Since football season ticket order forms usually arrive around the first week of March, with a March 31 deadline to purchase the tickets, and I hadn’t seen anything in the mail, I called over to the Georgia Bulldog Club yesterday to find out if the order forms had been sent out yet. They had not. They’re going out Wednesday, I was told. The price remains $40 per ticket for the six home games scheduled in 2009.
When my order form comes, I’ll check the box to keep the same seats I had this past year. They are, in fact, the same two seats I’ve had since 1975. I’m sure I could have moved closer to the 50-yard-line over the years if I’d wanted to, but my lower-level seats in the North stands are under the overhang, making them somewhat weather protected, and I like the view, so I’ve kept them all these years.
My first year out of UGA I bought a single season ticket, a mediocre spot low down on the South side, but I opted for two tickets the next year since by then I had a fiancée to share the seats with me. Those are the seats I still have. I don’t remember exactly what contribution to the Bulldog Club I had to make to get those seats, but I think it was probably around $50 per seat, a far cry from the $10,651 minimum contribution required of a first-time season ticket buyer last year. Of course, that figure was up from $2,000 the previous year, thanks to all the pre-season hype, and probably will come down somewhat this year. But the cost of the contributions to be able to buy season tickets is still prohibitive for many, if not most, recent grads, which is a shame since Sanford Stadium crowds skew a bit old (and quiet) at times.
My wife Leslie attended the games with me for many years, until she started working on Saturday nights. My son Bill, a Bulldog from the cradle, eagerly jumped into her spot and has mostly occupied my other seat since then, though he sometimes has chosen to sit (or, rather, stand) with friends in the UGA student section. When he’s not with me, my daughter Olivia takes the other seat. Or, if her schedule doesn’t permit that, one of my brothers. With my son taking a job in Washington this June after he finishes his master’s degree at UGA, I’m not sure how many games he’ll make it down for next year, but my daughter is ready to take his spot.
Keeping the same seats in the stadium all those years has been an interesting experience. I’ve watched other fans’ parents age and, sadly, eventually stop coming to the games, and I’ve seen my stadium neighbors’ children grow up, as they have mine. One lady who sits near us is a former teacher, I believe, and she has avidly kept up with my son’s education. Some of the folks around me are “newcomers” who’ve only been there the past decade or so, while a couple go back just about as long as I’ve been sitting there. For some reason, a lot of the folks in my area have always been from the Augusta area and that’s still the case. For quite a few years, former UGA quarterback Paul Gilbert and his family sat in front of me, but those seats have been held by an Atlanta attorney for quite a few years now. A couple of seats in front of us appear to be someone’s giveaways, as their occupants change nearly every game.
Mostly it’s a congenial group, though there have been occasional exceptions. For a few years, we had a couple of guys who used to drink to excess to our right. One year they nearly got into a fight with an extremely obnoxious guy who fortunately is not in our area any more thanks to divorce. And just last year one guy a couple of rows down got into it with a guy a few rows in front of him who wouldn’t sit down. The cops threw both of them out of the stadium (though the guy was somehow able to make it back in). We had a few smokers, back before Sanford became a “smoke-free environment,” but thankfully not that many. One man still chomps an unlit cigar for the whole game, though.
I don’t really “know” any of the people who sit around me at Sanford Stadium, and yet we greet each other at that first game of the year as if we’re long-lost friends. Our lives may be very different away from Sanford Stadium, but inside its gates we share a devotion to that team in red (or black) down Between the Hedges.
We’re like one really big, sometimes dysfunctional family. That’s one of the things I love about college football.