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Posted: November 28, 2010 12:30 a.m.

Clean old-fashioned hate

Yesterday's gridiron tilt between the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and the Georgia Bulldogs provided, I hope, another chapter in a great book of stories. Deadlines being what they are, this column was submitted well in advance of the game; I can only hope the Dawgs whipped the Humble Bumbles. The late Lewis Grizzard was the quintessential Georgia Bulldog fan. Among his many colorful contributions to Southern literature, he coined the phrase "clean old-fashioned hate" describing the Tech-Georgia relationship.

As with so many colloquialisms, there's a lot of truth to that statement. So much so, in fact, that as a lifelong Georgia native I simply cannot understand those designer license tags gracing the front of some automobiles displaying the logos of both Georgia and Georgia Tech.

This is sacrilege of the highest order, akin to Guinness brewing its fabled stout in countries other than Ireland.
If the marriage depends on a license tag giving equal attention to that trade school on North Avenue, it's time to find a competent divorce attorney.

I can boldly say that, because my wife and I are both proud Georgia fans. My wife got her master's degree there, as did one of our daughters, and I ushered for years in Sanford Stadium as a Boy Scout before the north stands were double-decked, when students watched the game from dormitory rooftops behind the stadium.

The gridiron classics between these schools have produced classic moment, and featured classic voices over the airwaves, as well. What memories these names evoke: Bobby Dodd, Wally Butts, Pepper Rodgers, Vince Dooley, Billy Lotheridge, Herschel Walker, Eddie Lee Ivory, Al Ciraldo, Larry Munson, to name a few.

The annual football game between Tech and Georgia means a lot of different things in a lot of different ways, too. It elicits a tangible, visceral emotion within otherwise sane people, transcending football, reaching out and touching every nuance of life. From the workplace to the home, from the things one values and holds sacrosanct to the frivolous and trite, winning the game and trouncing the hated arch-rival is more than bragging rights for a year, it's...everything!

There are moments from this series that are special in the heart and soul of each beholder, to be sure. Great Truths learned by the masses include Lesson Number One: when it comes to Tech and Georgia, nothing can be taken for granted. No matter what the records are, no matter how talented one squad is and how amateurish the other is, you can throw it all out the window when they hit the field. This is "clean, old-fashioned hate" at its best.

I always found it fascinating that seemingly each year the game was played in Atlanta, something would break down in the stadium. One year the scoreboard went out. Lights in cavernous dank corridors flicker out routinely. And this is the premier engineering school in the University System of Georgia?

Then there's the Frank Gordy story. A Tech student, he was told he had no talent and would never amount to much. So Gordy took his nest egg of $2,000 he'd saved for college, went across the street and put up a hot dog stand. His hot dog stand became the world's largest drive-in restaurant, The Varsity, an Atlanta legend in gastric delight.

And the coldest I've ever been in Georgia was at a Tech-Georgia game in Atlanta; my seat was in the curved horseshoe of the southern stands before Tech downsized their stadium.

So yesterday, "between the hedges" in Sanford Stadium, it's my fervent hope that the Bulldogs whipped the Yellow Jackets. In seasons like this, with both teams charting subpar records, the outcome is even more important.

It's clean, old-fashioned hate, you see. And who knows? It might even necessitate a new designer license tag!

Nat Harwell is a long-time resident of Newton County. His columns appear regularly on Sundays.

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