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
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!
GO DAWGS! GATA!