If you don’t know by now, I love my alma mater, the University of Georgia, the oldest state-chartered university in the nation. I am a proud graduate and a past president of the national alumni association. I have a haughty-looking portrait hanging somewhere in my beloved Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications, where I give what I consider a rather generous number of shekels each year to benefit the outstanding students who are fortunate enough to gain admission.
I am wont to brag incessantly on the academic achievements of my university, like the 25 Rhodes Scholars we have produced (We pause here for supporters of You-Know-Where Institute of Technology to remind me once again about their number of astronauts – 14 - since they’ve only had six Rhodes Scholars. Bless their hearts.)
But as much pride as I have in the academic success at UGA, I get cold sweats when football season come around. This coming Saturday, the 5th-ranked University of Georgia Bulldogs kickoff the 2021 football season against the 2nd-ranked Clemson Tigers in Charlotte and I am as nervous as a tom cat in a coonhound kennel.
You must understand that when I was in school in Athens, Georgia won 10 games. The problem is that it took them three seasons to do it. To make matters worse, I lived through the humiliation of The Drought, an era that will live in infamy. That was when You-Know-Where Institute of Technology beat us eight straight years, four in which our side didn’t even score a touchdown. During that time, we lost every way imaginable. We lost heart-breaking squeakers and we lost big. Those were dark days,
Things changed dramatically when Vince Dooley arrived in 1964. His first year at Georgia, he won 7 games, beat Tech and went on to win 201 games before winding up his Hall of Fame career in 1988. But as successful as he was, he did nothing to cure my angst.
I love Vince Dooley and consider him a good friend. Nobody was prouder than I when the Board of Regents – with a nudge from Gov. Brian Kemp (UGA Class of 1987) – finally and rightfully named the field at Sanford Stadium for the man.
However, the coach imbued in me the perpetual fear that no matter who the Bulldogs were playing on Saturday, we would be at a serious disadvantage. I distinctly recall him once citing a Vanderbilt punter who excelled in coffin corner kicks as a reason the Dawgs could very well lose their upcoming game with the Commodores. It nearly ruined my week. I don’t remember the final score but it was something like 41-0, Georgia.
But the damage was done. Because of all the past traumas, I have become Mr. Doom-and-Gloom, turning off the television at the first intercepted pass or fumble or tackle behind the line. “Well, that’s the ballgame!” I moan. My bride would always remind me that there were still 10 minutes left in the first quarter. I would turn the TV back on only to turn it off again when whoever Georgia was playing made a first down. Another “Well, that’s the ballgame!” On-and-off it would go every football Saturday. It still does.
Now, Georgia fans are talking about a national championship. Oh, please. If we beat Clemson – and we are a 3-point underdog – the University of Alabama Birmingham will be coming up the following week. In case you are not aware, the Blazers won the Conference USA title in 2020. Their quarterback ranks fourth at UAB in career touchdown passes and fifth in career passing yards. I am afraid to ask about their punter’s coffin corner expertise.
Should we survive the regular season and make it to the SEC Championship, chances are that Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide will be awaiting us. Remember Nick Saban? He’s the guy who changed quarterbacks at halftime in the National Championship game and still beat us. Somehow, that doesn’t seem fair.
So, let the games begin. I will leave it to the Johnny-Come-Latelys to worry about national championships and all that stuff. My focus is on November 27. That is when we face You-Know-Where Institute of Technology and the memories of The Drought come flooding back. But before we get to them, we have to get by Charleston Southern. As Vince Dooley would remind us, the Buccaneers once beat Coastal Carolina who beat Brigham Young last year. Egad. I just hope my television’s on-off switch survives the season.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb