Whipping Auburn last Saturday eased the sting of the wounds left by Kentucky in my Georgia flesh. But the euphoria didn't last long when I discovered a Shoeless Joe Jackson in my midst. My youngest son, in youthful exuberance, made a slippery-sloped bargain with his chum, Jack.
Jack pledged that if my child agreed to like Georgia Tech just a little, then Jack would like UGA a smidge. Since the ill-conceived allegiances canceled each other, I didn't make a big stink.
But, oh, the insidious evils of giving in, even a bit.
Later, my middle son asked the younger one, "Who's your favorite team?"
"I don't know," replied the 7 year-old, stepping into a snare.
"Alabama," the 9 year-old quizzed.
"Tennessee," he persisted.
"Ole Miss," he coaxed.
"Come on, you can tell me," prodded the 9 year-old.
Stepping out on a goalpost, the 7 year-old confessed, without a yard of remorse, "Georgia Tech."
The older brother winced, recognizing blasphemy and a crime against our heritage. "I'm telling Daddy," he screeched, spewing repulsion and stomping out of their room to report the transgression.
The younger one, aware that he treaded on thin Astroturf, heartily recanted. In high-pitched panic, he begged his brother, "Please don't tell. I'm only joking. I love the Georgia Bulldogs most of all. They're my favorite. I promise."
Then, to ensure that his father, who is fervently fixated on the SEC and the University of Georgia and tolerates no other traditions, which he considers cultural deviances, would find him innocent of all charges, the child performed an illegal block from behind.
"Daddy, whatever Duncan tells you, it's not true! And Daddy . . ."
"Yeah," answered a deep, skeptical voice from downstairs.
"I love you! Almost as much as I love the Bulldogs."
Because the episode didn't deteriorate into tattling, his father responded, affectionately, "Back atcha!"
The dastardly plan to throw his brother under the grid iron thwarted, the older boy returned to face the fight song. His crafty, clever victim, flashing those trademark daredevil dimples, did an end-zone dance, trash talking, "The Yellow Jackets have cool uniforms. Gold is my favorite color." But the 7 year-old didn't count on his brother attempting a fourth down conversion.
"Daddy," the older one sang over the banister.
Surprised, the younger of the two exclaimed, "What the hell are you doing?" to his brother, who, even before the snap, knew he'd lost the game. For one thing, he now risked raising the ire of his father, whose patience for having his name belted out repeatedly is shorter than Bobby Knight's temper. For another, his little brother's declaration of devotion effectively padded the kid against the knocks of childhood for at least two hours.
Still, what neither of them realized was that I overheard the entire dialogue. They stiffened when I appeared at their door, signaling the little one to report front and center.
He slunk over, both hands covering his tender hindquarters, protesting that he didn't know it was a bad word. "Well you obviously did," I admonished. "Now bend over. No, better yet, get the soap."
I stooped eye-level, put the bar of Ivory in his foul mouth, and reprimanded, "Don't ever say Georgia Tech or Yellow Jackets in this house again. Those are very bad words. You were born and raised in the SEC, and you will not talk that way. Do you understand?"
Wide-eyed, he nodded, suds collecting at the corners of his mouth. "And," I boomed, "the h-word is off limits, too."
It's a challenge to raise well-mannered children these days.