmer beats some other country’s swimmer by an eyeblink and it creates this huge swell of national pride. On an intellectual level, that’s silly. But in sports, caring deeply isn’t silly at all. And that’s part of its power.
Sometimes, if you get lucky and end up in the right place, you can feel that power, literally. It is an awesome thing, and unforgettable.