Leila S. Case: Pulling for a ‘Dogs’ day afternoon’ in J’ville

Published 3:30 pm Monday, October 31, 2016

A large population of the county from one end to the other is in Jacksonville specifically for the annual longtime football rivalry between the University of Georgia Bulldogs and the University of Florida Gators. Kickoff is 3:30 p.m. today at EverBank Field.
Even though we won’t be in the stadium to cheer the ‘Dogs, I’m reconciled to watch the game on TV – besides if you miss seeing the “big one” the first time, you can catch it on the replay. That’s a good thing. I’m famous for missing some important plays.
Meanwhile, I have wonderful memories of annual treks to the Bulldog vs Gator game that for years was called the “largest outdoor cocktail party in the world” then played at the Gator Bowl stadium before it was demolished and the new stadium was built on the same site. Like most places these days, alcoholic beverages are no longer allowed inside the gates and the game lost that party nickname. Tailgates before and after are more fun – this is the time to socialize with friends and the chance to picnic on a variety of deliciousness that ranges from fried chicken and barbecue to grilled hamburgers and hot dogs with all the trimmings. Some tailgate sites are cleverly decorated with elaborate trappings complete with china, silverware, candelabra and flowers.
For a period of years, my first husband and I held season tickets to UGA games, home and away, and during that time we were in the Gator Bowl stadium in good weather and bad (once we sat through a complete deluge of rain and everyone was drenched and soaked to the bone). Over the years we stayed many places from Jacksonville to Amelia Island and St. Simons Island, but my all-time favorite is Ponte Vedra Beach. And we traveled in a variety of ways, mostly by car but once we flew with friends from Athens into Jacksonville. He was a pilot for a major Athens corporation and owned his own four-seater twin engine. It was an exciting means to travel to a football game. That’s the year my overnight bag was accidentally left behind and we didn’t realize it until after reaching our destination. Thankfully, I had my makeup and toothbrush in my purse. I had to wear the same outfit for three days!
To me and many others, the 1980 game was the most exciting. The Bulldogs were trailing the Florida Gators who had a perfect season until we ruined it in the last minute and a half. The ‘Dogs were behind 21-20 and time was running out. Actually, many Georgia fans had left the stadium thinking the Gators won and I wanted to go, too, but the man-who-read-over my shoulder then wouldn’t budge. No, he told me we’re staying until the end.
And because we remained, we witnessed one of the most famous plays in football history. Bulldog wide-receiver Lindsay Scott caught quarterback Buck Belue’s pass to run 93 yards down the sidelines, scoring the winning touchdown with only seconds left on the clock. I jumped up and down so vigorously that I accidentally jostled the Gator fan sitting to my left and his 20-ounce size Coke spilled everywhere, especially on my red jacket.
Georgia goes into today’s game with four wins and three losses while Florida is 5-1. So the final score is a tossup but we always win the party. I’m pulling for the Dawgs. Hope you are too!
Meanwhile, I’ll let you know next week who I heard was at the game – next Saturday it’s Georgia vs Auburn. That’s always a good game. Please join me in wishing happy birthday to Sally Markette, Andy Shivers, Bob Lashley and John Shealy, and best wishes to January bride and groom-elect Ashley Ragan and Chip Evans who will be honored at a series of pre-nuptial parties this weekend.

Leila Sisson Case lives in Americus.