Diane Roberts: Marcocito, Secret Service code names and the Gators

Near the end of the latest televised dork parade billed as a “Republican Debate,” CNN’s Jake Tapper asked each candidate what her or his Secret Service code name should be.

“Secretariat,” whinnied Carly Fiorina.

“Humble,” hollered Donald Trump.

“Gator!” said Marco Rubio.

Sigh. Marcocito received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida after a year at the obscure (and now-defunct) Tarkio College in Missouri, and another year at community college. The miasma from the Swamp seems to have affected his brain.

So he gets on a sports radio show the other day, acting all football-studly, gratuitously dissing Florida State University as an institution for “people that can’t get into Florida.”

The Florida State University (the “The” is critical) President John Thrasher, late of the Florida Legislature, responded, “He’s a nice kid,” then sympathized with Rubio’s rock-bottom poll position, calling it “a reflection of where he got his education.”

Marco Rubio actually played football at South Miami High. But he’s not as sharp in the pocket as he used to be. In Iowa for the state fair, he threw a pass and hit a kid in the face.

This guy wants to be president of the United States.

Now back to the deep weirdness of tangling up college football’s splendidly irrational hatreds with the splendidly irrational hatreds in politics. Marcocito is actually correct that UF outranks FSU academically: The latest US News and World Report puts Florida at #47, tied with Penn State. And Lehigh. Florida State comes in at #96, tied with the University of Alabama.

But, as coach says on “College Game Day,” not so fast, my friend! Marcocito got his JD from Miami. Maybe he couldn’t get into the law schools at FSU or UF, both of which are ranked about 20 places higher than the U’s.

Stick that in your beak and whistle the Fight Song, Sebastian.

Politics in America is increasingly about tribes. Uptight and irascible WASPs your thing? Jeb.  Fear women’s sexual autonomy? Ted Cruz is your boy.  Detest marriage equality? Huckabee! Like people who make stuff up about Planned Parenthood and “fully-formed fetuses” lying there getting their brains ripped out? Carly Fiorina. Clueless, pissed off, and a bit crazy? You are a Trump voter.

And if you give your Saturdays over to chanting “It’s GREAT to BE a Florida GATOR!” and singing (regardless of gender) “We are the Boys of Old Flo-ri-da,” Marcocito is Your Own Lizard.

The upside of Rubio’s role in the spoor of football clandom, is that Floridians, rarely celebrated for their political sophistication, may start paying attention. The comments sections of state newspapers ring with high-flown rhetoric about Rubio’s declaration of UF allegiance, referencing “butt-hurt FSU fans” and “jealous Gators,” former Gator and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez and rape-case-entangled and former Seminole quarterback Jameis Winston, and the perennial faves “Gator snobs” and “girls’ school.”

Maybe Rubio’s remarks even boosted the audience share for CNN’s debate, during which Americans heard that 1. Vaccinations can cause autism (discredited years ago); 2. Barack Obama is “giving” Iran $150 billion (no — it’s their own money, frozen); 3. Undocumented aliens cost the United States $200 billion a year (made up — it would cost $137 billion to deport all those people, though); and 4. The 14th Amendment can be undone by “legal scholars” (say what?).

I’ll give Rubio this: At least he understands the transformative and joyful nature of football hatred. Unlike some.

I once had the dubious pleasure of swanning around in the President’s Box at Doak Campbell Stadium at the same time as Gov. Rick Scott. He spent the entire game with his back to the field, yapping to some Chamber of Commerce suits (who kept trying to look at the field). The. Whole. Game.

This was FSU v. Florida, too.

When asked who he was rooting for, Gov. 10-Watt blinked and said, “I like all the Florida teams.”

Without a doubt, one of the stupidest things ever uttered in the history of the state.

Diane Roberts teaches at THE Florida State University. Her book, Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America, comes out in October. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Diane Roberts

Diane Roberts teaches at Florida State University. Her latest book, “Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America,” will be out in paperback in the fall.


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