Sunday, January 7, 2018

the Sunday Misery is moonlight through the pines

"Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers..."

Love me some Skynard. But this week, like no other, I prefer just an old sweet song.

My tell-tale Dawg heart
In elementary school, teachers invited us to the front of the room to either show or tell. You had an option to show the class something that was important to you, or tell them something that was important to you.

Can you guess what I usually chose?

In 1972 my parents moved to Athens GA. I was two and a half years old. I didn't move away until I went off to college.

In my grade school years I remember passing the railroad tracks on the east side of Sanford and seeing it full of empty beer and whiskey bottles plus the occasional worn-down recliner on the way to Sunday School.

After the National Championship in the 1981 Sugar Bowl, I remember all of the billboards around Athens featuring the Junkyard Dawgs and the phrase "Hunker Down"!

Somewhere around 1983, I remember the house that was built adjacent to the Dooley's home near the intersection of West Lake Dr and Milledge Cir. The joke was that Coach was building it for Herschel. I was almost young enough to believe it.

Later, I went to Cedar Shoals High School. I was a couple years behind Athens Good Samaritan Bryant Gantt. He's the guy you've seen on the Georgia sideline probably since the Donnan years. As a lifelong fan turned employee of the University, he's on his way to becoming the only contemporary I know that is on a trajectory that legends like Coach Dooley and, dare I say, Coach Magill were on decades ago.

In 1988 I graduated high school at Stegeman Coliseum. The same Steg I used to (occasionally) skip Wednesday night choir practice with Chip to see Durham's Hoop Dawgs play.

In the Fall of 1989 I completed my transfer from LaGrange College and enrolled at UGA. ("Still in peaceful dreams I see, the road leads back to you.) It was what I have sometimes affectionately referred to here on the blog as my "first sophomore year" of college. It was also Goff's first year as head coach.

In 1990 Coach Webber's Diamond Dawgs won the College World Series. At this point I had been to (at least) twice as many baseball games on campus as I had football games. I bet a majority of today's freshman don't even know what or where Foley Field is.

Also in 1990 I went from being on Academic probation to Honor Roll. A feat Coach Goff, unfortunately, could not replicate. I eventually graduated in 1993. He was fired in 1995. After the similar up and down trajectories of our UGA careers, I got a diploma and he got Zaxby's. Since it was Guthrie's that got me through all those years, I still say I got the better separation package.

In 1996, at Coach Donnan's debut they gave out t-shirts. But we lost to Southern Miss 11-7 and I saw a dude take our a lighter and burn his new souvenir before he even left Sanford. Sidenote - I think Kirby was a sophomore on that team.

In 1997 I married Jenn, the biggest, most badass Dawg fan I know. Our first dance was to a little tune called Georgia, by Ray Charles.

Also in 1997 I cried after a football game for the first time when Donnan's Dawgs beat Florida. Well, they didn't beat them so much as they whooped their ass until the rules stated that they had to stop.

In 2000 I went back to UGA to become what we affectionately refer to as a "Double Dawg", so I had a student ID for both Donnan's final season as well as Richt's first.

In 2002 Jenn and I began our lil Dawg family. Nothing cuter than a girl in pigtails wearing Georgia red!

I documented most of the remaining years in this post-Richt firing post. I don't want to bore you down an already beaten path, but I would like emphasize that all the way through the Richt era I strengthened friendships with friends like Nama, Fred, Joe Waterloo, Cord, and their wives and families around Georgia football.
Undefeated Tailgate Crew

Like you I've also made many friends around tailgates like Tanner, Hillary, the Wrangler, Dustin, Doherty, Matt, and their wives and families. Saturdays in the fall just aren't the same without them.

Thanks to social media I got to meet Robert and Kerri plus her husband Barry out in Boulder in '09. I also met Tony on that trip, on a bourbon aisle of a local liquor store of course. On the concourse right before Ralphie ran onto Folsom Field, Ben screamed at me and we yelled "Go Dawgs!" together for the first time.

On other trips, UGA events, and the occasional Drive By Truckers concert I've met other Damn Good Dawg fans like Mackie, Krisi, Jen from La Jolla, Buddy, the Thinking Bulldog, Groo, Kit, Jake & April & Bryan, Sorrow & Trevin, DentalDawg, Chase, Andrew, Brad, Sandy, Angie, Scott from the Boro, Paul Westerdawg, John aka the Oconee River Rat, Tony & Russ, Jason, and of course the Eternal Redcoat Brett.

I've shared a ride to Columbia SC with Salty to share some beers with Ben, only to suffer through the worst beat down I've seen our Dawgs take.

After the Dawgs' win in Jacksonville Derrick, Colby, and Eddie helped me sacrifice my car. Next year we're going to find a different way to celebrate a WLOCP win.

Even through all the ups and downs, the relationships have held me true.

OUR tell-tale Dawg heart
That's a really, really long way of pointing out that we all have a story. It's moments like this, before your team plays its biggest game in decades, that we as fans tend to reflect on how we, personally, got here.

As the old saying goes, it's not the destination but the journey that's important. Today, here on the eve of the 2018 College Football National Championship, I respectfully disagree. It's both the journey and the destination.

It's the moonlight through those Georgia pines. It's the old sweet song that keeps bringing us back each and every August.

We've all worked through our own moments of fear and trepidation to get here. We've all hugged perfect strangers in the stands of Sanford and other stadiums in the Southeast and beyond when some player wearing that most magnificently beautiful helmet made a play. We've all buried our heads in our hands more often than we've raised them to the Heavens.

And here we are. It started in our veins, it coursed through our heart, and brought us to our feet!

Tweet Champs!
We've stood together in agony. We've put our arms around each other in desperation. We've traveled the nation and drank towns dry. We've suffered through coaching searches and injuries and dropped passes and also getting passed on by the national narrative.

But Kirby's team has punched its own ticket. It's been a fabulous ride...

2017's Final stanza
...but it ain't over. This magical season just had to end with Alabama. Like no other the Tide have stood between us and greatness the most often and the most resolute. They held us five yards short. They've beat us down twice in our own stadium in the last nine years.

And you may have heard recently that our coach is their former assistant. While the national media lazily tries to draw similarities, we need to remember that Kirby is quick to point out the differences. Tucker's defense is more like Junkyard Dawgs than Saban Crimson clones.

After all, sheep are for Tenersee "farmers".

Yes, this season has to end with Alabama. And come Monday night (or very early Tuesday morning) there's no reason the winner can't be Georgia. After all, the Tide had to fight their way in. They are still trying to prove they belong. The national analysts keep saying "It's an all SEC final!". But only one of us is the conference champion. They may like the cut of the Tide's jib, but Saban failed to win his own damn division.

Meanwhile some keep saying "well goshdarn whatever happens happens and beyond a Rose Bowl berth this season is just gravy".

Is that you? Are you satisfied? Is that defeatist attitude something our coaches and players would endorse? Is that why Fromm set the edge for Sony last Monday night so that you could post your #RoseBowl excitement on bookface and scream with glee just so he and Chubb and Zo and Bellamy and Dominick could have the chance to friggin' lose their final game of their Georgia Bulldog career? Is that why Lorenzo Carter finally came back down to Earth earlier this week after hovering endlessly over the Rose Bowl turf to block that damn kick?

Dude, your sadness makes Alanis Morisette want to make another starving dog commercial. Get a gotdamn grip!

We're Georgia and we belong right where we are. They're the ones that need to prove they belong. They're the ones that're bringing their cousins to dates. They're the ones that have a complacent fan base. They're the ones with a coach that's spent 20 years on AARP benefits.

Let's bring this home. Let's complete this journey! Our destination has been the same since we became Dawg fans! Our goal hasn't wavered since Bellamy stripped sacked that Domer in South Bend! Our focus has been steadfast since the blood coursed through the veins into our heart and brought us to our feet!

Truly, I don't know if we'll win tomorrow, but I can't think of one reason why we can't. We've come this far, we've followed our own paths. For 37 years we've turned our heads towards the Southwest corner for the Battle Hymn until we've developed a crick in our neck. We've joined hands and raised our four fingers and most recently a phone's flashlight to beckon our own inner Glory Glory!

I don't know what the future holds, but I know it's bright and I only want it brighter. Like, NOW! I want the confetti to drench and nearly drown Nick Chubb. I want to see Sony make #JazzHands and snow angels on the Mercedes-Benz floor. I want to see that gap in Zo's smile as he hoists the trophy.  I want to see Bellamy holding the ball he stripped from Hurts with two minutes left on the stage as he accepts the MVP award.

I want to hug my kids with a championship hug. I want my wife to know the joy that she's been been screaming and longing for all these years. I want my friends to feel the joy that I know they've all earned ten times over. I want you, my loyal and eager Reader, to enjoy the long and joyous smile of a truly satisfied Georgia Buldog fan.

Glory Glory, let us bow our thankful heads y'all....dear Lord, we thank you for the opportunity to play in Atlanta one more time. Please let Roquan find many a ball carrier and Wynn raise Chubb to your Heavens at least one more time! In the name of Herschel's Separated Shoulder and Munson's Metal Steel Chair, Amen! Go Dawgs!


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