Tonight the Georgia Bulldogs will play the Alabama Crimson Tide for the National Championship in College Football.
The game will take place at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
It should be a good game with two SEC power-houses battling for the ultimate prize.
Alabama has been a participant in the National Championship numerous times over the last several years.
The last time the Georgia Bulldogs played for the title was in 1981, in New Orleans, in the Sugar Bowl, against Notre Dame.
In 1981, I was there.
A few days before the game, my parents, a family friend Chuck Foster, my best friend Andrew Lampros and I piled into an old motor home that my dad had borrowed from his brother.
We left Clayton early in the morning heading to the big game in New Orleans.
Over the next couple of days we toured the sights and sounds of The Big Easy. We enjoyed the classic architecture, the street performers and got into the spirit of the game on Bourbon Street surrounded by thousands of Dawg fans who knew this was our year!
The Sugar Bowl would be played on New Year’s Day and the revelry of a New Year’s Eve celebration was something this 16-year-old and his friend had never witnessed.
We strolled Bourbon Street with my parents and Mr. Foster, no doubt mouths wide open at the sights and sounds we saw. We made our way into Pat O’Brien’s Bar. (In those days and especially in New Orleans it wasn’t uncommon to see teenagers in a bar, especially with their parents.)
In Pat O’Brien’s we met up with friends and mama and daddy let Andrew and I indulge in our first “Hurricane.” A drink made with almost every type of alcohol imaginable topped with fruit juice.
At some point during our stay at Pat O’Brien’s, we were joined by my brother Sam and a group of his friends who were also in town for the Game.
Somehow Sam convinced mama and daddy to let Andrew and I go with them to usher in the New Year on Bourbon Street. They promised they would get us home safe and sound.
So Andrew and I, and a group of 20-something guys made our way out into the night. And what a night it was, memories that I still have to this day.
The next morning, after being delivered back to my parents safe and sound, we arose to the promise that THIS was Georgia’s year! Nursing the effects of the night before, we prepared for the game.
As we made our way into the SuperDome, the Georgia faithful were everywhere, the excitement building to a frenzy as the Dawgs took the field.
That night we won, as the team carried Vince Dooley onto the field atop their shoulders, the Georgia Bulldogs were National Champions, defeating Notre Dame 17-10 completing a perfect season.
Andrew and I made our way out onto the field that night, surrounded by all the other happy Dawg fans and in those moments and the many moments that led up to that victory celebration, I created memories that have carried me for more than 35 years.
We still talk about that trip to New Orleans, it was a time that will forever be etched into our minds as some of the best of our life.
Deep into the second half of the game, my dad gave Andrew and I a life lesson that we still quote today. As Notre Dame was moving down the field and threatening to score, a lady near us said loud enough for everyone in our area to hear something like “oh, I don’t think we are going to do it, I don’t think we are going to do it.”
Without missing a beat, my daddy yelled out “lady you gotta believe, you gotta believe.”
We did and he did.
Tonight as the National Championship Game is played, there will be young boys and girls in the stadium who will be making memories that last a lifetime. Memories that they will look back on as they are older and celebrate, they will celebrate the excitement of a night, and the simple moments that merge together for one of life’s greatest experiences.
And maybe, just maybe, they will learn a life lesson…. you gotta believe!