Lousy finish can’t ruin a fine day in Athens

From left: Baylie, Dayna and Mark Symms at Saturday's game. (Photo by Bill King)

From left: Baylie, Dayna and Mark Symms at Saturday's game. (Photo by Bill King)

Saturday proved to be an enjoyable and memorable day in the Classic City, despite the results of the game.

It started out at one of the Bulldog Nation’s favorite hamburger joints, Allen’s, where my daughter and I joined my two brothers for lunch. While we were there, Sonny Seiler came in, fresh from the memorial service for Uga VII at the stadium, and joined his family at the table next to ours.

When we were getting ready to leave, I went over to speak to him and thanked him for sharing his dogs with us for these many years. “You’re so kind,” he said, shaking my hand. “It’s been a pleasure.”

My daughter noted that I’d run into Vince Dooley at last week’s basketball game and now Sonny Seiler. “Which celebrity will you run into next?” I laughed and told her I was hoping for Herschel!

Saturday afternoon, we killed time at the Tate Center, a wonderful place to hang out before a game, watching most of the exciting Ole Miss-LSU battle on the big screen in the movie theater. (Most Georgia and Kentucky fans seemed to be rooting for the Rebels.)

Then I blazed a new trail in my four-plus decades of attending games at Sanford Stadium by making my way up to one of the suites in the South Tower sky box.

It was my first time up there, though, I’d heard from friends and one of my brothers what watching a game from a sky box was like. The attendants couldn’t have been more welcoming and helpful, and the perks were admittedly very nice, with a lavish buffet offering chicken wings, fruit, deserts and snacks; hard and soft drinks available from the bar; and a barbecue dinner served in the suite.

The seating varied from theater-style seats down front to stools at a bar and armchairs and a couch in back. Being primarily interested in what was going to happen on the field, I took a seat down front, right up against the big window.

The view from up high was kind of cool, too. I could see that most of the crowd chose to wear black to honor Uga VII, and all that black paired with the red shakers was quite striking. (I also could see that there were quite a few no-shows for the game in the second and third levels of the North stands as well as in the west end zone. I think the late kickoff was a factor there, as well as a disappointing season.)

But as nice as it was in the suite, as a football fan the viewing experience wasn’t real satisfying. The glass-enclosed front of the suite muffled the sounds of the band, crowd and stadium announcer Brook Whitmire, which took away a lot of the atmosphere, and all the chatter in the suite made it difficult to make out Scott Howard and Eric Zeier’s broadcast, which was piped in. There were TV monitors, but the big screen down in the stadium still provided a better view of replays.

The best thing about spending Saturday evening in the sky box, though, was sharing the experience with Junkyard Blawg ultimate fan contest winner Baylie Symms, her dad Mark (known on the Blawg as “Cuz”) and her sister Dayna.

The Symms hail from Augusta (no surprise; it seems like the nicest people I encounter at games are from Augusta), where 13-year-old Baylie is an eighth-grader at Tutt Middle School. Her dad told me that Baylie winning the contest made the radio news in their hometown and she was to be featured today on her school’s morning TV program.

Baylie’s had a hard life because she has a rare condition called KT syndrome and has had to have multiple surgeries at the Mayo Clinic. I was concerned whether she’d have trouble negotiating her way to the elevator leading up to the sky box, and Cuz confirmed that Sanford Stadium is not very handicapped-friendly, as they discovered when they first joined many other fans laying flowers in front of the Uga mascots’ resting place before coming up to the South Tower.

But they made it before kickoff and Baylie seemed to enjoy the entire evening. I brought along a copy of the new book “For the Love of the Bulldogs” for her and I was truly impressed with how much of a fan she really is. She also loves The Beatles, so we’re talking one sharp kid. I also enjoyed talking Georgia football with her dad. As longtime readers of the Blawg know, he’s funny, smart and loves them Dawgs, too.

Cuz told me on Sunday: “We all had a wonderful time” aside from the final score. The outing to the game was rough on Baylie physically, he said, but “emotionally this was one of her greatest days ever.”

Her dad put it all in perspective when he noted that Baylie “is an inspiration to me and everyone with whom she comes into contact. … You and your readers gave her something that no one can ever take away. In a life of surgeries and pain, she was Queen for a Day.”

And, he added, no loss on the field could make the day any less special for Baylie. “It dang sure puts a football season in perspective for me,” he said.

You and me both, Cuz.

Thanks, Baylie, for making what otherwise could have been a downer of a game into an unforgettable evening.

84 comments Add your comment

First...

November 23rd, 2009
1:30 pm

Second...

November 23rd, 2009
1:30 pm

Third...

November 23rd, 2009
1:31 pm

I win...

November 23rd, 2009
1:32 pm

I would like to thank the academy, and you like me, you really like!!!!

No, Baylie wins...

November 23rd, 2009
1:39 pm

…thanks, Bill, for making this day special for her.

RAMBLE ON!!!

November 23rd, 2009
1:40 pm

Wow, that’s a good looking family you got there Cuz.

Best of luck to you all.

Wow...

November 23rd, 2009
1:40 pm

…this is fun having a conversation with myself!

Wow...

November 23rd, 2009
1:41 pm

…RAMBLE ON!!! actually said something nice on a UGA blog!

PhilDawg

November 23rd, 2009
1:41 pm

Thanks for sharing that story Mr. King. It is nice to know that, even during a tough season like this one, some joy can come from the UGA Football Experience. Being reminded of this during the Thanksgiving holidays is a blessing. God bless Bailey! Go Dawgs!

PhilDawg

November 23rd, 2009
1:42 pm

Sorry for the incorrect spelling – God Bless Baylie!

Sam

November 23rd, 2009
1:56 pm

Michael Scharff

November 23rd, 2009
2:03 pm

Cuz, I’m glad you, Dana, and Baylie got to enjoy a wonderful day in ol’ Athens town. I really thought Georgia was going to pull it out tight up until that last interception. I fail to understand how this team can look like a mirror image of itself one week after playing so well agianst Auburn for three quarters.

Hmmmmm

November 23rd, 2009
2:05 pm

Thanks for the update and the reminder that being a fan is ups and downs but good either one. It’s great to be a Ga. Bulldawg!

uuughh...

November 23rd, 2009
2:07 pm

I like this.

DawgGirl32

November 23rd, 2009
2:11 pm

Your daughters are beautiful, Cuz. I know you’re proud.

Old Buzz

November 23rd, 2009
2:14 pm

I am a GT man, but Baylie is an inspiration!! God bless

JPW

November 23rd, 2009
2:16 pm

Great story. Thank you for sharing. Baylie certainly has a lot of people in the Bulldog Nation (and beyond) pulling for her. We may not be winning on the field much these days, but off the field no other program can compare.

Red Clay Hound

November 23rd, 2009
2:20 pm

Good job Bill. Thanks for sharing the story.

Mikey

November 23rd, 2009
2:21 pm

Thanks for sharing this Bill-
Great story….God Bless Baylie.

Cuz, you got yourself a fine familiy there, Man.

Mikey

November 23rd, 2009
2:22 pm

family…sorry.

Gatorzone

November 23rd, 2009
2:23 pm

Look at the Celeb! Way to go CUZ!

U-no

November 23rd, 2009
2:33 pm

I agree with Old Buzz. We will be praying for you Balie. Cuz, great family and story. I am sorry that the Pups didn’t win, that would have made the trip even that much more awesome.

Starring Kam Fong as Chin Ho

November 23rd, 2009
2:38 pm

Even in a season filled with much adversity, there is always much to be thankful for. Cuz, and his wonderful family and the day they had together at the game are one of the highlights of this year for me. I’ll keep them in my prayers

Ozzy

November 23rd, 2009
2:47 pm

Beautiful family there Cuz.

Puts things in perspective for those of us old enough to realize that there’s more to life than calling each other “nerd” and “leghumpers” on computer blogs.

May Baylie grow up and want to be an engineer. I know just the school for her.

God Bless and Go Jackets!

Burdell

November 23rd, 2009
2:49 pm

Glad to hear that they had fun at the game…despite the mess in the second half. I was excited last week when I read that Baylie had won the fan contest…she and Cuz deserve it. Keep fighting the good fight!

Happy Thanksgiving! We all have so much to be thankful for…football aside.

Also glad to hear that AJ and Rambo are progressing well. Hope they are both back for Saturday’s game…but Bacarri’s condition merits a little bit of extra caution. I hope they don’t rush things b/c he’s got quite a career ahead of him.

GO JACKETS!!

Gatorzone

November 23rd, 2009
2:49 pm

Nice trip for Baylie and the good folks at the AJC and UGA. Kudos to all!
You guys have a great looking family! BK, good job making the trip special for a special young lady. You have moved up a notch in my book. Oh and, Good luck this week against Tech!

Matthews Dawg

November 23rd, 2009
2:50 pm

Cuz, God Bless you, Baylie and your family! This is real life….what the Dawgs do on the field is important, but not even close to this!! I wish you the best and hope to keep seeing you on the blogs!

21 wins in a row

November 23rd, 2009
2:50 pm

Fine days in Athens, Magical days in Gainesville. You really need to get down there and see those BCS trophys, they are really beautiful.

Fools Gold

November 23rd, 2009
3:01 pm

Well finally get to see what ole Cuz looks like too after seeing his beautiful Baylie last week and of course Dayna. Cuz and I have somewhat sparred a few times through the 31/2 years that Ive been blogging here . He and others have accused me of being a Techie which I promise is quite the contrary. He and I are from the same generation during those late 70’s and the early 80’s glory years. Im a Bulldog and have been critical of our coaching staff since 2005. So fellow fans on the AJC blog who have been a little critical of me during the past few years I promise Im a DAWG !. Yes I was even critical of the 2007 season and still am. I haven’t blogged too much during the course of the year because I knew what was coming this year, well lets say I had a pretty good Idea. I thought UGA would win 6 – 7 games in the regular season and Im pretty close on that prediction. Im going to come back later after the season and say I told you so but of course things can change in a hurry. I think I was wrong on one thing though which earlier I predicted UGA would beat Tech. Now, truthfully, Im not so sure. Depends which team shows up for UGA. I also think Martinez wont be leaving UGA either because CMR will stay loyal. CMR will make changes in the off season which will result in just a little more tweaking among the staff. However my friends next year will be another year of Fools Gold “IF” there isn’t any major changes within the coaching staff. Go Dawgs! BTW Bill King……. hope next year fans contest can also include out of state fans like myself. Being a Dawg fan in Upstate SC aka Clemson Country is hell right now.

GeoffDawg

November 23rd, 2009
3:02 pm

Nice story and a beautiful family Cuz. I’m sorry we couldn’t win one for Baylie and Uga.

GeoffDawg

November 23rd, 2009
3:05 pm

21 wins in a row – we’re sending Orson Charles down to take some snapshots for us.

Fools Gold

November 23rd, 2009
3:10 pm

BTW Kentucky? Come on UGA WE Can and Expect better!

Cuz

November 23rd, 2009
3:17 pm

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the fans and the AJC for such a wonderful day and week leading up to the game. The votes and comments in support of Baylie put me at a loss for words, which as most of you know is a rarity for me. The staff at the game could not have been nicer. From the group checking tickets to the elevator attendant to the staff in the skybox and especially Bill King, all showed Baylie a wonderful time.

Bill is right about unable to hear the announcer in the box. We had hoped to take a picture of the scoreboard with Baylie’s picture. We did not catch the lead in and it was on and off in an instant. Well Baylie did get to see her picture broadcast in Sanford Stadium. That is truly a great honor.

Baylie was completely wore out Sunday from the trip, but she was extremely happy with the experience, well except for the score. The Ultimate Fan was not thrilled with the outcome. And she did not understand the boos by our own fans, whether directed at the team or coaches. Other than that, she had a great gameday experience. She and I will be cheering on the Dawgs from our living room on Saturday versus our in-state rival Yellow Jackets.

Baylie has a teacher due to arrive shortly for her schoolwork. Tomorrow she has her weekly physical therapy session and a Doctor’s appointment to check to see if she has a lymphatic system infection. Back to normal for her. But Baylie found out that in a stormy year full of surgeries and pain a rainbow can break through the clouds. She truly was “Queen for a Day”. Thanks to all.
Cuz
Proud to be Baylie’s Dad

Gatorzone

November 23rd, 2009
3:20 pm

Touche Geoffdawg… OC would not be allowed in the same building after smashing the last one. HA, OC, Ealey, and AJ are great building blocks for you guys next year!

RAMBLE ON!!!

November 23rd, 2009
3:21 pm

I’m surprised Cuz would wear a tie to a football game though.

Gatorzone

November 23rd, 2009
3:21 pm

last sentence should be HA! As in laughing at the charles joke.

Colonial Dawg

November 23rd, 2009
3:23 pm

I’m with everyone else….beautiful family Cuz except for one thing…..you look a lot like Bill King! Sorry!

Paul's Johnson

November 23rd, 2009
3:29 pm

I’ve always been a fan of yours, Cuz, and after hearing Baylie’s story and seeing her picture, I now have a face to put with the prayers.
I am glad Baylie had a great time, no one could be more deserving of it.
As I give thanks this Thursday for my family and all that I have been blessed with,I will be sure to think of you and Baylie as I am sure that you will be giving thanks for the tremendous blessings that you have received.

Go Dawgs!!

Cuz

November 23rd, 2009
3:29 pm

Ramble, first game I have ever wore a tie. I did not have a black Georgia golf shirt. It is a Bulldawg tie. I bet you have one just like it.

Oh c’mon. You gotta admit that is funny.

Cuz

November 23rd, 2009
3:31 pm

Colonial Dawg, you ought to see the picture of Bill and me together at the game taken by Baylie. Me and my “Brother from another Mother”.

GeoffDawg

November 23rd, 2009
3:34 pm

Gatorzone, I agree – if we can unload some coaching staff deadweight, the future looks pretty bright with young players like Charles, Ealey, Wooten, Robinson, Murray, etc. on their way up.

I’ve read some positive reports about Brantley – what’s your take on UF’s young players in light of the number of seniors graduating this year?

BAMA STAN

November 23rd, 2009
3:39 pm

12 NATIONAL TITLES – 21 SEC TITLES!!!

Great article!

Cuz – reading this makes your daughter an inspiration to all college football fans – Go Dawgs to Baylie! Best of luck against GT this Saturday!

ROLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL TIDE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ogeechee Dawg

November 23rd, 2009
3:40 pm

What a great day for Baylie – wish her the best!

Fools Gold

November 23rd, 2009
3:42 pm

Cuz …….You rekon you could find some specs like Bill wears? Maybe a retro pair from the 70s or maybe some of those Elton John specs? Someone mentioned Ties? Wore them for 15 years and dont anymore thank goodness!

45ACP

November 23rd, 2009
3:48 pm

Cuz – I happy to hear that Baylie, Dayna and their Dad had a great time.
Memories are priceless.

Sounds like Mr. Bill King is a class act. But who didn’t know that!

GO DAWGS!

PHIL

November 23rd, 2009
3:48 pm

Very happy Bill was able to do something so special for a child. Yet it amazes me that one of you guys could take what was obviously the best blog of the year, really a non football story and hi- jack it into another rip of the coaching staff. Amazing. On another blog a guy, “CATS FLY” couldn’t have said it better:

“UGA “fans” have brought the Dawgs to a new low. Why would recruits want to play in front of such losers? The school is good, the team is good – the fans are wretched.”

Also amazing that while a child couldn’t understand the boos, these blogs are filled with them. I’d love to hear you brain surgeons try to explain it to her.

WTF???

November 23rd, 2009
3:50 pm

Great story, I enjoyed it immensly!

Cuz, you and your family are in our prayers. I’m glad ya’ll had a good time in Athens.

I hope ya’ll have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Bill King, awesome job!!!

Go Dawgs and to hell with Georgia Tech!!!!

1eyedJack

November 23rd, 2009
3:50 pm

Absolutely wonderful.

Cuz

November 23rd, 2009
3:51 pm

Fools, I like my Arnold “I’ll be back” shades better.

Thanks for the nice comments about Baylie.

gdawginkalamazoo

November 23rd, 2009
3:52 pm

Cuz, was that a clip on tie? Great looking family you have there my friend. Good thing your daughters don’t look a thing like you! Glad that you and your daughters got to have that experience. As always my prayers are with Baylie, you and your family.