Georgia vs. Georgia Tech distaste, with a little Lewis Grizzard love for Tech
Please pardon that subjects will bounce all over the place. I apologize in advance to the editor who might do best to edit nothing and let me take the blame for meandering.
Georgia vs. Tech is a vast field full of deep rabbit holes.
If you want a comprehensive history that needs to be updated look for the 1987 “Clean Old-Fashioned Hate: Georgia vs. Georgia Tech” by Bill Cromartie. It is 512 pages and out of print.
At 2 p.m., on Friday, Dec. 21, 2018, I phoned legendary Georgia Tech player and coach Pepper Rodgers at his Reston Virginia home to interview him for a Lewis Grizzard book I was starting to write. Vince Dooley said I should talk to Pepper, yet I had no idea what he would say about Lewis. Pepper and I spoke for over 90 minutes.
Pepper said, “I almost made a Tech fan out of Lewis when I was coaching. When Tech did not renew my contract, Lewis could go back to making fun of Tech again.”
The most intense Georgia vs. Georgia Tech hatred most still living will remember was when Bobby Dodd was the coach at Tech. Yet Lewis Grizzard and Bobby Dodd were friends.
“I was never a night owl barfly like Lewis, but we played a lot of tennis together,” Pepper said. “Lewis was often my doubles partner against Bobby Dodd and Bitsy Grant at Bitsy’s tennis center on Northside Drive.”
The night owl barfly comment was one of several less than completely true things Pepper said. Pepper was on occasion a barroom brawler. Lewis was rarely that, though some brawlers chased overserved but pacifist Lewis out of bars.
Pepper said he was a pretty good tennis player for a football coach, and Lewis was an OK tennis player for a newspaperman. Bobby Dodd was a great tennis player for a football coach and Bitsy Grant was a professional tennis player.
That did not stop Lewis from upping wagers. Tennis was one sport Lewis did not try to play overserved, yet he gambled on everything.
Pepper had to tell Lewis:
“Upping the stakes against these two, the behinder we get ain’t gonna make us any less behind. Grizzard, shut up and just play.”
New Falcons head coach Arthur Smith revealed that Pepper was his childhood football mentor from their days in Memphis (where Pepper once was the head coach of the USFL team). Perhaps this will bode well for the Falcons’ future. Maybe the Falcons will even draft UGA players for a change.
Lewis briefly wrote for the Falcons and said:
“Writing PR for the Falcons was like writing PR for the Italian military during World War II.”
Lewis and Pepper were huge Elvis fans. They were on vacation together when someone announced from a bandstand that Elvis had died. That put a funk on their vacation.
Pepper had to end our call with a comment like this:
“Peter, please call me back. We have 30 people coming over soon for a Christmas dinner party, and if I don’t end this call to help my wife, she is gonna kill me.”
If I host a Christmas dinner party for 30 at age 67 or 77, I will be happy. Pepper and his wife did that when he was 87.
Sadly, I never called Pepper back. He left us on May 14, 2020 after a fall at that same Reston, Virginia home. I gather he and Lewis will soon play Elvis’ Christmas Album in Heaven.
* * * * *
I attended the 2019 game at the North Avenue Trade School and took a photo of a sign on the field that warned:
“Please refrain from running or playing on the grass.”
Fortunately Tech obliged, as the Dawgs beat the bees 52-7, UGA’s biggest win ever over their state rival.
This week someone sent me a photo of the Interstate 75-85 Exit 250 sign that says:
- Tenth St
The Department of Transportation forgot to include:
Worst of all about Tech fans is that they whine. They whine even after the few games Tech wins.
No Georgia fan has ever whined once.
(That line should stir the pot in comments that will follow this column.)
* * * * *
In 2020 Georgia did not play Tech due to COVID for the first time in eons, for which bees should have been grateful. Yet they whined.
Were Lewis alive he might have written:
“Tech, did you intend to make Georgia’s balls slippery with all the Clearasil you give to players?”
In 1971 Lewis spoke to a now defunct Tech Touchdown Club. The President wrote to Lewis:
“Mr. Grizzard, I know all you wanted for your time is a 6-pack of beer. But we enclose a $100 check for your favorite charity.”
That club is no doubt defunct because Tech so rarely scores touchdowns.
In 1984 the bees upset the Dawgs in Athens. The following Monday Lewis Grizzard wrote one of the most original and memorable columns in sports journalism history. The headline:
Followed by inches of blank space.
The Grizzard equivalent of “If you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything.” See, UGA men are gentlemen, not whiners.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution Editor Jim Minter got calls from editors in Los Angeles and Seattle asking, “what the Hell is this about?”
Minter told them:
“Don’t ask me. Ask the syndicate you pay for Lewis’s column. Everyone in the South knows what the Hell this is about.”
Other Grizzard Tech lines:
“I don’t hate Tech. I have a friend who hates them.”
“Tech was probably the finest trade school on North Avenue before DeVry showed up.”
Was there ever a DeVry Tech on North Avenue? Do we care?
“I tried to get into Tech, but they declined my application. When I asked why they said I did not have enough pimples.”
“I really have no bias against Tech. I do not give a damn who beats them.”
Saturday, Georgia will beat them.
Go You Hairy Dawgs! Wreck Tech!