January 30, 2018 by phicks2012
Back in 1980 when the Georgia Bulldogs were slated to play the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl for the National Championship, I didn’t have a ticket to the game — or in fact a reasonable expectation of going to that game. At the last minute I was invited to go, simply because someone else who had agree to make the trip and to split hotel costs had backed out, and when I got there I had a room (sharing with my sister-in-law’s brother), but I still had no ticket. However, I was excited about being there. It was HISTORIC, and I happen to love New Orleans.
But here’s the thing. No One around the nation at the time really thought that my team had any real business playing for the National Title, and just about EVERYone expected Notre Dame to win handily. The city was awash in RED & BLACK, with banners hanging from the balconies in the French Quarter reading things like TENNESSEE FOR GEORGIA, and BAMA FOR THE DAWGS. Even our traditional rivals — well, maybe not Auburn 😉 — were there to cheer for us, but the sports progosticators and pundits mostly didn’t give us a snowball’s chance in Hell to emerge victorious. Sure, we were undefeated, but our schedule was “weak”, or so they said. I mean, just who did we play anyway? The SEC? <– too frequently said with an expressive roll of the eyes.
You see, the SEC back then wasn’t nationally seen as a powerhouse football conference despite having some really great teams.
The Notre Dame fans were great. I went bar-hopping with a bunch of them the night before the game, and we had a great time, but as nice as they were they were also complaisant. They didn’t expect Georgia to give them much of a game.
The next day I had to buy a ticket outside the Superdome, and wound up sitting right in the middle of a BUNCH of Notre Dame fans. When the Georgia fans started cheering and stomping their feet it felt rather like an earthquake, because the whole building shook, but numbers of fans don’t translate to final scores, and Notre Dame was….well, NOTRE DAME!
When Georgia won the game, and the National Championship, the Notre Dame fans around me were in total shock — blank stares, dropped jaws, and silence as they filed solemnly out of the dome. I don’t think it had ever occured to them in their wildest dreams that they might lose, and many of the sports casters were probably just as stunned. Some, as I recall, made some rather insulting excuses — like we didn’t “win” the game, Notre Dame “lost” it.
After that though, I saw the SEC gradually starting to get the respect it was already due. It didn’t happen right away, but it did happen. Twelve years later Alabama won the national championship in 1992, and then there was Florida in 1996, and then I started seeing SEC teams win a LOT. There was LSU in 2003, Florida in 2006, LSU in 2007, Florida in 2008, Alamaba in 2009, Auburn in 2010, and Alabama in 2011 & 2012. Then there was Alabama again in 2015. By then, NObody was rolling their eyes and saying “Yeah, but who do they play? SEC?” Well, they did still want to dis the SCA EAST, but I guess life isn’t perfect. 😉
For the 2016 season an SEC team played for the National Championship yet again (though Alabama did lose to Clemson in that one), and this time around following the 2017 season the Nationship Championship game featured TWO SEC teams. Georgia and Alabama.
But when I heard sports anal-ist Colin Cowherd prating that Georgia hadn’t “won” the Rosebowl game that put them into the finals so much as Oklahoma had “given it away”, I had flashbacks to 1980 when my team’s successes were routinely being downplayed and minimized. I knew the big game was going to be a serious challenge, but hearing him say that (paraphrasing here) Alabama was going to wipe the field with us — well, it was like 1980 all over again.
This time I KNEW I wouldn’t be attending the game, because while it was local I couldn’t afford $1500 (if I was lucky) for a single nosebleed seat at the new Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta. I knew I’d be watching (and taping) the game on my flatscreen (and DVR) while wearing bulldog colors from the skin out and praying REALLY HARD!
In the end, the preparations and praying I did (assuming they had any realistic effect at all) were not enough, but my Dawgs played a great game, and the Tide did NOT humiliate us as Colin Cowherd had so smugly predicted — they had to pull it out in overtime. My heart was broken, but we fought the good fight and it could easily have gone the other way!!
GO DAWGS! Go SEC!