Yesterday, my nine month pregnant wife and I retreated to the pool for some much needed relief from summer’s evil clutches. While we sweated it out poolside, I was besieged by a double whammy of sun stroke, combined with her questions about what baby announcements I liked best. Could this possible be what hell feels like?
“Which do you like better, the pink and green plaid, or brown and pink polka dots?” I uttered the standard response I used during our wedding planning: “Whatever you think, Dear, you know what’s best,” which I found works for births too. I then plotted a tactical retreat by pulling out my college football preview magazine and began to think about autumn in Atlanta, and with it, the beginning of the greatest sport of them all, college football.
I closed my eyes, and began to think about where we are going, as well as where we have been in the game. Immediately I thought of:
Goose bumps when your team runs on to the field. In Knoxville, the Vols run through the checkerboard end zones through a block T formed by the Pride of the Southland Marching Band. In Atlanta, Georgia Tech’s players follow a 1930 Model A sport coupe called the Ramblin’ Wreck on to Grant Field. Down in Columbia, the South Carolina players hear the theme from 2001 Space Odyssey before entering Williams-Brice Stadium, while their rivals across the state in Clemson rub Howard’s Rock for luck before running down the hill in what is known as the most exciting 25 seconds in college football.
I can’t wait to hear the great Ron Franklin say, “The line to make, is the 37,” and “He’s got five, he’s got ten…”
What’s better than hearing your team’s fight song after a touchdown?
Follow the railroad tracks to Sanford Stadium or walk through the woods to see a game at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill. Try boating up the Tennessee River with the Vol Navy, or try to count the number of RV’s you see parked outside Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn on game day.
A 14-hour day in the man cave, starting with ESPN’s College Game Day at 10, and ending with the west coast game at midnight on Fox, which is usually Hawaii vs. Colorado State, but who cares…it’s still college football.
Speaking of Game Day, is there another program that has become an icon for its sport? Maybe Monday Night Football, but those fans don’t get there days ahead to secure a spot close to the set so they can be seen by their family and friends on TV acting completely crazy.
I am looking forward to seeing Erin Andrews, Tracy Wolfson and the ultra vogue Holly Rowe prowling the sidelines. But whatever happened to Jill Arrington?
Strange as it sounds, I miss the announcers that I loathe just as much as the ones I enjoy listening to. I am positive Beano Cook died years ago, but ESPN still props him up and moves his lips through computer animation. And as far as Lee Corso goes, someone please turn off the oxygen. Without those two, however, who else would we have to disagree with on Saturday? The arguments are all part of the fun.
Those cool October days when the sky is clear blue, the leaves are orange and yellow, and a cool breeze rolls through our tailgate spot remind me of listening to legendary announcers like Jim Fyffe screaming, “Touchdown Auburn!”, Clemson’s Jim Phillips with his obligatory, “This is Jim Phillips, so long everybody,” and John Ward saying, “It’s football time in Tennessee.”
I still get excited when I hear the CBS College Football theme before the SEC game of the week.
There’s nothing like a Thursday night game in Atlanta with the skyline illuminated behind Bobby Dodd Stadium. Speaking of night football, how about the earthquake game at LSU? In 1988, when LSU beat Auburn 7-6 on a fourth and goal pass play, the crowd eruption was so loud, it registered on the seismograph meter on campus. Has that feat ever been duplicated at another sporting event?
How about the ultimate recognition, a retired jersey? At Georgia, there are four of those, but one might surprise you. In 1957, the Bulldogs ended an eight year losing streak to the Jackets when a back named Theron Sapp scored the only touchdown. The UGA people were so excited at finally beating their arch rivals they retired his jersey. Just goes to show you what that rivalry means.
Speaking of retired jerseys, over on the Flats, the only retired jersey in Georgia Tech history is #19 which belonged to Clint Castleberry. Castleberry had an amazing freshman year in 1942, leading the Jackets to a 9-0 start, and a Cotton Bowl berth against Texas. After the season ended, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps, and was killed in a plane crash during an exercise in 1944. Some heroes are never forgotten.
There is nothing cuter than an elementary school girl in a cheerleading outfit walking to the stadium with her parents. We are having a girl, and yes, she already has her uniform so Daddy can be proud of her on game day.
How intimidating is it to see Florida State’s Chief Osceola ride up on Renegade and plant a flaming spear at the 50-yard line just before kickoff?
Before I die, I want to tailgate in the Grove in Oxford, sing “We are the boys from old Florida” at the Swamp, roll the Quad at Wake Forest and Toomer’s Corner in Auburn, ring a cow bell at Mississippi State and visit the Bryant Museum in Tuscaloosa.
Did you know there are sons and daughters across the south named after many of Saturday’s heroes? In fact, after Kevin Butler made a 60-yard FG to upset #2 Clemson in 1984, legendary writer Lewis Grizzard wrote this article following the Bulldogs win: “I give this to you, son. Read it and re-read it, and keep it next to your heart. And when people want to know how you wound up with the name "Kevin" let them read it, and then they will know.”
The crowd reaction when the out-of –town scores are announced can produce a roar similar to a touchdown, especially if there is an upset or the home crowd is happy a rival lost.
I wish I was old enough to see Billy Cannon’s punt return for a touchdown to beat Ole Miss, Bobby Dodd coaching the Jackets, North Carolina’s Choo Choo Justice, Ole Miss’ Archie Manning, Maryland’s Randy White, and Florida State’s Burt Reynolds.
It is amazing how a sold out stadium in the south can sometimes have a larger population than any of the cities in the state.
I’ll take the over on Steve Spurrier throwing his visor, as well as how many times he will be called, “The ole ball coach.”
My father used to get teary eyed when he would tell me about a game he remembered. I used to think it was silly to get that way over a football game, until I started to feel the same way when my team wins when they aren’t supposed to.
Is there anything better than a crisp fall morning knowing you are going to see your team play that afternoon? Loading the car with everything you will need for the day (Who has the tickets?), then passing by several other cars with flags attached or school magnets going to the same place. After assembling the tent and the grill, bring out the chicken biscuits to tide everyone over until lunch when the red meat hits the charcoal. Just make sure you have a southern view of the sky so you can set up the satellite to catch Game Day, as you wait for kickoff of your game.
Speaking of game day food, nothing beats a trip to The Varsity for a chili dog running. (i.e.: Chili dog to go), fries and an orange soda. However, the best stadium hot dog I have ever had was the jumbo dog at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.
For one last game, I wish I could see Bear coach, Bo run, Peyton pass, Calvin catch, L.T. tackle, and Butler kick.
Finally, I am reminded of Matthew McConaughey in one of the best sports movies I have ever seen, We are Marshall. As the crowd walks to the stadium for the home opener, after the tragic loss of the entire Marshall team in a plane crash the year before, McConaughey looks at his son and asks, “What day is it son?”
“Play ‘till the whistle blows…”
Just like that, the experience is passed down from generation to generation, so its place in history is secured long after we have left. It truly is one beautiful experience.