It's a great time to be a Georgia Bulldog.
I realize that I just lost my readers who are Tech fans - both of them - but let's face it. It really is. I don't want to bore you non-Bulldogs with the gory details, but bear with me. My point isn't about "Glory, Glory" here. It really isn't.
For those of you who may not know or remember - or care - I have graduated from the University of Georgia two or three times, so far. Currently, two of my three children and all of my money go to UGA, so I will admit that I am completely partial when it comes to singing the praises of my alma mater, but it has been a great spring.
People all over the country have begun to notice what a fine academic institution we are and it has been well documented that it is getting harder and harder and harder to be admitted to the school. But to quote the legendary Bear Bryant, nobody ever seems to want to rally around a math class. People do, however, want to rally around athletic teams, and Georgia's have been superb this year.
Let's face it. Who would have ever thought that the men's basketball team would follow up the football team's magical stretch run by claiming the SEC Tournament championship? The Gym Dawgs won their umpteenth straight national crown and the tennis team won their second.
And if all that weren't enough, the football team, which everybody knows is still king of any and every Athens hill is about to begin the season as a consensus No. 1 in the land. I picked up one of those pre-season magazines just this week, in fact, and Lindy's predicted that Georgia would beat Southern Cal in the National Championship game, and that Knowshon Morino would win the Heisman Trophy and that Matt Stafford was the first choice as running mate for Obama and McCain and Clinton.
None of that stuff is what makes me so proud to be Bulldog this week. Lots of schools have high academic standards and lots of schools put together runs of athletic success. Not many schools, however, have a head football coach who has spent his off-season like our guy, Mark Richt.
Now keep in mind, the off-season for a college head coach, particularly one at a school with such a high-profile program, isn't like the off-season for, say, a high school history teacher. I walked out of my school Wednesday and won't have to hit a lick at a snake until August.
If Mark Richt has more than two weeks he can call his very own between the Sugar Bowl and Georgia Southern, I'd be amazed. Well, he just had two weeks and look at what he did with them.
He went to Honduras, for starters, along with 20 of his players - and did hard work in the hot sun for people who don't have much of anything. Mark Richt, the man who is the most visible person in Athens, who has the world at his fingertips, spent his summer vacation helping folks who will never be able to repay him in any way - although I'm betting he would argue that they already have. And the lessons learned by the young men who accompanied him will last far longer than anything they pick up studying a blocking scheme or zone coverage.
And after a trip like that, what do you do for an encore? Well, if you are Coach Richt, you get on a plane and head into a war zone - doing without rest and sleep and depriving yourself of precious time with your own family to remind those who are serving in harm's way that there are folks back home who appreciate the sacrifices they are making.
Oh, yeah. And then you come home and give a briefing on your trip to the president of the United States. That's what Mark Richt did.
It's funny how things work in life. In the middle of last football season, there were idiots out there who wanted to run Richt out of town on a rail because his team lost to Tennessee and barely beat Vanderbilt. A couple of months later his team was ranked second in the land and he probably could have been elected governor - if just the red and black faithful were allowed to vote. But he was the same man after the Tennessee game that he was after the Hawaii game - and to use Porterdale vernacular, he was "much a man" at that.
We may or may not run the table and win the mythical national football championship next fall, but whether we do or whether we don't, we have a head coach who is a winner in a far more important arena.
I am proud to say, How 'bout that Dog!
Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.