December 4, 2018

Atlanta headline was right: ‘THIS ONE HURTS’

     When a dog gets hurt, the common thing it does is to lick the wound.
     That’s what the Bulldog Nation was doing Saturday night.
     Doggone, this loss to Alabama really did hurt, as in Jalen Hurts.
     After losing the national championship game in January, the Dawgs were growling for a chance of redemption.
     In the 2018 SEC championship game, on the same Mercedes-Benz Stadium turf, another backup quarterback rallied the Crimson Tide.  Georgia’s hopes of a back-to-back league title and another shot at a national crown were swamped.
     Last January Tua Tagovailoa came off the bench to engineer an overtime victory for Bama.  Eleven months later, Tua hobbles out.  Jalen Hurts trots in.
     A different Tide quarterback sang the second verse of the same song.
     Double doggone.
     Oh, no!
     The good news is that the sun did come up Sunday morning.  We can quit licking our wounds. The coulda-woulda-shoulda fretting won’t change the score.  Here’s how I’m managing the disappointment.  I’m calling up instant replays from 1965 and 1990.  Good memories help me suppress bad memories.
     I don’t care how many times I’ve heard about the Kirby-Moore-to-Pat-Hodgson-to-Bob-Taylor flea-flicker play, I want my friend, Kirby, to keep telling it over and over.  That was the year before I got to UGA.  Still I was listening to the game—stretched out on the carpet of my parents’ living room at 187 S. Ninth St.
     On that glorious Saturday, Sept. 18, 1965, Vince Dooley’s Dawgs stunned Bear Bryant’s Tide, 18-17. And when Kirby retold the story in January—while a group of us were watching the national championship game—I got goose bumps all over, again.
     Just like a Goody’s headache powder, I pulled out that flashback Saturday night, when the clock was drained and the scoreboard read 35-28. It almost stopped my temples from thumping, but not quite.  That’s when I dialed up another classic victory over the Tide, 17-16, on Sept. 22, 1990.
     On that Saturday afternoon, I was sitting near a classmate, Billy Payne.  The former student-body president and All-SEC Bulldog defensive end had just returned from Tokyo.  His dream had come true.  Atlanta was going to host the 1996 Olympics.
     As Billy and I were walking out of Sanford Stadium, I knew the timing was perfect to ask the question.  With the double euphoria of winning the Centennial Olympics’ bid and beating Bama, I had to ask: “Billy, would you come to Jesup and tell your Olympics story?”
     Without breaking stride, he laughed and said, “Sure thing, Dink.”  During his chamber of commerce banquet talk, he mesmerized Wayne County with the back story leading up to that historic announcement.  And, yep, that still gives me goosebumps, too.
     And as I sit here, I can see Sunday’s sports page of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  The headline reads: “THIS ONE HURTS.”  Yes, it does. But I’m done licking.
     Bring on Texas.
     As Larry Munson said in the Herschel Era, “You can’t spell Sugar (Bowl) without UGA.”

November 27, 2018

Thanksgiving is good time to begin new tradition

     The first step—that’s what it takes.  If you are planning to go see a friend or trek around the world, it all begins with that all-important first step. 
     The same goes for starting a new tradition.  The Saturday after Thanksgiving, our family launched a new tradition.  The credit goes to Alan, who lifted a small, potted live oak from the back of his truck and said, “Let’s plant this.”
      On the way to retrieve a shovel, I heard the raucous voices of two just-turned-10-year-old boys, as they chased each other around the barn.  “That’s it,” I said to myself.  Making those playful noises were William NeSmith and his cousin Henry Wilson.
     “Alan,” I said, “let’s plant this tree in celebration of William and Henry’s 10th birthdays, along with their Grandpa William Henry’s upcoming 70th birthday.”  And just like that—as the boys were shoving dirt into the hole—we were planning to continue the live-oak-tree-planting tradition every Thanksgiving.
     I’ve always admired the words of Nelson Henderson, who said, “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”  Live oaks are a trademark of our sandy Coastal Plain.  They are also slow-growing, but I’m not in a hurry.  I don’t care if I never get to sit under the shade of these infant trees.  What’s more important is that I don’t rush and miss the joys of watching eight grandchildren blow out their birthday candles year after year.
     Unless I look in the mirror while I’m shaving and I notice my gray hair or wrinkles, I don’t think about being 70.  Well, there’s one more time.  When I go to Piggly Wiggly, the cashier tells me that I’m getting the “young-man” discount.  I guess my possum-blond hair gives me away, but I am grateful for the friendly service and the savings.
     Still, I keep repeating what the late major-league hurler and philosopher Satchel Paige (1906-1982) once declared: “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you was?”  If age 60 is proclaimed to be the new 40, then 70 must be the new 50.  Yep, Satchel, I feel about 50.  That is, unless I’m swinging an ax, splitting firewood.
     Almost everything in life is relative to something else.  The same goes with age.  That’s why I keep in mind the ancient words of Sir Francis Bacon: “I will never be an old man.  To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am.”
     Hmmmm, that’s about right.
     When I’m 85, old age will be about 100.
     Alan’s younger brother, Eric, reminded me that in 15 years live oaks should be dropping acorns.
     So if I get to blow out 100 candles, I just might get to sit under the shade of a few of those 30 live oak trees.
     Thank you, Alan.
     You inspired our family to take that all-important first step in a new tradition.