I recently got a letter from UGA fan Barry Cochran raising the question of what’s the right age for kids to attend their first football game at Sanford Stadium.
Cochran writes: Bill, I have a son and daughter, both of whom are preschool (3 and 5 years old), and I’m looking forward to the day when both of them can accompany me to Athens for a glorious day Between the Hedges. I didn’t attend my first UGA game with my Dad until I was about 10, but my son will be 6 midway through this season and I’m wondering whether that would be too early to take him. Maybe for the Appalachian State game on Nov. 9? What do you think?
I know there are mixed views on this. When I recently posted on the Blawg’s Facebook page asking what would make a day at Sanford Stadium even better, my brother Jon commented: “Leaving kids under the age of 10 at home!”
And for certain games and circumstances, I’d agree. Those early-season games when it’s oppressively hot and humid are no fun for young children, and their inattentiveness and the need of their parents to constantly get up and disturb the folks around them by taking their children to the restroom or concession stand can be quite an irritation.
On the other hand, some kids are fully ready to watch an entire Georgia football game at age 6. My son Bill was one of them.
I think your idea of initiating your son to the joys of a football Saturday in Athens with a late-season low-pressure game (when Dad won’t be worried about the outcome) is an excellent idea, assuming that you’re pretty sure your boy would really enjoy spending three-plus hours at a game. If you’re not sure of that, I’d maybe wait a season or two.
And when you do take your son and daughter to their first game, be prepared for possibly having to leave early, just in case they tire of the whole experience by halftime.
A sort of interim move might be taking your kids to the next G-Day game, just to test out how well they do. Or taking them to Picture Day in August or during the season to the Dawg Walk, which I’m sure they’d get a kick out of, before actually having them attend a game.
Four years ago, I ran a poll alongside a Blawg on attending your first game at Sanford Stadium and the results were pretty well spread out, with 26 percent saying their first game was between the ages of 6 and 12, 26 percent saying they were college age, 25 percent saying they were between the ages of 13 and 18, and 14 percent saying they were under the age of 6.
Hopefully, when your son and daughter do attend their first game Between the Hedges, it’ll make for fond memories, like those that I shared in that first Blawg on the subject four years ago. Here they are …
My brothers used to tease me about the way I could remember details of our childhood in Athens. “What grade were you in? Who was your teacher?” they’d jokingly ask when I’d mention something from when we were growing up. And I could usually tell them.
But while I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t aware of the Georgia Bulldogs, for some reason I’m not exactly sure when I attended my first game at Sanford Stadium.
In contrast to the fuzzy memories I have of my first game, my son recalls exactly when he and his sister first got to go with me to see the Dogs play. For young Bill, it was the 1991 game against Cal State Fullerton, when he was 6 years old, and for Olivia it was the Louisiana-Monroe game in 2005, when she was 11. Their mom is pretty sure she didn’t attend a game until she was a UGA freshman.
I have the vaguest recollection of being taken to a game when I was very young, but I don’t know when it might have been. The sounds of the band are about all I recall.
I don’t think I got to go to a game while Athens’ own Fran Tarkenton was the quarterback, but I’m not sure. The first one I can really remember was in 1963 when Larry Rakestraw was the senior starter at quarterback. I had just turned 11. I seem to recall sophomore backup Preston Ridlehuber getting to play some late in the game. I think it most likely was the game against Vandy, a 20-0 Bulldog win. This was before the stadium was double-decked and I remember we sat in the North stands and that the silver helmets that the Bulldogs wore glinted in the afternoon sun.
I went to a few games, not all, in 1964, Vince Dooley’s first year, and then started a 15-year run of not missing a home game with the 1965 opener against Alabama, the famed flea-flicker game. I think my middle brother Jon, who was 8 then, was with me and Dad at that game, but he doesn’t remember. The first game he recalls was later that season when he went with some boys from his Cub Scouts den and sat behind the end zone with the Y boys who used to play before the games.
My friend Dan also saw his first game when he was 11. He recalls: “We got faculty season tickets ($5 for a child). Good for all UGA home games, all sports. It was the year the Coliseum opened because I remember going to the inaugural game there versus Tech. (Georgia won under Red Lawson — playing only five players the whole game.) As for the football game, I think it was Vandy. I do remember Larry Rakestraw was the QB and Johnny Griffith was the head coach. The stadium seated 40,000 and the male students wore ties and the co-eds wore dresses.”
Another friend, Keith, who was a year younger than me, says he remembers more about his first game than the ones he attended in the 1980s and ’90s. It was 1962 against Florida State. “Georgia lost 18-0, probably the only 18-0 game I’ve ever seen. My 9th birthday was about a week later and going to the game was my birthday present. I remember … I got a pennant, the small one, and a button with a bulldog on it with a ribbon and little gold plastic football.”
Rusty, a classmate of mine at David C. Barrow Elementary School near the UGA campus, can’t recall exactly when he attended his first game but he knows he was very young. “My family had season tickets ‘inherited’ from my grandfather, who was a local businessman and one of numerous guarantors of the loan to build the stadium.”
His first distinct memory of a Georgia game “was the Alabama game where we beat them on the flea-flicker from Kirby Moore to Pat Hodgson to Bob Taylor in 1965.”
Rusty was one of the kids selling programs (which I started doing the following year) and remembers sitting with friends on top of one of the concession stands on the South side (again, before the upper deck was added) to watch the game. “I didn’t see Taylor until he was in the end zone and the crowd went crazy. We all said ‘What just happened?!’ And, of course, we didn’t know because there was no Jumbotron. All we knew was we were suddenly going for 2 … and the rest is history.”
Johnny, a classmate of mine at old Athens High, recalls, “It was always a treat to attend any game at UGA when a kid.” He thinks he attended a couple of games in 1964, but he doesn’t remember which ones. The game that did stick in his memory, again, was the 1965 opener against Alabama and the flea-flicker. “Most Bama fans still swear that Hodgson’s knees were on the ground before he pitched the ball to Taylor. What I remembered about Kirby Moore was that he would hide the ball on his hip before he would pass.”
Johnny was also among the hundreds of Athenians who turned out at Ben Epps Field a couple of weeks later when Dooley’s Dogs returned from Ann Arbor, “after beating mighty Michigan up there. Now that was sweet.”
Feel free to share memories of your first UGA game and your thoughts on what’s the proper age for kids at Sanford Stadium.
Got something you want to discuss concerning the upcoming football season or UGA athletics? Or a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg