I’ve never lived in Alabama, although I reside in a Georgia county named after William Wyatt Bibb, the first governor of Alabama.
I’ve been in close proximity. A couple of chapters in my life were written along the Georgia border.
Nine years of my childhood were spent in LaGrange, where we crossed the bridge at West Point Lake and came ashore in the Central Time Zone. I spent a summer in college as a newspaper intern in Columbus. I could stand along the banks of the Chattahoochee River and take a peek at what folks were up to in Phenix City.
But there never was a real reason to go over to Alabama, except maybe to buy fireworks. If we ever did wander that way, we were advised to wipe our feet before we came back.
Never miss a local story.
It was a joke. I think.
One of my sons now travels there on business every few weeks, and he carries an Alabama number – area code 205 – on one of his cellphones.
I have traversed the state many times, from Boaz to Bessemer, Muscle Shoals to Montgomery to Mobile. I have eaten the legendary ribs at Dreamland in Tuscaloosa, chugged the famous sweet tea at Milo’s in Birmingham and once spent an afternoon in Enterprise, where there is a statue of a boll weevil in the center of town. But that’s a story for another day.
I have been planted for roughly 93.4 percent of my life in Georgia, with no inclination to gravitate west toward Alabama, where the state motto is “We Dare Defend Our Rights” but could well be “At Least We’re Not Mississippi.”
Which brings us to the football game.
I cannot claim not to have a dog in this fight, because I do have a Dawg in this fight.
I am a proud graduate of the University of Georgia. Of course, I attended UGA back in the days when the academics weren’t as strenuous. Athens was more kudzu than Ivy League. The admissions bar wasn’t set so high. Dean William Tate used to say the only criteria to get into Georgia was having red dirt between your toes.
I have spent the past week recovering from the giddy Rose Bowl, enduring the deep chill of the Deep South and trying to keep my New Year’s Resolutions. (I do plan on giving up kale, though.)
The mighty Tide is the prohibitive favorite over the UnderDawgs in Monday night’s national championship game. After analyzing the depth charts and anticipating the game plans, my pregame prognostication is still searching for an edge. Any edge.
Off the field, I’ve determined our state has a decided advantage in the “intangibles” department.
Georgia boasts more people (10.3 million to 4.8 million), more square miles (59,425 to 52,419) and more counties (159 to 67). Now, if we can convert all that manpower to points, the Dogs should be a two-touchdown favorite.
My mother was born in Bainbridge. Georgia Coach Kirby Smart is from Bainbridge. Personally, I proclaim this as a sign.
Last week’s winter storm marked the first measurable snowfall in Savannah since 1980, which is the last time the Dogs won a national championship in football. It’s another sign.
Alabama has won four national titles since head coach Nick Saban arrived, so the Tide is running out of fingers on its left hand. (No, championship rings are not allowed on thumbs.) Georgia, on the other hand, has plenty of available digits.
The NCAA has declared Forrest Gump ineligible.
Legion Field in Birmingham opened in 1927 at a cost of $439,000. Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, the site of Monday’s game, opened 90 years later at a price tag of $1.6 billion. We can either adjust for inflation or admit we drive a fancier car.
The new stadium is the home of the Atlanta Falcons. If life is fair, a Bulldogs victory could help the home state ease the lingering pain of the Super Bowl.
The only “coon dog” cemetery in the world is in Colbert County, Alabama. That’s nice. But, at Gate 9 at Sanford Stadium in Athens, generations of beloved UGA bulldog mascots are interred in a mausoleum. Give me those “damn good dogs” any time.
Georgia’s theme this season has been “Keep Chopping Wood.” It should be pointed out we live in the top forestry state in the nation, leading the way in timberland, tree harvest and pulpwood exports.
Herschel Walker, the most revered Dog of all time, signed a pro contract with the USFL’s New Jersey Generals, after his junior year at Georgia (1982). His first boss was the team’s owner, Donald Trump, who will be in attendance Monday night. Trump now bosses everybody.
In Sylacauga, Alabama, where Jim Nabors (Gomer Pyle) was born, there is a monument to Ann Hodges, who was hit in the leg by an 8.5-pound meteorite while sitting in her living room in November 1954. Georgia’s Stone Mountain didn’t exactly fall out of the sky, but it weighs a “guesstimated” 1 trillion pounds and is the largest piece of exposed granite in the world. (Here’s hoping the Dogs’ ground game has success “toting the rock.”)
What about coverage? Georgia has insurance in freshman quarterback Jake Fromm, whose clever Twitter handle is “JakefromStateFromm.”
Our official state song is “Georgia, On My Mind” by Ray Charles. Across the state line, it’s “Alabama, Alabama, We Will Aye Be True to Thee.” Nolo contendere.
And one more. G-O-D is D-O-G spelled backward.
Lord knows, we will need all the help we can get.
Ed Grisamore teaches journalism and creative writing at Stratford Academy in Macon. His column appears on Sundays in The Telegraph.