College football is a phenomenon I enjoy watching. Not the game itself, but the spectacle that is the football fanatic.
Growing up in Walton County, I knew a man named Herschel Scott. He made his first trip to see the Georgia Bulldogs on a bicycle from Monroe, a trip of more than 25 miles. This was in a day and time when paved roads were rough at best.
Herschel Scott is buried in the same cemetery as my parents and brother. His tombstone is a tad different from the rest.
Inscribed on the stone surface is this epitaph: “Bulldog born, Bulldog bred, Here I lie a Bulldog dead.”
It also notes his attendance of 471 consecutive games.
Herschel Scott never attended the University of Georgia as a student. He ran a restaurant. He also hated Georgia Tech. He said he didn’t eat mustard on his hot dog because he couldn’t stand the color yellow.
That’s pretty serious hate.
Two friends of mine, Mark and Joy Green, are among the best things to come out of Alabama since Interstate 20. They love each other dearly. They do not love each other’s college football teams.
Mark is a graduate of the University of Alabama with a degree in piano performance. I assume that is an upright piano. He is a world-class piano player. But he can break into “Yea, Alabama” and sing you every word.
Joy, on the other hand, is steeped in the tradition of Auburn University. She’s a good wife, because a few years ago she bought Mark a pair of tickets to see Alabama play in the Rose Bowl.
Herschel Scott would never have done that for his wife.
Many fans will root for the conference team, if theirs has been eliminated. If you are from an SEC school, you’ll quietly pull for the remaining SEC team.
Gainesville was different this time when Clemson faced off against Alabama in the national championship game.
The reason? One Gainesville man and former Red Elephant — Deshaun Watson.
Watson had deeply personal reasons for accepting the football scholarship offered by Clemson University. He is a fine young man who loves his hometown and his mama. You can’t go wrong with that.
But next to Georgia Tech, Clemson is Georgia’s closest geographic rival. They used to play each other almost every year and it was a border war.
A lot of Bulldogs, Yellow Jackets and several other college faithful laid aside their dislike of Clemson in place of their fondness for Deshaun Watson. He is one of the most talented college quarterbacks in the nation.
Last week, Watson put on a performance worthy of our admiration.
My wife, a lifelong Bulldog, wore an orange shirt with a Clemson tiger paw on the front. It was not easy for her. But for one night, she was a Watson fan, which made her a Clemson fan. This is a temporary condition.
Deshaun Watson’s moment in the spotlight has drawn national attention to our town. Announcers from ESPN talked about Longstreet Café like it was their regular hangout. You can’t buy that kind of positive publicity.
If the truth be told, I think a lot of folks who wear an assortment of college colors, including the crimson of Alabama, have tipped their collective caps to the talented quarterback from Gainesville.
Wait until next year.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.