The man was smiling.
He was wearing red and black inside Georgia’s beautiful Sanford Stadium last week. How could you not be happy?
Some of us live for Saturday afternoons in the fall. It’s obvious this guy did.
Football gods threw us together in a men’s restroom just outside Section 133.
Never miss a local story.
You meet the most interesting people in a public restroom — especially inside a southern football stadium.
The man next to me started a conversation.
In less than 30 seconds, I learned a lot.
“My wife started running around on me, and I got a divorce,” he said.
And that is how he started the conversation.
He didn’t even say hello, but he got my attention.
“This is the one constant I have left,” he said.
I assumed he was talking about the Bulldogs. At least I hope it was.
All I could think was, “Damn, all those Lewis Grizzard columns were spot on.” Then my next thought was Grizzard probably wrote about this guy’s daddy.
Our business done, the man was gone as I stopped at the sink to wash up. But, over the last couple of days I have been thinking about the chance encounter minutes before the Georgia-South Carolina kickoff.
I have processed it many different ways. And I have come to a conclusion, Georgia has the best fans in college football.
Before you start arguing, this is highly subjective.
I guess if this was a court of law, you could certify me as somewhat of an expert witness. I grew up an Auburn fan, spending many Saturdays of my youth in Cliff Hare Stadium, which is now Jordan-Hare Stadium.
A lot of my life has been spent in various college football venues.
As a sports reporter, I have covered dozens of games from Pasadena, Calif., to Columbia, S.C., from Tuscaloosa, Ala., to Starkville, Miss., from Baton Rouge, La., to Gainesville, Fla., from Atlanta to Dallas, from Birmingham, Ala., to Tallahassee, Fla., and from El Paso, Texas, to Vermillion, S.D.
I have seen all of the fan bases in the Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference.
But there is something special about Bulldog Nation. And it is hard to put a finger on it. They don’t have Alabama’s tradition and championships, but they have a rich and proud history. And they don’t have the Alabama fans’ almost birthright expectation of titles.
The Georgia fans I know want to win, expect to win, but are also realistic enough to know that it can go south in a hurry on a Saturday in Clemson, Auburn or Jacksonville, Fla.
They have the legendary players like Herschel Walker to back up that history.
And they had the voice — Larry Munson, for my money the best play-by-play man in the history of college football.
They have the family feel of Auburn on Saturday afternoon. They also have a university and downtown that melt into each other, making football weekends a compact event.
They have something special in Athens.
And not even your wife running around on you can screw it up.
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