“Snake Bit in the Snake Pit” The Culture at the Jake Gaither Classic
Experience the atmosphere of opening weekend.
Whenever I’m asked what separates an HBCU from the typical collegiate gridiron experience, I always respond with two words… The atmosphere.
Be it the local vendors lined along the stadium selling everything from BBQ ribs to Shea Butter or the echo of the school band playing their way through campus on the dewy morn before a noon kickoff, the HBCU football experience is markedly unique from anything else we see in amateur athletics.
And just like the aforementioned “anything else”, not all HBCU’s are created equal and there are times when a certain University plays an intriguing opponent on the perfect weekend and you get the recipe for an atmosphere gumbo unique to only that specific time and place.
And when I saw that the 2017 football schedule opened up with Florida A&M University Rattlers hosting the Texas Southern Tigers in Tallahassee, my first thoughts were:
Florida versus Texas… check
MEAC versus SWAC… check
Two of the best bands in the land…check
Nationally televised noon start… check
Me, a sweat towel, water, and my camera under the humbling rays of an August Florida sun… another check.
This was a game I’ve had circled on my calendar all summer long and it did not disappoint. While the game played in between the lines could have been a little more competitive, the sheer amount of fun being had by all in attendance was undeniable. Even with their team down multiple touchdowns and outnumbered in band size by what looked like dozens, the Texas Southern Ocean of Soul still had their section rocking all game long.
As I made my laps around the field shooting candid moments of players on the sidelines and hilarious trash-talking fans I realized that my words can never do justice towards defining what’s special about the atmosphere at an HBCU football game such as FAMU versus Texas Southern. There’s no prose nor sonnet; witty limerick or haiku that can properly convey the essence of something that must be experienced to appreciate.
So instead of the usual jock talk and highlights, I decided to put together a “Cinematic Re-Cap” of my Saturday afternoon in Tallahassee. I wanted to see if I could give our audience an audio visual representation of all the intangible elements that make the atmosphere of black college football unique and second to none.