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This is a little inside baseball, I suppose, but I wonder what the whole crazy thrill ride that was UGA football 2017 was like for you? We all know of the no-cheering-in-the-press-box rules, and how you’re supposed to be impartial – but did that work out? Were you disappointed in the results? Are you looking forward more than you have been to next year’s campaign? Since I think you get what I’m trying to ask, finally, have you, in fact, called the Dawgs at any point, even if only in your head?
Thanks for the question, David, and I’m happy to briefly take you and anybody else interested behind the curtain. Someday I’ll probably write a book about my career (which I’m sure will be read by dozens of people) and the 2017 season probably will merit several chapters.
What was it like to cover it? On the one hand, at the risk of sounding ungracious, it was tiring. It literally was the longest football season in Georgia history, and my fellow beat writers and I were there to chronicle all of it, from the first day of practice on Aug. 1 to the aftermath of the National Championship Game on Jan. 8. That meant a lot of time away from the family, whether it was traveling or late nights at the Butts-Mehre — which isn’t to say I would have traded jobs with many people. I love what I do, and you get in the business to cover seasons like 2017.
There never will be another season quite like that one. Oh, there might be national championships, but Alabama fans and media members will tell you the first unexpected title run always holds a unique place in the hearts and minds of those who were there for it. There’s a joy that comes with the unexpected that turns to pressure in ensuing years. Last season had that joy, even if the ending was painful.
Throw in the fact that the season saw trips to Notre Dame and the Rose Bowl – in the same season – along with two championship games in Georgia’s own backyard, and 2017 will be almost impossible to beat when it comes to the memory bank.
It’s still important, and always is, to continue covering the team with an objective, honest approach. So yes, David, no cheering in the press box, or anywhere else. Fans may not like or understand that, but for reporters it’s what allows us to write and report on the team in a clear-headed manner, without agenda, and in the most honest way possible.
That said, it never hurts to cover a winner. Frankly, it’s what sells papers and gets people reading your stories. And when it comes to just experiencing cool things, winning seasons give you that. Especially ones like 2017.
My three favorite memories:
- The moment Vince Dooley threw out the first pitch at the Cubs game. I was down on the field at Wrigley — a bucket list item itself — and was steps away from Dooley as he spoke for a couple minutes with Joe Maddon. Just a couple championship coaches talkin’ shop. I also knew there were more than a few Georgia fans at the game. But when it came time for the first pitch, and Dooley’s name began to be announced, there was a crescendo of roars from the crowd, a realization that Georgia fans had really taken over Wrigley Field that one night. I don’t like to use the term much, but that moment truly gave me chills.
- The view at the Rose Bowl. I’ll be honest: The week leading up to the game wasn’t as fun as it could have been. I got sick the first two days I was there. There wasn’t much time to go sightseeing amid all the practices, and when I did go to Hollywood it was kinda … eh. I had some good dinners and the weather was nice, but overall it wasn’t an overwhelming experience. But the moment I arrived at the Rose Bowl, and saw the mountains over the horizon of the stadium, it was unlike any other locale I’ve taken in a game. And that continued as the game went on, watching the sun set over the mountains over the stadium, all while a game for the ages was being played. It was simply enthralling.
- The postgame celebrations on the field at Notre Dame … and Atlanta … and Los Angeles … and for that matter Tennessee and Vanderbilt. Even if you’re an objective reporter doing his job, it’s impossible not to be taken in by the emotion around you. And there was a joy associated with this Georgia football team that was reflected in its celebrations, the way after those road games ended that players (and staff members) rushed to the stands to share the celebration with the many fans who had made the trip. Part of it was the personality of the team, reflected by Davin Bellamy, Lorenzo Carter, Jake Fromm and others. Part of it was the newness and unexpected nature of the whole season.
I’ll also always remember the final scene of the season, the atmosphere in the postgame locker room early on the morning of Jan. 9. The disgusted thwacking of helmets against lockers, players shaking their heads and shouting curse words, and players — such as Bellamy — patiently talking to the media about it all, standing up and taking a leadership role one last time.
This post probably could go on awhile, so I’ll stop here. I’ll have to save it for the book. And yes, David, I’m looking forward to the 2018 season, and futures ones, seeing if there’s some way they can top the last one. It’ll be hard.
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