Long ago, in a galaxy far away, I began my newspaper career in The Telegraphs sports department.
At night, I would leave my desk on the third floor at 120 Broadway and go home. When the phone rang at the Grisamore house, I would answer Telegraph Sports.
It was pure habit. Our sports phones almost never stopped ringing. The volume was unbelievable. Those were the dark ages before Google and smartphones, so people didnt have instant access to information.
We spent a lot of time giving out scores, settling bar bets, rattling off statistics, listening to recruiting rumors and trying to figure out why a caller had nothing better to do than try and stump us with a trivia question on deadline.
I answered one of those incessant rings on a spring afternoon. A polite young woman asked if I would read her the Georgia Bulldogs football schedule for the fall.
Kickoff was still five months away. This was not the first time someone had requested it. And it certainly would not be the last.
I rattled off the dates. I could hear her 19-cent Bic ballpoint pen scribbling furiously on the other end.
At South Carolina on Sept. 25. ... At home against Ole Miss on Oct. 9. ... Florida in Jacksonville on Nov. 6.
Thank you, she said when I finished. I am getting married in the fall. If my wedding is on the same day as a Georgia home game, nobody will come.
Welcome to the South, where life revolves around tailgates and a standard RSVP for 1 oclock kickoffs. If you get married on a Football Saturday, competing against places like Between the Hedges, Death Valley and The Swamp wont help you at the gate.
You would never plan your wedding for a Sunday morning. So why would you reserve the church for 5 p.m. on a Football Saturday?
In this part of the country, football is like a religion. There are multiple Sabbaths every week from late August until the first week of December. You must keep them all holy.
I have tried to explain the cult of Southern football. If its only a game played on 57,600 square feet of green grass, then why do perfectly normal people bark like dogs, paint their faces, leave season tickets in their wills and make some of the largest emotional investments of their lives in 19-year-old football players who can run like the wind?
There are husbands who can never remember their wives dress sizes, yet they can recite the depth chart at tailback for Tennessee. There are children walking around with names like Buck and Bear, and hunting dogs named Cam and Herschel.
Planning your nuptials for Nov. 9 without consulting the SEC schedule? Thats game day for LSU-Alabama. Your wedding guests may be screaming ROLL BRIDE!!!
If you have written your vows for Oct. 19, what were you thinking? Florida State plays Clemson. If you have sent out invitations for Nov. 30, were you aware of the Georgia-Georgia Tech game? Thats a rivalry that has divided households and inspired a book called Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.
I once attended the wedding of a friend who had been part of my church youth group in high school. The wedding was in Atlanta on a Saturday night in October. But I knew her parents and brother, so I felt obligated to attend.
I dont remember anything about the ceremony. I cant recall if the bridesmaids wore pigskin. My lasting image was her father, huddled in the corner at the reception, hunkering down and listening to Larry Munson on a transistor radio.
My sister, Gay Hall, will celebrate her 30th wedding anniversary next week. Yes, Oct. 8 was a football Saturday in 1983, and I was one of the groomsmen.
Only in the SEC is it relevant, Gay said. When I tell my Northern friends we got married on a UGA bye weekend, they dont get it.
Wedding dates are not only impacted by the college football ranks. High school football is also a way of life in the South.
Just ask Tim Wilson. I consider him the greatest high school football fan in America. When Peach County plays Henry County in Fort Valley on Friday night, it will be his 456th straight game. He has not missed a Peach County game in 39 years.
He married his wife, Alicia, on Aug. 29, 1992, so not to conflict with Peach Countys opening game against Perry. They hurried back from their honeymoon in Gatlinburg, Tenn. Tim was not going to miss kickoff on Friday night.
We drove straight to the stadium, he said. We didnt even unload the car.
For better, for worse.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or email@example.com.