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A Citrus Bowl New Year with the Dogs

Happy New Year from Orlando, Fla.

No, I am not here to see Mickey Mouse or to fall in his money hole called Disney World. Been there, done that!

I am here to get my final live football fix before August. The Georgia Bulldogs are playing the Purdue Boilermakers in the Capital One/Florida Citrus Bowl.

I swore off credit cards months ago, but Capital One, determined to get my money anyway, invited the Bulldogs to play in their bowl game so here I am.

I get nostalgic on New Years Day. For the record, this is my 276th Georgia game since Sept. 11, 1976. I have all the ticket stubs and, except for two, the programs to prove it.

Of the 57 games that I've missed since 1976, most occurred when I was coaching or my children were babies. Maybe that's why I gave them both up. Oops. I didn't give our babies up; we just quit having new ones.

Perhaps the best quarterback I ever saw was in that first game. California's Joe Roth was a superb passer. He succumbed to cancer before he had a chance to prove himself in the pros. His favorite receiver that day was a speedster named Wesley Walker, later of New York Jets fame. What a great name.

I saw Herschel Walker play his first and last game for Georgia and all but six in between.

I was there when the Dogs beat Notre Dame for the National Championship. I saw Kevin Butler kick a 60-yard field goal against Clemson. I was at the Gator Bowl when Vince Dooley coached his last game, a victory over Michigan State.

I was at Ray Goff's first game as coach against Baylor and his last one versus Virginia in the Peach Bowl. I was here in Orlando 11 years ago when Georgia beat Ohio State in this same Citrus Bowl.

I attended every game that Jim Donnan coached at Georgia except for his last one. The Christmas Eve 2000 bowl game in Hawaii was unaffordable and ill-timed. If I had attended that game I would have 114 straight.

The last regular season Georgia game that I missed was on Oct. 22, 1994 in Kentucky. We were celebrating my father's 60th birthday. This game and the Hawaii bowl game are my only two misses since Sept. 25, 1993.

My father's funeral was on the morning of Oct. 7, 2000. I attended a game in Athens that night.

I have eight "perfect" seasons to my credit, including all 40 games coached by Mark Richt. There are five other seasons where I missed only one game.

The most exciting of all these games was Georgia's 26-24 win over Tennessee in 2001 in Knoxville. This was Larry Munson's famous "hob-nailed boot" radio call.

I have few hobbies. I can't brag about being a scratch golfer or killing the limit in deer. It's not anything to brag about, but I am proud of my attendance record at Georgia games.

Sometimes, it feels just like another job, but I like to be there when the Bulldogs play. The household and I don't coexist very well if I have to watch on TV.

The coming year may bring a few missed games. Long trips to Arkansas and Kentucky may have to take a back seat to Ashley's college expenses. If I'm lucky though, I'll be able to wish you Happy New Year next year from the site of the national championship, Miami's Orange Bowl.



Web posted on Wednesday, December 31, 2003











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