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The Winning Smart Victory Post: The NATTY Edition!

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National Champions! I know you’ve all been waiting for this post, and I apologize that it has taken me this long to put it together.

Some of you know that I traveled to Indy to watch in person. That may not seem like a big deal to some of you, but I remind you that my day job is teaching math to high school seniors who DO. NOT. WANT. to learn high school math. I actually calculated it once – for every hour that I am not in my classroom, I spend about 3 hours preparing beforehand/mopping up afterward. So, I was not in my classroom for 16 hours this week. It will most likely take me to the end of next week to be truly caught up from that. Add to that the 26 days I took off when our beloved Podunk was in the hospital/passed and 2 more days when our Grandmother passed barely 3 months later, and that may give you an inkling of how big it was.

For those of you who have been writing, moderating and/or commenting for a long time, you may have realized my Bulldog fandom was less a product of true fandom, and more a willingness to tag along with Podunk, but it has now evolved. I may not yet be at rabid fandom, but I’m certainly getting there.

When Podunk first entered the hospital in early August, we had already talked of the upcoming season – we had narrowed down to either the South Carolina or the Kentucky game for her visit (she always attended one regular season game in person), but we were having a time deciding between the two. Then, when she was in the hospital, she said she wasn’t willing to make any plans – that was my first clue that things were more serious than I wanted to admit. Neither of us even considered that she would not live to see this season, and I still have a hard time grasping this reality.

You may recall she took her last breaths on this earth in the early hours of Monday morning of our first game week. As we prepared for her funeral service, it was immediately clear that we needed to gather to watch the Clemson game together. Her local drinking establishment offered to host, and a plan was born.

That Sunday, a voice in my head (which didn’t sound like her, but I’m not saying it wasn’t her, either) said: “You need to write the Victory Post”. I found one of her old Victory Posts on her computer, and churned out that first one of this season. After I had written it, I emailed MaconDawg, who graciously posted it for me (and even seemed thankful that I had written it).

Podunk had actually gotten season tickets for the 2020 season, but with the reduced attendance due to COVID, she was only able to get tickets to one game. That game happened to fall on her birthday weekend, and we had a great time – dinner and drinking Friday night in Athens, the game on Saturday, and she headed back home on Sunday. This season, though, she received the full home game allotment. I was still in Oklahoma when the first game arrived, so Mr. Podunk and I agreed to ask her son’s uncle if he would like to use those tickets (he did, and they had a great time). I was able to attend the remaining home games, and had a different person with me each time, including our brother (who happens to live in CT). I even managed to convince Mr. Squillian to brave the crowds to come with once.

During the years Podunk came to attend games in person, she never missed the SECCG when Georgia was playing. I managed to procure club-level seats to that one, too. I even took Mr. Squillian to that one (mostly because I wanted him to see the Benz in person). Twice we attended the Liberty Bowl in Memphis to watch Georgia play – the first time we brought Mr. Podunk & Mr. Squillian, and even met up with JustSomeDawg and Mrs. JSD. The second time, it was just the two of us. Four years ago, we skipped the Rose Bowl – not because of the travel, etc., but because Podunk desperately wanted to see Georgia win a Natty – and that year, it was held in Atlanta. Her rough estimate was that the cost of each of those events was bound to be around $3K for each of us, and she rightly expected that two such events back to back was well out of reach. So, we watched the Rose Bowl at home, then attended the Natty together. As we watched the Alabama confetti fall, I remember her remarking that she wasn’t even mad because the team had played their hardest, and that was all anyone could ask of them.

Even before the SECCG, it was clear that once again Georgia would likely be in the CFP. I knew Mr. Squillian would not want me to attend any games by myself, but I also knew he had zero interest in traveling to watch UGA play in any bowl game. Much like 4 years ago, I planned to skip the Orange Bowl and hope to travel for the Natty. And just like 4 years ago, Georgia’s Playoff Bowl game punched their ticket to the ship.

So, for Podunk, brother & I bought plane tickets for Indy. We arranged for hotels and a car. We flew in Saturday night, went to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday (if you didn’t do that while you were there, you missed out) and took the “Kiss the Bricks” tour. If you have any enjoyment of automotive racing whatsoever, that’s one I highly recommend. Monday we got breakfast, then headed downtown to partake in the Fan Fest. I was disappointed that the Pep Rallies were held outside (and that I didn’t know when/where they were until after the GA pep rally started). By the time the gates opened, I was an emotional wreck.

Our seats were nearly perfect – at the 48 yard line, 13th row.

The view from our seats

We could see everything easily, but we were very close, too. We rejoiced in the first downs, caught passes and points scored, and we yelled at the referees when their calls appeared to favor the Tide, and when they seemed to be able to consistently make 5 yards every play. We consoled ourselves at halftime that the team was definitely still in the game, and our defense was playing lights out. When Cook made the 67 yard run that led to our first touchdown, we began to believe a win was possible. When Bennett hit Mitchell to bring the lead back, we knew we needed more, and the pass to Bowers was a thing of beauty. When Kelee Ringo intercepted Bryce Young with only 54 seconds left on the clock, I was terrified. Too many Dawgs were celebrating, and Bama still had all three timeouts left. When the clock ran out, I was stunned. I can’t really describe my emotions – happy for the win, deep anguish that Podunk wasn’t there….it still doesn’t seem real.

Podunk used to say the 1980 season is when she started her Georgia fandom. I will say 2021 is when my fandom became rabid. I feel (rightly or wrongly) that I must be fan enough for both of us now.

Thank you to all the readers and admins/moderators of Dawgsports. You have embraced me and given me comfort. You’ve been vocal in your memory of the Housemother, and in appointing me as her replacement – well, I can’t describe the honor that is to me.

However, it is our intention to celebrate Georgia Bulldog Football Wins whenever and wherever they occur. The ugliness or beauty of any particular win is irrelevant for the purposes of the Winning Smart Victory Post. It is therefore my deepest honor and privilege to bring to you this week’s edition of: The Winning Smart Victory Post.

Coach Kirby Smart coached his 81st game tonight for the Red & Black. He currently boasts a 66-15 record and a 0.8148 winning percentage, having carded his sixty-sixth win overall over the University of Alabama Crimson Tide.

At the identical juncture in their careers:

Vince Dooley’s 81st game as head coach resulted in a Georgia Bulldogs win over Vanderbilt in the sixth game of the 1971 season, giving Coach Dooley a record of 55-22-4 and 0.7037 percentage.

Coach Mark Richt was 63-18 (0.7778) after a loss to South Carolina.

Eighty-one games into his head coaching career Kirby Smart is three games ahead of Coach Mark Richt and ahead of Coach Vince Dooley by 11 games. As of now, he is holding his own versus the two winningest coaches in Georgia Football History.

As always . . .

Go ‘Dawgs !!!!