My Dawgography differs from most others for two basic reasons. First, I’ve lived outside the Empire State of the South since 1995, and now reside in central California, a notably different cultural outpost of the Dawg Diaspora.
Second, I’m a lot older than most of you who are reading this post. How old am I? Well, I personally remember the time when the forebears of a majority of today’s Bulldog players had to use separate restrooms and water fountains at every public facility, or at least those they were even allowed to patronize. How old? My first fond remembrance of the radio Voice of the Dawgs was of Ed Thilenius, not that parvenu Larry Munson. How old? I went to college at Emory because it was affordable for my family and UGA wasn’t.
I had no firm sports allegiances in an early childhood spent following my father’s slow upward progress through the southern retail stores of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Neither of my parents were college grads, or big college football fans. I found out many years later that my paternal grandfather, who died during my father’s infancy, attended Tech for a while til his money ran out. But none of this had an impact on me. My drift into Dawgology probably owed most to the formative years I spent in LaGrange, Georgia, a West Georgia town dominated by Auburn fans, whose perpetual persecution complex and defiant advocacy of sketchy ethical practices bothered me even then; and to a couple of times attending the annual Thanksgiving Day Tech-Georgia freshman game in Atlanta—a ritual us hicks often combined with watching the lighting of the Great Tree at the downtown Rich’s—where the language and behavior of Tech students was less than attractive. At any rate, even then I was reasonably sure my career options did not include being a Hell-of-an-Engineer, so I became a Dawg fan.
For several years, on the tiny black-and-while screen in our living room, I watched Georgia play the occasional network or bowl game, but mainly followed college football on those Sunday coach’s shows where you could hear the creak of the tape reels playing in the background. My first truly memorable experience of a Georgia game was watching Vince Dooley’s second-year 1965 contest against Alabama on a television set in the Rome, Georgia, Goodyear Store my father managed, alongside a young sales associate who had actually roomed with Steve Sloan at ‘Bama. This was the famous flea-flicker game, and I was hooked for good.
My early Dawg memories are jumbled and erratic: Big Edgar Chandler opening holes in the Sun Bowl. All-American lineman George Patton being allowed to throw a pass in the waning minutes of the Cotton Bowl. Andy Johnson leading a last-minute drive to beat Tech. Buzzy Rosenberg weaving up the field for a touchdown on a punt return. Dicky Clark intercepting a pass for a touchdown. Sylvester Boler sacking an opposing quarterback just when Erk’s defense looked sure to break. Peter Rajecki, a.k.a. the Bootin’ Teuton, with his then-exotic soccer-style kicks. And the great opponents, Auburn’s Pat Sullivan, Tech’s Eddie McAshan, Ole Miss’ Archie Manning. My first trip to Sanford Stadium, which looked huge though half the size it is today.
As noted above, I didn’t go to college at UGA, but remained a Dawg fan in the athletic vacuum of Emory, rarely missing a televised game even as I went through all the intellectual infatuations of college life in the early 1970s. I may have been one of the few existentialist college football fanatics in Georgia; one of the few to maintain fidelity to the Dawgs even while careening from Marx to Freud to St. Thomas Aquinas.
After graduation and two years of dead-end jobs, I finally pursued the last resort of the unimaginative and went to law school, and finally got to live in Athens, albeit in a series of $65 a month rooms (twice living in a house with a shared kitchen we called the “U.N. Building,” where I’d wake up each morning to the overpowering scent of curry) and then, in isolated splendor, in a house out on the aptly-named Nowhere Road. I don’t think I missed a home game in those three years, but knew little of normal campus life, absorbed with the inbred high-school atmosphere of the Lumpkin School of Law. I left the stadium at halftime of the 1978 Tech game and trudged up the hill to the law library to study, thus missing the greatest comeback in Georgia football history. (Three years later, after moving back to Atlanta, I was watching the Florida game with friends at Manuel’s Tavern, and despairing of the result, chose to answer a call of nature just prior to the Lindsay Scott Miracle, alerted to my mistake by an unearthly shout from the bar).
There were some miserable days for the Dawgs during my time in Athens, such as a 33-0 loss at home to Kentucky in 1977. But the worst, surely, was the 31-0 loss to Virginia in the 1979 homecoming game, a special horror since my law school class included a large clot of snooty lawyers’ children (we called them the Virginia Mafia) who had all attended college in Charlottesville before returning to Georgia to claim their patrimonies. But then I left Athens, and Herschel arrived.
The early 80s Dawgs were glorious if ultimately disappointing, and all too soon afterwards, it seemed that Dooley was retiring and the dark winter of the Ray Goff Era began. I’ll never forget the first time I watched Georgia blow a fourth quarter lead at home; if this happened to Dooley’s Dawgs, none of us much remembered it. That, like losing seasons, was something that happened elsewhere.
I permanently moved away from Georgia not long before Goff was fired, and began my Diaspora. Finding a place to watch the Dawgs in those days of limited televised football wasn’t always easy or possible. It was strange to open a Sunday newspaper and find soccer and lacrosse covered more than college football; to hear drunks in bars sing “Hail to the Redskins” instead of the great obnoxious songs of the SEC. I didn’t pay as much attention to my team as I should have, though I did once find a hill near my home in Virginia where on clear nights I could faintly hear Munson on WSB.
Even as I moved much further from Georgia, the rise of the sports blogosphere (and virtually unlimited internet game coverage) brought me home, and today I am more attached to, and certainly better informed about, Georgia football than ever before. I recently married a season ticket holder (we grew up just miles from each other, but met many years later in New Orleans when a mutual friend said: “You two Bulldogs need to get to know each other”) and though we only rarely make it back to Athens on game days, we have discovered the rare joys of the 9:00 a.m. West Coast Breakfast Tailgate. No other allegiances are tempting; though I live a short drive from the campus of the Top Ten Stanford Cardinal, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game-day school banner or heard anyone with a car horn playing anybody’s fight song. But I do, more often than you’d think, stroll down a Pacific Oceanside walking trail wearing my Georgia Bulldog jacket and hear some stranger (and instant friend) say: