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.