Welp, it’s Valentine’s Day. And no, I don’t say that with a whole lot of excitement. Someone says the word, and I think back to any number of personal disappointments over the years. That being said, it’s time to take a look at the day from the perspective of appreciation, and I do so today in the context of one thing I hold very dear: the University of Miami.
The city of Miami is such an incredibly different place from the rest of the country. Really the rest of the world. And the University of Miami really embodies a lot of the uniqueness of its host region. We have palm trees, sunshine, and shirts-and-shorts-clad co-eds year-round. We’re a small campus nestled into the heart of one of the regions more affluent and well-to-do communities. Heck, we have an outdoor bar by a lake on campus. What’s not to love about that?
But obviously our love for everything about the university goes so much deeper. When I think about what I love about the University of Miami, the following things come to mind:
· The unbelievable diversity of the city and area. I was a Spanish and World Business undergraduate major from the University of Tennessee and I arrived in Miami in August 2001 to start law school with a packed car and not a single acquaintance in town. I remember stopping at a gas station off US 1, and a little old lady asking me a question in Spanish. Fortunately, I spoke (and still speak) Spanish very well and was able to respond (although I had no idea where I was to be able to help), but I couldn’t help but chuckle and marvel at the incredible difference between where I was and East Tennessee, where I’d just come from.
· The different and unique nature of the Miami fans and the gameday experience. I grew up going to games in Baton Rouge, Gainesville, and Knoxville. My first experience at the Orange Bowl was unlike anything I’d ever experienced or imagined. Rap music blaring over the loudspeakers. Fans in tank tops, or shirtless. Dudes who look like gang members, but who are actually very friendly and will share a beer and high five you. North-easterners. Southerners. The nice little Cuban lady who let us park in her yard, promising “No Blockey”. The unique and different foods I’d try in and around the stadium. Croquetas. Empanadas. BBQ. Cuban sandwiches. You name it, someone’s doing it. Point is, there’s no other school in the country that is more of a summary of its community than the University of Miami, and I’m very proud of that. We’re just different, and it’s the best thing ever.
· It’s always sunny and warm here. I grew up in Texas, so it’s supposed to be hot. The heat doesn’t bother me much at all. I find cold weather to be crippling. As such, south Florida weather fit me like a glove. It’s not supposed to be cold. Ever. Fight me on that.
· We have the most beautiful campus I’ve ever seen. I mean, we have a freaking palm tree in the university’s seal. How much cooler can you get than that?!
· We play in as good of a facility in all of sports in Hard Rock Stadium. The remodeled venue is as sharp looking as it is loud and intimidating. When Super Bowls and national title games are hosted in our venue, people laugh and chide because they’re jealous. There’s not much more to it than that. And when Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit are publicly beholden to the splendor of the stadium rocking at full voice, you know you have something special. I will always miss the Orange Bowl, and I wrote a nasty letter to the university when it was decided the Canes were on the cusp of losing the Orange Bowl as their home, but I have long since accepted HRS as our new home, and a great one at that.
· For some reason, some folks love to make fun of us and our community. Yet, they flock down here when given the chance, be it for one of countless major sports or entertainment events or a chance to escape from their cornfield or snow-riddled lives for a taste of the good life. Or they nest as a snow bird, or just relocate. If you hate us, why are you coming down here then? That inherent irony makes me smile.
· The rivalries over the years with Florida State, Florida, Virginia Tech, and Notre Dame, among others. I hate you, but I respect you (most of you), and you all have been a necessary evil to create some of the best (and, at fewer times, the most painful) moments of my sports fandom. I will always have Miami 28, FSU 27 (2002), Miami 38, Florida 33 (2003), and Miami 41, Notre Dame 8 among the greatest games I’ve seen in person.
· The colors of the school. What’s more beautiful than the color of the sun setting over palm trees?
· And what’s cooler than the block U, and being known as the U, for that matter? Speaking of the U, you know everyone wants what you have when they all try to claim what you have……as the real U, or whatever. Imitation is the best form of flattery, but you can’t mess with the original.
· The love the Canes’ football alumni have for their program. The way they come back for Paradise Camp in droves, willing to help their alma mater reach the heights from their days. The way each Cane on Sunday Night Football calls out “The U” during team introductions. It’s a football fraternity that – at least publicly – appears as tight knit and proud as any group you’ll find. And hearing NFL Hall of Fame inductees talk about the U gives me chills each time (see you in August, Edgerrin James).
· The Canes kicked a$$ in maybe the best era of all time – the 1980s. Back to the Future, Nintendo, Super Mario Brothers, Rocky IV, Madonna, Freddy Krueger, and Steve Walsh hitting Michael Irvin for a 73-yard TD in Tallahassee. Such an incredible era – a renaissance, even – for the entertainment industry. And the sports one, with Miami establishing an unprecedented era of swagger, dominance, and can’t-miss TV.
· Our nickname is a freaking hurricane. The most destructive force on the planet, and also a perfect symbol of the constant threat the area has faced over the years. No nickname/mascot is more fitting to a particular school than the Hurricanes are to UM.
There are so many more things that will come to mind after I hit “post”, I have no doubt. Let’s hear yours. What do you love the most about the University of Miami?