All right, get the picture now. It’s an Autumn Saturday in Northeast GA somewhere in the early 90’s. The leaves have began to turn and the air is fresh and crisp. My dad pops in his red and black tape that he probably purchased over 10 years ago of the “BullDawg Boogie” into a radio/tape player that is at least twice as old on the kitchen counter. As it crackles out those familiar melodies the smell of bacon and coffee lifts into my room. He whistles and sings us awake while he “cooks some griddles up southern fried” prepared with joy. Dad is as happy as ever and all is right with the world. You know in a few hours we’ll be tailgating with close friends and entering into traditions that have gone on before you and will continue after. Stories are told and food is eaten while everyone catches up. The younger kids throw the football as they dream of catching the fade pass in the corner with 8 seconds left to lift the Dawgs to victory over the hated Gators or Jackets. People you’ve never met offer you food because you’re wearing the right colors, or sometimes even when you’re not. For a few hours all involved forget about whether or not there’s unpaid bills, unmet expectations, or unrealized dreams. We all take in the pageantry that is college football.
For those of you who are foreign to this type of exaltation, I want to take you into the world of a true college football fan. Yes there are a thousand other things in life that are more important. There are hurting people around every corner that need, deserve consoling just as much as anyone. We have corruption and ignorance galore that need our attention. People are daily discriminated against and looked over as the haves get more and the have nots get less. Yet if only for a moment we can escape this and allow ourselves to be awed by something that can transcend the drudgery and even unite us. This is why watching any sport can be so gratifying. It’s an escape, an adrenaline rush that can simply be a lotta fun if we let ourselves be sucked in. We tell stories of where we were when this play or game happened. We listen to old clips from former announcers like BullDawg nation’s Larry Munson who could make a football game feel like life or death. We have staples of what to eat or wear or chant. We initiate and indoctrinate our young one’s into the fun. One of my son Jack’s first phrases was “Go Dawgs” & hearing him say it warms my heart every time. It just doesn’t get old. I’ve taken Lucy to a game 3 years in a row now and loved every minute. Some of my favorite memories are going to games with my dad and brother. I have a text message group aptly entitled “Go Damn Dawgs” w/ my dad, my brother, my first cousin Bill, & I. I skipped my senior homecoming to see GA beat TN for the first time in years and bemoaned the fact that my brother wouldn’t let me storm the field with the rest of the fans to tear down the goal posts. Literally, the slogan of the SEC is “It just means more”. The SEC being the perennial best conference in the nation more years than not is because of this. We don’t put anything in the water that makes our athletes bigger/stronger/faster. It just means more.
You see, this is more than associating our selves with someone who can run faster, is probably better looking, or can lift 3x the weight I’ll ever lift at my strongest. It’s bigger than whether or not we even win. Of course we want to win, even dominate. Sometimes I think we want this more than the players themselves. But we know in the back of our minds, that no matter what tragedy or trials are going on outside the game, we always have college football to lift us up, bring us together, and get us excited come late August early September. At this point every year everybody’s undefeated. It’s about crushing faces with hobnailed boots, sugar falling from the sky, and breaking metal steal chairs with about a 5 inch cushion in the midst of jubilation from an improbable win. If you don’t know these references, do yourself a favor and let the late, great Larry Munson take you into his world. It’s something that can be so galvanizing that we talk about how much those we’ve lost would enjoy it as if they’re there with us. When Lorenzo Carter blocked OK’s field goal in double over time my wife swore that out beloved Jacque was lifting him up with her heavenly strength to get the extra oomph he needed to graze that ball with his precious fingertips. I’d spent the past 2 hours pacing non-stop until that moment, convincing myself if I stood at a specific point in the room it somehow gave UGA more luck.
Tomorrow night my Dawgs take on the Crimson Tide for all the marbles for the first time in 35 years. I was a little over 4 months old. Yes I’ve never played a snap or even sniffed at being athletic enough to even be considered playing for UGA but my BullDawg buddies and my BullDawg Bells all refer to them as us and we, & my. It’s a family thing if you haven’t noticed by now. Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, and Tennessee have all won national championships since we have. They all recruit the same players and have similar resources yet we’ve been unable to close the deal. Always a brides maid but never a bride. But maybe, just maybe, “Old Lady Luck” will laugh out loud and the drought will be over. BullDawg Nation is hungry. If you’ve made it this far, commit to the “G” tomorrow night if but for a few hours with me and millions of others across the nation and perhaps our good will will give them the extra strength the need against the behemoth that is Alabama. May the Big Dawg Eat!