I learned last night that my home in the heart of Atlanta sits squarely on (or at most mere yards from) the Eastern Continental Divide: that line that travels through the eastern portion of North America dividing the Eastern Seaboard and Gulf of Mexico watersheds.
Because I learned this fact this week, it of course reminded me of how much I hate Tech. But it also reminded me of some reasons I have to celebrate this Thanksgiving.
A Few Words About The Land
Theoretically, a bucket of water cast into my street would, in the absence of evaporation and the interference imposed by municipal wastewater treatment and disposal, separate into very different journeys. Part of the water would find its way into the Chattahoochee or Flint (I'm very, very close to that dividing line, too), joining up with currents from Hall County, home to my mother's people for generations, through the West Georgia of my childhood and early professional life, and eventually into the Gulf of Mexico at Apalachicola Bay. The other part would travel southeast into the Ocmulgee River, meandering down past Dad's childhood home of Macon before meeting the Oconee's waters, blessed at its banks by Athens, and continuing on to the Atlantic Ocean, just north of the place my father's people called home for generations.
The Oconee originates in Hall County, not too far from the Chattahoochee.
For my Thanksgiving dinner contribution, I will be taking to the Valleys of Hall a traditional dish passed down to me through at least four generations from where it once was cooked a stone's throw from the Marshes of Glynn.
Funny how that works.
A Few Words About Tech
As you continue your preparations for Saturday's game, in the event you might encounter some fans of the other team, I offer a few observations that might help you understand why Tech types behave the way they do. You may be inspired to feel more pity than anger: it's not entirely the Tech fan's fault, because as an institution, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the culture it fosters do troubling psychological things to its students.
1. Tech is a good school. But there are better and more prestigious schools, including specifically in engineering, that do not train their students to hate themselves and the world as Tech does. The North Avenue Trade School as an institution inflicts a horrific brand of academic hazing on its students that is entirely unnecessary to the goal of excellence in education.
Everyone who went to Tech regrets it at one point or several. Maybe they couldn't get into or afford MIT or Stanford, where the quality and prestige of their degree would have been more highly regarded and where they would not have had to suffer the superfluous beating that has long been an integral part of the Georgia Tech experience. But for whatever reason, they found themselves at Tech, so they suppress the regret and replace it with an unrealistic sense of superiority that works in their minds as a trump card in discussing any topic.
If you have a disagreement with a Tech grad (including but not limited to sports), he is convinced of the superiority of his position because, due to the serious brainwashing he's suffered, being a Tech man makes it so. Why else, they ask themselves, would they have suffered the intellectual terror inflicted by their school if not to wind up better than everyone else? (Why, I ask, do better engineering schools not abuse their students the way Tech does?) It's a self-defense mechanism to prevent them from sinking into a bottomless depression. They can't help it.
But as with many false self-aggrandizements, it is not enough to trick oneself into thinking that one is special: one must have an "other" to denigrate. The Tech fan's obsession with Georgia goes beyond a spirited rivalry. The culture on the Flats mandates a conformity in belief that the University of Georgia is a poor excuse for a school. Facts be damned, they can't accept that UGA offers an excellent education. If they risked letting a little reality in, it might mix with their own Tech regret and make their head explode.
From their fight songs to their "What's the good word?" greeting to one another, they need a false sense of Georgia's inferiority to make them comfortable with their choices. Even their school colors were chosen not for a Tech athletic event, but as something to wear to the first Georgia-Auburn football game. The extent to which they let themselves get into this state where they define themselves in terms of us really is a mystery to me, unless it stems from the relative newness of the school, and the early enrollees on the Flats felt they needed to go out of their ways to establish a distinction from the much older, established University in Athens.
2. In football, Tech's best days are long, long behind them. Heisman! Dodd! Rose Bowl! National Championships! Look, I hold college football history in very high regard. Tech's history is very important in the history of college football. And the value of present-day college football is, to me, inseparable from its history and traditions.
I will never, for example, dismiss a Tech fan's touting the 222-0 drubbing of Cumberland in 1916 (even if the back story to that game provides yet another reason why John Heisman's character was questionable). Tech owns the most lopsided score in the history of college football, and no one can take that away. I will grant the Jackets their right to be proud of their history.
But something happens in the minds of fans of a once proud program that slips into a state of mediocrity, including a sustained period of being dominated by their most important rival. We Georgia fans should understand this somewhat, given our several years in the wilderness from Dooley's final seasons through Donnan's almost-but-not-quite breakthrough teams and the recent unpleasantness with our neighbors to the south.
But friends, the Jackets have it so much worse. Georgia has won two SEC championships in the last ten years. Tech has only one outright ACC championship, and that was all the way back in 1990, and only one more, 1998, that it shared with an FSU team that trounced them head-to-head. (A third was vacated due to a Tech representative's arrogance in dealing with NCAA officials - see no. 1 above: of course it happened that way; it's Tech.) And while Florida has had the upper hand in the Cocktail Party more often than not in the last 20 years, they Gators still are eight games behind in the over-all series; Tech, on the other hand, has lost nine of the last ten, 16 of the last 20, 22 of the last 30, 30 of the last 40, and 35 of the last 50 to Georgia. Before that, it took The Drought for Tech to pull even in the series, and that only lasted a couple of years before order was established and Georgia took the lead for good.
The poor showing in the series makes them insufferable in victory and invisible in defeat. And this is not a new phenomenon, by any means. Tech famously terminated all athletic relations with Georgia in the spring of 1919. The story goes that it was on account of some Georgia students' mocking Tech with a parade float, accusing Tech students of cowardice for continuing its football program while Georgia's boys and coach were fighting World War I. I am convinced that the Tech administration feigned offense at this silly prank as cover for the true reason: UGA swept a four-game baseball series with Tech the same weekend as the parade. They've been pouters for a long, long time.
3. Arrogance and butthurt are a terrible combination. Have you heard that Tech football players take calculus? Somehow, the regrettable educational tactics suffered by Tech types excuse, to them, any lack of success on the field of play. It's all right, they convince themselves: our teams may lose on the field, but it's because we are superior human beings; you "just don't get it". Oh, I get it. And it's sad.
A Few More Words About The Land
My father's father got a general engineering degree from Georgia Tech in the 1920s. My mother's father didn't go to college, but he was a huge Tech fan and had a keen mechanical mind, and his sister married a Tech grad. One of my mother's brothers studied chemical engineering at Tech and the other didn't go to Tech, but his son (my cousin) did, and both love the Jackets. Both of my older brothers matriculated on the Flats, and one married a Tech girl (yes, they have girls at Tech, and some of them are lovely).
I was pretty good in my high school math and science classes. I very easily could have gone to Tech, but I am thankful I did not. Instead, I followed my parents' path and headed to dear old UGA - a path that has blessed me immeasurably.
Funny how that works.
A Few Words About Thanksgiving
I am joining family for Thanksgiving. I will eat some turkey (and, perhaps, drink some Turkey) with people whom I love, including some Bulldogs and some Yellow Jackets. Because I love them, I will look past their faults just as I humbly hope they will look past mine.
Friends, I also hope you enjoy a warm and happy Thanksgiving. I hope you experience the joy of spending time with loved ones, but if you are separate from any or all, I wish for you peace and comfort.
Let us count our blessings and celebrate our school spirit.