Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Why Do It?

After the disappointing loss in Stillwater, a friend asked me, "Why do we do this? Is it worth it to spend all this money and time to end up this disappointed?"

I considered the question for a few days and now I will offer my answer.

People need hobbies. Some golf, some fish, some fly hot air balloons, Techies play World of Warcraft. Many hobbies are expensive. Where I live, you can't golf on a nice course for under $100 a round. Add balls and beers (more beers = more balls) and it is more like $150 for a day of golf. Fishing can be expensive unless you enjoy sitting on a pond with a pint of red wigglers and a cane pole pulling up bream and crappie. In fact, off-shore fishing is so expensive that my friend, Vann Simmons, once compared the cost of deer hunting to fishing by saying that if you threw your deer rifle in the river after every hunt, a day of fishing would still cost more than a day of deer hunting. Following the Dawgs can also be expensive. My UGA football habit cost me as follows:
  • $650 Two season tickets minimum contribution
  • $520 for 2 tickets to each of 6 home games plus on ticket to Jax
  • $400 in gas to get me up to Athens for the four home games I will actually attend
  • $300 for the plane ticket to one away game I may attend (ie. LSU in '08, OSU in '09)
  • $1000 (approximate) for hotels
  • $150 as my contribution to the best tailgate spot on campus - Thanks Stebin
  • $100 parking pass for the annual debacle on the St. Johns
  • TOTAL = $3120
Now, I am sure many spend less if they don't have to drive 600 miles round-trip for home games and I am sure some spend more. But for me, it is about a $3000 annual habit. For Sugar Bowl years, add $1000. That is the equivalent cost of about 20 rounds of golf. I don't play much golf, so I don't have that expense. This is also about the same cost as 10 fishing charters. I do fish, but we have our own boat and it costs a lot more than our Dawg habit. I know some folks that spend at least $3000 for one big game hunt out west every year. Send your wife to NY on a girls trip once a year... $3000. The point is, that as hobbies go, following UGA football is not insanely expensive - at least not to those of us fortunate enough to not have to work for Ga. Tech grads.

Many hobbies are distractions from our daily grind and are generally things we enjoy. However, no matter how much you enjoy your hobby, it will surely disappoint you at times. Spend an entire day in the hot sun fishing when the fish have all taken the day off and all you come home with is a burn and a buzz. On those days, you rationalize that it was fun to be on the water with family/friends and that is what it is all about. Spend a day on the golf course when you can't predict whether your next swing will yield a slice or hook so you score in triple digits. On those days, you rationalize that it was still fun to spend a day on the course with good friends. Following the Dawgs is no different in this respect, but for me there are elements to following our football team that generally does not exist in any other hobby: tradition and pride.

I am a fifth-generation UGA Alumnus - though I went to Navy for undergrad, I circled back five years later to get my law degree in Athens. Not only that, but I slyly worked it so that I could get stationed at the Navy Supply Corps School as an instructor for 2 of my 5 years in the Navy. Thus, I was able to spend 5 consecutive years in Athens from 1992 to 1996. I can't remember my first Georgia game because I was too young to remember. But, I can remember many many times being in Sanford Stadium back when us kids would care more about playing with tiny red plastic footballs on the grassy hills inside the stadium more than we cared about the Dawgs game. Those hills are long gone - replaced with thousands of seats instead. For years, our family tailgated in shade over by Clark-Howell Hall. It was a family affair often with no less than three generations present and sometimes four. When I was at school in Annapolis, I would haul ass on at least one weekend each year to come to Athens for a home game. This was particularly fun when my sister was a Phi Mu in Athens and us Navy boys would leave our nearly all-male institution to hang out for a weekend with Phi Mu's finest.

In addition to our family traditions, there are so many dear UGA traditions that distinguish following the Dawgs from golfing and fishing. The Redcoat Band, UGA, the Chapel Bell, Larry Munson, Erk, Vince, Herschel, Hating Tech, Harry Bissett's, etc. All of these things are meaningful to me and it is special to share these common traditions with family and friends. I love to hear my children singing Glory Glory to Ole Georgia. I love to listen to all the great Munson calls. I love to be in the middle of the Dawg Walk. These things bring me joy. More joy than golfing or fishing - though I do love to catch a nice fish.

After tradition, there is pride. We have pride in our academic institution, pride in our beautiful campus, pride in the Classic City, pride in our state, pride in our heritage, pride in our colors and thankful that orange isn't one of them! We also have pride in our sports teams and our history of tremendous success on many levels.

Tradition, pride and the promise of fun are what bring me back to Athens season after season. The hope of a glorious season is always a part of the allure, but it is never the only attraction. It can't be because though many of us have been following the Dawgs long enough to experience a few seasons of glory, we have witnessed our share of painful disappointment. Many of us enjoyed a perfect season in 1980, but fewer and fewer of us can claim to have experienced the 1946 perfect season and none of us we around for the 1896 perfect season. So, while perfection is a goal, it certainly is not the prevailing reason that all of us spend time and treasure to follow the Dawgs every year. Perfect seasons are rare. Glorious season are semi-rare. Great times in Athens with family and friends are abundant. Great times at road games, interacting with the opposing fans and visiting places for perhaps the only time in your life are lifetime memories that long outlive the elation of winning the game.

Why do we do it? Because we love the tradition and pride of Georgia Football and enjoy the memories of great times with great people. We love winning SEC Championships, but we go even when winning a championship is a long-shot. Though there is the potential for pain and disappointment and even madness in following any sports team, there is always joy to be found in all of the other elements that constitute the UGA experience. There has to be because Sanford Stadium has been sold out for every home game for years and has been 7th or higher in average attendance every year but one since 1981. We haven't won all of our games during that span, but we love our Dawgs nevertheless.

All of us want to see victories on the field and we expect to win almost all of our games every year. We have been blessed that in 112 years of football, only 10 schools have more victories and only 4 schools have more victories this millennium. We expect to win SEC Championships and another National Title sooner than later. Make no mistake, we come to see our team win - and they usually do... but win or lose, we come for the tradition and pride that have us addicted to UGA football. YES, it is worth all of the money and time to follow UGA football and spend 5 or 6 weekends each year with some of my favorite people on the planet. It is damn sure worth it and I will keep on coming and will be bringing may family and friends with me!



Anonymous said...


You summed it up brilliantly. Georgia games have always been about family to me. Dad's only true love other than his family and church is the University of Georgia. His only true hobby is UGA football. He instilled that love in his children.

My parents started taking me to home games when I was 5 (1976). I was too young to really understand everything going on Between the Hedges, but I understood the tailgate. I can still remember the football games with my cousin and the great fried chicken we used to pick up at Davis Bros. Cafeteria out on South Milledge before every game with all of the other homemade food that my mom and aunt brought with us.

My first road game was a night game in Columbia when Pyburn stepped in a hole on the sidelines, and his knee was never the same I don't remember what year that South Carolina game was but I remember Willie McClendon tight-roping the sidelines all night in a victory and the drunk lady whose purse caught on fire due to carelessness with a cigarette as we all herded our way out of Williams-Bryce.

I'll never forget that road game to Ole Miss during the Herschel years. We were at a Holiday Inn somewhere near Oxford. The Friday night before the game, the hotel restaurant was wall-to-wall with Georgia fans who were, shall we say, rather jubilant. When out of the blue, a beautiful, blond southern belle in a dress and bonnet straight out of central casting for a Gone With the Wind remake walked to the center of the room, got everyone's attention, and politely asked us to keep it down because she was conducting a seance in the next room. The room burst into laughter, and the singing and barking got progressively louder as the night wore on.

I'll never forget Squab leading the team off the bus before home games and how big Wayne Radloff looked to me when he stepped off that bus.

I'll never forget Coach Russell head-butting the defensive line right in front of me during pre-game warm-ups.

I'll never forget the privilege of watching Herschel Walker play the game.

I'll never forget Hoage intercepting 4 against Vandy.

I'll never forget Butler booming that 60 yarder to beat Clemson and how we chanted, "It's Great to Be a Georgia Bulldog" all the way back to the car.

I'll never forget one Auburn game during the Herschel years when it was almost gametime and people who hadn't found parking just stopped their cars in the middle of the road and headed on foot into the stadium.

I'll never forget that game in the mid to late 1980s when LSU came to town and the stadium literally shook it got so loud during the last 2 minutes.

I literally could go on and on, but the point is simply this -- I experienced all of those memories with my family. Georgia football is the backdrop to more positive family memories than I can recount.

Like you, Hamp, I look at my budget every year at contribution time. I think about how much it costs now and how commercialized the games have become and think of the things I could do other than go to Athens. But I always come back to the same decision which is why I still have my tickets. It's about family.

This Saturday I'll be tailgating and sitting with my dad. My daughter is 4 years old, and I have yet to take her to a game. This year, she may get to go to homecoming. Next year, she may go to all of the home games. My son is 7 months old. He is off the charts in length and has been in the 95th percentile in weight for most of his young life, so I'm thinking left offensive tackle. I can't wait to toss the ball with him during tailgates to come and watch him cheer on the Walkers, Butlers, Hoages and Radloffs of his generation. I can't wait to instill that love for UGA in my children. I can't put a pricetag on that.

Keep on roadtripping up from the coast. Bring your buddy whose faith has been tested by our early season stumble and remind him why you keep coming.

Go Dawgs! Win, lose or draw, Go Dawgs!

Greg Pope

MikeInValdosta said...

Very nice piece, Hamp, and a great comment, Greg.

There is something special and unique to us all about being a Dawg. Thank you both for sharing.

Hunker Down said...

Greg... You have nailed it a hundred times over. Thank you for painting such a wonderful portrait of another great Dawg family.

Bubba said...

Great Read Hamp. It's always great to be a Georgia Bulldawg.