How Bout Them Dawgs - Scott Cunningham
Somewhere in the year 2000, having survived the last end of the world, I found myself living back in the south, returned from Japan, and with a new perspective on things. It was during that time, that I quit watching, attending, and otherwise supporting professional sports.
During that time from of the early part of the new millennium is when we got this hot new coach, Coach Richt, and my interest in Georgia athletics was booming with this thing called the internet and cable. I could watch and be more involved than I had been since I graduated in 1995. It was also a time when T Kyle King started sending out his Georgia Bulldogs emails, some of which I wish I still had. I began to write my own emails, watch more Georgia Sports, and be more involved. In fact, during that time I attended a Georgia vs. Mississippi State basketball game in Starkville, invited by MSU fans. (We won by the way and MSU was supposed to be kinda good, it made for a quiet ride home). I also attended MSU football games a few times, because, honestly, you could just walk in. And I even got free tickets to Georgia vs Ole Miss football one season. It was a few years later after the turning point of this story, which we're getting to, but I even attended a Bama game in T Town. So, I was seeing a lot more college action. And liking it.
But it was in late December of 2000, spilling over into 2001 that pro sports changed for me forever. Previously to this time I had, just as I did through the 80s and 90s, watched the Braves and attempted to watch the Falcons, and I would watch NASCAR and most any pro sport if it was on. I was just a normal guy that liked sports. Well, in December of 2000 Alex Rodriquez got the richest deal in sports history, $252 million freaking dollars. Soon thereafter others like Derek Jeter got large contracts. By the time baseball was starting in 2001, I was working 60 hr weeks in a very hot, uncomfortable plane and proud of my job and all that, but I kept thinking "$252 Million for baseball?" I have played in teams, leagues, and schools, more baseball than any other sport. I may have been good enough to make some small minor league team with the proper grooming and coaching. And I was (and am) astounded by the dollars being made in this game. Baseball is a lot of standing around. It's a "pass time" for the fans. There is very little risk of physical injury (not saying a shot to the head doesn't hurt, but mostly, if you are skilled it's safe). There's a whole lot of time sitting on the bench, standing in the field and so on. Are these guys skilled athletes? Sure. But, I kept thinking, "This is ridiculous".
My growing involvement with college athletics, and having more and more fun with them, collided in the summer of 2001 watching a Braves game, where I said, "Why am I doing this?" "Why does it matter?" "Why should I give them my money!!??" And I laid it all down. I can tell you, to be up to our current date, I don't even know who played in the World Series last year from memory. I did watch the Falcons in the playoffs, and that was perhaps out of morbid curiosity (and I am learning a lot about the read option pistol from the 49ers), but the no kidding truth is, I have not watched a baseball game in its entirety since that summer a decade ago, no NBA, no NASCAR, and only a handful of NFL games. And I haven't missed a thing. In the meantime, I am full on college sports guy, starting with all things UGA of course. I'm a 4th generation dawg, I graduated there, and my best friends are from there. I wish I was having dinner there right now! I have a love and passion for the students that bring us great entertainment while working their way through class and bringing positive recognition to my Alma Mater. And most of the student athletes, around 95% of them, have no "pro career" to move on to. But it's more than that. It's the family and friend connections of a tailgate. It's meeting people and making connections through those events. And sometimes, like the Utah State game that ended 3 times last Fall on a Thursday night, it's just downright fun.
Kyle wrote, in a letter I could never hope to reproduce, that college sports are "our reality tv". And they are. Signing day is my "Honey Boo Boo", a Georgia Basketball disaster is my "Catfishing", and my attendance with a friend, old or new, to any college event creates my own realty. No, I haven't missed a thing, and I've saved a lot of money, maybe some pain, and made greater connections and a better life through my love of college sport. I get asked all the time out here, "Why don't you like the NFL?" And I never have a simple answer, I just smile and say "You ever spent an entire football Saturday in Athens?"
Maybe in the comments below you can share some of your love of college athletics, whatever they maybe, or however you got there. In the meantime....