Thursday, November 5, 2015


Today is Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015. I am not a football strategist or analyst BUT I am a born in Georgia, bleed red and black fan who writes an SEC travel blog traveling around to different venues and writing about hospitality, tailgating and different traditions. Also, I graduated in 1977.
Vince Dooley was our head coach (I know, no one needs to be reminded of him!). In 1974 our record was barely above .500 and there were calls out to can Coach Dooley. In 1976 we went to Auburn and beat them soundly (28-0) and won the SEC Championship. On the way to Auburn we had beaten the "Bear", legendary coach Bear Bryant and the Alabama Crimson Tide in Athens (sadly not to be repeated this year...heavy sigh).
1977 was an inauspicious year and by 1978 the Junkyard Dawgs and Coach Erk Russell were making huge gains for the entire team. (Please allow me to admit that I might have the records off by a win or 2; I am not fact-burdened historian). What I do remember is about every 4-6 years if the team went under 8 wins, the "Dump Dooley" bumper stickers would appear and everyone would scream for a "better coach" (absurd!). As every Bulldog knows after 1978 Coach Dooley led Georgia to SEC championships, a National Championship (1980) and overall winning record second only to "The Bear."
Coach Richt is now in that same situation. Yes, October was a difficult month for the team, the coaching staff and the fans. No one wants to go 1-3 during that 4 game stretch that would determine who will make the Final 4. I hope we beat Kentucky, Ga. Southern, Auburn and Georgia Tech. Even if we don't win out the last 4 I will always be a Bulldogs and Coach Richt fan.
Have we as fans become like Alabama who fired a 10-win coach (Mike Schula) so they could hire the vaunted Nick Saban? Would you woo Mike Kelly or Urban Meyer away from their schools? Would you choose to allow 2 more wins per season to cost us our sense of morality and family?
As a 38 year veteran of teaching young people (32 years high school band and now 6 years at a small university program) I can personally speak to the damage done by a supervisor/authority figure in a student's life who is abusive and teaches all the wrong moral lessons. It is devastating and may become the 'straw' that causes a student to suffer a problem from which they may never recover; psychosis, even suicide. College football players may be "grown up" in the sense of size and speed but they are still adolescents who need (may even crave) approval of a strong moral person in their life.
Coach Richt's comments to kicker Marshall Morgan at the end of the Missouri game (heralded and expounded upon before today) epitomized a mature leader reassuring his young player. The kicker needed that comment "I love you no matter what" before the kick; even if Coach Richt had said it afterwards doubt could have been sown that would rear its ugly head at an even more inopportune time, either as a player or worse, later in life.
We were in Athens in December 2000 for my wife's 'hooding' ceremony at UGA's December graduation when she received her Doctorate. Just before going to graduation I had read of this young coach, 14 years assistant to the great Bobby Bowden, and I looked at Susan and said "This is the guy we have been waiting for!" I believed he would be the best coach for Georgia since Vince Dooley and after 15 seasons and some ups and downs, he is STILL the best person for Georgia.

Georgia fans: show your faith and hospitality; fire the  printer companies - get rid of those "Railroad Richt" bumper stickers and put them in the back of the warehouse where the 'Dump Dooley' stickers are continuing to gathering dust!!

Coach Richt - WE believe in YOU, and............GO DAWGS!!!! Sic' em!

Monday, September 28, 2015

It's Been Awhile...

OK, I know it's been awhile since our last post - 3 years to be exact!! My apologies, The Captain got caught up in house remodeling (and living in Gulf Shores), then going back to Northern California to move the wife and 30 years worth of possessions to the gulf coast. Me - well, in addition to working part time at church (@heritagecanton) and Reinhardt University, I have been through a few health issues; 2 rounds of radiation, 3 surgeries, and loss of a lung. But hey, life gives you lemons you make frickin' lemonade!! Our passion for college football has NOT diminished; we just took a longer than expected hiatus from traveling to different venues and sampling the hospitality of tailgates across the SEC. Take a quick look back at previous blogs - it looks like our last 'official' visit was to Missouri and the 'Rock M' nation. Georgia opened that season (2012) with a trip to Columbia, Missouri.. We met some great Missourians, and they in turn got indoctrinated to the SEC; BUT they are quick learners and have won the past 2 SEC East titles and played in Atlanta.
The pictures posted here are from our trip to LSU (what great hosts they are!) and at Ole Miss. The captain is with Joe Clements, a tremendous Tigers fan and wonderful host, and I am pictured with Lee Howard, a former student of mine from Sequoyah HS. He was in the Million Dollar band and you should have seen his face when, at Ole Miss, an old teacher showed up to say 'hello', he was floored (but pleased I think), but that is the pleasure you get from surprises and SEC fans (other surprises are NOT so welcome!). I hope to add more pictures from the Alabama vs. Georgia game this weekend with an attempt at equal coverage of Tide and Bulldog tailgates! Look for us all over campus; I will be decked in UGA colors but I think the Captain might go with neutral white - I told him everyone would behave (at least until after the game) but he is a very respectful and considerate guy. See you in Athens!!!! More to come next week!!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

UGA vs. Mizzou - Welcome to the SEC!

When SEC Commissioner Mike Slive announced that Texas A&M and University of Missouri were joining the SEC there was some trepidation, the "us vs. them" mentality, the "they don't know what they're getting into" and all emotions in between. Since I am a Dawg fan and the Captain is a died in the wool Alabama Tide fan I pushed for us to make the trip to Missouri to be in attendance for the inaugural game of the new conference. It wasn't a hard sell since his daughter and son in-law lived just outside Kansas City and it would be another opportunity to visit. They also attended the game with us so I got to enjoy the exquisite hospitality of Gabby (his daughter) as well as the new experiences of Columbia, MO. Tickets were a little difficult to come by but as everyone in Columbia told us not near as difficult as the pending Alabama game.
Travel arrangements were also a little complicated since we were driving to Missouri but were flying home in different directions (me to the ATL and the Captain to Sacramento, Cal.). On our way to KC we spent the night in Collinsville, Ill, home to the world's largest catsup bottle (Brooks Catsup) made famous by the Geico lizard. Since this is a travel blog we had to make a side trip so we could check it off the "list". On Friday (2nd day) we decided to reconnoiter in Columbia and check things out. We had lunch at Hooter's and although I was dressed in red and black the locals were curious but cordial. The restaurant manager Jason, came to our table and asked were we being treated well (it is a mark of Missouri pride to be a good host) and we said yes. He gave us many good tips for game day and when our waitress, Megan (not pictured) , discovered that we were both retired teachers she quickly shared that she was a senior English education major and was very excited to be attending her first SEC game.
A point of information here - Everyone we talked to said how happy they were to be in the SEC and left the Big 12 behind. Many people couldn't wait to tell us how excited they were to join the best football conference in the country because it would give them better exposure, better recruiting, and finally give them a venue to show how good their team REALLY was. As I said, everyone was very hospitable and cordial but deep down they believed they would not only win the game but would dominate UGA. During the extended tailgate time the Captain would steal away and watch the Florida/Texas A&M game. I was pulling for A&M for the simple reason that I didn't want to be the first team to lose an SEC game to the "new guys". The Mizzou fans were quick to point how much they 'disliked' A&M. When Florida won the game the burden settled on Georgia to maintain the seniority of the SEC East. But I digress. Saturday morning arrived and it had been decided previously that we should make the 3 hour drive early enough to get a good parking/tailgating spot which would require arriving in Columbia no later than 1 pm for a 6:45 pm kickoff. We did arrive before 1 pm and did find a small (but great) lot for tailgating right next to the RV lot about a half mile from Faurot Field. Part of being in the SEC is the size and scope of everything (Vanderbilt not withstanding) from the fan base to the stadium to the hype of each and every game. Mizzou did an outstanding job with all new apparel sporting the SEC logo and the hype leading up to the start of the game. The parking area we found was perfect for tailgating; it relatively small, was bordered by trees for shade, also had a picnic shelter (complete with tables) across a small bridge and allowed us to get to know many of our 'neighbors' (of course in that particular lot it was approximately 40 per cent Georgia fans and felt quite homey).
I would like to take a few sentences to recognize and acknowledge some fans from both Mizzou and UGA that we met while tailgating on an absolutely perfect fall day in Columbia. There was Max and Stacy Clayton (and their son Jim) who had a great setup of food, tent, refreshments and satellite TV where the Florida/Texas AM game was playing. They drove from Virginia and spend most of their fall Saturdays in Athens. Our next door tailgaters from Missouri were Billy and Josh; very informative, friendly and liberal with all refreshments and couldn't believe how far away the stadium was! Our most enterprising tailgaters were a group of Missouri students who at first glance appeared to be a fraternity. They turned out to be a group of students who had pooled their money for all the necessary trappings of a good tailgate party - tent, table, cooler, grill, music and "refreshments". As the afternoon wore on they became very talkative. Caesar was from Wisconsin (Madison actually but said he could not go to school in his home town), John, David and Kaileen were also very friendly and when they learned that 3 of the 4 of us were former teachers they were even more friendly and expressed their admiration of teachers and the military (D, the Captain's son in-law is currently in the Air Force). Again, I can't say enough about the hospitality of the Mizzou fans that day. One of the facts that was shared with us about the respect and power of the SEC was the fact that they usually get only one or two televised games a year and this year they are scheduled for 3 Saturday night games consecutively. Some of their fans and ours had a more difficult time 'pacing' themselves for the duration of the afternoon in order to make it to the night kickoff. Some scenes were humorous and others were a bit sad. One that was sad was a freshman girl (no name) who had clearly consumed more than was good for her. Some of her friends were trying to help her as others were breaking down the tailgate and getting ready for the game. We all began to migrate to the bus pickup area (yes, they have shuttles for that big hill!) Fans in Red and Gold were waiting for the bus when a UM campus policeman came up and asked 3 of the students to exit the line. The girl was clearly drunk but the other 2 were decent friends trying to help her and they all got taken to the station. As a former UGA student and current father of a 24 year old UGA grad I am glad that is one phone call I did not have to make (or answer). A hard lesson to learn is these unforgiving times.
The bus ride to the stadium was a balanced mix of drunk Georgia fans and drunk Missouri fans and the good-natured taunts and songs all the way to the drop off point was loud but fun. We exited just as the marching band and the pride of Missouri "Big MO'" the world's largest bass drum, was making it's way to the stadium. Big Mo' is 9 feet in diameter and requires 4 band freshman to push the rolling carriage into position. They used it during the game to rev up the crowd; as Jimmy Buffett would say "you could feel it in your heart" when those concussive strokes were struck. We continued to meet very friendly people Including David, who sat behind us and was a true fount of information telling us about lighting requirements for the field, the stadium additions than were being planned because of the admission to the SEC, traditions about Columbia and game day, and announced the attendance of the game BEFORE it was listed on the big screen (turns out the max attendance to satisfy the fire marshall is 71,004 although my guess is there were closer to 78,000 inside the gates). I am not a game analyst so I won't spend much time on the game proper except for the fact that UGA played a very slow first half which kept Missouri fired up to win. As soon as the game started the uber-friendly fans turned aggressive; towards the Georgia players (and fans), to their own players and to their coach. At one point during the second half one of those friendly fans was sharing some VERY unfriendly comments about a player hurt of the field and I turned to him and said "Man, that's cold!". After that he calmed down and the other good fans (I consider him one as well) began trying to quell some of the nastier Gold fans to be more considerate (and the vast majority of them were). As we pushed on to the end of the game the cry of "old man football" from Mizzou fans gradually turned into "grown man football" by the more vocal Georgia fans. It was quite the day, but one we will always remember fondly!! WELCOME TO THE SEC!!!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

2012 Season Promises New Experiences

Welcome back to the 2012 edition of “The Captain and HarryD” SEC travelblog. Our last post was in November 2011 from LSU, with great hospitality and a unique experience. We start this season in Missouri, the newest addition to the SEC (along with Texas A&M). During the interim of 2011 until now things have been changing for both the Captain and me. The Captain and his lovely wife Ann (my sister in-law) have purchased a home in Foley , Alabama and are in the process of moving from Northern California back down south to God’s country, a.k.a. Crimson Tide territory by MANY in the SEC.
I on the other hand have had many opposite experiences including another round of cancer, a visit to M.D. Anderson, visits to many different doctors at my home hospital of Kennestone (in Marietta) to see if they actually figure out what can help cure me (jury still out on that one), a PICC line with 8 weeks of antibiotics along with other more personal family issues. But in the midst of this I have seen so much love, prayer and support from my church (HBF), my family and my community (Cherokee County, Ga.) and, most importantly my wife Susan, that I do feel blessed to be here and am thankful for each and every good day. Those days are coming more and more frequently and I am excited to share good days with my wife (I always look forward to the ‘best time of the day’), kids and grandkids, and (of course) I am excited that it is again time for SEC football. My favorite radio host and legendary UGA quarterback, Buck Belue, writes a very good blog for UGA football and I can tell he is excited about the upcoming season just like the rest of us. The Captain roots for Alabama’s Crimson Tide and they believe they are always in the mix for the National Championship. With many other outstanding teams in the SEC, LSU, Florida, Arkansas, South Carolina and Auburn, we now add Texas A&M and Missouri. I have been reading blogs about Mizzou and know that they are PUMPED for their entrĂ©e into the SEC AND their first conference game against #6 Georgia. Since our focus is more about the travel and traditions of each school, stadium and fans (our trip to Oxford vs. Alabama last year was everything it was touted to be) I have been asking questions of the Mizzou fans about their stadium traditions, and tailgating experiences. I hope we find some hospitable Mizzou fans although it will be hard to top the hospitality we enjoyed at LSU (but we can always hope!). Let the GAMES Begin!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Baton Rouge; Game VS. Tailgate!

The second installment of 2011 SEC stadium tours took us to Baton Rouge and LSU. I drove to Orange Beach on Friday (a regular and rather boring drive down I-85 and I-65 that I have done many times). Dinner was at a favorite of ours, The Shrimp Basket and then on to Baton Rouge for Saturday. The trip to LSU was I-10 all the way (4 and half hours) and we arrived on campus around 3 for a 6 pm kick-off. We found free on-campus parking (unheard of at many SEC schools) within a half mile of Death Valley.

My brother John had made introductions for us to a business associate of his so we headed towards Touchdown Village #2 to meet up with Joe C., owner of several Burger King restaurants, to join his tailgate party. On the way to TV#2 we stopped by a couple of tents, asking questions and handing out business cards about the blog (almost everyone was showing the

UGA/Auburn game on TV). The first person we talked to apologized for the very reserved, quiet atmosphere and kept explaining that it is normally very rowdy and crowded and we had come on an off day (Homecoming vs. Western Kentucky); he was right. I was trying to be self-deprecating by asking him to take it easy on UGA if we make the SEC championship game; he was incensed and acknowledged that the UGA team of Nov. 12 is NOT the team that lost to Boise State and South Carolina (I have to agree with him!).

We arrived at TV#2, found Joe C. and his wife Karen; he introduced us to the people at his party (again, the UGA/Auburn playing on TV) and the Captain and I were deep into questions about the traditions, local information about the campus and in general enjoying ourselves. Our hosts were incredibly gracious and generous; Joe C., his wife Karen and brother David, a friend Tommy L. who owns a concession within Home Depot, and another associate, Larry F., who works for Dr Pepper in BK sales. Joe and Tommy explained that the crowd who travels to most of the games pride themselves on their parties, food and hospitality (they were right on all counts!).

There was a 30 quart pot of gumbo cooking, boudin sausage and a rice dish (that I did not get the name of) in addition to various and sundry regular tailgate fare and a double margarita machine that was never empty (or even low!). We were at Joe's RV for almost 2 hours and there was a constant stream of people coming by to visit, eat and in general enjoy the Clements hospitality.

I was talking to Larry, and when he heard that I was a retired band director he said he had played in the band all the way through college, I asked what instrument and he said trombone (also my chosen instrument). He was from the Dallas area and was an Oklahoma fan (but visits regularly at Joe's tailgate). As we talked we discovered that I knew his college band director, Roland Barrett from OU. The Sequoyah Band had commissioned Roland Barrett to write a composition for us and when we debuted it we brought the composer out to guest conduct the world premier. Larry was amazed at the inter-connectedness of music and band (but I have seen it demonstrated many times).

About 50 minutes 'til kickoff we headed off to the stadium strolling with the rest of the crowd allowing the flow of humanity to carry us along on the current. We passed many tailgating groups (almost all still playing the UGA game) and as we approached Death Valley I have to say it is an awe-inspiring sight; we arrived right at sunset and the banners flying against the western November sunset was beautiful (pix included). We queued up with the crowd and made our entrance into the stadium. There is something about entering a stadium (of any size) right at

dusk; the lights, field, people take on a surreal aspect similar to a Thomas Kincaide painting with all the colors radiating with hues different from their base ones. Not that there was much diversity of color; the stadium seats 92,000 plus and I venture to say there were less than a 1000 dressed in a color other than purple (myself and the Captain were in the minority). The trek up to our seats (they have 2 video scoreboards, and we were seated under the smaller of the 2) included crossing the concessions area and the menu was also vintage Cajun; fried alligator, dirty rice, gumbo, sausage, in addition to regular concessions fare.

We found our seats in the endzone and were assailed (via the sound system) with every song ever recorded that contains Baton Rouge or Louisiana in addition to some I have had never before heard. We had quite the group seated behind us enjoying the atmosphere so we struck up the usual conversation; we write a travel blog, first time to LSU, soaking in the experience, and Jacey and Annette gave us more information than we could absorb about LSU. Unlike Alabama fans, everyone we met seemed less analytical about the game itself and more interested in atmosphere, tailgating and partying. Any time the "Golden Band from Tiger Land" played or songs blaring from from the sound system had people up dancing to the beat. That is a very important aspect to LSU and their fans; being #1 in the polls is important but they want the complete and full experience, not just the serious side of football.

The team carried on the muted feeling of that particular day (remember the apologies) and it took almost the entire first half to settle down and play LSU football with the final score being 42-9. In summary it was a great day and we were treated to some great hospitality and openness by everyone. We have an invitation to additional tailgate opportunities throughout the year and made some wonderful and lasting friendships in Baton Rouge, and I have to agree; we need to go to another game @ LSU!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Destination Baton Rouge via Orange Beach

These entries are a prelude to the Big Weekend!:
Monday, 11/7 - I had posted a calendar countdown for the LSU game (11/12) on my Google home page and it is officially less than a week before the big trip to Bayou Country. THE game last Saturday was all it was predicted to be and incontrovertible evidence was the fact that Alabama only dropped 1 spot in the BCS rankings to #3. The end of the season should be very interesting!

My brother John is a furniture salesman for FCC (restaurant seating) in the Southeast and while we were talking this morning he asked if I knew anyone in Baton Rouge and I said no. I made reference during my last post that I did not know anyone associated with LSU and Baton Rouge so John made an offer (which I couldn't refuse) to link the Captain and I up with some business associates of his (sounds ominous in a way) on game day. That was a kind gesture and hopefully soon we will have an opportunity to gain introductions to LSU Game Day and the inner workings of a true, vintage LSU tailgating party!

In the meantime I am planning my trip to Orange Beach (to meet up with the Captain) on Friday, the Captain and I will travel to and from Baton Rouge on Saturday, and I will make the trek home on Sunday. In addition to my main duties as husband, father, grandfather, music supervisor (for Reinhardt University) I am also a minister of music for Heritage Baptist Fellowship and will miss a second Sunday in 2 months. In my 13 years as minister of music at HBF I have not missed more than 2 Sundays per year but I beg indulgence of the pastor and congregation as we pursue the perfect tailgate experience in the SEC.

Speaking of tailgating in the SEC our tour just got extended with the announcement of 2 additional SEC schools; Missouri (Mizzou) and Texas A&M. We already have a preliminary trip planned to visit Arkansas and Mizzou on back to back weeks when we return to the SEC West. The Captain's daughter and son in-law will be living in Kansas by then and it will be a good base from which to travel for those 2 locations. I encourage comments from our new brothers and sisters from the "Show Me" state and the Great State of Texas about how they tailgate on Game Day. More to come!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Requiem for THE Heavyweights!

So it's Halloween 2011, I missed an anniversary, I miss my wife and grandkids while visiting my parents (which I don't regret but that's an entirely different article!) and the BIG game in the SEC is this weekend in Tuscaloosa; #1 LSU vs. #2 Alabama!

The euphoria has passed from the victory over Florida and although the radio talk shows in Atlanta were reveling in both the UGA and Ga. Tech wins this past Saturday no one can restrain themselves from talking about the game in Tuscaloosa over 5 days away. I don't think I know anyone at LSU but I send shout-outs to former Sequoyah Band members Lee H. and Sofie S. in the Million Dollar Band and to Jason F. (also a Sequoyah Band alumni) who attends UA. I mentioned Lee in my last post as I visited the Crimson Tide pep band in Oxford on Oct. 15. Although I'm not attending 'THE Game" this week (that is an EXPENSIVE ticket) I will watch in anticipation as the entire country debates whether or not 2 teams from the same conference should play in the BCS Championship game but it is still a bit premature; there is the remainder of the season and a 'few' other teams to consider, namely Oklahoma St. and Oklahoma.

The Captain and I will be traveling to LSU on Nov. 12 to visit Baton Rouge in what well might be their only night game this year; I just hope the hangover feeling (win or lose on Nov. 5) doesn't persist too long so we can sample the experience of a true Baton Rouge home game.

While doing background research for the Ole Miss game, I came across several comments referring to the unbridled behavior and reckless abandon of the typical LSU fan versus the refined, elegant demeanor of the Ole Miss elite. It should be interesting to compare the 2 SEC West schools and their diverse traditions at home. Anything in Louisiana is going to be different and I'm excited to see the "other side!"