Good time enjoyed by all
by Loran Smith
photo by Rob Saye
There seemed to be less red about in Lexington last weekend,
owing, perhaps, to a number of reasons, but those who made the trip to
bluegrass country were treated to another emotionally fulfilling excursion.
Kentucky, however, came close to spoiling the weekend. Perhaps, the economy
had something to do with the fact that there were plenty of Bulldog
fans trying to dump tickets at the last minute. Back to back road trips with
the cost of travel might have been a factor, but more than likely Bulldog partisans
were so down after the stinging loss to South Carolina—coupled with
the fact that Kentucky has won only a single game this year—that many opted
for the easy chair and television.
A blowout was expected by everybody, most of all Kentucky fans. Of all
the years, I have followed Georgia football, I don’t think I have ever been
around an opposing constituency more down in the mouth. “You all are
going to kill us,” fans were saying. Even loyal blue coats like Joe B. Hall, the
former Kentucky basketball coach, held the view that all the Bulldogs had to
do to win in a walk would be to simply show up.
Kentucky, on an emotional high, led by the 21 Georgian’s on its roster,
had other ideas and keep the game in doubt until the very end when the
Bulldogs closed the game out, 29-24. “Slipped by,” is the way the Lexington
papers referred to the game on Sunday morning. Those 21 players with
Georgia addresses were bitterly disappointed.
It was Rich Brooks, the predecessor of current head coach, Joker Phillips,
who began the trend of recruiting players from the state of Georgia. Brooks,
who had coached for the Atlanta Falcons, knew the quality of high school
football players in the state was exceptional. He also knew that Georgia
couldn’t sign every outstanding player and conceded that, “some of the players
Georgia passes on could certainly play for us.” Then Joker Phillips hired
Steve Pardue, the head coach at LaGrange High School, and the Wildcat roster
began displaying more and more names of players from the Peach State.
For those wearing red and black, the trip home to regroup for the big
game in Jacksonville, was one to celebrate, but nobody was gloating. Fans
are anxious for a spirited game by the Dawgs who seem to be in something
of a slump.
With I-75 being a pleasant thoroughfare through the state of Georgia up
through the heart of Tennessee and Kentucky, the drive to Lexington is not
only efficient, this time of the year, with the autumn leaves near peak of
color, it is the most pleasant of trips. Because of the scenic beauty, the drive
does not seem long at all. For those with a driver, it is almost a luxury trip.
Count me in that group as our friends Don and Barbara Hemrick are always
anxious to travel to Lexington. Don once worked was an executive with
IBM, and was based in Lexington so the trip is something of a homecoming.
Additionally, he is a competent and alacritous driver.
We left Atlanta soon after breakfast on Wednesday, made it to Lexington
just past lunch. NASCAR Don got us there quickly and safely in time to
check into our motel. Then we drove up to Cincinnati in time to visit the
six Bulldogs on the Bengals roster—A. J. Green, Robert Geathers, Clint Boling,
Dennis Roland, Orson Charles and Geno Atkins. They had just finished
a long day at Paul Brown Stadium, preparing for their Sunday game with the
With autumn color lifting all spirits every day, there was plenty of “sides”
to enjoy. A visit with Paul Hornung, the 1956 Heisman trophy winner, at
his office in downtown Louisville was followed by a cup of coffee with Foster
Northrop, member of the 1980 national championship team. At
Churchill Downs, he is a lead veterinarian whose services are frequently in
demand. He is one of the most highly respected vets in thoroughbred racing.
Foster led the effort to save Barbaro, the horse which won the Kentucky
Derby in 2006 but broke a leg in the Preakness, dashing Triple Crown
Even if you don’t collect at the betting window, how can you not enjoy
an afternoon at Keeneland, perhaps the prettiest horse track in the country?
Immersing oneself into the sun splashed setting at Keeneland is always a
highlight. If you don’t spend much time collecting at the betting window,
then there is an “all’s well that ends well” conclusion with the Dawgs winning
at Commonwealth Stadium on a cool evening in October.
This Georgia team, which has a big question mark in the minds of the
critics, has an opportunity to give passionate Bulldog fans a chance to enjoy
successful back to back road trips. A tall challenge indeed, but the Bulldogs
have often been the underdog in this game in the past. Glorious opportunity