While it was not a weekend in which Georgia was playing a game that had something substantial on the line, it was, nonetheless, important to take a significant step forward. The view here is that the Bulldogs did that.
UAB got the Bulldogs’ respect in preparation last week. The head coach never takes an un-Smart stance. He reminded them all week that UAB was not a team without fight in its DNA. However, his Dawgs took care of business from the outset in what was a most pleasant weekend.
Early Friday morning, and again on Saturday, there was a touch of fall about with moderate temperatures prevailing for the first home game of this season. The Georgia Center was back to its old status with long-time residents enjoying seeing the Bulldog team about the premises with little kids hoping for a high five while their parents were filled with wonder as in “wonder who that was?”
There was Kathy and Mike Sweat returning to their old haunt and making it their familiar routine—Kathy bringing goodies from her kitchen to share with friends and the football staff. Speaker of the Georgia House, David Ralston, was unencumbered, relaxing without an agenda, seemingly uplifted to be talking football and not politics. Becky and Ed Roddenbery with daughter Ruth (and husband Robert Mathews) along with grandsons Jim and Rob were enjoying the first home game atmosphere as proud graduates of UGA who can’t get enough of home game ancillary benefits.
Earlier Friday evening, there was a heart-warming party at the at the West End Zone of Sanford Stadium where the 1980 national champions had gathered for their 40th reunion. Men who became household names and the many under the radar who did their part to contribute to the success of the team enjoyed a signature evening. With the passing of time, these gatherings become more appreciated.
The team managers, led by Jody Tanner, had special caps and tee shirts made up for everybody. The managers paid for the goody bags for everybody in attendance, a reminder that they represented “BIG TEAM, Little me” as much as any star or superstar. That is why this group represents the essence of the word T-E-A-M.
Many in attendance wore “Run Hershel Run” stickers, showing support for the Bulldogs Heisman trophy running back, who spoke and again reminded one and all that he would have been nothing without his offensive line. A Republican candidate for the U. S. Senate, he would have won by acclimation if a vote had been held on the eve of the Georgia-UAB game.
At the UGA bookstore on Saturday morning, impresario Howard Taylor was gleaming as Vince Dooley and former Bulldog wide receiver were signing books. Business was brisk—much different from a year ago when COVID shut down business as usual.
Taylor was grinning without any governors on his widening smile as he displayed a tee shirt that proclaimed: “It’s hard to beat a full house.” Was it ever a warming and comforting lift of spirits to see the stadium bulging at near full capacity?
Walking to the stadium from the Butts-Mehre Building, I had that old time feeling seeing the many tailgate spreads in full bloom; plus, an assortment of food items with Bulldog memorabilia dominating and fight songs getting fans in the mood for the first home game.
If you are a doomsayer, if you are a worried man singing a worried song about college football, take heart in the fact that tailgating seems to be the one feature to our game that remains stable and without controversy. If tailgating ever begins backsliding, then college football will need to reach for a Tylenol.
It simply warms the heart when fans are in a celebratory mood, interacting with a feeling of kinship and brotherhood for the home team, young kids playing touch football on the grass and mom and dad recalling their days on campus.
Uga took the field following the national anthem and the student body lustily welcomed him as he headed to his dog house and a bag of ice, his customary routine until Fall’s chill becomes permanent.
Let’s not forget that the band was back to normal; and came with a special tribute to the heroes of 9/11. The full house at Sanford Saturday was also about flag and patriotism, but it won’t make the nightly news. Nice job Brett Bawcum. And, the majorettes and the cheerleaders were helping make everybody’s day. Buck Belue was there to call the Dawgs. Sonny Smart, father of Kirby, was on the sideline with a smile of good cheer. He has to be a proud father, he has to be uplifted with what is taking place with this current team his son has put together.
And, Ron Courson, Georgia’s exalted Director of Sports Medicine was back too. I’m thankful for that, but am still worried that some sort of virus setback could derail the potential glory for this team.
I saw constant hugging and vigorous shaking of hands in Sanford’s Hollow Saturday. May it continue.