The issue is among the most controversial questions currently facing Bulldog Nation . . . should Georgia fans root for Notre Dame when the Fighting Irish take on Georgia Tech in the season opener at historic Grant Field?
Oh, you were finished? Well, allow me to retort!
One of Paul's regular readers is a loyal Bulldog who goes by the handle "All School." All School always makes an effective point and he and I generally are in agreement, but we are on opposite sides of this particular fence. All School had this to say:
But hating ND so much you'd pull for GTU? Lewis Grizzard is spinning in his grave at the thought of it. As Lewis once wrote in his column, quoting with approval someone else, "Anyone who says he's a Georgia fan, but that he pulls for Tech when they aren't playing Georgia is just a damn liar."
If it's good enough for Lewis, it's good enough for me.
I wholeheartedly agree with All School's concluding sentence, but his quotation from the sainted Grizzard simply does not say what he thinks it says. When Georgia and Georgia Tech fans are being cordial to each other, they often tell one another, "I root for y'all every game of the year . . . except one." That oft-repeated sentiment is a falsehood on both sides of the aisle and Grizzard quite properly exposed it as untrue.
However, Grizzard was just talking about the lie that a Georgia man always pulls for Georgia Tech when the Yellow Jackets aren't playing the Red and Black; that has nothing to do with whether a Georgia man sometimes can pull for Georgia Tech when the Yellow Jackets aren't playing the 'Dawgs. Wasn't it also Grizzard who, in Glory, Glory!, quoted with approval the Bulldog fan who said before the 1981 Sugar Bowl that he didn't think Georgia Tech was worth thinking about but he hated Notre Dame?
You had to go and bring up Lewis Grizzard, didn't you?
All School is right that we don't battle Notre Dame for recruits or conference championships, but how does that make the Golden Domers any different from the Golden Tornado? The Yellow Jackets left the S.E.C. 40 years ago and, compared to the likes of Clemson and South Carolina or Alabama and Auburn, Georgia and Georgia Tech seldom go head to head in pursuit of recruits. For every Calvin Johnson, there is a Darius Walker.
As I noted before, I won't be rooting for Georgia Tech, I'll be rooting against Notre Dame. (Anyone who has voted in a presidential election in the last 18 years can appreciate the distinction.) Regional pride alone would compel me to root for a Southern school---any Southern school (well, any Southern school except Auburn, but, then, I hate Auburn)---against Notre Dame.
Weren't we all pulling for the Volunteers to beat Notre Dame last year so we could finally hear the end of the Charlie Weis lovefest? I sure was . . . yet Georgia and Tennessee go head to head in recruiting every year and compete for Eastern Division championships each autumn.
What self-respecting Southerner doesn't find it galling that Bear Bryant never beat the Fighting Irish? Weren't we all pulling for the Crimson Tide every time they clashed with the Golden Domers? I sure was . . . yet Alabama and Georgia vie for the same high school prospects and play in the same league, as well.
If you're a Southerner and you didn't root for this man to beat Notre Dame, I have a question for you: "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?"
Tennessee holds an 18-15-2 series lead over Georgia and the Vols won nine in a row over the 'Dawgs from 1989 to 1999. Alabama holds a 35-25-4 series lead over Georgia and only a blown officiating call in Sanford Stadium in 1965 prevented the Tide from winning eight in a row against the Red and Black between 1960 and 1973.
If regional pride enables us to pull for Alabama and Tennessee---conference rivals with winning records against the Bulldogs---when the Red Elephants and the Big Orange take on Notre Dame, why should we begrudge our support to Georgia Tech when the Ramblin' Wreck tangles with the Fighting Irish?
Frankly, I don't think the Yellow Jackets deserve to be singled out for such special distinction. Even counting the Golden Tornado's series wins in 1893, 1943, 1944, 1998, 1999, and 2000---in which Georgia Tech used military ringers or ineligible players---the 'Dawgs hold a commanding 57-38-5 edge over their in-state rival.
I have been alive on the planet for 37 years and I have seen Georgia beat Georgia Tech 27 times. When I was 27 days old, the Bulldogs beat the Yellow Jackets by a 47-8 margin; I would later find myself sitting in Sanford Stadium to watch the Red and Black beat the Ramblin' Wreck by margins of 48-10 (in 1994) and 51-7 (in 2002). Since my 10th birthday, I have seen Georgia claim winning streaks over Georgia Tech of six (1978-1983), seven (1991-1997), and, to date, five (2001-present) games.
5-0, baby. It ain't nothing but a thing.
Notre Dame is a self-righteous condescending scourge awash in sanctimoniousness and bathed in media adulation. Georgia Tech is merely an annoyance, not unlike the insect with which the North Avenue Trade School's mascot shares its name. A rigid and reflexive "Dawg Fan = Always Roots Against Tech" policy seems to me to give the Yellow Jackets pride of place out of all proportion to their actual significance, not at all unlike a strict "Vol Fan = Always Roots Against Vandy" stance.
(Doubtless, there are those who will judge that last statement to be somewhat hyperbolic. It isn't. In the 15 seasons from 1991 to 2005, Tennessee went 14-1 against the Commodores and Georgia went 12-3 against the Yellow Jackets, with all three of Georgia Tech's victories coming while the Ramblin' Wreck was fielding numerous academically ineligible players and with the Golden Tornado needing obviously erroneous officiating calls to claim victory in two of the three games that they won by cheating. Competent refereeing would have produced identical 14-1 records for Georgia and Tennessee against their respective in-state rivals; competent refereeing coupled with adherence to N.C.A.A. regulations would have given the 'Dawgs a better record against the Jackets than the Vols had against the 'Dores. The Peach State series wasn't even more competitive than that between the combatants from Knoxville and Nashville: seven of those 15 Georgia-Georgia Tech games were decided by margins of a touchdown or less . . . and so were seven of those 15 Tennessee-Vanderbilt games.)
There is an old saying in Bulldog Nation, one so well known that even the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's cognitively dissonant Georgia Tech lapdog, Mark Bradley, is aware of it: "Georgia fans think about Georgia Tech when Georgia Tech is good, but Georgia Tech fans think about Georgia every day of their lives."
A quick look at Georgia Tech's history reveals that this is true. From their fight song to their "rat caps," from their "good word" to George P. Burdell, Georgia Tech's whole history has far less to do with their loving the Institute and far more to do with their hating the University. (After all, they never think to teach their sons to yell, "To Heaven with Georgia Tech!")
I, for one, prefer to rise above that. I find Georgia Tech to be, quite literally, beneath my contempt . . . so much so that I do not feel threatened by the Yellow Jackets' occasional good fortune. It's not that I want the Ramblin' Wreck to win; it's that I can't bring myself to care, one way or the other. Call it a case of clean old-fashioned indifference.
When it comes to these guys, though, I even dislike their lucky jerseys.
Notre Dame, by contrast, is one of those sports dynasties---the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Yankees are the others---about which it is impossible to be indifferent. Either you love 'em or you hate 'em; either you're for 'em or you're against 'em. Well, I'm against 'em---all three of 'em, in fact---so, absent some specific benefit to Georgia, I pull for whichever team is playing Notre Dame.
On September 2, that team happens to be Georgia Tech. If that means I have to cheer for the Yellow Jackets for three hours once every few years, then that's what it means. Others may see it differently, but I believe any citizen of Bulldog Nation who takes the opposite view is giving the Yellow Jackets too much credit and paying too little heed to regional pride.
In short, my position boils down to strong Southern sympathies and indifference towards the Georgia Institute of Technology. I feel confident Lewis Grizzard would understand.