Why the Future of Georgia Football Depends Upon Keeping the Florida Game in Jacksonville

It's Paul Westerdawg's world and the rest of us just live in it.

If you didn't know that before, you surely knew it after Paul's spirited and absolutely correct defense of keeping the Cocktail Party in Jacksonville. To his superb (both in the ordinary sense in which the word superb means "superb" and in the Corrine Brown sense in which the word superb means "superior") arguments I would add only one further point in support of the proper position:

Not all Georgia fans are in or from metro Atlanta . . . nor do we want them to be. I am a North Georgia native, but my family hails from South Georgia, where the 'Dawgs have many loyal fans and alumni. Although the University's enrollment increasingly comes from the Atlanta area, the state's flagship institution is intended to serve the entire population, from Piedmont to Coastal Plain. We want to keep pulling Stinchcombs out of Lilburn, but we want to keep pulling Baileys out of Waycross, too.

One tangible and meaningful way of cultivating our recruiting base and maintaining our fan base in South Georgia is to give folks from that area one guaranteed game per year in their vicinity. Many complain that Jacksonville is nowhere near Athens (as though the plane trip from the Classic City to the Gateway City took hours longer than the bus ride from Gainesville to the St. John's River), but Jacksonville is very near Savannah and St. Simons and Valdosta. As more and more kickoff times in Sanford Stadium are set at 3:30 or later, it becomes harder and harder for Georgia fans south of the Columbus-Macon-Augusta corridor to make it to home games.

This consideration is far from trivial. Major league baseball's decision to move all World Series games into prime time had no immediate negative consequences . . . but, over time, a generation of American boys grew up without the Fall Classic as a part of their formative boyhood experience, because championship baseball was only played after their bedtimes. The result has been a dramatic decline in interest in the national pastime among the rising generation of young people. Meanwhile, college football and the N.F.L., which are played on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, are thriving.

Don't slight South Georgia just because you don't live there or aren't from there. Those of us who are within two hours' drive of Athens need to appreciate just how much keeping the Cocktail Party in Jacksonville means to fans below the gnat line . . . and just how much the Bulldogs' future success depends upon preserving the school’s presence in that region.

Go 'Dawgs!

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