Thursday, April 21, 2011

An Athens State of Mind

Fall Saturdays in Athens, Georgia are simply incomparable. To my mind, there is no better place on earth than a football Saturday in the Classic City. I’ve been to lots of foreign countries and most of the USA states, and Athens is easily my place of choice when it’s time to tee it up between those famous green hedges.

Spring Saturdays aren’t half bad, either. Not quite the same, mind you, but there’s enough of the beauty and nostalgia of my alma mater to keep pulling me back. It was G-Day last Saturday, and the Dawgs were out there in full gear for their annual spring game. The play was spirited, and there were 43,000 of us who had nothing better to do than to tailgate and cheer on the boys. As usual, I’m confident we’re on the verge of a national championship. Why not the Bulldogs? Somebody’s gotta win it. May as well be us.

My legs and the tops of my ears are still sunburned, but who cares about a little discomfort? And who cares that it’s not actually football season?

My parking-lot friends and I are coming up on our 31st season together. Our “CEO” arrives very early and leaves late, making sure his charges have a place to park. Many of our kids have grown up and are now raising kids of their own. We often remark how cool it would be if one of the kids or grandkids someday donned the Red & Black and fought it out in Sanford Stadium for UGA. Some of our parents have passed, and not all of us are as healthy as we were back in '81. We’ve had our share of surgeries and scares, successes and failures, good luck and bad, but we still keep coming back to embellish the old stories and to share the new ones with great anticipation. We get giddy when we win and cranky when we lose, and there’s always the next game to point to.

But most of all, we care about each other, like a family—a Georgia Bulldog family!—and I wouldn’t trade the friendships for all the under-the-table money at—hey, wait, I have to remember nothing’s been proven yet.

Great friends, great memories, strong bonds. The 30 years have passed all too quickly. Seems like only yesterday our kids were young and our backs didn’t hurt as much after a long day. My wife and I sometimes wonder how many more seasons we can continue to do this.

Ah, c’mon. It’s the Dawgs. It’s a new season. Suck it up. Heck, we can win it all.

Can’t wait ‘till Fall.

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