It’s that time of the year again. Fall has encroached upon us and the days are growing short. Halloween is a day away, and the Dawgs are about to play the Gators. More so than any other Bulldog rivalry, Georgia and Florida has always felt like one of those “our way of life versus theirs” type of games.
Yesterday was a pretty slow news day. So, we’re starting our Wednesday with a little tune that feels appropriate as large portions of Dawg Nation start heading towards the Golden Isles, Driving Song by Widespread Panic.
“The leaves seen through my window pane
Remind me that it’s time to move my life again
November sun is felt by none
A chilly breeze has blown my thoughts to what’s to come”
For me at least, there are few things that make me feel Athens more than this 8:26 clip. A couple of great friends who met at the University of Georgia, sitting on a porch on a cool Fall afternoon as something wonderful passes between them. This was filmed in 2000, but in the mid-80’s, long before John Bell, Mikey Houser and the rest of Widespread Panic were famous, they sat on the same porch and played the same song. That time has passed, but they will always have those moments on the porch of that little house at 165 Hillcrest Street.
Like mine, and I imagine many of yours, their house was probably too small for the number of inhabitants living there. The floor was probably covered in an old dirty carpet stained with a generation worth of spots from tipped over drinks, and I imagine the walls were paper thin. Despite all of its flaws, it was beautiful for two reasons. Because it was theirs, and because they shared a time there together before life was a little more like life.
When I see the leaves through my window pane in the fall, I am always sent back to Athens in my
mind heart. For me, the memories are in houses on Milledge and Cloverhurst, sitting around on a weekday afternoon after classes are over, chatting excitedly about the evening ahead or the upcoming weekend’s Gameday festivities with my friends. Sometimes I see those same autumn leaves through the window pane of an early-2000’s Jeep Grand Cherokee. It’s part of a convoy of SUV’s and sedans, passed down after years of use by parents and older siblings, that are being rolling towards St. Simons on a Wednesday afternoon. The anticipation is growing as we pass by Georgia-Florida week landmarks like Dairy Lane, the barn sign and Wrightsville, the home of the man himself. It will reach fever pitch when we hit I-95 and turn right.
When we arrived at the coast, some of our parents would be there. God bless those mothers and fathers who put food in the empty bellies of all us broke college boys that had spent all our money on things more important than food. No human need supersedes game tickets, booze and a bus ride to Jacksonville when you’re nineteen. Georgia Football is often a gift passed down through the generations. I imagine the Mom’s and Dad’s that fed us probably had parents that did the same for them when they were broke college kids. To me, Georgia-Florida weekend was always like a family reunion that all your friends got invited to come along to.
Widespread Panic eventually left the bars, frat houses and clubs of Athens to play music all over the World. They got famous. I could give you plenty of reasons why they are my favorite band, but maybe more than anything it’s because whenever I see them, even out here in Southwest Colorado, I know they know what it was like to spend a magical bit of time in a magical place called Athens. They lost lead guitarist Mikey Houser to pancreatic cancer in 2002, and other members have come and gone over the years. Despite all of the turmoil, time and distance, the core of the music has always remained remarkably unchanged. Even though those pieces of music have traveled all over, the sound always says home. There’s too much Athens in those song’s origins for it to ever leave.
I caught a chilly breeze to the back of the neck yesterday, and it blew my thoughts to the game that’s coming Saturday. I have a gut feeling that the Dawgs will win, but I’d be lying if I said I know what will happen come 3:30. Many of those on the red half of the stadium will have spent time in old beat up houses in different pockets of Athens. They will have had a special time with special people there before inevitability kicked in and the residents went their separate ways, life getting a little bit bigger and real as they matured into functioning adults.
Having been a Bulldog for a time is a wonderful thing. We have already won in that regard. The luckiest among us are discovering the wonders of Dawgdom as they live out their four or five years at UGA right now. Ah, to do it again. Athens gets in the blood, and even if you end up far away like I have, it never leaves. Come Saturday I’ll turn on my television and see half the stadium donning red, filled with people that I call family because they too passed through Athens and left with a little magic stuck in their blood. The other half will be wearing orange and blue. They will never understand.
Win, lose or draw on Saturday, I thank God I’m a Dawg.
Now a few Bulldog news and notes...
- Georgia looks like it might be getting Lawerence Cager and Tyson Campbell back from injury at the right time. If those two can play Saturday it would be a HUGE lift.
- The NCAA has unanimously approved a motion to allow players to profit off of their names and likenesses. This could have some interesting effects on recruiting. This could also mean the return of NCAA Football video games. This writer would be overjoyed if that happens.
- The country’s #2 overall prospect, strong-side defensive end Jordan Burch, has announced his Top 5. The Dawgs made the cut for the Columbia, SC native.
- The race for national awards is heating up. J.R. Reed has been named a semi-finalist for the Bednarik Award, and D’Andre Swift made the cut for the Maxwell Award. The honors go to the best defensive and offensive players in the country.
- Finally, after Gators Head Coach Dan Mullen ran his mouth about the Dawgs all off-season, it appears Florida defensive back Shawn Davis called out D’Andre Swift. There’s some debate happening over whether Davis was misquoted. It appears Swift has already seen this post and ingested it as fuel for Saturday, so nobody tell him that it may have been a mistake.