My daughter and I always look forward to our visit every August to the UGA Bookstore in Athens.
Ostensibly, we’re there for Olivia to stock up on school supplies, but that’s only a pretext for indulging ourselves in a shopping spree among all things Bulldog. We usually ring out with a couple of bags full of new Bulldog clothing and memorabilia.
For me, that annual mid-August visit — parking in the Tate Center lot just outside Sanford Stadium (where they’ve erected a new arch over the gate), making our way through all the girls assembling for rush events, and just soaking up the energy of the Classic City and UGA campus awakening after a relative slumber in summer — truly marks the beginning of a new football season.
Last week was no different in that we left the bookstore loaded down and ready to cheer on the Dawgs, but it was very much different in another sense: Earlier that day we’d moved Olivia in to her dorm room where she’ll live for her freshman year at UGA.
Another King living in Athens and attending UGA! It’s been that way off and on for three generations, and Olivia follows in the footsteps of both her parents, her uncles, her brother and at least four cousins.
I asked her how she felt about following the family tradition, and she said she thinks it has “given me a step up” over other students new to campus.
“I have more confidence since I know the campus pretty well,” she said. “I don’t feel completely lost” unlike so many of her fellow frosh.
When she helps another student out by pointing out where something is, she said, “I have frequently gotten the question, ‘How do you know so much?’ I answer, “I come from a long line of Bulldogs and my family has had season tickets since 1975.”
Actually, Olivia, who’s been going to games with me for years, admitted, “I sometimes get a little weary of hearing how campus and Athens were 40 years ago (sorry, Dad) but, looking back, some of those stories have helped me …. I know where Alps Road is and the best place to get a late night meal (The Grill in Downtown Athens).”
Overall, Olivia said, “I’m proud to continue the tradition of a King at UGA and I don’t think I could live anywhere else.”
I know, I know. Her mom and I raised her right.
Classes didn’t start until Monday, so Olivia spent her first few days doing the sort of things that will make for wonderful memories when she’s older — and too sensible to be playing barefoot soccer in the pouring rain on Reed Quadrangle.
She attended the official Freshman Welcome at Sanford Stadium Sunday, where the Class of 2016 was addressed by the likes of Michael Adams and Mark Richt. The head coach told the freshmen not to throw away this opportunity (and my daughter said she couldn’t help but get the feeling he’s had plenty of practice delivering that speech recently to his players).
Speaking of football players, Livvy says they’re easy to spot at Snelling Hall, the premier dining facility (much favored over still revoltin’ Bolton); they’re the ones in the the “Finish the drill” T-shirts. Oh, and they’re also twice as big as everyone else.
But while much comment has been made about the various off-the-field scrapes members of Richt’s team have gotten into, Olivia noted they’re certainly not alone. Campus and Athens police are everywhere and 19 UGA students managed to get arrested on the first Saturday night of the school year. The other day Olivia watched a girl pulled over on Baxter Street for some minor scooter infraction (possibly emerging from an alley?)
Nowadays you don’t even have to be a BMOC to have your arrest written up in the campus paper, with The Red & Black faithfully reporting even garden variety traffic infractions that in her parents’ day wouldn’t have been considered news.
And, naturally, fire alarms have gone off in the dorms in the absence of a fire — though there were some real flames on campus the other day when some idiot probably threw a lit cigarette into one of the recycling dumpsters at a nearby dorm, necessitating a visit by the fire department.
Of course, that sort of thing has always happened and, in fact, one of the great things about a college campus is its traditions, both the official ones and those the administration would rather wipe out.
One of the more recent authorized traditions Olivia participated in took place at Sunday’s Freshman Welcome, when the incoming class assembled on the stadium field to form a gigantic Georgia “G.” Or, as my daughter described it in a series of exasperated texts to her Dad, 30 minutes of standing in the hot sun for a 30-second photo op. Still, it’s a pretty impressive shot, and she swears she’s in there somewhere (helping form the outline of the “G” in the upper right corner).
On the subject of more venerated traditions at UGA, Olivia is already working her way through the “G Book,” a compendium of UGA history handed out to freshmen that is itself the revival of a tradition originally practiced on campus between 1915 and the late 1950s and brought back in 2009.
The freshmen are encouraged to experience and check off the traditions outlined in the book, which range from getting your picture taken at the arch, visiting the Tree That Owns Itself, taking a ghost tour of North Campus, attending a meeting of one of the university’s longtime rival literary societies (Phi Kappa and Demosthenian) and “Snellebrating” (late-night snacks at Snelling) to participating in Homecoming events, attending a football game (there are several thousand empty student seats that need filling!), tailgating, ringing the chapel bell and making the trek to Jacksonville.
Olivia, who’s still waiting to find out how many football games she’ll get tickets to, says those who work their way through 20 traditions in the “G Book” get a special lapel pin, while the overachievers who make their way through 40 traditions get a personalized plaque.
Needless to say, my daughter is thinking nothing but plaque.
So, before we get back to talking hardcore football, feel free to share your own favorite ways of marking the start of another school year/football season at UGA … or your most beloved Bulldog traditions.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg