Georgia won the national championship, but Lewis Grizzard missed it
Only Lewis Grizzard could do justice to the epic story of the University of Georgia Bulldogs winning the National Football Championship.
Maybe you’ve heard that the Dawgs just beat the evil Empire of Tuscaloosa, Alabama behind a former quarterback from Blackshear, Georgia, home to 3,506.
Stetson Fleming Bennett IV has more names than Uga, the high-breed bulldog mascot, but the nameless eclipsed Bammer’s Heisman Trophy winner for Georgia’s first title in 41 years.
Lewis had to be there for that.
You can all say whatever you want, but nothing really happens until it’s written in the paper. And no one has written about the Bulldogs like Lewis.
I can imagine the late columnist from Moreland, Georgia, population 382, smiling under his signature mustache.
Lewis was Bulldog to the bone.
For my money, Lewis and Larry Munson, the late voice of the Bulldogs on radio, were the real Dawgs, even though they never wore silver panties or tried to literally bite off an Auburn player. As far as we know.
Lewis graduated from the University of Athens, and let’s never forget that.
As a nationally syndicated columnist, he was famous for one of those rare occasions when Georgia Tech beat the mighty Georgia Bulldogs.
His column in the Atlanta Constitution the next day was a long strip of white space. All he wrote was, “Honestly, I don’t want to talk about it.
You must understand that in Georgia football is much more than football.
Erk Russell, Georgia’s longtime defensive coordinator, would bloody his chrome dome by banging his bare head against the helmets of his “Junkyard Dawgs” to lather them up for another Saturday of gouging and kicking between the hurdles.
When Erk died I said he understood better than anyone that a Southern football coach had to be equal parts Bear Bryant, Elvis, Billy Graham, Grandpa Jones, Muddy Waters, Huey Long, Rhett Butler, Jerry Lee Lewis, Stonewall Jackson, Jerry Clower, Jimmy Swaggart, Tom Sawyer, Booker T. Washington, Lewis Grizzard, Sam Ervin, Jack Daniel, Andy Griffith, and B’rer Rabbit.
Lewis Grizzard gets it.
He once wrote, “I’d rather be a brain surgeon than a great college football coach. There is less pressure. Lose in brain surgery, and you can say you did your best, and you still get paid.
GOD IS A BULLDOG
Lewis had a column in 1980 called “God is a Bulldog”.
This was after the Dawgs beat Florida in a third-and-11 game, losing one with just seconds left in the Border War heralded as the annual celebration of the end of Prohibition.
Georgia’s Buck Belue hit Lindsay Scott in the middle for a 93-yard touchdown.
“Run, Lindsay, run! Larry Munson whistled into the microphone.
Lewis admitted in his column that he had given up. He was in the parking lot when the miracle happened.
Then came a flash from Atlanta: Georgia Tech had tied Notre Dame, 3-3. Tech would finish 1-9-1 and Georgia would win their first national championship.
Lewis quoted Dorsey Hill, “the biggest Bulldog fan in the world”: “A tie was a godsend. Notre Dame is knocked out of No. 1 but Tech doesn’t get a win. God is a bulldog.
Lewis spent a lot of time on Hilton Head and Daufuskie Islands.
On Hilton Head, he wrote:
“Hilton Head has become something of a glorified reptile farm for northerners. All these vans and everything.
“A couple from Ohio arrives in a van. They are still in a van.
“They got on the circle and couldn’t get off for a week. Rotary club members handed them sandwiches as they passed to keep them alive.
He filled a ballroom at the Hilton Head hotel shortly before his death, telling jokes, spinning yarn and singing hymns to raise money for our arts center.
We spoke this afternoon in his villa.
I told him I was from Atlanta and still with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
He said he wanted to go to Tech.
He said he applied, but was turned down.
I was stunned.
Yes, he told me, he didn’t have enough buttons.
To the winner comes the glory.
Run, Lewis, run.
David Lauderdale can be contacted at [email protected]