Scott Woerner played defensive back on the Georgia football team that won the national championship for the 1980 season. Long retired from football, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame last year. To keep pace with fans of other SEC teams, he’s rooting for a Georgia championship in some sport. Soon.
SAUTEE NACOOCHEE — The last time I was in New York, I said to Marianne we would have to come back. The Hall of Fame ceremony last December was a busy time for everyone. We really needed a few more days in the city.
I never would have traveled for pleasure had it not been for the game of football and my travel-loving wife. The adventures we have had, the places we have seen, but more important, it is really about the people we have met. We returned to NYC this past weekend for The Classic East festival at CitiField, jamming to The Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan and The Eagles on Saturday, followed by Earth, Wind & Fire, Journey and Fleetwood Mac on Sunday.
Classic is what they call the great bands from my era. Not quite an AARP convention, but we knew the words to every song. We had a wonderful time! I met an extraordinary older gentleman, a WWII bomber pilot, while having brunch Sunday morning, but that is another story for another time. I would not have felt compelled to write this story except for all the people from the SEC that Marianne and I met at the concert and on the subway. I swallowed a lot of pride having to listen to Gators and War Eagles sitting in our row, but the fellow from Tennessee I ran into on the subway was the last straw.
Here’s what happened.
The first night of the concert, I wear my Georgia shirt, proudly representing my alma mater. We are sitting in seats 2 and 3 of our row, and of course everyone must pass us to reach their seats. The first couple that goes by is from Florida, with that ugly blue shirt with the orange Gator patch, smiling the whole way to their seats. Of course, I know they won the Georgia-Florida game last season. I was there. Nothing was said; it didn’t need to be. The next couple yells “War Eagle” as they pass me. I return a “Go Dogs” and they sit down next to Marianne. Searching for kindness in my heart now, because I know this is a two-night concert with Gators and War Eagles so close to me. Two rows in front of me was a woman with a Gamecocks shirt. A fellow wearing a Texas A&M hat sat down in front of us. But, like me, he never said a word. I think they were 4-4 in the SEC also.
On the second night of the concert, the SEC/UGA connection continues. Same SEC people in our row, but now I see a red hat with a big black and white G on it coming up the stairs. I poke Marianne and point to the Georgia hat. Now the music is extremely loud — I must be getting old — but I am still focusing on the hat, now at eye level, and I realize I know this face.
He continues to walk up the stairs as I holler his name. Steely Dan is playing. I could barely hear myself calling his name as I chase him up the stairs.
I finally caught Louis Freeman, my UGA teammate from my freshman season. Louis, I find out, lives in Savannah with his wife and family and had made the trip to NYC for this concert, just like the rest of us sitting in the SEC section of CitiField.
Louis played defensive line and was nicknamed “Mole” by coach Erk Russell. We swapped pleasantries and agreed to compare notes on the concert at our 40-year reunion planned for the Samford game this year. It really is a small world. We each took a photo, and of course, I sent it out to our old teammates.
On the subway home on Sunday night after the concert, I see a guy with a big orange “T” on his hat. He and his son begin talking to me, and he finally asked me if I had attended the game last year. I smile and decide to let him live. I did not want to ruin my wife’s trip. Bulldogs nation has not had a lot to shout about for way too long.
I am bringing this subject up because of an incident that happened to my teammate, Hugh Nall, on a recent flight. He speaks to a flight attendant wearing an Alabama lapel pin, and her comment to him is, “Georgia? You guys haven’t won anything in years. Don’t talk to me.”
Mediocrity has never been part of my personality, and I can tell you for a fact, Hugh’s head probably spun around two or three times before it exploded after hearing that type of comment from a rival fan.
Enough is enough.
Somebody needs to step up. I can do the math, and yes, 38 years since a championship in football is a hard pill to swallow. I watched quite a few NCAA championships this year and only heard the name Georgia Bulldogs mentioned a few times.
I am putting pressure on all the teams and coaches — all the way to the AD. I am not getting any younger, and soon I would like to go watch a UGA championship game in any sport. And I would like to go to a concert or get on an airplane, proudly displaying my school colors without having to eat crow or, more appropriately, War Eagle or Gator. I just thank my lucky stars I did not come across any Tech fans.
It could have been very ugly!