Growing Up As A UGA Fan And Fall Saturdays In Athens
Editors note: UGA Football Live prep contributor Hollen Vitale wrote this article as a sophomore boarding student at Tallulah Falls School. Her dream came true and she’s enrolling in Georgia this week.
By: Hollen Vitale
“Come on Mom! Let’s go Dad! Hurry up! It’s Saturday in Athens!”
“We can not be late. We have to grab a good tailgating spot,” I would be yelling throughout the house as a youngster.
As a child, these phrases were common to be heard throughout my home on Saturdays in the fall. It meant that it was time to drive to Athens and watch my beloved Dawgs go into battle between the hedges once again. I would wake up in the morning with a big smile, knowing it was time to cheer on the Dawgs, more prepared than ever to help lead Georgia to another victory. Growing up with two alumni parents of the University of Georgia, we rarely missed a game in Sanford Stadium. For my family and close friends, cheering for the Bulldogs was not only part of our lifestyle, it was a way of life.
Imagine this; It’s Saturday, you jump out of bed, put on your lucky red jersey, grab your tattered pom-pom that has been with you for every game as long as you can remember and rush out the door. Once in the packed car with the classic tailgating items — fried chicken, BBQ, biscuits, cole slaw, potato salad, chips, cakes and beverages — you immediately turn on the stereo, just loud enough to mildly irritate your parents. You have a set playlist that lasts the entire forty minute drive to Athens, with songs like Baba O’Riley and The Boys of Fall blaring through the car speakers and adding to the intensity of the day. Everyone sings along. Flags are flying on the outside of cars and you pass countless fellow Georgia fans along the way with a light wave, smile or a “Go Dawgs”. Along the country road to Athens, you pass boiled peanut and BBQ stands adorned with Georgia flags and little kids in their front yard holding Bulldog signs. You’re excited, extremely happy, and all-around prepared for the day’s festivities. This is what you love do to. If possible, this would be the routine for every Saturday! This is the passion of growing up as a Georgia fan.
These Georgia games were my life growing up and helped define me. My first home game was in November in 2006 versus Georgia Tech. I recall the loud chants for quarterback Matthew Stafford, the majestic sea of red clothing, the beautifully manicured green field, the Georgia band playing throughout the game and the all around thrill of being part of this incredible event. Georgia beat the Yellow Jackets by two points on that faithful day and as a seven year-old kid, I was amazed by the sounds, aromas, and pageantry of it all. I remember the ringing of the Chapel Bell after the game and playing while we tailgated until dusk. I didn’t quite understand why everyone was yelling or what the game was even about, but after that day, I knew I wanted to become part of it and I came to love University of Georgia football.
Today, I still attend as many Georgia games as possible. On Mondays after a Bulldog win, I hear shouts in the high school hallways of “Dawgs on top” and I’m asked “How ‘bout them Dawgs?!” The dorms are filled with Georgia posters, cups and other souvenirs. I always notice several red and black shirts with the iconic “G” logo. I always think Wow, this is my state. We all put aside differences and come together for the love of a sport.
I hear arguments over Mark Richt being released, sulks over Nick Chubb being hurt, and the latest quarterback controversy. Each week is like this. We live with the ups and downs of the team but always love our Bulldogs. Growing up as a Georgia fan, it’s more than a part of your life, it is life!
The Saturday excitement was exhilarating as a child as it still is today. It brought together family, friends and strangers. Looking back, I realize I would never opt to grow-up in any other state. Cheering on the Dawgs are some of the most cherished memories I have. Each fall, I continue to build upon them. I wouldn’t trade being a diehard Dawg for anything. It’s always great to be a Georgia Bulldog.
People often ask what it feels like being a diehard Georgia fan or what was it like growing up in a Georgia-loving household? How did it feel waking up on Saturdays ready to attend a home game? Then there’s the biggest question of all — do you want to follow in the footsteps of your brother and parents and attend Georgia? All I can say is, Georgia gets in your blood like no other place on earth. Athens is always with you. I WILL BE an undergrad screaming in the student section of Sanford Stadium!