New Orleans -- I am writing this from the sixteenth floor of the Howard Johnson Motor Hotel in downtown New Orleans. I can see the top of the Louisiana Superdome from this perch. It looks more like one of those ominous nuclear power plants than a sports stadium. The truth is, the place exploded, what is now four hours ago.
I am no stranger to madness. I have attended an Indianapolis 500 automobile race, the annual salute to mental illness. That was nothing compared to this.
This was wild. This was crazy. This was downright scary at times.
A cop on the floor of the Dome said, "Thank God they ain't armed."
A security man screamed to no one in particular, "I've got the damn president of the United States in here and I can't get him out!"
A female member of the Notre Dame band, holding onto her flute as she surveyed the incredible scene before her, said, "If it meant that much, I'm glad Georgia won."
It meant that much. Grown men cried. A man kissed Georgia defensive coach Erskine Russell squarely on the top of his bald head. Erk just smiled.
I saw a man get down on his fours and bark like a wild dog (dawg) and try to bite passersby. A woman I had never seen before lifted her skirt to show me her underpants. "Georgia" was stitched hip to hip.
Let me take you back to when the playing of the 1981 Sugar Bowl Football game between Georgia and Notre Dame first began to show signs of the subsequent emotional explosion that it became.
New Year's Eve on Bourbon Street. It's the Red Sea. If there are Notre Dame people in town, where are they?
The 1 Bourbon Street Inn, in the very heart of the French Quarter, is packed with Georgians. The third floor balcony is Bulldog Central. The bathtubs in the adjoining rooms are filled with ice and champagne.
The people in the street, thousands of them, scream, "HERSCHEL!"
The people on the balcony respond, "WALKER!"
A chant aimed at what brave or stupid Notre Damers might be in earshot begins:
"YOU GOT THE HUNCHBACK! WE GOT THE TAILBACK!"
"The Pope's a dope" came out a couple of times, too--there's one in every madhouse.
At midnight there was much kissing and hugging and how-'bout-them-dawging and speaking of dogs (dawgs), the Georgia mascot, "Uga," showed up at the party on the third floor Bourbon Street Inn balcony, and I heard one man say to another:
"Hey, how'd your lip get cut?"
To which the second man replied. "I was kissing 'Uga' on the mouth at midnight and he bit me."
When the sun rose on 1981, there were those still partying from the night before. Three hours before kickoff, the city was covered in red. Red hats, red pants, red shirts--red, I was to discover later, underwear as well.
The Game. So close. God bless Mrs. Walker. Thirty seconds are left, Georgia leading, 17-10. Notre Dame can't stop the clock. At :14 showing, the game ends because every Bulldog from Rabun Gap to Tybee Light and Hartwell to Bainbridge has charged onto the floor of the Louisiana Superdome.
They trampled each other. They trampled the players, the coaches, the press, they ripped down a goal post.
The public-address announcer pleaded and pleaded and pleaded: "Please clear the field! PLEASE clear the field!" They turned off the lights, but the Georgia band kept playing, and the people, that delirious mass of people, kept on celebrating.
It got ugly a couple of times. Secret Service men trying to get Jimmy Carter out of the building shoved a few citizens around.
And then there was this group of little girls, the "High Steppers" from Shreveport or someplace, who had competed for the right to perform at the Sugar Bowl. They were cute little girls wearing cowboy hats. They were left out of the pregame show because the teams stayed on the field too long. They were promised they could perform after the game. They lined up, all neat and nice, but there was no way.
One little girl said, "I don't want to go out there. We might get hurt." They finally gave it up and went back to Shreveport. Sad.
But it was also bright and beautiful and boisterous and an All-American sort of thing that other schools have enjoyed, so now it is Georgia's turn to point the finger to the sky. It may be days before the last Bulldog leaves New Orleans. The streets would not be safe Thursday night.
Number One, by God. Number Ever-Lovin'-One. The sign in the Georgia locker room had said it all:
"This one is forever."
|back to Lewis!|