For the extended Ponder Family, the annual Auburn versus Georgia football game is a time of festive fun, food and frivolity. Since the time that my brother and sister attended the University of Georgia after I had gone to Auburn, there has been a constant, mostly friendly rivalry.
There has been a bit of stress, to be sure. After all, SEC football is a big thing, even amongst the closest of families. However, since we all sit down together at Thanksgiving, none of us can afford to let the rivalry get the best of us. As they say, it is just a game. Yeah, right.
This year we gathered in Auburn. There were four generations of our family there for the weekend. We were joined for the big tailgate by cousins, college friends, and even friends from high school. The extended family and friends numbered 30 or so for lunch.
It was not a meal for vegetarians as we had four kinds of meat. Ribs, chicken wings, brisket and barbeque. No one said anything if your big oval Chinet plate had a serving of all four. Slaw and beans were the fillers until you got to the other big course, dessert. There were enough alternatives that the sweets required its own table.
The colors identified your allegiance. Red and black or orange and blue. Not much of anything else was to be seen. You even chose your Auburn or Georgia plate and cup, just in case anyone did not get the message from your clothing.
Children played in the front yard. Different groups sat outside and inside, moving occasionally to catch up with someone else. Televisions were in every room with various college football games being shown but that was just a warmup to the big game of the day at Jordan Hare Stadium.
On the front porch, a flag flew that indicated who was there. It was a house divided, with both Georgia and Auburn colors and logos side by side.
As always, the atmosphere was electric in the stadium. It is pretty much always that way, regardless of where it is played and what records the teams have. This is the oldest football rivalry in the South. Our family is not the only one that has long been divided between these two schools.
Auburn had the chance to score first and missed a field goal. Until the last couple of games field goals were almost always automatic points for the Tigers. It was a sign of things to come. Georgia scored and then scored again with only 20 seconds left in the first half. Auburn’s defense kept the Tigers in the game before Georgia scored again in the fourth quarter making the score 21-0.
Just when all seemed lost, Auburn woke up. With a quick intensity the Tigers scored two unanswered touchdowns. They had a chance on fourth down to tie the game with less than two minutes left when a pass was thrown behind a wide-open receiver. After that the game was over.
Congratulations were texted out early to get it over with. Georgia was the best team on Saturday, but Auburn came back from the deep hole they had dug for themselves. When all seemed lost, the Tigers never quit and for that I was proud of them.
We all returned to the house and picked up where we left off. The food came back out, the game was analyzed in a mostly civil way and we watched even more football on television.
It seemed like a holiday being surrounded by family and friends. No one mourned Auburn’s loss and no one rubbed in Georgia’s win. Regardless of who came out on top in the game, we had the perfect tailgate, and, in that regard, everybody won.
Congratulations, yet again, to the Georgia Bulldogs. This string of wins on their part is getting a bit excessive. Wait until next year is not something you want to say too many times in a row. War Eagle, always!
Dan Ponder can be reached at [email protected]