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February 16, 2011

A Former Tradition Not Forgotten

I've been absolutely swamped at work recently, thus, the reason why this is my first post in more than two weeks.  Nevertheless, a friend sent me a site featuring an old photo of Sanford Stadium's The Track People (also check out the letter from the late great Erk Russell), and I couldn't resist posting my somewhat "experience" with the one-time tradition. 

When Sanford Stadium's east end zone was enclosed prior to the 1981 season, enlarging the stadium from around 60,000 to just under 80,000, it certainly was unfortunate for those that once watched free of charge from the railroad tracks and an end to a tradition. 

However, with the stadium's new addition, came the option for some faculty members, like my father, to order four season tickets instead of just two like previous seasons.  So, when the defending national champion Bulldogs kicked off their '81 season against Tennessee 30 years ago come this September, they did so in front of nearly 20,000 fresh faces, including yours truly - six years old at the time, attending his very first Georgia football game.

Taken from a video courtesy of the University of Tennessee and narrated by the Volunteers' legendary John Ward, here are some highlights from a memorable game for me:

Personally, it never gets old watching highlights from Georgia football's heyday of the early 1980s.  In particular, the 1981 Bulldogs "on paper" might have been the best Georgia football team of all time despite two losses suffered during their season.  

The above video is some evidence of the talented bunch: players like Herschel Walker, Terry Hoage, seniors Buck Belue and Lindsay Scott, true freshman Kevin Butler, junior college-transfer Ronnie Harris, and... Jeff Paulk.

In case you're wondering,  Paulk was Georgia's second- or third-string quarterback from 1979-1982.  For his entire Bulldog career, he accounted for only approximately 250 yards of total offense and scored one touchdown - the one shown in the video.   

My favorite players from the first Bulldog team I witnessed in person were Herschel and Hoage, for obvious reasons, and Jeff Paulk, simply because he was one of my coaches at the Athens YMCA and I also thought he had a neat sounding last name.

For these reasons, I had to include Paulk's touchdown in the highlights from my first Bulldog game.  

One of my favorite stories from that Georgia-Tennessee meeting begins with the dozen or so dedicated Track People, who still turned out that afternoon to sit on the railroad tracks.  Of course, they couldn't see the Bulldogs from where they sat but an enormous side of concrete instead.

Still, as one track fan declared, as long as there was whiskey to drink and Larry Munson on his radio, he didn't mind the obstructed view. 

However, another ticketless fan, Rick, did mind after the whiskey wore off and was going to do all he could to see his Bulldogs.  He and a few friends tried several different ways to catch a glimpse of the game from both east and west sides of the stadium without any luck.

After many unsuccessful attempts, a friend said, “Looks like we ain’t gonna get in.”

“Heck,” said a dejected Rick, “I gotta be at my wedding rehearsal at four o’ clock anyway.”


Anonymous said...

Awesome. Wait, you were allowed to go for it on 4th and goal with inches to go on your opening drive in the 80s?

Bernie said...

Great post Patrick. My uncle was a member of The Track People for a couple seasons. My non-UGA family members seem puzzled by him at times. I just smile.

As a kid we'd pass the east side of the stadium on the way to church Sunday mornings. On Sundays after a home game you couldn't see the rocks and dirt because of the empty cans, trash and the occasional person who had been left behind to sleep off the win.

Sean said...

Thanks. It's always great to see highlights from what I like to call our glory days, especially of one of my favorite Dawgs of all time Terry Hoage. In fact, I thought so much of Terry my 13 year olds first name is Hoage. Go Dawgs!

Allen said...

I have an interesting Tracks memory from '79. I was there with my German roommate and a number of other exchange students to watch the Auburn game--the last viewable from the tracks!. Many of the exchange students, like my buddy Helmut, had transitioned from negativity ("how wiolent!!" he said while watching his first game on TV) to absolute, beer drinking fanaticism for the Dawgs. Anyway, when the cheerleading squad came out to do their usual special rah-rah for the track crowd, an impromptu but talented group of Trackers hoisted in front of them some big hand lettered signs ("Don't F___ with Buck" and "Don't Screw with Belue" were a couple of them--this during a QB controversy of the time). The cheer squad was in a pyramid, and swear to God, the top guy jumped onto the top of one of the signs and tore it down the middle on the way down. Trackers hooted and hollered, foreigners got more blotto than the natives, and AU kicked out butts with a 3 pronged rushing attack, but a grand time was had by all! Them was the days!

Anonymous said...

I was a drunken bum student at UGA and had a job at a bar. The bar's early morning happy hour got my spirit going and by mid season I took my cooler of beer to the tracks early, carved out a good seat for me and my beer. Game was midseason against Vandy, Herchel broke the SEC rushing record and my football spirit returned. I dropped out of college but bought season tickets the next year! Have seen almost every game since (if it was on TV). Love those Dawgs. Hope we make it back to the top 10 where we belong.

Patrick Garbin said...

Thanks for everyone's posts/memories and sorry I'm just now getting around to commenting. Every Bulldog's first time to Sanford Stadium should be memorable; fortunately for all of us, it appears that was the case.