The Atlanta Sports Council wants to move the world’s largest outdoor cocktail party indoors. Once every four years, the Georgia Dome would play host to the Georgia-Florida game. It’s a great idea. It’ll never happen.
It’ll never happen for a reason that might sound downright weird to those on the periphery: Georgia fans love going to Jacksonville. Even when the Bulldogs are losing – and they’ve lost to Florida 16 of the past 19 seasons – it’s a bigger event for Georgia folks than for Florida people. Not a bigger game, but a bigger event.
Gator supporters can drive into town on that given Saturday and don’t even require a hotel with its jacked-up rates and two-night minimum. Georgia fans will pay whatever it costs because it’s simply part of being a Georgia fan. Said Jeff Dantzler, who hosts a talk show in Athens: “It’s like a bowl game in the middle of the year.”
When word of the Sports Council’s interest in bidding for the game began to circulate last weekend (via a report in the Atlanta Business Chronicle), there was little discussion on Dantzler’s show. Had there been, he said, “My view would be two huge thumbs-down. That game is such a big thing for Georgia people – going to St. Simons and all. If you wanted to talk about playing it home-and-home, I’d be all for it, but to move it to another neutral site is completely ludicrous.”
Within hours of the Chronicle’s report, Georgia athletics director Damon Evans sought to calm his constituency by saying there were no negotiations ongoing. Gary Stokan, the Council’s president, keeps broaching the notion, but the unfortunate truth is that nothing is apt to change.
“We respect the tradition of the game,” Stokan said. “We’re just trying to do our job … We think this would add to the mystique and the rivalry.”
Given the way the rivalry has turned against their team, you might guess Georgia fans would be ripe for any break in the routine. You’d be wrong. The trek to Jacksonville has become such a part of the UGA experience that the school schedules no classes the Friday before the given Saturday. A day trip to Fulton County wouldn’t quite match the experience of a three- or four-day fall break (with golf at St. Simons, long a Bulldog stronghold, included).
“There are politics and idiosyncrasies that I’m aware of,” Stokan said. “But we’re not asking to move it here every year. Seventy-five percent of the games could say in Jacksonville. We’re asking to play one game in Georgia every four years.”Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
Me, I’d love it. I hate everything about the Jacksonville experience – the aforementioned hotel rates, the alarming alcoholic intake, the meanness between fans. But I’m a neutral. (Go ahead and laugh, you Gators.) I’ve had my issues with the Sports Council, but this time I’m on Stokan’s side. Which means neither of us has a prayer.
Sixteen times since 1989, the hated Gators have marred a Georgia season. That said, Bulldog backers will give up their autumnal sojourn only when somebody pries a 7-iron from their cold dead fingers. As much as those folks want their team to win, they want their R & R even more.