After reading Kyle's piece on why he is a Georgia fan, I decided to write about my journey, which in a way is similar, but quite different.
Like Kyle and many others, family did play a part on my early fandom, but as I tell everyone, Bama was my first love, but I married Georgia.
My earliest memories come from living in Huntsville, Alabama, and that is when I first began following sports. My mother, father and uncle all went to Alabama, but probably more importantly, my great-uncle was a big Bama fan. Later, he would add a "Bama House" out behind his regular house that was filled with Daniel Moore's work and other memorabilia. This was the late 70s and the Bear was still alive and Bama was a powerhouse in football. So with that setting and the fact that Alabama is the most storied program in college football (don't let the Irish fans fool you), how could I not like the Crimson Tide.
We moved to (Kennesaw) Georgia, but I stayed a loyal Tide fan. Of course, it was at this time that UGA was peaking (early 80s) and so there was plenty of talk about the Dogs, Dooley and some guy named Herschel. My stepdad was also a Georgia grad, so our house was a blend of Georgia and Alabama stuff. Years went by and I stayed true to my school and it was pretty easy because if there is one thing a Dog and Tide fan can agree on, it's that Auburn sucks. And it seemed that more and more people in Atlanta were jumping on the Bo Jackson/War Eagle bandwagon, but not me.
Honestly, I didn't go to a college game until about 88, and it was a Georgia game; they played LSU. About a year later, I got my first taste of Alabama football, when the Crimson Tide took on the Hurricanes in the Sugar Bowl. The good guys lost.
Shortly after this it was time to figure out where I was going to go to school. I was going to major in International Business, so after weighing Tuscaloosa and Athens, I ended up in Georgia as an Alabama fan. But I wasn't the only one who spurned the Tide for the Dogs, Eric Zeier had also just become a Bulldog and so I figured that even if I wasn't at Alabama, a national title wouldn't be bad. I actually went to the Bama game in Tuscaloosa my freshman year with some family friends (Dog fans) and quietly rooted for the Tide as they beat the Dogs 10-0.
It was the end of my freshman year and I got a crazy idea that I wanted to work for the football team. It was a decision that changed my life. Thanks to the aforementioned Georiga family, I got a job as a Student Football Manager. So from the spring of my freshman year to the winter of my senior year, I was "part of the team." Georgia wooed my pretty hard that sophomore year- except for a 4th & 13 meltdown to Tennessee and a ill-timed Time Out in Jacksonville in a monsoon of a game, we would have been in the national title hunt. Still, it was a great season and I got to go to the Citrus Bowl for Geogia's win over Ohio State. After our game, I went to a bar at the Orange Blossom Station or something like that. I watched as the again underdog Crimson Tide took on the mighty Hurricanes. This one turned out a little different though. As I watched Alabama's defense smother Gino and his highly-touted WRs, I was amazed. As I watched Jay Barker only complete 2 passes, I was dumbfounded. After it was over, part of my wanted to cry (or at least transfer), but part of me was happy. I could still celebrate their victory- heck! we won too. That's when it happened. Like Caesar crossing the Rubicon, there was no turning back. Like when you find out that your first serious girlfriend gets married, you know it is over and if you truly loved her, you are happy for her. That's what happened to me. For better or worse, I was a Bulldog. We still had Zeier and some good players, next year would be our year (if only we knew how valuable Jack Swann and Mack Strong were to the team, if only Terrell would have stayed healthy, if only...).
If you are a believer in Christ, a true believer, which I wasn't at the time, you know that suffering is part of the Christian life. It is part of God's purpose. It is in the crucible that you can be made stronger. That was my next 2 years at Georgia, for every victory there was a either a heartbreaking loss (a la to Bama, in Jay Barker's best collegiate game ever) or butt-whoopin's from the Gators. Somehow through some of the darkest days in recent Georgia history, I became the fan I am today. Donnan offered a little more promise and a win over Florida and few over Tennessee. But then Richt took over the program and I knew it was 'til death do us part.
Honestly, most of the games are a blur. I was either following Dickey Clark or Ray Goff around with headsets or videoing the games for work after I graduated and worked for several TV stations, but I have seen some good ones- the first and longest OT game with Auburn and the can of whoop a$$ that we opened on LSU in '04.
Old flames warm our hearts with fleeting thoughts. Marriages take work and commitment, but the dividends are much greater. That's why as bad as losses to Vandy and Kentucky are, I wouldn't trade Georgia for all the Duboses, Prices, Frans and Shulas in the world.