Ten years ago Saturday, on Aug. 29, 2005, the very first post on the Junkyard Blawg went up. To mark the anniversary, here’s that very first Blawg again, plus some thoughts on a decade of blogging about the Georgia Bulldogs.
Growing up in Athens town …
Let’s talk Georgia Bulldogs.
I’m a lifelong Dawg. Literally.
Born and raised in Athens, I don’t remember a time when the Bulldogs weren’t an everyday part of my consciousness.
I grew up within earshot of Sanford Stadium — when I was too young to go to games, I remember being able to hear the distant sound of the Redcoat Band from our backyard.
My earliest Bulldog memories include my Dad nervously devouring a bag of oranges while he listened to Ed Thilenius call games on the radio. Watching the game highlights on Sunday, along with a sportswriters roundtable show hosted by Furman Bisher. I woke up with mumps on New Year’s Day 1960, but that didn’t stop me from getting propped up with pillows in the den to watch Athens homeboy Fran Tarkenton and the Bulldogs on television — the first time we’d ever had that opportunity! — beating Missouri in the Orange Bowl. My memory is hazy (I was only 7 and sick, after all), but I seem to recall being disappointed the Dogs had to wear the white road jerseys instead of the beloved red ones.
Although I have vague recollections of being taken to a game when I was very young (I only recall the band), the first games I really remember were during the Johnny Griffith years, with Larry Rakestraw at quarterback. Still the era of the silver helmets as well as the silver britches. I can clearly recall listening to that 1963 game against Miami where Rakestraw set an NCAA passing record.
I began attending home games regularly with the advent of the Vince Dooley era. That was back when you could still show up at the stadium for most games and get “high school” tickets if you were under college age. To ensure I got into even the sold-out games, though, I started selling programs, and did that throughout junior high and high school.
Then came my four years at UGA — the years when my Athens High classmate Andy Johnson was our best running quarterback ever. By then, my devotion to UGA even stood out amid my fellow students. I chose not to go the fraternity route, but a friend who was a Kappa Sig once said to me, “Damn, you love those Dogs better than any Greek I know!”
And so it has continued. The past 30 years, I’ve been a Bulldog Club member and season ticket holder. I married a UGA grad, one of my brothers was a Redcoat, and my son — who I brainwashed from the cradle — never wanted to go anywhere else. He’s now a UGA junior, and was practically christened at Sanford Stadium! (Well, OK, at the nearby Episcopal chapel.) My 11-year-old daughter got really excited seeing all the girls gathered for rush when we cut through the Tate Center recently on our way to the UGA Bookstore (where she stocked up on official UGA notebooks and added to her growing Bulldog wardrobe).
Here at the AJC, my Bulldog mania is well established. A former news editor who was an ardent fan of the North Avenue Trade School used to sneeringly refer to me as “Mr. Bulldog.” Since I couldn’t think of anything polite to call him, I used to just say, “Woof woof!” (As much as I love UGA, I hate that other school. I don’t even like setting foot on their campus, so you know how much I love my daughter when I say I attended all her ballet recitals at the Ferst Center!)
So, those are some of my Bulldog bona fides. That doesn’t mean I have nothing but good to say on the subject of Georgia football. I figure a lifetime of support has earned me the right to gripe when I think it’s warranted, as you’ll no doubt find out.
But, when all is said and done, I’m a Bulldog through and through.
And when that lone trumpeter up in the southwest corner of the upper deck of Sanford Stadium begins playing those opening notes of the Battle Hymn of the Bulldog Nation on Saturday, the chills will go up and down my spine like they always do.
Like I said, let’s talk Georgia Bulldogs!
It’s been a sometimes frustrating — but always interesting — decade to be blogging about the Dawgs from a fan point of view.
That first football season exceeded expectations, as D.J. Shockley led the Dawgs to an SEC championship in an unexpected romp over LSU that my son and I got to attend.
Since then, the Dawgs have had many peaks and valleys: the overtime one-and-done win over Bama in Tuscaloosa in a season that saw Georgia unveil snazzy black jerseys in a win over Auburn and finish No. 2 in the national rankings. Opening the next season ranked No. 1, only to find out that year’s talented but flawed team was not quite ready for prime time. Enduring a losing season that ended with a dismal bowl showing. Bouncing back with two consecutive SEC East titles. A record-setting quarterback leading the Dawgs to huge home SEC wins over South Carolina and LSU that saw a very loud Sanford Stadium rocking, only to have injuries take the wind out of their sails as the season wore on. And, in a moment that probably sums up the decade as well as any, the Dawgs coming up just short in a terrific SEC Championship game where a win likely would have had them playing for a long-awaited national championship.
Elsewhere on the UGA athletic scene, the decade saw some major successes in tennis, golf, swimming & diving and equestrian. But there were ups and downs in basketball (including the tornado championship); ditto in baseball (losing in the final of the College World Series and then having the program go in the dumpster); five consecutive national titles for the Gym Dogs, followed by their decline after the retirement of Suzanne Yoculan; and the replacement of the disgraced Damon Evans with Athens native Greg McGarity as athletic director.
Blogging about all of that hasn’t always been fun, but I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to provide a fan’s voice amid the more detached pundits.
In that regard, I’ve been lucky enough to have a group of fellow Dawgs fans who’ve graciously shared their thoughts on various UGA issues with me over the years whenever I’ve asked, including current and former colleagues, friends, classmates from Athens and, of course, family.
Back in 2005, the first two comments on that debut Blawg were from my brothers, Tim and Jon, and, since we talk Georgia Bulldogs all the time, they quickly became a regular presence here. So much so that, when a reader recognized me in the concourse of Sanford Stadium at a game, he then turned to Tim and said, “You must be his brother.”
About being recognized: When they first came up with the idea of fan blogs for the AJC (there used to be quite a few), most of the other bloggers had photos taken that obscured their face, at least in part, to give them some anonymity. The guy taking my photo asked if I wanted to do likewise, and I replied, “Why? I’m proud to be a Georgia Bulldog.”
Because of that, readers never have had a problem spotting me, whether it’s someone hollering “Junkyard Blawg!” from a car going by as I walk along Lumpkin Street in Athens, or a cashier at the UGA Bookstore recognizing the name.
I have enjoyed the many fans who’ve come up to me on game Saturdays and wanted to talk about the team or something I’d written. That remains true. If you spot me at a game this season, don’t be shy about saying hello!
Through it all, one thing hasn’t changed: I’m as ardent a UGA fan as I’ve ever been, and I love sharing that love of the Dawgs with my fellow fans.
Like I said 10 years ago, let’s talk Georgia Bulldogs!
Next time: Season predictions.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg
Bill King is an Athens native and a graduate of the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. A lifelong Bulldogs fan, he sold programs at Sanford Stadium as a teen and has been a football season ticket holder since leaving school. He has worked at the AJC since college and spent 10 years as the Constitution’s rock music critic before moving into copy editing on the old afternoon Journal. In addition to blogging, he’s now a story editor.