It’s that time of year again, the annual battle of Jacksonville, the World’s Largest Cocktail Party, the game between the borders, whatever you want to call it, today is the annual Georgia – Florida Game.
When I lived in Florida, they called it the Florida – Georgia Game… how rude!
I’ve had a love/hate relationship with this game my whole life. If your team wins, you have bragging rights, if the bad guys win you have to listen to the gator fateful for an entire year.
Each year the game is played in the neutral location of Jacksonville, FL and becomes one of the great parties of the year. 50% of the tickets go to Georgia fans and the others go to the bad guys. When filled, and it always is, a line of beautiful red fills half the stadium and ugly orange fills the other half.
I have been fortunate to attend a few of these games in-person and have always had a tremendous time. Jacksonville does a great job of hosting each year.
Of all the classic games played in this stadium, I have many memories, but my favorite took place in the comfort of my parents home, many years ago on a cold November day sitting in a dining room chair eating peanuts with my mama and daddy.
The year was 1980, I was a Junior in High School and Coach Dooley, Herschel Walker, Buck Belue and others had Georgia riding high, a perfect season going into the game and a possible chance to play for the National Championship in the grasps.
It’s funny how we remember moments in life just like they were yesterday. This is one of those memories for me.
I’m sure there were other people in the house, but I only remember being there with my mom and dad.
I remember it being a cold November day, much like today. I remember sharing roasted peanuts with my daddy, peanuts he had cooked on the top of our wood burning stove. I remember my mama in her traditional red top, I remember my daddy cheering, I remember feeling nervous and invincible sitting there with my parents.
I remember the nerves going into the game. Georgia was great that year, but the bad guys were good too and they wanted nothing more than to burst our bubble of historic destiny.
For some reason, I parked myself in a dining room chair I had pulled into the living room between my mama and daddy’s recliners. We watched the game, a slobber-knocker from the outset.
As the game got deep into the 4th Qtr, Georgia was against the bad-guys end zone and behind on the scoreboard. Things weren’t looking good, it seemed like the bad guys were going to ruin our dreams, they were going to step in and ruin the fate of our team, like satan himself, they were going to allow evil to overcome good.
Then it happened…. the stars aligned, the heavens opened up and Buck Belue tossed a pass to Lindsay Scott that had the angels rejoicing, the Bulldog faithful celebrating and the demon sent to the lockeroom in defeat…… forever immortalized as RUN LINDSAY RUN!
As Lindsay ran, my house screamed, daddy was out of his chair urging Lindsay down the field and mama’s encouraging cheers carried him towards the end zone. For me, I ended up in the chair with my mama, I landed in her lap and we embraced and cheered!
That play carried Georgia onto its National Championship Game and I was fortunate to be in the stands for that game with my best friend, my mama and daddy and Chuck Foster. Those were heady, fun days culminating in my one and only time standing on the field of the SuperDome in New Orleans, celebrating a National Championship.
The Georgia / FL game still holds much the same gravitas as it did back in those days. Seasons are won or lost during the 60 minutes played in Jacksonville, today will be no different.
I would love to be back in my childhood home, surround by my mom and dad, cheering the Dawgs, but that won’t happen. I will however take comfort in knowing that two very special angels will be cheering from the heavens, she in her red top, him eating roasted peanuts and urging the good guys on.
It’s the classic battle of good vs evil, GO DAWGS!