Today, the Friday before GA/Fla, marks the 9th anniversary of my proposal to the Lady Dawglicious in the little chapel at Epworth-by-the-Sea on St. Simons. As I told T. Kyle recently, I've had a lot of fun thinking about this since July when the call to submit Dawgographies went out. I've enjoyed reading the others, and although I don't comment very often, I read this site every single day. My hat's off to you fellow Dawgs...keep up the good work with your thoughtful commentary!
Recently, I was in Atlanta on business. I had been thinking of T. Kyle's invitation to write a Dawgography, and I figured a little inspiration would be the ticket. There was a particular photo that I had seen years before of a certain former Bulldog, part of a Georgia team photo that hung in Fuzzy's Place on N. Druid Hills Rd. I dropped by to take a look. Unfortunately, Fuzzy had passed away a few years back, and now his place was closed down, gutted for renovation. Why did I go miles out of my way to check the photo out (other than Fuzzy's wonderful crawfish etouffe?)
Sometime in the fall of 1970 (or maybe '71), my parents attended a Georgia football game in Athens. Someone Dad worked with gave them tickets...it was a short drive from Atlanta and the weather was nice. They tell me they looked over the players' names in the program. My mom pointed out a particular name to Dad and said something like, "I like that name." That player's name was Kendall Keith, a lineman and offensive captain for the Dawgs, one of the team members I saw years later at Fuzzy's. At my birth in December '71, I was given one of his names as my middle name. I believe the adage holds true: the name you give a child can either help or haunt him throughout their life. I've never met the man, nor seen his likeness except in that team photo. However, he played a part in my choosing to bleed the red and black.
In spite of this, my journey to Athenstown was not assured. My folks were not diehard fans in the sense that their mood was affected by their respective alma maters' gridiron fortunes. Especially Dad's...'cause he went to Emory. Mom, on the other hand, is a product of FSU. (Before I was a full-fledged Dawg, I naturally hated Florida). We lived in South Georgia, so it was easy to get down to Tallahassee. My first college gameday experience was a 38-6 whuppin' Bobby's boys put on Navy. Someone had kidnapped the Navy mascot...a goat. Thought y'all would like to know that.
I had two big influences as a kid on my decision Dawgward, one my best friend growing up, the other, an aunt and uncle. My best friend was a huge Dawg fan whose room was a veritable Butts-Mehre Hall. He lived and died with the Dawgs...to this day, he counts as the number one moment in his life was being 8 years old and in the Superdome when Georgia won the 1980 national championship. We also read every word that Lewis Grizzard ever printed or uttered in a concert. (Ol' Lewis probably should count as influence #3!) My aunt and uncle are big Bama fans, and they introduced me to the notion of lofty expectations. One Thanksgiving, the family cabin at which we were gathered did not have a TV. They invited me to roam the north GA mountains searching for a TV to watch the Alabama/Auburn game. The first half we watched in a mom and pop grocery store. The third quarter, in a laundromat. Finally, we found a pizza joint in Hiawassee that had the game...when Van Tiffin kicked the winning field goal to beat Auburn, we were politely asked to leave. I realized that this football thing was pretty fun.
As Munson would say, "DO YOU REALIZE" that by the time I graduated high school, I still had not attended one single UGA game, but had several FSU and Bama games under my belt? The spring of my senior year, I had pretty much decided to go to Emory, but I made a fateful visit to Athens in the spring. Within ten minutes, I saw more pretty girls jogging on Milledge than I saw in an entire weekend at Emory. Fortunately, my dad was understanding...I think.
My first Georgia game was the 18-17 last minute win against Alabama (CARSWELL SAVED OUR FANNY!). Unfortunately, that was pretty much the highlight of the six falls I lived in Athens. The brightest sports memories of my sojourn to graduation were solely due to the Atlanta Braves. From the "worst to first", Bream's slide, to the '95 World Series win, my most joyous moments were reserved for the Bravos. As for the lows, I was four rows behind the Georgia bench when Vanderbilt won our 1995 homecoming game. My date, a real pistol of a girl, drunkenly berated the team late in the game. I turned around to see my preacher from home sitting a few rows back, a stern look of disappointment that I hope was directed at the play on the field. That was the absolute low point of my Georgia fandom. It has been all better since, for the most part. I want Georgia football to be hard-hitting on defense, stingy giving up points, and the offense to step on the gas and put the other team away. I see the defense coming around, making improvements every week. Tough defense is Georgia football, in my opinion.
I have been blessed to be in attendance for the Hobnailed Boot and the 2002 SEC Championship. Next week, I have the honor of taking my 7-year old daughter to her first UGA game vs. Idaho St. (gotta make sure it's a win!) We're going to search for the brick I bought to commemorate the game at which I was introduced to my wife (the 2000 drought-breaker against Tennessee) and go see UGA VIII and the cheerleaders. Then we'll hit the Greasy V after halftime for a naked dog and a frosted orange.
As for my vote for Ga's biggest games each year: first would be Auburn, then Tech, then Florida, then Tennessee. Everyone else I want to stomp and hold to 10 points or less, every time...because I suspect the computers have digital comtempt for teams that give up 20+ to Georgia Southern, and I would hate for that to hold us back from potential glory.
I leave you, my fellow Dawgs, with my in-season Saturday morning text message to my buddies: HAPPY GAME DAY! Go Dawgs. Sic 'em. Woof.