| |Warren St. John at Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer has called the blogosphere's attention to a T-shirt reading "I skip weddings, funerals, and organ transplant surgery for college football." The shirt is available on-line, for those of you who are still looking for last-minute gift ideas for, say, me.
Fortunately, I have never required organ transplant surgery and I have never missed a funeral for a football game. Weddings, however, are another story and this is as good an opportunity as any for me to offer a few tales in order to underscore the point that, before you schedule your wedding, you need to look at a dadgum football schedule.
The Bulldogs play 11 regular season games, sometimes followed by a conference championship game and/or a bowl game. In any given year, the bowl game may be played on a day other than a Saturday. In other words, there are roughly a dozen Saturdays, give or take, on which the 'Dawgs are playing in any particular autumn.
There are 52 weeks in a year. That means you have 40 Saturdays every year on which to get married without it conflicting with a Georgia football game. You can get married anytime between New Year's Day and Labor Day without having to worry about it in the slightest. Every girl aspires to be a "June bride"; you never hear about "November brides." Take the hint, ladies.
I stress this point because, frankly, quite a few of my friends and family members have fouled this one up royally. On August 31, 1996, my old college friend, Alana Aynse (nee Sustrich), got married in Atlanta. That happened to be the day of the Red and Black's home opener between the hedges.
I hadn't missed a home opener in Sanford Stadium since 1986 and I didn't intend to start then. Susan and I went to Alana's wedding, left the reception early, and headed straight to Athens in order to be in our seats before halftime. Susan drove so I could change from my suit to my lucky game day attire in the car. For the record, my streak of consecutive home openers attended now stands at 19 in a row . . . and counting.
It isn't just home openers that I make a point of attending, though. On October 2, 1993, I skipped an utterly forgettable Georgia-Arkansas game in the Classic City in order to be at Lake Blackshear for my grandmother's 75th birthday festivities. I didn't miss another Bulldog home game for the next six years, until my old (and almost ex-) friend, John Hope, asked me to read a Scripture during his wedding ceremony. Hope shrewdly got me to commit to being in his wedding before telling me the date of the ceremony: October 2, 1999 . . . the day of the Georgia-L.S.U. game between the hedges.
I cursed John Hope's name on many on occasion thereafter. Fortunately, we were able to have Larry Munson on in the parking lot while the pictures of the wedding party were being made, in the anteroom where the groomsmen gathered during the ceremony, and downstairs at the reception hall afterwards, so we were able to follow the contest. As soon as the game was over, I went upstairs and told the D.J., who interrupted a dance to inform the assemblage of the Bulldogs' one-point victory.
If you must get married in the fall, there is a right way to do it. My roommate from law school, Pete Allen, got married in November, but he made sure to do it during an open date. Another friend from college, Beth Clark (nee Davis), had to be considerate of both Georgia and Georgia Tech fans in planning her nuptials, so she and her husband, David, chose the one date in the autumn on which neither the Bulldogs nor the Yellow Jackets had a game. Those are the kind of people a man is proud to claim as his friends.
There have even been occasions on which marriages between fans of rival schools (which is a bad enough idea in its own right) have been scheduled on the day of the game between their respective teams. This is sheer insanity and no good can come of it.
I went to law school with a fellow who received his undergraduate degree from Auburn and earned his law degree at Georgia. Naturally, the guests were divided between the groom's Auburn friends and his Georgia friends. The wedding was scheduled for November 16, 1996 . . . the day of the Georgia-Auburn game. That is just asking for a marriage ceremony that turns as ugly as Uma Thurman's from "Kill Bill."
Although the groom had a foot in both camps, his loyalties were squarely with the Plainsmen. At the time the marriage ceremony was concluded, the game was in the second quarter and the Tigers had a commanding lead. Accordingly, after the couple was introduced and the wedding party exited, the preacher informed the attendees of the location of the reception and provided a Georgia-Auburn score update.
If you're reading this weblog, you know what happened next. 1996 was the year that the 'Dawgs tied the War Eagle on the game's final play and sent the contest into extra innings. Georgia prevailed, 56-49, in a quadruple-overtime game. The final overtime period concluded at about the same time that the reception was finishing, so every one of the groom's Bulldog buddies made a point of going over to him and rubbing it in that the Tigers had lost. It served him right.
A similar situation arose when a friend of mine from college married a South Carolina fan. For reasons passing understanding, they chose for their big day the date of the Bulldogs' showdown with the Palmetto State Poultry. I did not attend the wedding, but a mutual friend (and fellow 'Dawg fan) did. That mutual friend is a good deal more accepting than I am of the team affiliations of fans of Georgia's rivals, so, in an effort to strike up a conversation with the groom at the reception, he remarked, "So . . . I hear you're a big Gamecock fan."
The groom, doubtless stricken with the inevitable (and richly deserved) inferiority complex that attaches to a South Carolina fan in the presence of a Georgia man, replied gruffly, "Well, I'm a Gamecock. You can lose the 'fan.'"
When the awkward exchange was over and the bride and groom had moved on to their next conversation, my friend remarked to his companion that perhaps he might also lose the "Game." Happily, the 'Dawgs defeated the Big Chickens that day, 31-7.
Sometimes, though, a game day scheduling conflict can turn out all right in the end. Actually, "sometimes" is putting it too strongly. It happened once.
My wife's younger sister, Joy, met her husband, Craig, at the University of Mississippi, from which they both graduated. Naturally, Craig is a big Ole Miss fan, but his blood kin and relatives by marriage have a variety of team affiliations. Joy and Craig got married on the Saturday after Thanksgiving in 2001 and, when everyone gathered at the home of my parents-in-law on Thanksgiving Day, we all knew one another's school loyalties before we knew one another's names: Craig had on an Ole Miss shirt, his brother had on an Oklahoma shirt, and I was wearing Georgia gear.
At that time, the Egg Bowl was played on Thanksgiving night, so the Saturday presented no scheduling conflict for Joy and Craig. The rest of us, though, found our attentions divided. Craig's brother, Jon, was the best man, but his team, the Sooners, was playing Oklahoma State that day. Craig's grandmother is an O.S.U. fan and his cousins from the Lone Star State are Longhorn boosters. That also happened to be the day of the Georgia-Georgia Tech game.
I arranged for a waiter at the reception (who was listening to the game on a radio back in the kitchen) to bring me periodic score updates from The Flats. The game I was following ended with a Bulldog victory, but Jon was not so lucky: Les Miles's Cowboys beat Bob Stoops's Sooners, knocking O.U. out of the conference and national title hunts.
Because I was greeting guests as they arrived, I did not take my seat until a few moments before the ceremony began. I went to offer my best wishes to Craig before the wedding party began making its way down the aisle and I found Jon sitting, crestfallen, after the final score of the Oklahoma game had come across his sports pager. Desperately clinging to the last strand of hope, Jon muttered something about the possibility that the score had been typed in backwards, but, deep down, he knew that it was not the case.
I tried to cheer Jon up with, oh, say, the fact that his younger brother was about to get married, but it was no use. I thought about taking away his belt and his necktie, but I realized that he was wearing a cummerbund and a clip-on, so I left Jon alone and went to take my seat. Because I was the last one in before the processional began, I sat down in the very back. Immediately, there was an usher at my elbow.
"Did you hear?" he whispered excitedly. "Oklahoma lost! Texas is going to the Big 12 championship game! Can you believe it?"
The ceremony went off without a hitch and, after the first dance and the toast and the cutting of the cake, I slipped off to the car to listen to the final minutes of the Georgia game. When I returned to the reception, I sat at a table with the groom's grandmother and, as the evening wound down, I said to her, "Well, it's been a wonderful day, hasn't it?"
"Yes, it has," she responded, smiling. "I can't believe we beat Oklahoma!"
That was my one good experience with a wedding that took place on the day of a Georgia game. Just as Orlando Cepeda would not use a bat with which he previously had gotten a hit for fear that he had wrung the last hit from the bat, I decided to quit while I was ahead. I told my wife, Susan, after her sister's wedding that I would not attend another marriage ceremony on the day of a Georgia game.
My niece, Katie, is 13 years old and has been forewarned. Fortunately, Katie's father, Travis, co-hosted "The Dawg Show" with me for six years and he will be the one paying for my niece's wedding, so I am confident that she will choose her groom wisely (read: marry a Georgia fan) and look at a football schedule before setting a date.
In short, I am grateful to Warren for making "I skip weddings . . ." gear available to us. Having been there and done that, I might as well get the T-shirt, too.