In preparation for the onslaught of Georgia-Florida football related partying this weekend, Jacksonville City officials are again setting up “Student Sideline Safety Zones” to provide sanctuary for those too drunk to remember where they parked.
According to a Florida Times Union story on Thursday, the safety zones – areas where police and other public safety officials will offer assistance and protection rather than immediate arrest for knee-walking drunks – are not just for students this year. All inebriates are welcome.
The safety zones originated to counter the perceived problem of drunks falling into bad company after the big game. Bad company at the Georgia-Florida annual mayhem is drunks who like to beat other drunks. Gators beating Dogs. Dogs beating Gators. Thugs stealing and stabbing the semi-conscious. Local boys shoving visitors into the St. Johns River. Oh my!
I got enough of the Georgia-Florida festivities as a child. My father treated the family to the game several times. One year we sat on the top row at the old Gator Bowl and watched an elderly man trudge up the steep steps. My brother and I made a bet as to how far he had to climb. He arrived, at a seat directly in front of us, exhausted, just in time to respond to the announcer’s call to stand for the national anthem. The old man rose and fell over dead with an apparent heart attack.
The next year it rained. And rained. As fans crowded into the walkways beneath the stands at the end of the game, things turned dank. Gators beating Dogs. Dogs beating Gators. Shouting escalated into curse words beyond my comprehension.
My father kept us away from the worst of the fisticuffs, but I doubted even he could get us out unscathed. I prayed, in earnest, promising the Good Lord that if he would get me out of the Gator Bowl safely, I’d never bother him from that point on the earth again.
I made it out and I’ve kept my promise. The Student Sideline Safety Zones may seem like a solution to some folks. I prefer my plan – pray hard and stay away from drunken brawls.