Saturday morning, Mother and Father Brown – who reside in the northwest Georgia town of Dalton – made an offer. I could go up there to ‘escape’ Hurricane Dorian.
While Dorian does not appear to be threatening Colquitt County the way Irma and Michael did the last two years respectively, and with Saturday being the first major college football weekend, I thought there might be some people looking to flee a different kind of storm potentially brewing in the state north of my parents’ home. Yes, tropical weather formations are brutal, but then there’s the wrath of a furious college fan base that’s battered and scattered many a coaching staff all over the nation.
Fortunately, Kirby Smart didn’t need to ‘escape’ Nashville as Georgia handily defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores 30-6. The only wave of criticism the Bulldog head coach may deal with in the next few weeks is how that 30 wasn’t as impressive as what Alabama put on Duke or the slamming of Georgia Tech by the No. 1 Clemson Tigers.
But there are a few guys who might need to evacuate Knoxville and seek a hideaway, guys like Jeremy Pruitt and the famed former UGA offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. Yep, could get crowded up in that duplex. It’s not breaking news, but the Tennessee Volunteers lost to Georgia State at home … let me put in another way, a Southeastern Conference team with a national championship lost to a Sun Belt Conference school that didn’t have football when Peyton Manning was a big star in orange … that is worthy of some Category 5 outrage. This must rank among the top five upsets of all time and the biggest one to start a season since the Appalachian State shocker at Michigan 12 years ago.
The most we think about Georgia State football down here is that their stadium (once the Atlanta Braves’ home) is the site for this season’s state championship high school football games. Since the Panthers’ beginnings under the eye of Bill Curry a decade ago, they actually received two bowl invitations, both to the Cure Bowl in Orlando that’s only been around four years itself. So to say this game in Knoxville was Georgia State’s ‘bowl game’ for 2019 is disrespecting what they already accomplished in such a short time span. I’d like to see how a game between the Panthers and Yellow Jackets turns out, who gets at least the downtown Atlanta bragging rights, because both are still under that giant shadow Georgia’s supposed to be creating.
What this win means even more for the players is validation of their place in college football. How many on that roster, during their high school days, had high hopes of playing at the Power 5 level, perhaps even at Tennessee itself? How many still believed they were good enough for that level while accepting the Georgia State offer, which was the best one available? Now, nobody can tell them they can’t compete on the same field with the big boys; they just did.
Same thing happened down the highway from Moultrie in Tallahassee, Fla. Boise State, no strangers to stunning the superiors, came from behind to knock off the Florida State Seminoles. How many of those Broncos wanted to go to, say, Oregon when Willie Taggart was still in the Pac-12 and felt overlooked?
I still say it: you end up where you end up for a reason, whether it’s playing football, going to college or getting your first job. Does this mean Georgia State is destined for the Sun Belt championship, maybe a spot in the Top 25 with a few more wins? Don’t be quick to dismiss any of that. It’s not like there’s another ‘money’ game coming up.
(And as I mention mom and dad, a big thank-you for all the prayers and concerns shown about dad’s condition following the two back operations since last October. Things are looking up after this difficult year, and continue to pray that it keeps trending in that direction.)
Now, please indulge me as I pay homage to a friend and colleague in local sports coverage.
If you’re in Albany, Macon, Columbus or even that big town known as Atlanta and its surrounding counties like Cobb and Gwinnett, there is one thing you don’t find anywhere up or down the radio dial. That’s a broadcast of local high school ball games. Never had to make room in a press box for a crew calling Monroe, Westside or Hardaway as the visiting team.
Yes, there are a lot of schools in these cities, but you need to be there to see what happens. Georgia Public Broadcasting can’t be everywhere to put a game on television – maybe there’s an on-line stream – but there is something about the quaintness of hearing the game called over WWWW 90-something or 1 Oh something FM.
You know how Wayne Grandy (no, he’s still with us) has his name on the Mack Tharpe Stadium press box for his years of service covering the Packers for the Observer. Last week, I learned that a similar dedication took place at McConnell-Talbert Stadium in Warner Robins. Then I found out why.
The box is now named after Mike Davis, who for more than 20 years broadcasted teams in Houston County over the airwaves. Mainly it was the Northside High Eagles, his obvious favorite. Sometimes a locally-based broadcaster can get the reputation of a ‘homer,’ and perhaps that’s part of the quaintness, but with a pair of exceptions I’ve been fortunate to know gentlemen who handled this duty with professionalism. I put recent Colquitt Sports Hall of Famer Durwood Dominy in that category.
Mike Davis also fit the bill, no more so than in 2011 when Tucker beat Northside on a fourth-quarter 100-yard fumble return in the semifinals at McConnell-Talbert. No complaining or moaning, just calling it as he saw it. You can still find it on YouTube, where the play started on Tucker’s 2-yard-line and the football popped loose, never hit the ground and was caught by the Tiger who only had a pair of Eagles to beat to the other end zone.
He helped me out in numerous ways as I listened to broadcasts and did game stories based on them. There was a time when Northside and Tift County, as region foes, switched the home at-home of their baseball series because of rain in Warner Robins. So they played in Tifton the first time. Everything was set for the rematch on the Eagles’ field, only nobody told the umpires association about the switch. They are trying to find those calling other games in the county and see if they can pull double duty. They did find some, and I got to go home after covering the game those umpires did first, fired up the radio and listened to Mike do a game that ended close to midnight. Call it bonus coverage, two for the price of one.
Sometimes he could be a little too positive. I could imagine him saying during a baseball game, “In four innings he’s given up 10 runs on 15 hits and walked eight … but he’s pitched well.”
When Veterans High opened, some of the Warhawk teams were a bit weak, but you still want to be in that nice, new basketball gym. Girls basketball was one of those teams not doing so well, and on this particular night they are facing Perry High’s girls, also not having a good season. I arrived to find Mike setting up for the broadcast and told him, “O.K. now, no mention of paint drying or grass growing, got it? Be kind.”
At halftime he did ask me if I had another can of paint.
It was back in January that Mike passed away after a battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 65. His service to Warner Robins included more than 30 years with the city’s Fire Department retiring as assistant chief 11 years ago. After retirement Mike was elected to the city council. On that, I’ll conclude with another memorable conversation.
Running for reelection, he told me how at a candidates forum his opponent said she was running because apparently Mike referred to her as, “That woman from (wherever) Street.” He said his response at the time was that as far as he knew, that forum was the first time he’d ever seen her and he had no idea where she lived. To me, he adds that he ran for council because I wanted to help people, not because I felt slighted by somebody.
With a big election year on the way, here’s hoping we keep those words in mind when considering a push for public office.