Mr. Two Bits
Mr Two Bits.jpg
"Mr. Two Bits" leading a pre-game cheer
Born(1922-07-17)July 17, 1922[1]
DiedJuly 2, 2019(2019-07-02) (aged 96)
Tampa, Florida, U.S.
NationalityAmerican
OccupationInsurance salesman
Amateur cheerleader
Spouse(s)Jane Edmondson

George E. Edmondson Jr.[2] (July 17, 1922 – July 2, 2019) was an insurance salesman from Tampa, Florida who was known to the University of Florida community as "Mr. Two Bits". Edmondson was a long-time fan of — and unofficial cheerleader for — the Florida Gators football team, for which he led a traditional "Two Bits' cheer" at football games from 1949 until his retirement from the role at the conclusion of the Gators' 2008 season.[3]

Beginning with the 2009 season, a series of University of Florida students and famous alumni have taken over the Mr. Two Bits role during pregame festivities at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Edmondson's cheer and distinctive orange-and-blue-striped tie has also been used by the university as a symbol of alumni support.[4]

Early life

George Edmondson was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and his family moved to Tampa, Florida when he was an infant.[5] He attended The Citadel military school for two years, but with the beginning of World War II, he enlisted in the United States Navy and eventually became a pilot flying Grumman F6F Hellcat carrier-based fighter planes in the Pacific theater of war.[5]

Mr. Two Bits

After the war, Edmondson returned to Tampa and worked in the insurance business. The Two Bits tradition began spontaneously in 1949, when a friend gave him a ticket to see The Citadel play against the Florida Gators in Gainesville in the season-opening game for both teams.[5][6] The Gators had lost five of their last six games the previous year and were not expected to do any better. When the fans booed the players and the coach even before the opening kickoff, Edmondson decided to boost their morale by leading them in a cheer about adding up bits (a "bit" is an eighth of a dollar, so eight of them would indeed total one dollar). The Gators won the game, and fans were so enthusiastic about Edmondson's cheer that he returned the next Saturday to lead it again.[5]

Edmondson bought season tickets for the Gators' 1950 football campaign and continued to lead the two-bits cheer. Eventually, he began leaving his seat to wander throughout the stands of Florida Field, leading the cheer in seating sections around the stadium.[7] Edmondson continued leading the cheer at almost every Gator home game and selected road and bowl games over the next several decades. Beginning In the late 1970s, the university invited him to lead the entire crowd in the two-bits cheer from midfield as part of pregame festivities.

Edmondson was never paid for his services, and even after becoming an integral part of Florida's gameday traditions, he insisted on paying for his tickets like any other fan.[8] In the early 1980s, Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse offered to pay Edmondson "real well" to lead the Two Bits cheer at his hometown Bucs games. Edmondson declined the offer, saying, "What I do for the Gators is from the heart, not from the pocketbook."[6]

Edmondson announced his retirement from cheerleading at the end of the 1998 football season and received a game ball from head coach Steve Spurrier during an on-field ceremony before the last home game. However, he continued to occasionally lead the Two Bits cheer from his seat in the stands, and was eventually talked into once again leading the cheer from the field before each home game.[5] He retired for good at the end of the 2008 season, and the university held another pregame ceremony before the last home game against The Citadel, the same team the Gators were playing when Edmondson began the tradition 60 seasons earlier.[9] Edmondson did not perform the cheer again following his second retirement, saying at the time that "at 86 years of age, I've got to slow down. Nothing is forever."[10] Edmondson and his wife, Jane, attended a few Gator home games in the season after his retirement, but thereafter watched the contests on television from their home in Tampa.[10][11]

Cheer

Edmondson used a similar routine whether he led his cheer from the stands or from the field. During the game, he would walk through the stands, wait for a break in the action, then draw attention to himself and silence the crowd by holding up a small orange and blue sign reading "2 Bits" and blowing a whistle. (He used a bugle during his first few years, but found a whistle to be easier to carry.[8]) Once the surrounding fans quieted down, Mr. Two Bits prompted them to yell each line of the cheer with arm waves and fist pumps, encouraging them to roar after the last line.

When performing during pre-game festivities, Mr. Two Bits would be introduced and energetically jog to midfield wearing his signature outfit. Then, using the same whistle and sign and even more vigorous arm waving, he would lead the entire Florida Field crowd in the cheer. Usually, his routine came just before the entrance of the Gator football team and the opening kickoff.

As performed at the University of Florida, the Two Bits cheer is as follows: "Two Bits! Four Bits! Six Bits! A Dollar! All for the Gators, stand up and holler!"

Outfit

During his time as Mr. Two Bits, Edmonson wore a distinctive outfit consisting of a long-sleeved yellow dress shirt, an orange and blue tie, white-and-blue-striped seersucker pants, and black-and-white saddle shoes to every Gator game. This was standard attire for college football fans when he started performing the cheer in the late 1940s, and he continued to wear his "lucky" outfit to stand out in the crowd after his cheer became popular.[10]

In recent years, the university has used the combination of Edmonson's yellow shirt and orange-and-blue-striped tie as a symbol of school spirit. It was most notably used in February 2019, when UF promoted its "Stand Up & Holler" university fund drive by mailing thousands of striped-tie stickers to alumni and university boosters and prominently displaying the tie around campus.[4]

Legacy

Edmondson was well known to generations of Florida fans.[12] Though he was never a University of Florida student, the school named him an honorary alumnus in 2005, and he claimed it as his new alma mater.[13] He was inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as an "honorary letter winner" in 1992.[14][15] When he died on July 2, 2019 at the age of 97, his death received coverage in national sports media.[16]

George and Jane Edmondson established the Mr. Two Bits Scholarship Fund, which benefits a University of Florida cheerleader every year.[12]

Celebrity Mr. Two-Bits

After Edmondson's 2008 retirement, costumed mascot Albert the Alligator donned a special Mr. Two Bits outfit to lead a pregame two-bits cheer from the field. Since 2013, Albert has been joined during pregame festivities by a famous alumnus or a student contest winner to serve as a "Celebrity Mr. Two Bits" for the day.[17] These special guests usually wear similar clothing to that worn by the original Mr. Two Bits, and lead the crowd in the cheer in a similar whistle-blowing and arm-waving fashion. A few of the guest Mr. Two Bits have also wandered through the stands to lead various sections in the cheer like Edmondson once did.

Most Celebrity Mr. Two-Bits honorees have been popular former Gator athletic stars. The list includes Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel, All-American and NFL Pro Bowler Cris Collinsworth, professional golfer Chris Dimarco, Olympic medal-winning swimmer Dara Torres, and members of Florida's back-to-back NCAA champion basketball team. Heisman Trophy winning player and national championship winning coach Steve Spurrier was the Celebrity Mr. Two Bits at the first game of the 2016 season, when the field was rechristened "Steve Spurrier – Florida Field" in his honor. Since 2014, a current UF student has been selected to be the guest Mr. Two Bits for one game per season.[11] Also since 2014, the guest Mr. Two Bits for a home game near to Veterans Day has been a veteran with close ties to the university.

See also

References

  1. ^ "George Edmondson "Mr. Two Bits" Obituary - Tampa, FL". Dignity Memorial.
  2. ^ Swirko, Cindy. "Gator legend, Mr. Two-Bits, dies at 97". Gainesville Sun.
  3. ^ "Mr. Two Bits". Sptimes.com.
  4. ^ a b "UF community asked to 'Stand Up and Holler' on Gator Nation Giving Day". News.ufl.edu. University of Florida. 25 February 2019. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e Lebron, Sky (August 26, 2019). "Untold Florida: The Ongoing Legacy Of The Gators' Mr. Two Bits". WUFT News. Retrieved January 3, 2021.
  6. ^ a b Mike Bianchi. "CHEERS!". OrlandoSentinel.com.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-05-02. Retrieved 2014-05-01.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ a b Knight, Joey (8 January 2007). "He plans to stand up and holler". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  9. ^ Columnist, Mike Bianchi, Sentinel. "CHEERS!". OrlandoSentinel.com.
  10. ^ a b c Diane Chun. "Mr. 2-Bits hangs up his sign". The Gainesville Sun.
  11. ^ a b Erickson, Briana (11 September 2015). "New Mr. Two Bits to carry on game tradition". The Independent Florida Alligator.
  12. ^ a b Lyden, Meleah. "George Edmondson, Iconic Mr. Two Bits, Passes at 97". Florida Gators. University of Florida Athletic Association. Retrieved January 3, 2021.
  13. ^ Writer, THOMAS STEWART , Alligator. "Mr. Two–Bits to retire after 60 years of cheers". The Independent Florida Alligator.
  14. ^ "Honorary Letterwinners - Gator F Club, Inc". Gatorfclub.org.
  15. ^ "Sports Briefs: UF inducts seven into Hall of Fame", The Gainesville Sun, p. 4C (April 3, 1992). Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  16. ^ "Florida's famous cheerleader, Mr. Two Bits, dies". Espn.com. July 4, 2019.
  17. ^ "Gators to honor George Edmondson with celebrity "Two-Bits" leaders". Tampa Bay Times.