Friday, October 2, 2009

How 'Bout Them Dawgs!

I went outside this morning only to run back in a grab a small sweater. The air on my bare arms definitely felt different but my favorite part is that it even smelled different. I am not sure if I will ever equate it with anything else but football season—college, that is, and for now, my old high school for which my nephew plays. College football season is officially underway—fourth weekend actually. Each week, my team looks better, well kind of, and the best part is that I have been able to watch them—for free. My biggest shock in moving to Texas 16 years ago was that the Georgia Bulldogs didn’t play on television EVERY weekend. I mean, didn’t everybody in America watch the SEC on Saturdays? Or MAYBE the ACC? How quickly I found out some teams beginning with “T’s” and “O’s” overtook the TV grid on the weekends. I honestly didn’t even know what conferences they were in. Still don't really.

I was young when my family started making football memories. I had the typical little sister Saturday morning experience of watching my brother all decked out in miniature shoulder pads run up and down the football field before he knew the sum total of a touchdown and a field goal. I continued to watch him through high school until he and his best friend won their last game by talking their coach into letting them run a quarterback sneak for a touchdown the very last play of the game. Adding up all those years in between, football was central to many family memories, but the ones that Blake wasn’t playing may have been my favorite.

When I was in elementary school, my Mom and Dad would get Blake and me out early on Fridays in order to make the drive to Athens for the “Georgia game”. One of the two doctors in our small town was a Bulldog fanatic and my Dad would get our tickets from him. As soon as we rolled into the college town in north Georgia, you knew it was a home game Saturday—streets crowded with vans and RV’s plastered with Bulldog faces or G’s, Bulldog stuff for sale on every corner and Dr. McNair’s car in the Holiday Inn parking lot- a beautiful sight for my brother and me. On seeing his car, Blake and I could almost taste what would be in his room- a yummy spread from the local bakery down the street. The one treat that we couldn’t wait to sink our pre-braces teeth into was what we called a “coconut bar”. Unfortunately, when that little bakery closed, the secret and taste of those chewy iced bars were lost with it. For several years we would stay in and around Dr. McNair’s room to visit with all the people that would stop by and then an hour or so before game time, we would make the downhill walk to Sanford Stadium. Eventually we began tailgating in a regular spot close by the Holiday Inn but only after a quick visit to his room to assist in shrinking his stash of coconut bars and to pay our respects to "Doc", of course.

I got to see every home game the year they won the National Championship. I will never forget watching Herschel Walker donning his first pair of "silver britches"running up and down the field averaging something like 150 yards a game and jumping over heaps of men like I had never seen anyone do before. We didn’t lose a game that year. I remember the game against Clemson when Kevin Butler kicked his first 60 plus yard field goal to win the game and loving the tag line he earned, “The Butler did it!” Incidentally, in this year's season opener, I watched his SON, Drew Butler, kick an extra point. Yikes, yikes and yikes. Enough of that.

Early high school I was quite enamored with the clothes all the girls would wear to the games. Who knows if they still do this, but in the 80’s, the games were the place to showcase your cutest fall clothes—whether it was 50 degrees or 100. So, of course, I spent most of my high school years trying to look like all of them on Saturdays in Athens. I am sure my parents and our friends, the Bowers, who made the trek to Athens with us every weekend, recognized my gallant efforts and shared their chuckles privately…… while I perspired publicly.

We tailgated with the Bowers every weekend. (the same family with whom we enjoyed the lake) There were 5 phases to our tailgating years: 1st phase- both families would drive together, 2nd phase- Once Blake and Brian (the Bowers’ son and Blake’s best friend) were in school at UGA, we would drive up to meet them, 3rd phase- When I joined them at Georgia, both sets of parents would drive up to meet us. 4th phase- When I was the only student left, everyone still came!, 5th phase- well, that’s the phase after I moved 1000 miles away. I don’t like that one.

I remember the first time they all tailgated without me after I moved to Texas. It was almost as bad as the first Christmas or Thanksgiving without me. I sought more sympathy from a perplexed Jeff on a Saturday in September than I did that same December. I sat in Texas thinking about the covert operation with Blake, Brian and sometimes Mark, of parking our cars to barricade and secure “our” tailgating spot on Friday nights before the game. I prayed for those riding with Mr. Bowers hoping they made it to Athens unharmed. (He tended to enter a comatose state while driving.) Clear to Texas, I could taste the Toll House pan cookies, the sausage and biscuits, the little honey mustard ham sandwiches, and the fried chicken from the red and white paper bucket. Then I had to wonder if anyone had braved the lines and the boisterous crowd at The Varsity to pick up a few chili dogs. I envisioned all of them in our square of the parking lot, standing around the table, greeting friends who stopped by, sitting on the parking bump, listening to the Larry Munson show or other SEC games on the car radio, watching crazed fans go by and devouring all the familiar, yummy food. I could picture little Bulldog wanna-be’s dressed in over-sized Georgia jerseys running around the parking lot working on their spirals- remembering Blake and Brian doing the same thing not so long ago. After the game as they waited for the traffic to clear out, the food would come out again. Plays would be retold, coaching decisions would be questioned, and the leftovers would be finished off. Definitely. And last but not least, if Georgia lost, I wondered who would help Mr. Bowers get his bottom lip into the car. It would be a quiet ride home.

I am thankful my parents were willing to make these memories. Who wants to give up half of their Saturdays in the fall? For like 15 years? Tailgating is probably in my top 5 and maybe my top 3 of things we did as a family. Huge chunks of time were designated for this. How bearable a week of classes and exams were knowing that your parents and dear friends would drive up in “our” parking lot with smiles, hugs and, thank goodness, lots of good food! How fun it was to be able to tell our friends to come by for brunch, lunch or sometimes, dinner because we knew right where we would be and that there would be more than enough food for anyone.

I will watch another game “between the hedges” again. I'll get to yell the kick-off chant with 80,000 others some day-- instead of just with Julia and Brighton in our den. Don’t know when, but I will. Until that Saturday, I will search the TV grid each weekend in the fall for the familiar words- “Georgia Bulldogs”-in a little rectangle and cheer for the "silver britches" like a “dawg” from my den in Texas!

Family Notes:

Also, since I am the ONLY Georgia fan in the entire Dennard/Sanders clan (except my sister-in-law's husband!)I expect a few fingers are warming up to type some sort of joke about the inferiority of the school or some hype about who won the Georgia/Georgia Tech game last year. In Georgia, all this banter is referred to as a little "old-fashioned hate". "I will go ahead and say it. Georgia Tech won- 45-42. But since this is my blog, let me say, it was the FIRST time they have beaten us since the turn of the century.

A couple of "must tells": Nothing about Jeff is a Georgia Bulldog-- except that he agreed to marry one. So far, my brainwashing (and threats not to feed them) has kept our two cheering for the "Dawgs". Jeff is a Georgia Tech fan. The little buzzing bumble bee just doesn't do it for Julia and Brighton.

My brother, who would almost rather see his team, which is also Georgia Tech, lose than see Georgia win has an English bulldog named "Buzz", the Georgia Tech bumble bee mascot. You can deduce a lot about my brother from that right there.

So now, if you are wondering why we went to school there and why in the world did our Dad take us to the games if he wasn't even a Georgia fan: First answer--- it was the best pharmacy school in the south. Second answer--- small town businesses do what they have to do!

Photos: First four compliments of Flickr-Jennifer Tillman and cvogle


Anonymous said...

It was fun, wasn't it? Almost makes me want to do it again. Glad you enjoyed it but it sure is easier to watch it on the telly! We were in Athens a couple of Saturdays ago, it WASN'T GAME DAY (the dawgs were on the road), IT WAS DIFFERENT! jid

Alyssa said...

What neat memories! Many years from now, it will be fun to see where Julia and Brighton end up going and what tailgating will look like then!

Anonymous said...

Lotta fun! Had a few good tailgate trips in Atlanta too. Squeezem bsd

TJ Wilson said...

You forgot to upload the pics of you in your fall fashion... perspiring publicly - ha!
One more thing - how does someone who loves food this much stay so thin??!

Krista said...

T-Just send me one of you Fall of say, 1986. No one will ever know the difference! ; )