Saturday, September 2, 2006, will always occupy a special place in my memory, because it was the day on which my son, Thomas, attended his first college football game.
My wife, Susan, and I took the boy over to Athens yesterday and we all had a wonderful afternoon. Thomas had a good time climbing and jumping on the portable playground equipment that was set up on North Campus for the benefit of fans with small children and we were in Sanford Stadium in time for him to take in the pageantry of the event . . . the hoisting of the S.E.C. championship flag, the Lone Bugler, the scoreboard montage, the team's entrance, the kickoff chant, et al. (Thomas prepared for the event by watching the videos provided by Paul Westerdawg.)
Before we left for the Classic City, I let Thomas pick out my hat and my loyal readers will be glad to know that he chose my regular game day cap and not my S.E.C. championship headgear. As we were getting him dressed for the game, Susan asked him what color the Bulldogs wear and, after giving the correct answer, Thomas began to sing:
If you're wearing red,
Stand up and shake your head!
If you're wearing peach,
Stand up and reach!
Since my son is a mojo savant, I interpreted his intuitive linking of the words "red" and "peach" to mean that the 'Dawgs are bound for what is now known as the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Travis Rice, my sister-in-law's husband and my former co-host of "The Dawg Show," questioned whether the Peach Bowl's recent name change might have worked a contramojofication which rendered Thomas's insight invalid. We shall see.
Thomas is a good fan, clapping and barking at the appropriate moments, and the game held his interest longer than I expected it would. (In the boy's defense, he is three years old.) Some explanations were required (as when he asked me which one was Herschel Walker), but he grasped the centrality of tackling to the exercise at hand and he proved quite coachable. (At the start of the fourth quarter, he initially held up five fingers, but he quickly corrected that honest mistake when it was explained to him that holding up five fingers at a football game meant, "We own the call-in show!")
This guy's presence at the game was a real hit with Thomas, so I'm grateful to whichever Western Kentucky student it was who braved the heat and humidity by wearing this costume in Athens on Labor Day weekend.
Here are a few observations about yesterday's experience in Athens, for whatever they might be worth:
- I am always amazed at how often I run into people I know on a game day. Almost 100,000 folks will find their way into the stadium and who knows how many more are in the vicinity, yet I almost always bump into old friends or family members by sheer happenstance. Yesterday, Susan, Thomas, and I ran into two of my classmates from law school, as well as a couple we have known for more than a decade and their son. It is always a happy coincidence to chance upon people you know but did not expect to see.
- The new family-friendly tailgating policy is not a bad idea; rather, it is a good idea hampered by problematic execution and horrific public relations efforts. Although Old College is a logical line of demarcation for subdividing North Campus, the quadrangle bordered by Lustrat House, Peabody Hall, the main library, and the law school was overcrowded and the quadrangle bounded by the Arch, the Chapel, and Phi Kappa Hall was largely underutilized space.
Nice try, Il Duce, but it's not enough just to hand down edicts from on high . . . a little common sense and positive P.R. are required, as well. (Photograph from The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.)
The idea of setting up inflatable playground equipment for the kids to use, though, is a fine idea that was poorly publicized. As usual, Michael Adams botched this effort to impose reasonable regulations, coming across as a killjoy old fuddy-duddy bent on ruining everyone's good time when an honest effort at communicating with his constituency (and a more realistic drawing of the lines between what are the equivalent of smoking and non-smoking sections in restaurants) could have provided a positive spin that made this appear like a legitimate effort to accommodate both fans who prefer to drink with their friends and fans who want a more family-oriented experience. As someone who does not drink before football games but does not wish unreasonably to restrict the activities of those who do, I wish this had been handled better.
- Am I the only one who is now way more worried about U.A.B. than about Colorado?
- If it were up to me, I would station a campus police officer in front of the Chapel bell from the time the first tailgaters began to arrive until the moment the stadium clock showed triple zeroes. That officer would be ordered to give one and only one warning shot to anyone who attempted to ring the Chapel bell before the game was over. All subsequent shots would be directed at non-vital areas (such as, say, the kneecaps) until the message got out that it is bad luck to ring the victory bell before there has been an actual victory! If you're reading this and you've ever rung the Chapel bell before the end of the game, shame on you.
- For the most part, I agree with my readers' observations about the game itself. There is only so much we can tell from a glorified scrimmage like a game against Western Kentucky, but the impressions I came away with were virtually identical to those I carried with me from the G-Day game.
Honestly, not a lot has changed since last spring. (Photograph from Savannah Morning News.)
It is apparent that we have three legitimate starting tailbacks, but, at the moment, it is unclear whether we have one legitimate starting quarterback. Joe Tereshinski's game management skills are sound but his arm strength and accuracy are lacking, Joe Cox is too prone to throwing interceptions, and Matthew Stafford will be starting as soon as he develops. Considering his recent progress---from co-No. 3 during camp to No. 3 during the Western Kentucky game to (most likely) No. 2 next Saturday---Stafford's assumption of the starting role (a la Eric Zeier in 1991) probably will occur sooner rather than later.
Until that occurs, our defense appears extremely solid and our special teams are very impressive . . . which is critical, because, right now, the absence of an effective throw-and-catch combination leaves the Red and Black's offense vulnerable to defensive fronts that put eight men in the box and dare us to complete a forward pass.
There are too many defensive standouts to name them all---although Hamp tried his best---but I would like to give particular mention to Asher Allen, a special player who is going to make some serious noise in this league. Offensively, my only additional observation is that making Martrez Milner an offensive lineman would almost certainly have the effect of improving the Bulldogs at two positions.
Beyond that, I am reserving judgment and maintaining hope as Georgia significantly improves its strength of schedule by traveling to Columbia to play a conference opponent at night in a venue in which the Bulldogs always have struggled. Keep your fingers crossed, Bulldog Nation.