Am I cynical? Yep. Snarky? Guilty as charged. But Mr. Mean has this soft underbelly, this one sappy place where cynicism and snark dare not rear their malignant heads. That one place is the University of Georgia’s canine mascot.
I love all Ugas. Have since the first time I saw one in person. The date: Oct. 23, 1976. The place: Commonwealth Stadium on a dark and stormy night. Georgia was playing Kentucky. I was sitting in the student section with Mrs. Bradley, who was not yet Mrs. Bradley (and who has never become Mrs. Mean, thank goodness). And we saw Uga III in his little doggie sweater and we were smitten.
I’ve told this story before, but the next August I was in Athens on the SEC Skywriters Tour. (Back then there were no Media Days in Birmingham; the conference rented an old plane and flew us media types from school to school.) And I found a print of UGA III in a camera store on Clayton Street and bought it for the future Mrs. Bradley, who posted it on her apartment wall.
Understand: Neither of us were UGA fans. (No member of this family has ever attended the school.) We were simply Uga fans. And really, how can you not be?
Apparently that love for snow-white English bulldogs has been handed down a generation. My daughter was attending one of those old Tech-and-Georgia basketball doubleheaders in the Dome — the year was 1995; she was 5 — and she happened across the coach of the Bulldogs between games. She marched up to Tubby Smith and demanded: “Where’s Uga?”
When an Uga dies, I put journalistic neutrality on a shelf . No, Tech fans, I wouldn’t react the same way if the Ramblin’ Wreck dinged a fender, but the Ramblin’ Wreck is just a car, albeit a nice one, and most other mascots are college kids in sweaty costumes. And the ones that aren’t are kind of creepy. (Sorry, Auburn folks, but I’ve never been fond of that eagle.) And any Uga is, in my view, the best dog in the world.
Today Uga VIII died. Some among you will make jokes. I will laugh at none of them. I love all Ugas, and I’m sorry another is gone, this one especially. Uga VIII, we hardly knew ye.
By Mark Bradley