“To be the man, you have to beat the man.” —Ric Flair
11:42 p.m., January 10, 2022. Remember where you were and who you were with, so you can tell your grandkids.
To hell with “2nd and 26” – let’s talk about “The Pick Six”.
It is a moment that will forever be etched in the hearts of the State of Georgia, for it was at this exact moment that the demons that had haunted the souls of Georgians for four decades were once and for all exorcised and returned to their rightful place in the lower regions, otherwise known as Alabama.
That’s when freshman defensive back Kellee Ringo intercepted a pass from University of Alabama quarterback and returned it 79 yards for a national championship-secured touchdown. at the Georgia Bulldogs.
Yes, that University of Alabama, the one that Georgia “could never” beat. Yeah, that quarterback, the one who won the Heisman, beat the Bulldogs just five weeks before and said of Georgia afterwards “they ain’t (slang word for motherfucker).”
And yes, those Georgia Bulldogs, the ones who hadn’t won a national title since “Let’s Get Physical” was the #1 song in America.
In this singular moment, decades of near misses and abject frustration have been erased and driven from the collective minds of the Dawgnation. And that it happened against Alabama — yes, defending national champion Alabama — made the ritual of exorcism all the sweeter.
As the cheers of joyous elation of this moment rang out, you could almost hear the congregation of players/coaches/fans dressed in red and black say in a united celestial chorus:
“Not today Saban – not today.”
Now don’t tell anyone I told you this, but I didn’t think Georgia had what it took to beat Alabama. After all, the Crimson Tide almost always wins these kinds of games and Georgia almost never does.
I guess “almost” really only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
I watched the game with my regular team (former UGA cheerleader Barbara Dixon calls us “The Georgia Boys”) who have gathered to watch games for most of those 40 plus years , and to be sure, there was a lot of gnashing of teeth and bones until “THE Pick Six” happened.
At that moment, each of us was overwhelmed with emotion, realizing that this was finally happening. I’m not too proud to say that we all hugged, and yes, we even got misty eyed. There was a lot of luggage to unpack at the time, and none of us lost any.
To make the story even more remarkable, consider just two of the players leading this Georgia team. Zamir White, born with numerous birth defects and with two weeks left to live, grew up to be “Zeus”, a powerful running back who scored Georgia’s first touchdown.
And then, the history of college football written by Hallmark Channel, a certain Stetson Bennett, “The Little QB Who Could”. A starless 5-foot-9, 180-pound walk-on from Pierce County recruited by no one, everyone in the world doubted Stetson Bennett — everyone but Stetson Bennett.
All he did was keep saying, “I think I can, I think I can…” Now he can smile at the world and just say, “I know I did it.”
Going forward, it was all about giving the Dawgs a bone, albeit in the form of a national championship trophy. Every team member and coaching staff got to give it a bite. Don’t get me wrong, under Kirby Smart, it’s a flavor they’ll enjoy again, and sooner rather than later.
For over 40 years, all we Georgians have heard is “1980” over and over again from all the fans around us, referring to the last time the Bulldogs won the national championship. There have been so many “almosts” over the years where the Dawgs have “almost” won it, and with every “almost” there were even more comments from everyone about the Georgia “just couldn’t hit the jackpot.”
So, as a friendly reminder to my friends Gator, Seminole, War Eagle, Tiger, Gamecock, Hurricane, Volunteer and Yellow Jacket, it has now been exactly zero years since Georgia won the national championship. You are welcome to ask any Alabama fan if you need confirmation. Heck, go ahead and ask them anyway. They need to be reminded of this, and often.
You ask any old school dawg who Buck Belue, Lindsay Scott, Rex Robinson, Scott Woerner and Herschel Walker are, and immediately they’ll tell you those names were legendary parts of the history of this amazing team of 1980. Now you can add Jordan Davis, George Pickens, James Cook, Nakobe Dean and Brock Bowers from this amazing 2021 squad to those hallowed levels of immortality.
Legendary Georgia Bulldogs voice Larry Munson used to talk about the “lucky old lady” smiling at the Dawgs every time they won a big, hard-fought game against a rival. For over 40 years, it seemed like she not only passed Georgia, but also deleted our number from her phone.
Well, on Monday night, she showed up dressed to the hilt in a red party dress with black heels, and not only did she offer a toothy smile in the Dawgs direction, but she gave them a a wink and beckoned them with his index finger.
Even better? She meant it.
And, at 11:42 a.m., with a little twinning from Kelee Ringo, the long-awaited relationship was officially consummated again.