Gainesville’s Georgia fans are finding themselves in a tough spot: They love their team and they’re only an hour from the College Football Playoff national championship, but they can’t imagine dropping the cash needed to get into the stadium on Monday.
But with 37 years between now and Georgia’s last championship, fans aren’t letting the generational moment go by.
Over on Springdale Drive, Georgia megafan John Lilly III won’t just be watching a football game on Monday — he’ll be continuing a deep family tradition that began decades earlier.
He’ll be watching the game with his son, John Lilly IV, just as he watched the 1980 championship game against Notre Dame with his own father, John Lilly II, in Jonesboro.
“We planned it that way because we won the national championship in 1981, when I was 10, and I cried. I guarantee you we win it again and I’ll cry 37 years later — but I’ll have my son with me this time,” Lilly III said on Thursday, decked out in Georgia gear from head to toe, from bowtie to coat to wristwatch. “It will mean a lot to me to have him there with me.”
Lilly III graduated from the University of Georgia in 1992. He played for the Bulldog basketball team in his years at UGA and now works for wealth management firm Dominguez & Jones in Gainesville.
So, what’s going to happen in Atlanta on Monday?
“A Bulldog win. A Bulldog win all the way,” Lilly III said, resolute. “We’re going to step up to the plate, and our seniors are going to lead the way. It’s going to magical. I can’t wait. My whole street will be watching … we’ll probably meet in the middle of the street as soon as the game is over and yell and scream.”
While the Lilly family prays their way through the game from home on Monday, one Gainesville growler bar is getting into game day a bit early.
Tap It on Thompson Bridge Road is throwing a tailgate party at 4 p.m. Saturday and offering Georgia fans free hot dogs, burgers and wings and unlimited pints and flights.
“Saturday is the Falcons game, so we thought we would do kind of like a pregame for that game,” said Tap It spokeswoman Ashley Bates.
Tap It will be offering Southern Brewing Hobnail IPA, Creature Comforts Tropicalia, Good People Brewing IPA and Fairhope Brewing Causeway IPA on Saturday.
But fans will still get some Georgia-Alabama action on Saturday when they play each other in basketball. That game starts at noon Saturday.
And on Monday, a few sports-heavy restaurants will be having extended hours to accommodate people watching the game, including both Mellow Mushroom on Green Street and Loco’s Grill and Pub on Enota Drive.
Georgia fans will be able to mix the game and cycling on Monday at Wrenched Bicycles, which is usually closed on Mondays during the winter but is opening for the game at 7 p.m.
“We’ve had a lot of people wanting to know if we would open up and do the game here,” said shop owner Todd Berry. “... Everybody is going to hang out and have a beer and hopefully watch Georgia beat Alabama.”
Berry said he’s expecting a good crowd on Monday, but not everybody will be hardcore cyclists and that there’s a good mix of clientele. He’ll have two televisions set up in the shop on Broad Street.