- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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Every Georgia fan has a list of Bulldogs-related events that they have to see in person at least once in their lifetime.
We at DawgNation recently posed the question to followers on Twitter: "What is on your UGA bucket list?" and received a number of responses. Some responses (stand on the sideline in Jacksonville at a Georgia-Florida game) were more reasonable than others (play golf with Georgia football legend Herschel Walker, reigning Masters champion Bubba Watson and deceased author and proud Bulldog Lewis Grizzard), but who are we to tell people what to dream?
At any rate, we decided to put together our own bucket list enumerating the sights and scenes that Georgia football fans can reasonably hope to experience at some point. Feel free to share your own:
1. Experience a game at Sanford Stadium: Ground Zero for the Georgia football fan experience is to experience a Saturday in Athens, watching the Bulldogs play between Sanford Stadium's famed privet hedges.
There is no shortage of stadium traditions and features that make Georgia home games a unique experience. To name a few:
The lone trumpeter who stands in the corner of the upper deck prior to kickoff, playing the introductory notes to the "Battle Hymn of the Bulldog Nation," followed by legendary radio announcer Larry Munson's narration of a highlight package that celebrates the past and present of Georgia football.
• Fans Calling the Dawgs with a "Go Dawgs! Sic 'em! Woof, woof, woof!" at kickoff.
• The stadium's Uga mausoleum, where Georgia's English Bulldog mascots are actually buried.
• The Redcoat Marching Band's unique repertoire of in-game songs, such as "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown," which rings out after a big defensive stop -- a tradition initially started in cooperation between the band and defensive coordinator Erk Russell during the 1970s.
2. Visit Herty Field: Sanford Stadium has been home for Georgia's football team since 1929, but fans can also visit the place where it all started. The university has preserved Herty Field, which on Jan. 30, 1892, featured the first college football game in the state of Georgia, on its historic North Campus. Georgia beat Mercer 50-0 in that debut game.
3. Ring the Chapel Bell: Not far from Herty Field, fans can participate in one of the university's oldest football traditions. Students and alumni have rushed to the UGA Chapel to ring its bell after victories since the 1890s, and the tradition continues today.
4. Experience the rivalries: It's one thing to attend a run-of-the-mill Georgia football game. It's another when the Bulldogs are facing their oldest and most heated rivals -- particularly Georgia Tech, Auburn and Florida.
These days, Georgia's rivalry game that gets the most attention is the annual meeting with Florida in Jacksonville, Fla., formerly known as the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party." It's impressive to behold a stadium split down the middle between the red-and-black side and the orange-and-blue side. And the parties rage well into the night all weekend, both in Jacksonville and in the Coastal Georgia beach properties around St. Simons and Jekyll Island where Bulldogs fans tend to gather.
The Auburn and Georgia Tech series have not been particularly competitive lately -- Georgia has won five of the last six against Auburn and 10 out of 11 against Georgia Tech -- but those are two of the program's most heated and historic rivalries. Even if the outcomes have been one-sided recently, both series still rank among the Bulldogs' most intense games each year.
5. Celebrate the history: History buffs would enjoy a visit to Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall, which houses Georgia's football program, the UGA Athletic Association's administrative offices and a museum that features memorabilia from numerous UGA sports. Football fans should be sure to check out the second-floor football trophy cases that house a number of individual awards -- including Heisman Trophies won by Walker and Frank Sinkwich -- bowl trophies and even the ball Michael Johnson caught for the game-winning touchdown against Auburn in 2002 to clinch the SEC East title.
6. Watch the Dawg Walk: Before entering Sanford Stadium on gameday, hundreds of fans gather outside the Tate Student Center to catch the Bulldogs on their way into the stadium. About two hours before kickoff, buses carry the team down Lumpkin Street to the stadium, where they then walk through the crowd of fans, cheerleaders and Redcoats into the stadium.
7. Take it on the road: It's a completely different experience for fans to join their fellow Bulldogs at an away venue instead of attending a game in the friendly confines of Sanford Stadium. Georgia fans always travel well, but their red and black is still far outnumbered in places like Tennessee's Neyland Stadium.
Aside from simply supporting the Bulldogs, it's also fun to experience the gameday traditions on the campuses Georgia visits -- particularly in unique environments like those at Alabama, LSU and SEC newcomer Texas A&M.
8. Take a picture with Uga: Perhaps no dog in the country has been photographed more than Uga, Georgia's beloved mascot. It's hard to get too close to Uga on gameday, as he hangs out in and around his air-conditioned doghouse on the visitor's sideline, but fans flock to Uga wherever he goes. It is common for fans to stand in line for hours before the Bulldogs' annual team-picture day for the chance to take pictures with the dog.
9. Meet the legends: There are no better sources of Bulldogs knowledge than the men who helped build Georgia's tradition into what it is today. Luckily for Georgia fans, plenty of Bulldogs icons still live in Athens and are fairly easy to track down.
Former sports information director and historian Dan Magill, who helped UGA emerge as a college sports power with his uncanny public-relations skills, remains a fixture at the on-campus ITA Hall of Fame. Munson's long-time radio sidekick Loran Smith still hosts a portion of the pregame radio show and maintains an office in Butts-Mehre. It is not uncommon for legendary former coach Vince Dooley or player Charley Trippi to sign autographs at the UGA Bookstore before a game. If you get the chance, make sure to meet these legends and get an in-person history lesson.
10. Signing celebration: National signing day is a big deal for college football fans throughout the country and Athens is certainly no exception. Hundreds of fans gather each February at Butts-Mehre and at signing-day parties around town -- the biggest is at the Blind Pig Tavern -- to celebrate as Mark Richt's coaching staff wraps up its newest signing class.
Taking a day off in the middle of the week to follow where prospects sign might seem obsessive, but the scene is worth witnessing in person at least once.
3hEthan Sherwood Strauss