Sunday, August 31, 2008
College Football Heaven
(Athens, GA) There is nothing like being in Athens GA and “Between the Hedges” on a Saturday afternoon. That is especially true when it is opening day and your team begins the season ranked Number #1 in the nation. It just doesn’t get better… unless your team keeps winning and ends the season ranked #1. Then it really doesn’t get better.
As is true on most major college campuses around the country, the happening is as much about what goes on outside the stadium as the game itself. I was reminded of that as we drove into Athens on Saturday morning. It took us 2 ½ hours to drive (if you call it driving) the 30 miles or so from Madison to Athens. I figured out quickly that there are a ton of other folks who believe there is nothing better than being in Athens for the opening day of football season. I also realized that there would be as many people outside the stadium as would be inside.
Yesterday I couldn’t help but think about how things have changed since I first arrived here as a college freshman 36 years ago.
For starters the girls are much cuter and younger than they were 36 years ago. Maybe it’s because I am a lot older and uglier than I was 36 years ago but when I visit with old college friend’s children who were only a twinkle in my friends’ eye when I was in school, I definitely feel old. Sarah Tippins, pictured here with the older guy, is the daughter of a couple of my college friends. Sarah is a senior at UGA and is not only cute as a button but has personality to boot. She was tailgating with her parents and other friends when we crashed their party. For you guys out there - she is not taken but I am certain there is a waiting list for the privilege to be interviewed to go out with her. My mama used to tell me that young folks who make older folks feel special are special folks themselves. I think I understood that principle better than ever after visiting with this sweetheart yesterday.
Speaking of tailgating, when I was in school it was really was tailgating. Parents would pull up in their station wagons and open the tailgate and use it for a table for their Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pimento Cheese sandwiches before going in the stadium. Now there are elaborate tents and tent communities with home team logos, adult beverages, grills on wheels with the aroma of grilled chicken and steaks and ribs in the air, with many of the folks not having any intention of actually going to the game. You must know that the stadium holds only 93,000 folks so there is no way all these folks could even begin to fit in the stadium.
And speaking of fitting in the stadium, tickets are also a little more difficult to come by than they were in 1972. In 2008, if you are not a season ticketholder, you have to donate a measly $10,000 to the Athletic Association for the privilege of purchasing two season tickets in the nose bleed section. And the donation minimum goes up every year. That may explain why there are as many people outside the stadium as inside.
My wife and her sister were part of the crowd who did not attend the game yesterday. They decided to spend the afternoon in downtown Athens shopping. They proved my point when they said that there were over an hour waits to get in the restaurants during the game. When I was in school, Athens was a ghost town while the game was going on.
I also couldn’t help but see some young folks get escorted out of the stadium by the GBI during the game. I did not notice any bad behavior so I figured Big Brother must have been watching carefully for underage drinking. When I was in school you would have to get in a drunken fist fight, throw your drink in an officer’s face, and moon the guy you were fighting to get escorted out of the stadium.
Some things have definitely changed. But there is one thing that has not changed.
Athens Georgia is still college football heaven. And if you folks out there who are not believers say your prayers at night and live right, you might make it there one fall Saturday afternoon.