The College Football National Championship Means Everything to the Georgia Bulldogs

The College Football National Championship Means Everything to the Georgia Bulldogs
(AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

I’m old enough to remember the last time the Georgia Bulldogs won a national championship in football. I was only eight years old, and the prevailing image in my memories is watching Herschel Walker run and seeing the crowd of fans storming the field after the game.

Georgia Bulldogs football is in my blood. I grew up watching and listening to games, and I have distinct memories of the first game I attended back in 1978. I went to school at the University of Georgia and return to Athens as often as I get the chance to.

I’ve waited 41 years for a return to national championship glory. We came so close four years ago, only to watch the game slip through our fingers.

Tonight is our next chance, and of course, we’re up against our old nemesis, the Alabama Crimson Tide.

How big a deal is this game? It’s important enough that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a UGA alumnus, has declared today “Hunker Down Day” in Georgia. The state legislature begins today, but they’re dismissing early to allow leaders to travel to Indianapolis for the game. I know of some local schools that will open late tomorrow because the game will run late.

Bulldogs fans know how high the stakes are tonight. They tend to travel well in general, and they’ll be out in force in Indy tonight.

“The crowd is projected to be 61% Georgia fans, per Vivid Seats,” writes Kendall Baker at Axios Sports. “And the top two cities for people traveling to Indy this weekend are Atlanta and Athens, per Airbnb.”

Here’s an example of how Georgia fans turn out for away games (and how we can be obnoxious too). Here was the scene at Indy’s legendary St. Elmo’s Steakhouse last night.

The Southeastern Conference, of which Georgia and Alabama are a part, has a slogan: “It Just Means More.” I would argue that, for Georgia Bulldogs alumni, players, and fans, it means more than “more.” This game means everything.

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It means everything for head coach Kirby Smart, the former Bulldogs star and Alabama assistant coach whom the Athletic Association hired for moments like these.

It means everything for defensive tackle Jordan Davis, the 6’6″, 340-pound mountain of a young man who still takes the time to pray with his mom before every game and who initially declined name, image, and likeness money when the NCAA first allowed it.

It means everything for quarterback Stetson Bennett IV, the former walk-on who defied the odds and conventional wisdom to start at the national championship game. (I grew up with Stetson’s mom, so I have even more incentive to root for his success.)

It means everything for running back Zamir White, whose prospects in the womb were so dire that doctors advised his mother to abort her baby. At birth, he was only given two weeks to live, but needless to say, he has thrived.

It means everything for true freshman Brock Bowers who has become an unlikely offensive star for the Dawgs.

It means everything for the tens of thousands of UGA students, the hundreds of thousands of alumni, and the millions of fans who wear the red and black.

I’ll admit that I’m nervous about this game. But I’m always nervous — I grew up listening to UGA’s legendary broadcaster Larry Munson, who was the master of snatching pessimism from the jaws of hope.

Georgia’s semi-final game against Michigan on New Year’s Eve drew 16.5 million viewers to ESPN. Comparable numbers of viewers should tune in tonight. I have family who will be watching from Washington state and friends watching from Honduras. You’ll find Bulldogs fans everywhere.

ESPN has over a dozen ways for viewers to tune in. I’ll be watching the coverage that includes the Georgia Bulldogs radio broadcast with Scott Howard, Eric Zeier, and D. J. Shockley — anything to avoid ESPN’s announcers, who will undoubtedly favor Alabama.

No matter what happens tonight, I’ll be proud of my Georgia Bulldogs. We’ll just have to see whether I’ll be an insufferable winner or an inconsolable loser tonight.

Either way, GO DAWGS!

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