With the Winter Olympics back, we’ve been treated to repeat viewings lately of one of the most celebrated moments in modern sports history, the spine-tingling ending to the Miracle on Ice. Watching the ending of that game produces a smiliar feeling to what Georgia Bulldog fans get rewatching Run-Lindsay or Hobnail Boot.
Every sports fan has those unforgettable top moments, but the best ones are where you were actually there to witness the miracle finish, championship celebration, or whatever it was. My son Bill, a UGA alum now in grad school at UNC, had one of those unforgettable sports experiences in Chapel Hill this week when he was among the howling crowd inside the Dean Dome as the Tar Heels upset their arch rival, No. 5 Duke. After the final buzzer, the fans stormed the court and then thousands mobbed Franklin Street, traditional site of such celebrations in the land of Carolina Blue.
My son called me a little after midnight to tell me all about it and proclaimed it one of his all-time top sports memories, although it didn’t top UGA’s Blackout game against Auburn in 2007.
The next day, I asked him what else is on his select list of top sports moments, and this is what he came up with:
“The 2005 SEC championship game where we rocked #3 LSU. I saw Randy Johnson’s perfect game. I’ve seen us beat Florida. The ’02 and ’06 Georgia Tech games in Athens (the 51-7 beat down and the upset of Calvin Johnson, etc.) plus the ’09 game at Tech where we were heavy underdogs. The 2000 Tennessee game just because of the surreal nature of seeing the field rushed at Sanford. The Olympics in Atlanta (and Athens). The 2003-04 Georgia basketball team gave us THREE court-storming games in Athens (Tech, Kentucky, Florida) with the Tech game being one of the best games I’ve ever attended. Also saw John Smoltz outduel Roger Clemons in a playoff game in Atlanta.”
That’s a great list, and a bit more inclusive than my own, which is more heavily weighted toward UGA football games. I can’t recall ever seeing a Braves, Falcons or Hawks game in person that was really out of the ordinary or memorable, unfortunately.
And, ironically, the only really memorable moment like that in Georgia basketball I’ve ever witnessed in person was a game where we were on the losing side: Pistol Pete’s fabled last regular season college game in March 1969. The Coliseum (as it was then known) was packed and Maravich had one of his most impressive games ever, scoring 58 points and winding up with a ridiculous 35-foot hook shot as time expired. The Georgia fans swarmed onto the floor to congratulate him!
My list of unforgettable sports moments I witnessed in person is topped by the 1965 flea-flicker upset victory at Sanford Stadium over heavily favored national champion Alabama at the beginning of Vince Dooley’s second season. As I’ve recalled before, the Dogs were hanging tough and behind only 17-10 in the fourth quarter. I’d gone to get a Coke and was walking back to my seat when I heard someone say, “The Bear better do something, or Bama could lose this thing.” Sure enough, moments later came the legendary Kirby Moore-to-Pat Hodgson-to-Bob Taylor play. And then, with the 2-point play pass to Hodgson, Georgia had one of its most surprising victories ever.
Close behind that one is the 2007 Blackout win over Auburn (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Sanford Stadium crowd as electrified as that moment when the Dogs came running out on the field in those black jerseys). And then there are the two loudest games from beginning to end that I can recall seeing in Athens: the 21-0 win over Bear Bryant’s Crimson Tide in 1976 and this past season’s Murray vs. Mettenberger Bowl as LSU fell to Mark Richt’s Dawgs. I think the 2013 game was louder, but the post-game celebration in 1976 was wilder.
Another top memory: the 1980 game against South Carolina in which Herschel Walker outshined Heisman winner George Rogers. Plus, of course, Kevin Butler kicking it “a hundred-thousand miles” (as Larry Munson put it) to beat Clemson in 1982, the 2002 domination of the Yellow Jackets, and walking out of Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field in 2009 and seeing the completely stunned looks on the deflated Tech fans after the “We Run This State” game.
As for the 2000 win that broke the losing streak against Tennessee, the atmosphere was unforgettable as the crowd smelled victory, but the moment was ruined for me by idiot Georgia fans trashing their own field, grabbing hunks of the Hedges.
Moving away from football, a couple of my top sports moments involve soccer: The surreal feeling of watching the bronze medal men’s OIympics soccer game in an almost unrecognizable de-Hedged and flattened Sanford Stadium in 1996; and my family being among a few hundred folks lined up on the sides of the Myers Quad in November 1966 as the then brand-new UGA men’s soccer team took on Georgia Tech in the first modern-day college soccer game in Athens. I remember toward the end one of the Georgia players turning to the fans with his arms out, saying something like, “This is history!”
Those are moments I’ll never forget. How about you? What are your top in-person sports memories?
Duane Grantham writes: Bill, Drinking beer is illegal as well for the guys less than 21. Would you suggest that every football player should be dismissed for beer drinking? If your answer to that is yes then no wonder you assume [Mark] Richt is right on his toughest drug policy in football. Most of us probably differ with you.
I’ve made no such suggestion. In my piece on the dismissal of Josh Harvey-Clemons, I did not make any judgment on the relative merits or demerits of beer, pot or what have you. The UGA coaching staff has done that. They test for drugs. They apparently don’t test for alcohol, leaving that up to the police if you’re found driving under the influence of it or possessing it under-age. However, if the coaching staff did choose to test for alcohol and to punish those who tested positive the same way they do with drugs, my point would be the same: If you break the rules, you pay the price. I don’t care what the substance is; if they were to ban the use of peanut butter and a player gets caught with Jif on his breath three times, well, he should be gone. Whether they should have a rule about marijuana is a completely different discussion. My point was that UGA has strict disciplinary policies and the players are well aware of them. Those who choose to violate the team rules despite that don’t belong on the team.
Jimi writes: Bill, I do enjoy your Blawg. At what point does the coaching staff accept responsibility for the discipline problems of the players that they recruit? At a top tier program shouldn’t there be more scrutiny of a young person’s character during the recruiting process? I understand that college recruits are teenagers and will undergo many changes as they become young adults, but aren’t there signs that indicate someone’s background, family support and work ethic that should be considered? It seems to me that we as fans always tend to blame the player in question and not the coaches in charge of recruiting them! Your thoughts?
Jimi, Georgia’s coaches have been known to back off from prospects who show disciplinary or academic problems as their high school career ends. But doing more than that would be pretty difficult for a college program. The NFL brings prospects in and gives them psychological tests; colleges don’t, and I’m not sure NCAA rules would even allow it. Even if they could, I doubt it would weed out all the potential problems. Athletes are no different from any other kid leaving home and going off on their own for the first time when they enroll in college. I’ve known of too many kids who weren’t athletes who never got into any trouble in high school and then went off the rails once they got to college. Dealing with the temptations of a college town and managing your time and keeping on top of your academics can be daunting for any student. Add the rigors and time constraints of major college athletics to the mix and the chances of someone rebelling or falling into bad habits are even greater. When it happens to a nonathlete, is it the professors’ fault? The dorm RA’s fault? The parents’ fault? No, and when college athletes break the rules, it’s not their coaches’ responsibility. But I do know I’d rather have a coaching staff and athletic administration that has strict rules and enforces them than one that turns a blind eye and enables athletes who have a problem, as apparently happens at some other SEC programs.
SandyDawg writes: Bill, I see where Greg McGarity is paying Georgia Southern $850,000 to move its next game against the Dawgs up a year and come to play in Athens in 2015. I understand that finding nonconference opponents who don’t demand a home-and-home contract is tough these days, and I don’t exactly consider the Eagles a “cupcake” because Georgia has to work a bit harder against that triple-option offense (and that might help a bit against Tech). But looking at the 2015 schedule, a nonconference home slate of Southern U., Louisiana Monroe and Georgia Southern, plus having the Auburn and Tech games both on the road, means only the South Carolina and Missouri games in Athens look attractive (Kentucky still being pretty much Kentucky). Of course, we don’t know yet who our SEC West opponent will be and I suppose that could kick the schedule up a notch if it’s Bama or Texas A&M (I don’t suppose we’ll see LSU again that soon). Still, as a season ticket holder, I’m feeling a bit underwhelmed yet again. How about you, Bill?
I agree that if the SEC West opponent turns out to be somebody like Arkansas the home schedule for 2015 will be pretty meh aside from the two key SEC East games against the Gamecocks and Mizzou. To me, the real problem is that in the recent conference scheduling turmoil, Georgia-Auburn got off-track by having the Bulldogs go to Auburn two years in a row, and as a result now every other year you have both Auburn and Tech as away games. I wish there was some way to fix it so that the Dogs would face one of those two traditional rivals at home every year like they previously did. Of course, what’s really going to be interesting is seeing whether the SEC adds a ninth conference game in 2016.
Got something you want to discuss concerning the Dawgs? 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