Those that know me well know I'm a tortured sports fan. I'm one of those "I root for the teams I grew up around" type, so there never was a choice or bandwagon for me. I was born in Georgia, so a Georgia Bulldog I was. An Atlanta Falcon ... an Atlanta Hawk and an Atlanta Brave ... those were then, always have been, and are still, MY teams.
I grew up in the heyday of the 49ers and Cowboys ... the Chicago Bulls ... the Yankees ... Florida and Alabama ... all racking up championships while my teams either fell WELL short or unmercifully "just" short here and there; I watched while a lot of kids I'd grow up with would bounce from winning team to winning team, while I stuck with my (usually) down-trodden if not "middling" teams, anyhow.
I'm not saying I did it the right way or they opted to "enjoy" sports better than I did. That's just how I've been. And it's been torture.
I've mentioned how the Falcons have crushed me in a prior blog post, and just about EVERYONE knows about their last Super Bowl debacle ... and how the Braves went on such an unbelievable playoff run only to win one World Series between 1991 to 2005. I could enjoy that one World Series, I suppose, but they won the one season nobody cared about baseball, coming off a strike-shortened 1994 season that irked a lot of fans from the game (for awhile).
But tonight ... it's about my Dawgs. My beloved, usually good but not always "great" Georgia Bulldogs. In my lifetime, they've won one national championship (1980) when I was five years old. I don't remember a bit of it, obviously, but it was that success that reeled me in at such a young and impressionable age. The next three seasons, they'd finish 10-2, 11-1 and 10-1-1 - each time tantalizingly short of THE goal - that second national championship. In fact, it was the 1982 team that provided my little six-year old self his first heartbreak.
We had THE Herschel Walker. That guy's in his 50s now and could STILL play pro football in the shape he's in. He was THAT good; and in the Sugar Bowl against Penn State he was - by his standards - "decent;" but Penn State was better that night, and my #1 ranked Georgia Bulldogs fell 27-23. Herschel never played another game for Georgia - opting instead to skip his senior year to go play pro football.
I was crushed.
They wouldn't even come close to being MENTIONED in the national championship discussion again for 20 more seasons, and even then, they'd fall "just" short ... in 2002 and 2007 and 2012.
It was the 2012 heartbreak that's freshest for me. We took my Dad and nephew to the Southeastern Conference Championship game against - you guessed it - Alabama. We led late; we had the ball with enough time to score one more time and win the conference and go beat Notre Dame for the national championship.
We were five. yards. short. The last play was so bizarre the entire stadium was stunned. Confetti was falling while thousands of us were just slack-jawed wondering what had happened in the 14 seconds we went from "we're gonna DO THIS!" to "wait; what happened?"
So tonight means a lot for both teams and schools and fanbases, OBVIOUSLY; but if I can be selfish for just a minute - it means so much to fans like me. Those BRAVE-FALCON-DAWGS fans who've been gutted by so many "pinnacle" letdowns.
We deserve to celebrate. Just. Once.
So I'm going home now to root on my Dawgs. I doubt I'll be able to eat. Not sure I'll even be able to sit.
But I will have it in me to say one good time:
Go Dawgs! Sic 'em!