2017-12-06 / Editorials

Traditions make football great

Other Voices
Mitch Clarke

I admit without shame that I’m pretty fanatical when it comes to college football and, especially, the University of Georgia.

I’ve been known to bark at fans of opposing teams. I have a whole closet dedicated to the red-and-black wardrobe I wear on game days. I schedule my whole life around fall Saturdays. I refuse to wear orange.

But it is the traditions of college football that make it the greatest sport of all. Every school, it seems, has its traditions that its fans love and embrace, but that its rivals ridicule.

The hedges, Uga and the chapel bell at Georgia. The Ramblin’ Wreck at Georgia Tech. Dotting the “i” at Ohio State. Touchdown Jesus at Notre Dame. Rubbing the rock at Clemson. Rolling the Toomer Oaks at Auburn.

The first Georgia football game I attended was in 1969. Georgia beat Tulane 44-0 at Sanford Stadium in Athens.

I was mesmerized. Even all those years ago, Sanford Stadium was an imposing structure, seating some 10 times as many people as lived in my hometown of Blakely. I loved to hear the Redcoats play “Glory, Glory.” I loved to watch the cheerleaders. I always had my fingers crossed for an opportunity to pet Uga, the beautiful white English bulldog mascot.

I remember wishing that I could go to Georgia football games forever. I almost have.

I’d guess, conservatively, that I’ve seen more than 350 Georgia games in person in my lifetime. I’ve been going to Georgia games for so long that I remember when Georgia used to dominate Florida.

I was in Auburn in 1980 when Georgia won the SEC title en route to a national championship. I was back in Auburn six years later when we upset them and they turned the water cannons on us.

I was at the hobnail boot game in Knoxville in 2001. I was in the Georgia Dome in 2002 when we beat Arkansas to win the conference title for the first time since Herschel. I was in New Orleans when we knocked Hawaii and Colt Brennan into a different time zone.

Not all the memories are so fond. I also sat through every game of the Ray Goff and Jim Donnan eras.

A lot of people don’t understand our love of Georgia football. We spend our fall Saturdays in such exotic locales as Columbia, S.C., Fayetteville, Ark., and Starkville, Miss. But we wouldn’t have it any other way. I still love the Redcoats. I still want to pet Uga. I still love the cheerleaders.

“Aren’t you a little old to be watching cheerleaders?” my friends will ask.

“Au contraire,” I say. “If I’m not supposed to watch them, why are they there?”

All of this is to explain why, with the second ticking off the clock as Georgia beat Auburn for the SEC Championship, I stood at my seat in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium with tears running down my cheek.

This season has been special. We’ve been to iconic locales — Notre Dame Stadium, where we posed for pictures with Touchdown Jesus; the first SEC title game at Mercedes-Benz; and now, the Rose Bowl. Pasadena better get ready for the influx of Dawgs, cause we’re coming, y’all.

Saturday’s win was special. Georgia, finally, is relevant again. Georgia, finally, is talked about as a serious contender for a national title. Oklahoma will be a real test. The talking heads like to say we haven’t seen a quarterback like Baker Mayfield. They’re right. But Oklahoma hasn’t seen a linebacker like Roquan Smith, either.

God bless Nick Chubb and the other seniors who gave up a chance at the NFL to come back to win a championship.

Glory, glory!

Mitch Clarke, a native of Blakely, is the editor of AccessWDUN. com in Gainesville. He can be contacted at mitch. clarke @gmail.com. Read previous columns at www.accesswdun.com/ blog/ mitch.

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