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It Hurts to Say Goodbye to "Gator" Bowl

Apr 04, 2014 -- 9:06am

By: David Levin (@davidlevin71)

I did not understand my father’s passion for football until yesterday afternoon when he found out the Gator Bowl was changing its name. As a man who is from Jacksonville and went to his first college bowl game in 1948 with my grandmother and grandfather when he was only five, I saw the hurt and pain in his face. For dad and others of his generation, The Gator Bowl was part of Jacksonville history.

Now, through the eyes of an older man, history changed because of money and a new era in sports. As times change, sports and memories change as well. It’s the reality of today and the fear, as my father has said for years, that everything will pass him by before he can really enjoy it. The Gator Bowl, the memories and the tradition of living in Jacksonville seems to be doing that all the sudden. I can only image how he feels since he was able to see great games in a city that for decades seemed to be small and lifeless at times. Now that the economic standing is getting better, the improvements to the city and its sports structure is gaining ground and our love of baseball and football gets better each new year, Lucy pulls the ball out from in front of Charlie Brown – or so it seems that way.

Gator Bowl officials signed a new six –year deal with TaxSlayer.com, which includes renaming the historic bowl game TaxSlayer Bowl starting in 2015. The agreement continues a partnership that began in 2012 and extends it through 2020.

“It’s rare to find special companies that share the same values and goals and we are fortunate to have found such a partner in TaxSlayer.com. It is a great partnership that will enable the bowl game to maintain its stature on the national level as one of the top tier bowl games in the country,” said Rick Catlett, bowl president and CEO.

While I applaud Catlett and the Gator Bowl Association for its new deal, its ability to make more money and its chance to start something new, I cannot help but think that maybe the football and sports I enjoy are moving too fast, that too much change is not a good thing. A better time slot for more revenue and a better following is great for this “new” bowl game. But will the fans, especially the ones my father’s age, support its newness. Dad swears he will never go to the bowl game again because “Gator Bowl” is not associated with it anymore. I am sure others may feel that way.

In time, those wounds may heel as the bowl game is looking for new money and younger fans. But I cannot help but see the pain in my father’s face and know he is not the only one who feels this way. I assume it is just the way things are. But in this case, I wish this was an event that had not changed because tradition is just as important as the almighty dollar.

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