Category: Sports

New Football League Has Successful Kickoff (without a kickoff)

The new Alliance of American Football (AAF) made its debut over the weekend and was surprisingly successful. The league, which features a few different rule changes including no kickoffs, had higher television ratings than other sports they were competing with. Early reviews have been favorable as they drew 2.9 million fans for the Saturday televised game for CBS. It’s still early to decide what that means but it is always good to get off to a good start.

Here are the results of the games that were played:

Orlando Apollos 40, Atlanta Legends 6

The Apollos were led by their coach Steve Spurrier and a defense that stifled the Legends. They held Atlanta to just 162 yards after the opening drive of the game, forced four turnovers and never let Legends’ quarterback Matt Simms to get in sync.

San Antonio Commanders 15, San Diego Fleet 6

The Commanders opened their season in front of 27,857 fans at the Alamodome as quarterback Logan Woodside completed 18 of 36 passes for 255 yards and two interceptions. The Commanders’ defense had six sacks and snagged three inceptions while limiting the Fleet to 295 yards of total offense.

Birmingham Iron 26, Memphis Express 0

The Iron and Express started out as a defensive struggle for about three quarters before they took control with the running of former NFL running back Trent Richardson scoring twice and the Iron defense shutting down Express quarterback Christian Hackenberg. It was announced that the Pittsburgh Steelers have become an affiliate of the Iron. This means that former NFL players who most recently played for the Steelers will be allocated to the Iron.

Arizona Hotshots 38, Salt Lake Stallions 22

With most of the other AAF games being defensive games, the Hotshots and Stallions put up the points. The Hotshots pulled away in the third quarter to take a 35-16 lead. Hotshots quarterback John Wolford and receiver Rashad Ross connected for 103 yards along with two touchdowns in the games. Wolford’s touchdown pass to Jhurell Presley made it a 19-point game as the Hotshots pulled away.

Week 1 Standings:

  • Eastern Division
    • Orlando (1-0)
    • Birmingham (1-0)
    • Atlanta (0-1)
    • Memphis (0-1)
  • Western Division

    • Arizona (1-0)
    • San Antonio (1-0)
    • Salt Lake (0-1)
    • San Diego (0-1)

Week 2 Schedule:

  • Salt Lake at Birmingham
  • Arizona at Memphis
  • Orlando at San Antonio
  • Atlanta at San Diego
Advertisements

Will The AAF Succeed?

aaf_leagueThis weekend a new professional football league will kick off their inaugural season.  The Alliance of American Football (AAF) opens business with teams in Atlanta, Orlando, Memphis, Birmingham, San Antonio, Salt Lake City, San Diego and Phoenix.  The AAF is hoping to fill the football void now that the National Football League (NFL) season is over.  This new league isn’t the first to try playing during the NFL’s offseason.  Several other leagues have tried and failed.

The United States Football League (USFL) was probably the most successful spring football league which was not associated with the NFL.  The played three seasons from 1983-1985.  The league made an immediate impact as they signed some of the top college talent when they signed three consecutive Heisman Trophy winners Herschel Walker, Doug Flutie and Mike Rozier. Other notable players/coaches included:   George Allen, Jim Kelly, Marv Levey, Steve Young and Reggie White.  The only radical rule difference was that the USFL adopted the two-point conversion.  The NFL did not start the two-point conversion until 1994.

Most people say that the reason that the league failed was when Donald Trump became owner of the New Jersey Generals and pushed for the league to move to a fall schedule to compete with the NFL.  The USFL also filed antitrust lawsuit against the NFL and won the suit but was only awarded $3.76 in damages.  The league was not able to recover and folded before it could move to the fall in 1986.  Many football experts feel that if the USFL had not deviated from their spring schedule that they would have lasted longer.

Perhaps the most successful off-season league was when the NFL backed the World League of American Football/NFL-Europe.  The league kicked off as the World League of American Football (WLAF) in 1991 with ten (10) teams in North America, Canada and Europe.  This league served mostly as a developmental league for the NFL.  After the 1992 season, the league suspended play for two seasons.  The league had better success with their Europe franchises than those in North America so when the league returned for the 1995 season, the league focused more on the European teams.  In 1998 they changed the league name to NFL-Europe.  Unfortunately, the league was terminated after the 2007 season at the league was losing about $30 million a season.

The first edition of the XFL played in the spring/summer of 2001.  The league was the idea of WWE guru Vince McMahon.  The league only lasted one season.  The league was known more about entertainment rather than the quality of play on the field.   The XFL secured a television contract with NBC after that network lost their NFL games.  The XFL had some interesting rules such as the opening scramble instead of a coin toss to determine possession.  Players lined up at their 30-yard line and raced to recover the ball at midfield.  The XFL also eliminated the kick for point after touchdowns with the option of a one, two or three-point conversions depending on distance from the goal line.  If a punt travel at least 25 yards, the kicking team could recover to gain possession.  There was also no fair catches allowed.    After losing $35 million dollars, the league folded after one season.  The new XFL is scheduled to come back in 2020.

A couple of other leagues failed to kickoff.  One was called the Professional Spring Football League (PSFL).   The league was scheduled to begin in 1992 with ten teams.  Each team had already been in training camp and trimming down their rosters in preparation for the season.  The league folded just 10 days before the season opener.  The league’s championship game was to be called the “Red, White and Blue Bowl” and was scheduled to be played at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC on July 5, 1992.

Another rather interesting attempt was called the All American Football League (AAFL) which was scheduled to start in the spring of 2007.  The league was hoping to appeal to college football fans with teams located in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Michigan, Tennessee and Texas.  The teams would play in college football stadiums during the spring and players had to have a four-year university degree to be eligible to play.  Teams also did not have nicknames but instead adopted their home state logo for their helmets.  On March 13, 2008 the league announced that the 2008 season would not take place and hoped to begin in 2009; however, they never got off the ground.  It was reported that the league lost some of their major investors which led to the demise of the proposed league.

It is hard to say whether or not the AFF will succeed where these other leagues failed.  Many of the cities have been burned repeatedly by failed teams and leagues of the past.  It will be a difficult sell.  It is very difficult for leagues to survive the finances needed to sustain them.  With the AAF working with the NFL, this could be a significant advantage.  Places franchises in cities without an NFL franchise is also a good idea.  Only two of the AAF’s eight teams (Atlanta and Arizona) play in current NFL markets.

Personally, I don’t feel like this league will fare differently than any of the other leagues before them.  Although football is a popular sport here in America, I think most fans need a break from their sport to recover and get ready for the next season.  Mentally most fans need a break from it.  If the NFL truly wants a developmental league, they need to partner with a league which plays during the same time like minor leagues operate in the baseball.  I have always felt that an “NFL2” league could operate in non-NFL cities as a developmental league for the NFL.  The championship game could be called the “SuperCup” and played the week before the Super Bowl and eliminate the Pro Bowl.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Could Nashville Host The Super Bowl?

nashville_sbIn April, Nashville will host the National Football League (NFL) draft where all 32 teams will pick players from college. The talk this week has been about whether or not Nashville could host the Super Bowl.

My answer is:  maybe.

Nashville could host the Super Bowl if:

They build a new stadium. Yes, Nashville is in the South but it isn’t far enough South where you would want to play the Super Bowl outside in Nissan Stadium. It is bitterly cold here this week and not exactly the ideal place to play the game. Nashville would need to build a dome or retractable roof stadium. I think that would benefit the city in many ways since it would also give Nashville a larger concert venue. The only hitch is how to pay for it. The city is already grappling with building a stadium for the Major League Soccer team set to begin in 2020. Building a stadium is a huge deal if Nashville hopes to host a Super Bowl.

Have a better transit system. Nashville is a mess when you need to attend events downtown and when you venture out to do so, you’d better pack some patience and some money because it’s not going to be easy or cheap.  The city does not have any form of easy transit system.  The downtown area is very compact and not as spread out as it is in other host cities.  To add to the traffic headache, the streets are cluttered with other vehicular irritants such as pedal taverns, electric scooters, party wagons and ignorant pedestrians.  Without a serious transit system in and out of downtown, there is no easy way to manage the crowds for a Super Bowl game in the Music City.

Remember that I mentioned it wouldn’t be cheap?  Let me just say that the hotels and parking vendors can jack up the prices to the ridiculous level.  They are good at price gouging for special events.

If there is one thing that is in Nashville’s favor, it is that the city knows how to entertain and throw a party.   The NFL would definitely give the Country Music Capital of the world another reason to party. There is never a lack of entertainment here and the Super Bowl would another chance for the city to be in the world’s spotlight.

There are also some other rather interesting things that the NFL requires from cities who desire to host the Super Bowl.  For Minneapolis to host last year’s Super Bowl, here are some of the requirements they had to meet:

  • Stadium must have a minimum of 70,000 fixed seats, luxury boxes and enough hotel rooms throughout the city.
  • Two top quality bowling lanes
  • Two top quality 18-hole golf courses in near proximity to the host venue
  • Team hotels must subscribe to the NFL Network for at least one year leading up to the Super Bowl
  • League is given priority over all other ice and snow project removal.
  • Removal of field after Super Bowl be at no cost to the NFL.
  • Full tax exemption from city, state and local taxes on tickets sold to the game and events leading up to it.
  • If cellphone strength at the team hotels isn’t strong enough, the host committee “will be responsible [for erecting] a sufficient number of portable cellular towers.”
  • The league has the option to install ATMs at the stadium that accept NFL preferred credit and debit cards, and the option to cover up ATMs that don’t accept those preferred cards.
  • The host city will pay all travel and expenses for a “familiarization trip” for the league  to inspect the region ahead of the Super Bowl.
  • Local media is also asked to provide “significant advertising and promotional time” — for free, of course — in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.

If Nashville truly wants a legitimate shot at hosting a Super Bowl, they have a long time to do as the next Super Bowl game would be available in 2025.  The future hosts will be:  Miami, Florida (2020), Tampa, Florida (2021), Los Angeles, California (2022), Glendale, Arizona (2023) and New Orleans, Louisiana (2024).

I would not count on Nashville being considered as a host for the Super Bowl until they build a new stadium and improve transit downtown.  There are too many other cities that are better equipped to handle the big game and everything that goes with it.

 

Football Season To Continue After Super Bowl With AAF

aaf
Steve Spurrier, Aaron Murray, Trent Richardson and Nick Novak are players set to lead the new Alliance of American Football

It looks like the new Alliance of American Football (AAF) will become a reality as the league’s eight teams are currently in training camps as they prepare to kickoff their inaugural seasons on the Sunday after the Super Bowl.

The Atlanta Legends, Orlando Apollos, Birmingham Iron, Memphis Express, Arizona Hotshots, San Diego Fleet, San Antonio Commanders and Salt Lake Stallions will launch this new league.

I’m not sure what kind of quality football that the AAF is going to offer football fans. Judging by the Twitter posts, most of the videos are of players showing off their dance moves. This makes me skeptical about the actual quality of play. I also wonder if fans will show up to outdoor stadiums during February and March

Week 1 games will be played on February 9 & 10. Atlanta will open their season at Orlando, San Diego at San Antonio, Memphis at Birmingham and Salt Lake will play at Arizona.

When I look at the rosters of the teams, I really don’t see a lot of people that I recognize. Here are some of the notable players that are listed for each team:

  • Arizona Hot Shots
    • Coach Rick Neuheisel
    • QB Trevor Knight (College: Oklahoma, Texas A&M Pro: Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons)
  • Atlanta Legends
    • Coach Kevin Coyle
    • QB Aaron Murray (College: Georgia Pro:  Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams
    • QB Matt Simms (College: Tennessee Pro: New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Atlanta Falcons)
    • WR Stephen Hill (College: Georgia Tech Pro: New York Jets, Carolina Panthers)
  • Birmingham Iron
    • Coach Tim Lewis
    • QB Blake Sims (College:  Alabama Pro: Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
    • QB Scott Tolzien (College:  Wisconsin Pro:  San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts)
    • RB Trent Richardson (College:  Alabama Pro:  Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, Oakland Raiders, Baltimore Ravens)
    • CB JaCorey Shepherd (College:  Kansas Pro:  Philadelphia Eagles, San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers)
    • K Nick Novak (College:  Maryland Pro:  Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers, New York Jets, Houston Texans, Los Angeles Chargers)
  • Memphis Express
    • Coach Mike Singletary
    • QB Christian Hackenberg (College:  Penn State Pro:  New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals)
    • QB Zach Mettenberger (College: LSU Pro:  Tennessee Titans, San Diego Chargers, Pittsburgh Steelers)
    • RB Zac Stacy (College:  Vanderbilt Pro:  St. Louis Rams, New York Jets)
    • WR Chris Givens (College:  Wake Forest Pro:  St. Louis Rams, Baltimore Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles)
  • Orlando Apollos
    • Coach Steve Spurrier
    • QB Garrett Gilbert (College:  Texas, SMU Pro:  St. Louis Rams, New England Patriots, Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders, Carolina Panthers)
    • QB Stephen Morris (College:  Miami Pro:  Jacksonville Jaguars, Philadelphia Eagles, Indianapolis Colts, Washington Redskins, Seattle Seahawks, Houston Texans)
    • WR Frankie Hammond (College:  Florida Pro:  Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets)
    • DB Will Hill (College:  Florida Pro:  New York Giants, Baltimore Ravens)
  • San Antonio Commanders
    • Coach Mike Riley
    • RB David Cobb (College:  Minnesota Pro:  Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears)
    • RB Daryl Richardson (College:  Abilene Christian Pro:  St. Louis Rams, New York Jets, Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts)
  • Salt Lake Stallions
    • Coach Dennis Erickson
    • QB B.J. Daniels (College:  South Florida Pro:  San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Houston Texans, New York Giants, Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons)
    • QB Garrett Grayson (College:  Colorado State Pro:  New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos)
    • RB Matt Asiata (College:  Utah Pro:  Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions)
  • San Diego Fleet
    • Coach Mike Martz
    • QB Josh Johnson (College:  San Diego Pro:  Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets, Indianapolis Colts, Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens, New York Giants, Houston Texans, Oakland Raiders)
    • RB Bishop Sankey (College:  Washington Pro:  Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings)

This new league has the potential for filling the void of football when the Super Bowl ends but we will have to wait and see what kind of quality of product these teams will put on the field.  While the league won’t directly compete with the National Football League (NFL), the survival will depend on how well they are received by football fans – especially in the eight cities which will have AAF teams.  Many of the cities have been the victim of past failed leagues and could be more apprehensive in embracing yet another football team.  I think the league did a good job putting teams in San Diego and Atlanta which San Diego losing the Chargers and Atlanta desperate for a consistent winner.

If nothing else, the AAF could partner with the NFL in becoming a developmental league while former players could use it as a way back into the league.  If the AAF takes hold, they would do well to become a true developmental league and place franchises in markets without NFL franchises.

They need to get off to a good start with the new re-creation of the XFL set to be their competition in 2020.

Bored With Bowls

bowl gamesSomeone asked me last night:

“Is this the playoffs?”

“No, this is the Sugar Bowl.”

“What are they playing for?”

“To win the Sugar Bowl.”

“Oh”

Now that we have the four-team College Football Playoff system, it seems that the other bowl games are now nothing more than consolation prizes for the teams which didn’t make the four-team cut.

I have heard many commentators and read articles from writers who poo-poo the idea of expanding the current playoff system.  I really don’t understand why not and I have heard all the arguments.  I know even with an 8-team field that there would still be controversy on who you would pick to be in it.  It’s true that even with the NCAA Basketball Tournament there is still debate there too even with a 68-team field, but you’re going to have the debate regardless on how many teams you put in the postseason.  That still doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a playoff system.

I have always been an advocate of an 8-team playoff system which would give automatic berths to the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC champions and three at-large berths to the next highest ranked teams.  This season it would have been Clemson (ACC), Oklahoma (Big 12), Ohio State (Big Ten), Washington (Pac-12) and Alabama (SEC) as the conference champions and then the three at-large berths to Notre Dame, Georgia and UCF who are the next highest ranked teams.

If you really wanted to be completely inclusive, you could give automatic berths to ALL of the FBS conference champions, not just the “power” conferences so then you would have a 12 conference champions when you add the AAC, C-USA, MAC, MWC and Sun Belt then four at-large berths to make it a 16-team field.   I’m not really sure we are ready for that but then that would create yet another controversial subject.

The FCS, which is the next division of the college football system, has a 24-team playoff field.

Bowl games have become the NIT-Tournament of college football.  I have to be honest and wonder if players are truly bragging about winning the “Belk Bowl” or the “Cheez-It Bowl”.  Bowl committees don’t really want to see the playoffs expanded unless they are included in the playoff games as well as trying to hold onto the traditions of the past.  Even with an 8-team playoff you can still keep them in a bowl-format with four quarterfinal games and two semifinal games.  This would add four bowl games to the playoffs.  What’s not to like about that?

Back in the old days we had to wait until after the bowl games were played to find out who the AP and UPI would vote as the champions.  And if the polls disagreed then fans would argue the entire off-season on who was the TRUE champion.  At least now we KNOW for certainty who the true champion of college football will be.  We may not agree on the teams included in the football “final four” but at least we have a real champion now.

Is there a perfect solution?  Probably not but I think just one more expansion of the current playoff system would make the post season a more realistic playoff.

 

 

When Your Team Loses

sad-sports-fan-609x419I am sitting here at my computer on another Friday night.  Tonight there are no high school football games for me to stream.  The season is over.  It came to a bitter end on Tuesday night when my team lost the state championship game in overtime 47-41 after rallying from a 35-7 deficit in the third quarter.

I hate to admit it but I take these losses hard.  I know I shouldn’t take it so personally but that’s just how I am.  It’s never fun when your team loses.  Believe me, I have endured many painful losses from the teams I have supported over the years.  Winning is fun.  Losing is not.

After my team lost Tuesday night, I was physically and emotionally spent.  I was in a fog for a couple of days.  It’s silly, I know, but a person feels what they feel.  Since Tuesday, I have reflected on some of the most bitter loses from my sports teams.

  1. (Football) Super Bowl LI:  New England Patriots 34, Atlanta Falcons 28 – Up to this game I had been a Falcons’ fan most of my life.  The Falcons blew a 28-3 lead in this game.  I have not really recovered from this game and have not followed the Falcons much since then.   I can’t remember taking a loss as bad as this one.  This one hurt BAD.
  2. (Baseball) 1991 World Series:  Minnesota Twins defeated Atlanta Braves 4 games to 3 – Georgia had some serious Braves’ fever and we all endured the late nights and close games during Atlanta’s incredible run.  Game 7 of the 1991 World Series when Gene Larkin’s single in the 10th inning still remains etched into my pain.
  3. (Football) 2018 College Football National Championship Game:  Alabama Crimson Tide 26, Georgia Bulldogs 23 – This one is still difficult to talk about.  Georgia finally made it the championship game and led the game at halftime 13-0 but I think we all knew that it wasn’t over.  Alabama came back and won it in overtime.
  4. (Hockey) 2017 Stanley Cup Final:  Pittsburgh Penguins defeated Nashville Predators 4 games to 2 – The city of Nashville was rocking as the Predators’ treated us to an incredible run as the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs and took us on a ride to the Stanley Cup final.  Game six was a scoreless tie until Patric Hornqvist scored with 1:35 left in the game. Nashville challenged for goaltender interference, but the on-ice ruling was upheld. Carl Hagelin added an empty net goal with 15 seconds remaining.
  5. (Hockey) 2018 Western Conference Second Round:  Winnipeg Jets defeated Nashville Predators 4 games to 3 – The Predators had the best regular season in the NHL and was poised to bring the Cup to the Music City but were dispatched by the Winnipeg Jets.  My wife and I watched every game of the season.  I didn’t want to hear about winning the “President’s Trophy” or division championship.  It didn’t mean much without winning the Cup.  I have just now been able to get back into the Predators.
  6. (Football) 1999 Georgia High School Association State Football Semifinal:  Lowndes Vikings 31, Northside Warner Robins Eagles 28 – Although Northside was the rival of my team, we were all supporting them in their hopes to win their first state championship.  In the state semifinals which were played at the Georgia Dome, the Eagles jumped out and dominated Lowndes 28-3 in the first half.  The Vikings rallied and handed Northside a bitter defeat.  I think we were all in shock.
  7. (Football) November 10, 1989:  Northside Warner Robins 7, Warner Robins 6 – Warner Robins was ranked #1 in the nation when they played their cross-town rivals in the regular season finale.  Warner Robins scored late but missed the extra point which could have tied the game.  I was at this game and remember rolling around on the ground in disbelief when the extra point went awry.

I could give you three more but it’s too painful.  Let’s just leave it at these.  These are the ones which stick out in my mind and still stir up that bile in my stomach when I recall those memories.  These were truly the agonies of defeat for a sports fan.  Yes, these did hurt and it took me a few days to recover but life goes on and I always seem to find myself back to following them again (except for the Falcons, sorry but that just pushed me over the edge).

Of course none of these bitter losses really affected my life much.  Even when they have won championships the thrill and excitement doesn’t last either.  It usually isn’t long before it’s time for another season to begin and you’re right back where you were before.  I know people who are the fair-weathered fans who support their teams when they are winning.  I’m always amazed at how many Dallas Cowboys fans are around when they are winning and seemingly hard to find when they are having losing seasons.  No, I’m not going to be one to only jump on the bandwagons of winning teams.  That’s no fun either.

Tuesday night is added to my list of being disappointed by my teams but last night I was in Bridgestone Arena watching the Nashville Predators once again and was back into feeling it again.  The energy and excitement is addictive.  It’s hard to give up.  My wife reminded me that sports is a distraction that we need sometimes.  A break from work and daily routines of our lives.

Which fans have suffered the most seasons without a championship?

  1. Arizona Cardinals (70 seasons)
  2. Cleveland Indians (70 seasons)
  3. Sacramento Kings (67 seasons)
  4. Detroit Lions (60 seasons)
  5. Atlanta Hawks (60 seasons)
  6. Texas Rangers (57 seasons)
  7. Minnesota Vikings (56 seasons)
  8. Tennessee Titans (56 seasons)
  9. Los Angeles Chargers (54 seasons)
  10. Cleveland Browns (53 seasons)
  11. Buffalo Bills (52 seasons)
  12. Atlanta Falcons (52 seasons)
  13. Toronto Maple Leafs (51 seasons)
  14. St. Louis Blues (51 seasons)
  15. Phoenix Suns (50 seasons)
  16. Cincinnati Bengals (50 seasons)

There’s always next season…..

 

GHSA State Championship Games: It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

santaToday is an exciting day for me.

No need to panic and check your calendar.  It isn’t Christmas Day yet.

Today is the day of the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) football state championship games.  After the games were delayed due to the Atlanta United Major League Soccer (MLS) team hosting (and winning) the MLS Cup on Saturday, the state football championships will finally kickoff today at the Mercedes Benz Dome.

There are three teams playing today that I have an interest in.  The first one is Warner Robins who will be playing Bainbridge for the Class 5A title, Clinch County will play Irwin County for the Class 1A Public School championship and Northside Warner Robins facing Lee County for the Class 6A crown.  (Of all seasons for both Warner Robins and Northside to play for the title and they are in different classifications!  If you’ve ever attended a Warner Robins-Northside game, you would know what that would be like.)

I know to most people out there this doesn’t mean much to you but for anyone that knows me, this is a pretty big deal.  I am a huge Georgia high school football fan.  Even though I live in Nashville, Tennessee now, thanks to modern technology I can still keep connected to my teams through the SportsMic Radio website/app, Score Atlanta website, Georgia High School Football Daily emails as well as the legendary Tommy Palmer with his podcasts and high school football scoreboard show on Friday nights.

So why Georgia high school football?  How did this obsession get started for me?

My dad was a graduate of Clinch County High School and had played football for the Panthers during his day.  On November 11, 1975 he took me to my first football game at Waycross Memorial Stadium in Waycross, Georgia where Clinch County played Charlton County for the Region 2B title.  It was a cold night but shivering in the cold I was excited as I watched Charlton County edge Clinch County 6-0 in a defensive battle.   During the 1976 season we attended a few more games including the last regular season game when Clinch County played Jeff Davis.  Jeff Davis scored early to take a 6-0 lead and held onto that lead most of the game until the Panthers scored late in the game and made the extra point to win an exciting 7-6 game.

High school football was about the only entertainment I was allowed to participate in since my dad was a preacher and our church had some ridiculous rules against attending professional ball games.  I’m not sure why we never attended any college games but I was okay with being able to go to high school games.

When I started high school in Villa Rica, Georgia, dad would drop me off at the game and pick me up when the game was over.  I loved going to those games.  I remember the night that the football team beat Darlington 20-14 in overtime and then won the next two games to make the playoffs and dethroned the two-time defending state champions East Rome Gladiators in the playoffs.  I tried to play for the football team but my physical abilities were limited so when we moved before my junior year to Savannah, Georgia, I decided to stick to being a fan.  I finished my high school at Tompkins High School in Savannah, Georgia.  I never attended any of their games in person but I would listen on the radio on Friday nights.  Tompkins did pretty well in 1980 (my junior year) with Coach Joseph Turner who was a legend and coaching in his last season.  The team upset heavily favored Coffee County 24-21 in the region playoffs.  During my senior season, Tompkins wasn’t so good.  With a new coach, they dropped to last place.  I began tuning into Savannah Christian games on the radio.  The Raiders played in a strange private school league called the SEAIS which I believe was Southeastern Association of Independent Schools.  The most exciting game was when Savannah Christian scored on the last play of the game against Pinewood Christian and later went on to win the championship over Southland Academy.

My Georgia high school football was put on hold when I joined the United States Air Force (USAF).  In my first season without high school football, I was stationed in Abilene, Texas.  I attended my only game in the home opener for Cooper High School.  Although high school football is huge in Texas, it just wasn’t the same for me.  I had Georgia high school football flowing through my veins.  I spent the next season shivering in the cold at Thule AB, Greenland with my next assignment to be Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Georgia.  A co-worker had been stationed at Robins and told me all about the Warner Robins football team winning national championships in 1976 and 1981 so I was looking forward to getting back to Georgia in 1984.

On November 30, 1984 I finally returned to attend my first football game when Warner Robins hosted the Valdosta Wildcats in the state quarterfinals.  Valdosta shutout Warner Robins that rainy night 28-0 but I was back.  From 1985 to 1991 I attended most of the Warner Robins’ home games and even had season tickets during many of those seasons.  When I got a job with the Macon Telegraph, I had to “work” on Friday nights at other games.  I had a chance to report on a variety of teams in our area although I have to admit that I had a hard time getting into the private school games.  I was excited when I was assigned a Warner Robins game, although I couldn’t show it.  I will tell you that I was scared to death to have to interview Warner Robins’ Coach Robert Davis but he was always nice to me and gave me some good quotes.  When the balance of power shifted to Northside, I would support them in the playoffs when Warner Robins was eliminated.  They had some exciting games too and it was good to see them finally win their first state title in 2006 after so many heartbreaking losses.

clinch_dad
Dad and I watching the 2010 State Championship Game

My dad was the reason I have followed these games over the years.  He passed away last month and before he passed we talked about his Clinch County Panthers and who they were playing in the playoffs.  It is special to me that the last game we attended together was the 2010 State Championship game at the Georgia Dome on December 12, 2010 when the Panthers defeated Savannah Christian 24-14.  That was a special memory and the last Georgia high school football game I attended in person.

Yes, it’s “just” high school football and the players are 16-17 years old playing a game but it has been a large part of my life.  On Friday nights I head back to my room to open my SportsMic app and play on my Bluetooth speakers.  That’s my thing.  Always has been.

Today, it will be a little different.  I will be at work but I will tune into the games and shoo off anyone that wants to bother me.  If the technology works right, I’ll watch the games online from Georgia Public Broadcasting and then turn the volume down to listen to Warner Robins and Northside on SportsMic.

I have come a long way since that first football game on a cold night keeping warm with my tiny hands wrapped around my hot chocolate in Waycross in 1975 but in many ways I haven’t.  I still love the excitement of the game.   Thanks dad for passing this on to me.