My mother was raised in Miami, so she had no idea what she was witnessing. A flight attendant at the time, she still gets wide-eyed when she talks about what she saw in that otherwise dignified hotel lobby during a trip in 1980:
Grown men on all fours barking like dogs.
They were dogs. Dawgs.
We’d get another try at a Championship a couple years after that one, but then Herschel Walker left, and so did our chances at glory. (Donald Trump took him away from us to the USFL, but that’s another story for another time.)
You’ll have to forgive us, because we all have these stories, and we will want to tell you about them this week. You’re going to see some rabid bulldog fans.
With so much going on in the world and in Washington, I’ve tried to tell myself it’s not right to get emotional over a football game.
It hasn’t worked, because it’s not just another football game. It may be for Alabama—but we’re not Alabama. I haven’t seen the dogs play after the first week of January in my natural born life.
If you grew up in this state after the 80s, you heard tales of the glory days that happened before you were born. You learned to worship invincible running back Hershel Walker and Coach Vince Dooley. You remember in the mid 90s hearing “Coach Donnan’s dogs could go all the way this year,” only to witness the inevitable disappointment as they fell short.
If you were unlucky like I was in middle school, you might have suffered through three straight years of losses to Georgia Tech while being taught Earth Science by the wife of that team’s offensive coordinator. You got in trouble for trying to steal back pieces of the UGA stadium’s hedges from her daughters—branches they tore from our hearts after another win.
When you were lucky, you enjoyed the resurgence of the early and middle Mark Richt years, even though that preseason #1 year ended without so much as an SEC title. Each year you’d lose early, then the sportswriters would put out the “Here’s How We’re Still In It” stories. You’d lose another, and those writers would oblige again, only transitioning over to the “What Happened?” stories after the third or fourth loss of the year.
Still. every preseason or two, Vince Dooley would tell us how this year could be the year, and draw from experience to prop up our hopes. But Coach Dooley has been carrying our dreams for long enough. The man may not be tired, but he is advancing in age. He can’t do it forever.
The memorabilia from his championship season 38 years ago always fit in pretty nicely in my house. I’m an antiques hound, always was. In the garage sits the car I drove in college-- my family’s gray 1965 Cadillac painted UGA red and white. We have faded crates filled with 1980 championship coke bottles--bottles so old some of the caps are rusting.
There’s a vinyl record with a bulldog on it, given to me by a friend. It plays the sweet music of legendary bulldog announcer Larry Munson’s voice. There are drinking glasses with two newspaper front pages on them from the day after we beat Notre Dame. Why two newspapers? Because it was back when Atlanta still had a morning and an evening paper.
Jimmy Carter was president when we last won. The Iran hostage crisis was in its last days. The highlight reels of our glory days are grainy and old—and they’ve been played to death.
It’s time for some new memorabilia.
We aren’t asking for Alabama to give us this one, we’re going to take it. And I ask you to join us.
We’ve all had enough of Nick Saban and his ring collection. We’ve heard “roll tide roll” enough to last us a lifetime.
It’s time to see some grown men and women barking—maybe even on all fours.
By the way, those bottles may be old—but the fizz still bubbles if you shake them. I vowed to take a swig out of one if we won the title again when I was in school in Athens. Another decade of struggles gave me a reprieve. I hope to pop one of those rusted tops this Monday night.
I'm Marc McAfee. I write news stories for a living, but every once in awhile I write a little more than what makes it on the air. Thanks for taking a look.