There was certainly no morning chill in the air last week in Athens. In fact, it was hot and muggy when it wasn’t spitting rain on us as we were moving my daughter Olivia into the brand-new Rutherford Hall for her sophomore year at UGA.
But it felt like fall to me.
Even when I haven’t had a child attending school in Athens, an August visit to the campus has been an annual ritual that I’ve looked forward to renewing. There’s nothing like a visit to campus as Athens awakens from a sleepy summer to get your red and black blood rising, what with hundreds of sorority girls taking to the sidewalks doing the rush thing while parents and students trundle handcarts full of belongings and strain to carry couches and futons into the reopened dorms.
And the capper is when Olivia and I have our annual shopping spree at the UGA bookstore. Joining the many other parents and students wandering with arms loaded through the aisles of Bulldog sportswear and memorabilia last week, I was more than ready to be among the cheering throngs packing the cavernous stadium across the street.
Traditions are a big part of the appeal of college football, whether it’s shopping for UGA stuff or the kind of student traditions that Olivia is checking off in her G-Book — getting a photograph of her ringing the Chapel bell, for instance.
My own check list for a new football season is nearly complete now. Bulldog shopping done. Season tickets have arrived. My check has been sent off to the church where I park on game days.
There’s a buzz in Athens come mid-August, even in years when Georgia isn’t expected to field that strong a team. So, naturally, this year, when the media has predicted another SEC East title for Mark Richt’s Bulldogs despite all the personnel losses on defense, the football talk is more intense than ever. So it is that you get fans reacting with despair over something as inconsequential as the coach expressing disappointment about the effort of a tired team in its first scrimmage. And that’s why we’re counting interceptions thrown by the quarterbacks in practice, or lamenting how all those minor injuries on the defensive side in preseason camp might hinder the development of the untested young talent taking the place of the many Dogs who’ve moved on to the NFL.
The talk Sunday at a family birthday gathering at our favorite Athens barbecue joint, Butt Hutt, quickly turned to the Dawgs, of course. Like other fans, we’re excited by the veteran, prolific offense that returns and marveling at that rarity in Athens — depth along the offensive and defensive lines — while fretting at the inexperience in the secondary and the killer September schedule.
A lot of folks think Richt’s team will be sitting pretty if it comes out of that first-month gantlet with just one loss, but my brother Jonathan, citing Proverbs 18:21’s admonishment that life and death is in the power of the tongue, didn’t want to hear talk of anything but an undefeated season and a national championship.
If positive thinking has power, Jon is a Red and Black dynamo. Let’s hope this year’s Bulldogs live up to his expectations.
How about you? Are you approaching the first kickoff still full of optimism, or have the impending games against Clemson and South Carolina got you grousing like Munson?
Feel free to share your thoughts on the new season.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg