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How 'Bout Them Dawgs?
Roy Blount Jr.
August 12, 1996
Georgia fans learned a new trick—enjoying soccer—when Olympic football came to their turf
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August 12, 1996

How 'bout Them Dawgs?

Georgia fans learned a new trick—enjoying soccer—when Olympic football came to their turf

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Well, the 10⅝" rise from the sidelines to the middle of the field was lowered by an inch, and the 18-inch slope from the sidelines to where the hedges once stood was pared down to a flatness commensurate with running around kicking balls in all directions. Many football fields are sloped for drainage. ("Coach Dooley used to say, when he looked across at the coach on the other sideline, he couldn't see most of the guy's legs," says Dukes.) But the field was given an underground drainage system several years back, so lowering the crown and flattening the slopes probably won't matter one way or the other.

Dukes told the Journal-Constitution that soccer "is boring as hell." But last weekend the motelier—as he rumbled through his lobby hospitably urging tambourine-brandishing Brazilians to "stop talking that crazy talk and talk English"—was saying that the Olympics' descent upon the Athens of football "has been a great experience, and it's gonna be a greater experience." Indeed, although scalpers parted with tickets at half price, and traffic jams were worse than on football weekends ("These people don't know where they're going," said Dukes), soccer was received with enthusiasm at Sanford Stadium.

After former Falcon Jeff Van Note said on WCNN early last week, "Soccer couldn't sell out the stadium. Talk to me when they have a sellout," he caught a lot of flak from soccer fans. The men's final last Saturday sold out the 84,000 seats available at Sanford for soccer, and you couldn't hear any outraged old Dawgs howling over the hurrahs. Women's soccer attendance records also were set at the stadium. (Before the Games, women had never done anything but cheer or strut with batons on that hallowed ground.)

And it's not as though the hedges were allowed to die. There were still hedges behind each end zone, and clumps of hedgery in pots surrounded a utility box on the north sideline. Furthermore, a new generation of privet, grown from four-inch cuttings taken from the original hedges, was being nurtured at R.A. Dudley Nurseries in Thomson, Ga., to be installed when the field is restored to football width in time for the Bulldogs' game on Aug. 31 against Southern Mississippi. A second crop of properly pedigreed Ligustrum was standing by at an undisclosed location in Florida. Was this in case Tech fans, say, resorted to sabotage in Thomson? "You know," said Tommy Dudley at the nursery, "anything can happen." They even disturbed the bodies of the Ugas that had passed on to eternal peace!

That's right, the honored remains of mascot bulldogs Uga I through Uga IV were disinterred from the concrete wall where they had been resting and transferred to individual marble vaults in a new granite enclosure when Sanford Stadium was prepared for the Olympics. You'd think old Dawgs would be up in arms over that.

But, no, "I was very much a part of that decision." said Sonny Seiler of Savannah, who is president of the university's alumni association and whose family has bred every Uga there has ever been. "Water had been seeping through crevices in the cement around the memorial tablets, we couldn't stop the bleeding, and the tablets were constantly stained. So now we've replaced them with bronze tablets, and they're set off beautifully against a background of red Georgia marble. There's room for plenty more Ugas in there, and for me too, some people say."

Seiler was disappointed to hear that the big granite bulldog statue at the north end of the field had been covered by a canopy with Olympic markings, so that not only was it hard to see the granite bulldog, but the granite bulldog couldn't even watch the game. But Seiler was delighted that the sprig he took for himself from the old hedge, which he'd thought was dead, had taken root in his yard in Savannah. "That hedge is in-damn-destructible!" he said.

That's something to be proud of, but, well, let's face it, pride—even Dawg pride—always involves a certain amount of discretion. Bryant Mickler, the tattoo artist on duty at the Midnight Iguana tattooing and piercing parlor in Athens last week, said that instead of the usual bulldogs and Georgia G's, people lately had been asking for Olympic rings and torches. But however caught up in Bulldog or Olympic fervor Mickler's customers may have been, most of them wanted their skin art placed on shoulders or ankles, where clothes could cover it. Mickler takes pride in his work, but he realizes that "when you go home, you don't want Granny to see it and fall over dead."

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