• Comment

Chris Gay: Georgia-Auburn rivalry is a family affair

Posted: November 29, 2017 - 1:14am

Growing up the youngest of three boys, I sometimes wonder the same thing friends and family members wonder: How did I survive that torture?

My two loving brothers used to do things like tape my feet to my Big Wheels and push me down a big hill toward a ramp, toward the ditch when I was just a child. Wheeeeeee!!!! Are we having fun yet? Somehow, between all their laughter, I never made a hospital visit.

Whenever the two terrors didn't try to harm me physically, my brothers would try to implement psychological warfare. One of my brothers used to tell me he would have let me go with him wherever he was going, but I called him a name. If any of you have siblings, you're familiar with this.

I grew up a fan of the Georgia Bulldogs. In the early 1980s, the Bulldogs were the team to beat. Three Southeastern Conference championships in three years. One national championship. They should've won at least another one, maybe two.

Then, Pat Dye came on the scene. I didn't know who Pat Dye was at the time, but one of my elementary school teachers was Adelaide Dye, a sweetheart of a woman who happens to be Pat's sister-in-law.

It was years later I learned the Dye family grew up in Blythe, a rural farming community about 25 minutes outside of Augusta. I grew up on the other side of Blythe, a few miles away from the former Dye home. Because Hephzibah didn't have football in the 1940s, the oldest Dye boys, Wayne and Nat, started playing recreational football in Augusta. Then, they attended Richmond Academy, helping the school become a state power.

Pat (the youngest brother) followed suit, playing football at ARC. Then, he attended Georgia, where he became a college football star for the Bulldogs. Pat went into coaching and eventually landed the job at Auburn in 1981. He turned the Tigers into an SEC power, winning four conference championships in 12 seasons.

So it was only natural that my brothers pulled for Auburn. After all, the head coach was originally from Blythe. Besides that, they found a team to root for that wasn't Georgia, the team their youngest brother supported.

In 1987, my mom and I attended the Georgia-Auburn rivalry, a then-rare night game on ESPN. The Tigers/War Eagles/Plainsmen put it on the Bulldogs, a 27-11 victory. If losing wasn't bad enough, Mom and I arrived home to trash talk by way of orange paint sprayed onto the road in front of our house. My brother, Lee, and cousin, Lane, were only so happy do it. These days, my brothers and cousin aren't as rabid in their support of Auburn as they were in the 1980s. There was no spray paint in the road in front of my parents' house earlier this month when Auburn smacked Georgia around for 60 minutes. There will probably be little trash talk this week.

I haven't forgotten that moment from 30 years ago, though. It was my introduction into the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry.

There have been some fantastic games - on both sides - since the spray paint affair. In 1992, Auburn was stopped inches short at the goal line as the clock ran out. Nine years later, Mark Richt mishandled the clock in his first season leading Georgia, another disappointing home defeat to Auburn.

In 1996, Georgia was getting blown out when UGA V jumped up and almost bit Auburn wide receiver Robert Baker in the nether regions. The Bulldogs stormed back, tied the game on a Hail Mary and then won it in four overtimes. In 2013, Baker received a six-year prison sentence for possession of heroin with intent to distribute and a gun charge. Maybe UGA V should've bitten him.

In 2002, UGA defeated Auburn late in the game on a fourth-down pass from David Greene to Michael Johnson. At the time, I was sitting at my cousin's wedding, with an earpiece running up the length of my tuxedo jacket arm. When Larry Munson yelled, "Touchdown!" I calmly tried to relay the message to my brother-in-law. Folks, don't get married during football season. (My wife knew better. Our wedding anniversary is in April.)

And lastly, Auburn fans certainly won't let Georgia live down the "Prayer at Jordan-Hare" when Georgia safety Josh Harvey-Clemons tipped a Hail Mary pass that Tigers wide receiver Ricardo Louis hauled in for a touchdown. Thankfully, Alabama messed up with the clock in the next game to make Auburn folks forget - for a little while - about the Georgia disaster.

So now we have another big one between the two schools on Saturday. This is the first time Georgia and Auburn have ever met in the SEC Championship. Unlike the Atlanta Falcons game Sunday, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium will easily be filled to the rafters with fans from both sides for this contest.

Forget what happened in the previous game a few weeks ago. This will be war when these teams meet. Auburn will try to tie the series at 57-57-8 and advance to the College Football Playoffs. Georgia will try to retain the series lead and march into the playoffs, something unexpected this season. The Bulldogs are rapidly improving under second-year coach Kirby Smart. Georgia has nothing to lose Saturday.

Auburn opened as a slight favorite. Oddsmakers believe this contest will be much closer than the one on Nov. 11, when everything went right for the Tigers and nothing went right for the Bulldogs.

Maybe Auburn wins this game and proves it is the top team in the nation. If the coaching staff can get the Tigers "up" for a third time in four weeks, it'll be a heckuva feat. But it was quite a contrast Saturday when Georgia took a businessman-like approach after defeating Georgia Tech, while Auburn celebrated its win over rival Alabama by throwing toilet paper - some of it unused - into trees. (Yes, I know that's their tradition. Still, it seems like a major mess to clean up.)

If Georgia wins the SEC Championship, I'll be elated like many of you. And if Auburn wins, so be it.

Whatever happens, I will sleep soundly knowing no one is going to tape my feet to any Big Wheels anymore.

 

  • Comment