Born into a basketball family with alumni parents from Duke and UNC, becoming a football fan was never on my radar. There was no room for any loyalties outside those two shades of blue, and a few times a year I had to decide whether I was cheering for Duke with Dad or against Dook with Mom. The Blue Devils won out mostly because of my crush on Shane Battier and the way he could draw a charge, but basketball was my first love. I loved the team. I loved to play. Watching and playing basketball was such a huge part of my childhood and I most certainly didn’t see caring about football in my future.
Then I went to UGA.
It wasn’t just that our basketball team was… less than desirable. It was everything that came along with football that I got swept up in. The fanfare. The tradition. The tailgaiting. The marching band. Sanford at Sunset. The roar of the crowd during the highlight reel. The sheer number of people that poured into Athens on Saturdays. You couldn’t escape it. I knew, at my very first Georgia game between the hedges against Boise State, that I was going to be a dawg football fan for life.
Through the years, I can safely say that (with the exception of last year’s game) the Auburn/Georgia game is always the best. It’s the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry that made me a football fan. It’s what makes me like being a football fan.
In 2005, it was my first night game in Sanford, and even though we lost by 1 point, it was the most exhilarating and exciting (and cold game) of that season, maybe even more so than beating LSU in the SEC championship.
The next year, the AU game finally showcased the talent of a little freshman QB from Texas named Matt Stafford who had, up until that point, had quite an abysmal season. I watched the game with friends at a cabin up in the mountains and as we jumped and danced around victoriously in our pajamas at the end of it, snow started falling outside. We ran outside, pure joy fueling our shield against the cold, and made snow angels in the light North Georgia frosting.
The AU/UGA game of 2007 is one that requires no explanation. All you need to know is black jerseys, Knowshon, and dancing to Souljah Boy. (That’s honestly the only time I’ve ever liked Gary and Vern.) Hands down, best game experience of my life.
I could go on and on, and this weekend’s game was no exception. Sure, it made me doubt if being a football fan was good for my heart and adrenal glands. But that 4th quarter is what being a football fan is all about. It’s what wearing the red and black and standing on metal bleachers for hours is about. It’s why CBS should write a big fat check to UGA, thanking them for a season of heart-stopping, action-packed games. It’s why the #11 jersey should be retired between the hedges. It’s why I just love football so much.
There’s a reason that famous Christian Laettner buzzer-beating jump shot from the free-throw line is shown over and over and over again and every Duke fan knows it— and unfortunately, Kentucky fans remember it too— It’s a perfect sports moment. This last AU/UGA game has one of those crazy moments that make sports so much fun… but unfortunately, we were Kentucky in this situation.
I already can’t wait until next year. Revenge will be sweet, as it always is. I never meant to become a football fan… but sometimes good things happen and just fall into your lap. (Auburn knows a little something about that.) I don’t think it’ll ever be easy to be a Georgia football fan, but man, it sure is fun.