The apocalypse is truly upon us. Somebody has made the decision—I don’t know who, I know it wasn’t me—that the Georgia-Georgia Tech football game will not be played this year for the first time since 1924. This hallowed event, which dates to 1893, is commonly referred to as “Clean Old Fashioned Hate,” which probably disturbs the politically correct weenies among us.
From what I understand, it is because UGA is in the Southeastern Conference and Tech is in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The SEC will play no out-of-conference games. The ACC will play one. Like most everything going on these days, the changes are being blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic. That may be, but I also suspect it has something to do with money. Most everything in major college football these days has to do with money.
What makes no sense is that Georgia will travel 735 miles to play Missouri and Tech 1,077 miles to play Boston College—both games which rank at the top of my Ho-Hum scale—yet for two schools about 70 miles apart, their respective conferences somehow can’t work it out to play each other this year, ignoring the fact that the game is for statewide, 365-days, 8,760-hours, 525,600-minutes bragging rights. I know. I have timed it.
There is a gaggle of internet twerppers who don’t see the need to continue this rivalry, anyway. They would rather see Georgia playing high-profile teams like Notre Dame and Ohio State and Oklahoma and forget Georgia Tech. Forget? Forget Hades! These urchins weren’t around in those dark days from 1949 to 1957, better known as The Drought. Days that will truly live in infamy.
Georgia had held a slight lead in the series 22-16-4 up until then. (Two of the Bulldog losses—1943 and 1944—are listed with an asterisk in the Georgia media guide, as they should be. Georgia fielded a team of students too young for service in World War II, while Tech was loaded with athletes from the U.S. Navy’s V-12 program. Shame on them.)
Things began innocently enough in 1949 when Tech squeaked by Georgia 7-6. They went downhill quickly from there. Two years later, it was 48-6. I remember one year a Georgia running back—I have forgotten his name—broke clear for a touchdown but lost his shoe and fell down. That I haven’t forgotten.
I remember Georgia, a decided underdog, looking like they had Tech beaten in the mud and mire in Athens when Yellow Jacket quarterback Wade Mitchell threw a pass that looked like a Frisbee for a touchdown pass to win. Mitchell was and is a friend, but I have never quite forgiven him.
Finally, on a cold, crisp November 30, 1957, at Grant Field, Theron Sapp broke The Drought. The Bulldogs were suffering through a third consecutive losing season and had not scored a touchdown against Tech in four years. Sapp scored the only touchdown of the game. I was there and witnessed the miracle with 40,000 others. Today, if everyone who says they were there that day really were, it was more like 200,000.
If you are a true Bulldog and not a Johnny-come-lately twerpper, you know all the words to Georgia Bulldog Poet Laureate Harold M. Walker’s “The Man Who Broke The Drought.” (“Rise up you loyal Georgians. From Tybee Light to Rabun Gap. Here’s to the Macon Mauler. The mighty Theron Sapp.”)
Things changed when a guy named Vince Dooley arrived in Athens in 1964. In his 25 years as head coach, Georgia was 19-6 against Tech. Today, the series stands at 68-41-5 in favor of the good guys. But that doesn’t erase the trauma of The Drought from those of us who lived through it.
Now, we must live without our state championship for a whole year. It is not right. Of course, I can still twit my friends at North Avenue and remind them that we have 24 Rhodes Scholars. (They have six.) That our researchers are currently working to produce a more resilient peanut while theirs are fooling around with quantum systems. You can eat peanuts. You can’t eat a quantum system (whatever that is.)
Of course, they will give it back to me as good as they get it. They always do. But talking about peanuts and quantum stuff isn’t the same as talking about football. On that, both sides can agree. They have taken “Clean Old-Fashioned Hate” away from us. I truly hate that.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at email@example.com; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139; online at dickyarbrough.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb.