The Friday Tailgate: It Was A Lot Different Back In The Day.

This is part two of a three part series at Dawg Sports sponsored by Samsung. Kyle explained the basis of it here, but to refresh you, Samsung challenged SB Nation bloggers to write anything they wanted about the intersection of technology and sports. This is one of many responses to that challenge. It's not precisely a "Dawgography" in the style that you've seen on this site, but it's fairly close. Enjoy. And try to keep the tractor jokes in the comments to a minimum.


We all have our own formative memories of Georgia football. Depending on when you came of age as a fan, how you were exposed to Bulldog football is just as much a part of your initiation as what you were exposed to. I was exposed to our beloved team in a time before ESPN showed 12 college football contests per week. Before sports talk radio became widespread. A time when Lou Holtz was considered a viable coaching commodity outside the state of South Carolina. It was a long, long time ago.

In my case, I remember vividly three episodes which shaped my early Bulldog fandom. Way back in the early 80's, when I was perhaps 4 years old, a televised University of Georgia football game was a family event. Herschel Walker-led Georgia was a compelling TV draw in the days before ESPNU, ESPN2, ESPN3 and, for those of us back in the sticks, ESPN or any other cable provider. I well remember my father hunched in front of the television at my grandmother's house focused on a Bulldog team fighting an opponent I frankly don't even remember. Could have been Ole Miss, but I'm not really sure and don't know that it matters. I do remember rather clearly my father jumping up and down yelling "Go Herschel! Go!" as the big back from Wrightsville broke loose at the line. I didn't know what exactly had occurred, but my father was very, very excited about it, and I recall thinking that must make whatever this thing was pretty important.

This of course had been preceded by repeated checking of the television antenna to get the best possible reception. I imagine we would have recorded the game on our Video Cassette Recorder, or "VCR" (insert old dude quotes) if we had one. Which we did not. As a result I really have no strong first person memories of Herschel Walker's rampage across the SEC. I was too young to personally appreciate what I was seeing on the screen. I was able to tell the good guys from the bad based on uniform color, but that was about it.* I was yet to understand the elegance of a well-executed play action pass, which was probably all well and good since Vince Dooley had little use for them anyway.

I think back now on how that early indoctrination would have gone in 2010. Now my dad could use his digital video recorder, or "DVR" (insert young dude quotes) to record the game and watch it with me whenever it was convenient. Over and over again. He could show me youtube clips of Herschel's greatest runs. We could throw things at the television screen in tandem as Mark May blathered on about how Georgia's tailback was overrated (you know he would and don't you dare argue about it).

A second indelible memory revolves around a late summer evening perhaps two years later. Some media group (perhaps WSB) had put together a season preview of the Georgia Bulldog football team which was set to air on a Sunday evening (probably after 60 Minutes, which I assumed at the time every human being on the planet must watch because, hey, there was nothing else on in our neck of the woods besides Marty Stouffer's Wild America). I had by this time attained some rudimentary understanding of the game of football, and was really looking forward to seeing my heros on TV.

Being a 6-7 year old boy in that day and time, I spent the afternoon roaming around outside doing the things boys who grow up out in the country do: catching frogs, finding interesting rocks, throwing said rocks at things (and by "things" I probably mean "rabbits" and "squirrels", but let's not dwell on that, ok?). Bottomline, I managed to lose track of time and miss the UGA football season preview. I was crestfallen. Actually I don't know if kids of that age are capable of "crestfallen". Inconsolable might be more accurate. My nacent fandom was dealt a blow by a crippling lack of technology. I'm sure the interview with Keith Henderson would have changed my life. But it was all for naught. Sadly that was about it for football until the actual games began. It all seems so comical now that I have the 2010 iteration of this type of program, which aired on Fox Sports South, safely tucked away on my DVR. It came on one August night while I was doing something else really important like loading the dishwasher or checking my email.

Finally, I remember my first game in Sanford Stadium. Perhaps prompted by my disconsolate state after missing the 1986 season preview show, I was allowed to attend the 1987 Georgia/LSU game, which coincided with my grandfather being honored by the University for his contributions to agriculture in Georgia through the Cooperative Extension Service. At the time I don't think I realized that I had a ticket for a highly anticipated matchup of top 20 SEC teams. I was just really excited when my dad pointed out Rodney Hampton and Lars Tate to me. Georgia trailed at halftime, took the lead late, and finally surrendered it again on a Tommy Hodson touchdown pass with 5 minutes to go. I'm told that this game was broadcast on ESPN (again, no cable, and no idea at the time what that was) and that some former coach named Lee Corso was on the broadcast team.

I'm also told that in the movie Cocktail this game plays on a background television during one bar scene. I have yet to get my royalty check, and IMDB rejected it for inclusion in my film biography. Whatever. It would have been a heckuva debut. My most prominent nonfootball related memory of that trip was listening to the radio in the back of my grandmother's car (a gray monte carlo, if I recall correctly) on the way to Athens. R.E.M.'s The One I Love had recently been released as a single and played on the radio at least 5 times during that 2 hour drive. It didn't matter what station you tuned to. The song was everywhere, in a way that I'm not sure any music can be in this day and time. There are just too many channels/feeds/streams for anything to become truly ubiquitous anymore.

I remember being told that the guys who did that song (which, to a 9 year old's keen ears wasn't all that special) were from Athens, where we were going. I was intrigued. It's interesting to me now that MTV was instrumental in launching the career of 4 guys based in Athens, Georgia, of all places. In another day and time they might have toiled in obscurity unless they'd chosen to move to New York or L.A. or some other locale where lounge lizard music industry folk could have seen them firsthand, doing something like this:


Obviously, such was not necessary, and America's best college town was all the better for their native sons' insistence on that most southern of cultural stratagems, staying put right where you're dropped.

Technology has that kind of leveling effect, even in sports. It's amusing to consider Boise State as sort of an R.E.M. of the college football world, doing things very differently in a place off the beaten path and out of sight of national tastemakers. Now, five years after crashing and burning in savage fashion in Sanford Stadium (for two years afterwards when something confused me I told people I had been "Zabranskied") Boise State is a perennial top 10 team.

Not coincidentally, twenty-three years after I first heard them, R.E.M. still makes some of the best music available for aural consumption. L.S.U. still wins SEC football games in stultifying fashion, though without Mike Archer on the sidelines. And my Dad still yells at the television during Georgia games.

I guess my gameday experience is much the same as it was back in the low-fi days. Now it's just delivered in HD. Feel free to share your memories of Georgia football in the pre-College Gameday era in the comments. Until later . .

Go 'Dawgs!!!

* As an aside I also learned my colors based on the paint jobs employed by different tractor manufacturers. I initially did not refer to green as such, rather calling it "John Deere". Red was "International." Blue was "Ford." I like to think this was evidence of intellectual precociousness. Draw your own conclusions.

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