gil column

The view from mine and Laura Beth's seats at the 2007 Georgia-Alabama game in Tuscaloosa. Tabby and Jeb were on the opposite side on about the 20-yard line. 

Children have been born and advanced all the way to middle school without seeing Georgia defeat Alabama on the football field, though there have been some heartbreakingly-close calls mixed in there if you’re a UGA fan. This Saturday’s No. 2 versus No. 3 matchup in Bryant-Denny Stadium marks Georgia’s first trip to Tuscaloosa since Sept. 22, 2007, which also happens to be the last time the Dawgs won the conference meeting. On that date 13 years ago, four friends, including yours truly, set off for Tuscaloosa to watch what half of us felt was a great football game. Georgia beat Alabama 26-23 in overtime after Matthew Stafford found Mikey Henderson for a touchdown pass up the left sideline. 

Since we all witnessed what is basically history at this point, I decided to get a group message between the four of us together to reminisce about the 24-hour college football road trip. What follows is a transcription of that group message that helped me remember things I had long forgotten — some funny, and some just plain youthful ignorance. The cast of characters includes me, a UGA freshman at the time and chief driver. Tabby Binion, who would still be known as Tabby Gay for a few more years. Having grown up a Georgia fan, Tabby went over to the dark side for a while and became a temporarily-brainwashed ‘Bama supporter. Thank goodness, she has since come back to the light. Next up on our trip is her husband (boyfriend at the time) and my good friend, Jeb Binion. I would go on to be a groomsman in his and Tabby’s wedding and he would do the same in mine. Jeb was a high school senior when we headed to Tuscaloosa, and he and I were the two Georgia fans on this excursion. Finally, there’s Laura Beth Harpe, whose last name was Simpson at the time of this story. After Tabby’s return to sanity a few years later, Laura Beth turned out to be the only tried-and-true ‘Bama fan among us. While her team lost, she’s had plenty to celebrate since, and did come away from our trip with a revelation. Like Jeb, Laura Beth was a high school senior when we made the long trek to Tide country. Let’s get into it, shall we?

First things first. 

GP: Laura Beth, you and your husband have a son named Bryant. Where did you guys get that name?

LBH: Do I have to answer that?

GP: Yes. 

LBH: The week before Bryant was born, we hadn’t decided on a name. I actually googled Nick Saban’s whole name to get inspiration, and his middle name is literally Lou.

GP: This somehow keeps being better.

LBH: That was a no. I suggested looking up Bear Bryant’s whole name, and his name is Paul William and we didn’t like it, but then I said Bryant and it just stuck.

GP: Now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about Sept. 23, 2007. I guess we went to Tuscaloosa the day of the ‘Bama-Georgia game because Jeb played and Laura Beth cheered at games the night before?

LBH: Yeah that sounds right. After looking at photos, Tabby and I wore different outfits in the car versus at the game. This is an important detail. We couldn’t get our T-shirt dresses from Target wrinkled on the drive. I remember stopping at a gas station to change.

GP: Yep, I remember that now.

LBH: This is JOURNALISM honey.

GP: Only the hard-hitting stuff.

LBH: I think we paid like $60 for parking in someone’s front yard.

JB: I remember parking at some stranger’s house for $30 by those railroad tracks.

GP: We're getting conflicting reports on parking prices.

JB: We wouldn’t have paid $60. 

GP: I would hope not, but we were probably willing to pay anything after driving around for so long. It also took a while to get to the stadium from where we parked.

TB: I called [redacted] to ask him where to go and he sent us all around the world. We walked forever to get to the stadium that was literally right next to where we parked.

JB: Yeah [redacted] took us all around Tuscaloosa to get to where we wanted to be. I told you not to call him, Tabby.

GP: We have very little about the actual game right now.

LBH: During the game, we walked down to the field and watched from there for a little while. I have a photo with Big Al (Alabama’s mascot). 

JB: Didn’t it rain? I remember me and Tabby being right up under the next level (we were seated separately).

GP: I don't think it rained.

JB: I think it was a light rain.

TB: Yeah I remember feeling lucky that we were right underneath roof thing.

LBH: I do think it rained because my hair looks so terrible in these photos from post-game.

TB: Laura Beth, are you sure that’s not just because we had no idea how to do our hair?

LBH: Hahahaha I guess that’s possible.

GP: How many times do y'all reckon they played “Sweet Home Alabama?”

TB: Probably a billion.

JB: And those stupid white pom poms.

GP: I could not see the game-winning play from our seats. I only knew he caught it because I saw the Georgia sideline going nuts.

JB: Tabby and I were standing on the fence by the field when he caught it.

GP: How did everyone feel about the outcome?

TB: I remember not caring too much because I just wanted Jeb to be happy. Kinda pathetic now that I think about it. Good thing I married him.

JB: I was pumped. Pretty sure that was my first UGA game I had ever been to.

GP: Yeah I had never watched Georgia win on the road in person before, so that was really cool.

LBH: I had very low expectations. Alabama sucked so much before that, so I didn’t really know if we would win. Plus, I was with my friends so it was more about the experience, and it was my first time in Tuscaloosa. Not to be cheesy, but I do remember the moment I walked on campus there I knew that’s where I wanted to go to college.

TB: I agree. Just us being there together and it being so many firsts was more important than the outcome. Now if ‘Bama would have won and Georgia lost, that would have been miserable.

GP: Yeah, Jeb and I are pretty sore losers. What about the trip home that night after the game?

TB: Of course you didn’t want to spend the night. What were you trying to get back home to Gil?

GP: Coming back that night is on me. I didn't want to wake up in Tuscaloosa Sunday, drive back to Sparta then to Athens all in the same day.

TB: Now that is logical thinking - now that I have an adult brain. That night though I remember we were all pissed because we wanted to stay. Our moms were all freaking out about us driving all that way through the night. I remember stopping at Waffle House thinking that eating was going to wake us up. Not the case. I looked down and was driving 50 on the interstate.

LBH: I told my mom we were going to the game, but she thought it was in Athens until I called her at like 3 a.m. and said we were back in Georgia.

GP: I had forgotten that completely. Please thank your mother for what was probably a much needed wake-up laugh. 

LBH: Did we consume any food on this trip other than Waffle House? I have no memory of eating in Tuscaloosa.

GP: I was just thinking the same thing. I sure don’t remember eating anything else. Concession stand maybe? I know B-D was a Pepsi stadium.

TB: I don’t know about the food situation, but I do remember seeing Bev (our friends’ mother) on her morning walk when we got back to Sparta. 

GP: God bless Bev. Thus ends our epic college football road trip. Any predictions for this Saturday’s Georgia-Alabama game?

LBH: Alabama wins a low-scoring, close game 24-17.

TB: Low score. Dawgs on top. Because I just can’t say ‘Bama.

JB: 17-14, Dawgs on top.

GP: And I’ve got Georgia winning 24-21. Thank you all very much for participating in this. May the best team win Saturday. Go Dawgs. 

TB: Go Dawgs. 

JB: Go Dawgs. 

LBH: Roll Tide!

GP, TB and JB: Gross.

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