Shreveport / Independence Stadium: To go ahead and get this out there, the city wasn’t prepared for this number of people. The Aggies travel well and College Station isn't far, UGA is one of the larger Universities around, and the bowl’s third largest attendance played out like a logistical nightmare for us visitors. The stadium has no parking anywhere, and allows tailgaters just feet from the arena, making for more of a mess. It was a massive wrath of people making their way through tiny gates and we spent a good bit of time just trying to figure out where to go – no markings or crowd control measures at all. The stadium is, to quote a friend in Monroe that texted me in the game “Well, it’s 40 years old and in LA”. That is a good summation, it’s uncomfortable and dated, although we did have decent seats. Logistically, neither the bowl nor the city did much to prepare for the game, nor seemed to care; I wondered if this is why they lost the SEC as A bowl bid. A 4pm local game on the Monday after Christmas for an arena with no good travel and / or parking avenues is a bad idea. There was two hours of pregame gridlock making about half the stadium late for the game. Other things, like putting the bands by the one source of speakers in the stands (it was great our band was louder than their commercials) just showed a lack of football finesse. I will comment further on the game in another section. The hotels didn’t much provide any good info on the city or modes of transportation, and mostly it was business as usual. Hey, when you pay $130 a night for a $50 a night hotel, you expect a little more love. No special events any where city wise (the only special events were Aggie things), and many bars and clubs were closed. There simply wasn’t that much to do other than drink or gamble. We wanted some dancing – any kind of dancing, none was to be had. In fact, some of the casinos that normally have a Sunday night event, every Sunday, somehow didn’t manage to have an event last Sunday night, and I don’t believe it was a coincidence. The riverfront bar area was pretty slow with nothing special going on. The casino’s made their share on visitors, but as we didn’t gamble, our Sunday and Monday night activities were very sparse. We had a good time as we were out and doing something new, but with hotel prices doubled, and all the fans arriving, I would think somebody in the city would “kick it up a notch”, but this didn’t happen. I am sorry Shreveport, but you were woefully unprepared, uncaring, and I won’t be back there again.
Sunday Night Yell Practice: With the lack of aforementioned activities or open clubs to attend, we did make it to yell practice. I am proud to say I was the only one of about 2,000 wearing red and black there. The Aggies were all very cordial and some even took the time to explain some of the cheers. Basically, they lean over on their knees (I don’t know why) and begin a few cheers, many of which you hear in the game. Between these cheers, some young cadets in liberty overalls tell jokes making fun of Georgia and how great the Aggies are, followed by more cheer practice. My favorites were the use of the cocked right elbow and fist symbol with same meaning of a middle finger yelling “To hell with Georgia” (does that sound familiar?) and another cheer where they say “Fight Farmers Fight”. The fans were great and even gave us a ride back across the river, which we very much appreciated. It was the highlight of the trip outside of the game.
The 2009 Independence Bowl: It was difficult to enjoy the athletic competition at times from a facility standpoint (I think you are getting by now this arena is subpar for an SEC / Big 12 match up). I simply couldn’t believe the number of mistakes made by the officials and stadium crew during this game. The clock was perpetually wrong. The first down markers were late or mistaken. They moved the ball from one spot to another holding up the offense regularly. Does anyone remember UGA actually ran a full play, and then the Refs stopped the game to review the previous play? Even the Aggies didn’t get that. We often had no idea, other than football smarts, what was going on as the refs weren’t properly mic’d or made no announcement. The 25 second clocks were tiny. Did I mention the game clock was screwed up all the time? At numerous points, the game would stop, and I would mutter “Please reset the clock…” and there you go. Probably the largest disappointment was how severely outnumbered we were. The crowd noise was low, but when it was there, it was all Aggies. I missed being able to do our cheers and although I now understand why the Bulldog nation may not drive 12 hours for Shreveport, I sure wish few more did. And hey, in the end, we beat up on the Aggies pretty good on the score board. For concessions, $6 beers and $3 hotdogs may be pretty normal, but when you have to fight those kinds of lines, I didn’t much care. Another nuisance was the ‘mini –tron’ operator would routinely hit the “1st Down!” or “TD!” button when the play had a flag or something else that negated the visual, he just couldn’t seem to get it right. And for some reason, someone started doing a little down by down synopsis over the intercom, you know the usual “Rambo with the tackle, 2nd and 5” type calls, but that didn’t start until the 4th quarter on a regular basis. Maybe they fell asleep in the first half as well. But again, the stadium and the city didn’t seem to know how to put on a show, and I generally felt like they didn’t much care. Post game – there were about 10,000 of us lined up to catch the shuttles, it was looking to be about a 2-4 hour wait in the cold; it was another mess. We walked down to McDonalds to warm up and catch a cab, and as it turned out, made it to our hotel before the Aggie band did.
Synopsis: I know someone out there is going to say “Mr Negative is at it again”. So let me make some additional points. I went to my first UGA game in 5 years, which was a great thing for me. I attended my first non Atlanta bowl, another new experience. We had a great time – just had to make more of it for ourselves than what the city was offering. And I got a huge appreciation of just how amazing our entire University is. I was told to watch the Aggie Band, they were a sight to behold. So I sat through all of halftime. The Aggie band was very military like, amazing formations marching the full length of the field from North to South and back 2 times. Very impressive. Then the Redcoats came out. We sprawled the entire field, cheerleaders, flag wavers, and baton throwers everywhere. We didn’t just play our traditional music, we played a whole gig. We had a very crowd appealing duo of majorettes throwing up fire batons. Yes, 3 batons in the air at one time on fire. For the on field completion I just wanted to say this: we have absolutely stellar athletes and we better get our coaching staff in order to take advantage of it. I didn’t want to break down Xs and Os on this post, but my biggest take is our football program is underachieving in most categories and we are doing it to ourselves. We have the talent and the program to be a top ten school annually now.
Our University is simply very big, very organized, with 225 years of practice at everything U to get this stuff right, and you know what, we absolutely do. Let me tell you: if you attend a game at Sanford Stadium, look no further, you are in one of the finest facilities in America and will enjoy a beyond professional level ran and organized event. Sometimes you do have to go see how other places are to get a head check on just how good it is in Athens. In summary: IT’S GREAT, TO BE, A GEORGIA BULLDOG!
PS - I would love to answer questions below, about what I saw onfield or otherwise.