“The Devil went down to Georgia, he was looking for a vote to steal.” – Charlie Daniels’ish
Fourteen thousand nine hundred and eighty-four days — that is the time between the last two college football national championships at the University of Georgia. Up until January 10, 2022, Georgia had crested the mountaintop of collegiate football on numerous occasions, only to come up just shy of grasping the prize. Prior to this month, I was a five-week-old fetus the last time Georgia captured a championship on January 1, 1981.
My wife and I met on the campus of the University of Georgia. It holds a special place in our hearts. Most people don’t know that it’s the oldest state-chartered university in the country. The university was established in 1785, fully two years before the U.S. Constitution was written. The tradition and distinction of Georgia are perhaps unmatched by any public university in the nation.
Those of us from the state of Georgia have developed a defense mechanism that allows us to be fans of Georgia sports between March and September but requires canceling our cable subscriptions between the months of October and February. You see, historically, the state of Georgia is cursed in the postseason. We like to call it Choketober. Pick your sport: baseball, football, basketball, it doesn’t really matter. If you make it to the postseason, you’re signing up for heartache. That was until this last year.
It’s exceedingly rare for a Georgia sports team to win a championship, and even more rare for two Georgia sports teams to win a championship in the same year. This year, the Atlanta Braves finally broke the curse and opened up the floodgates of divine favor by capturing the World Series. It’s not that I believe that God cares about sporting events, but there is more than a little bit of irony in where and how these championships came to be.
In the case of the Atlanta Braves, the season famously progressed with Major League Baseball taking punitive action against the state of Georgia for enacting relatively commonplace voter integrity laws as a response to the chaos of the November 2020 election. While these new laws, which sought to limit absentee balloting and poll site electioneering, were unexceptional in comparison to most state election laws, the leftist press painted them as Jim Crow on steroids. Eventually, Major League Baseball moved its All-Star Game from 60% black Atlanta to 10% black Denver.
Critics of Major League Baseball were quick to point out the loss of revenue to minority-owned businesses in Atlanta. It looks as though Atlanta may have gotten the last laugh, as it traded a single All-Star Game for eight post-season home games. Looking at Atlanta’s piecemeal roster, this team had no business in the post-season conversation. Just one month before the end of the regular season, Atlanta was under .500. The Braves had more losses than wins on the season, and their roster largely comprised free agent waiver-wire pickups.
On the other hand, the University of Georgia Bulldogs football team found itself in a more favorable position talent-wise, with one exception. Georgia was piloted by their sub-six-foot 3rd-string walk-on quarterback, Stetson Bennett IV. The Old South pedigree name certainly outstrips the talent and stature of the player. And when Georgia met Alabama in their seemingly annual conference championship, Saban once again got the better of his disciple Kirby Smart on the arm of Heisman-winning quarterback play.
So where is the divine irony in Georgia’s win? It turns out that Georgia’s nemesis has some election controversy of his own. Alabama head coach Nick Saban signed a letter to Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, soliciting his vote in usurping state elections authority for the feds. It seems he chose poorly. As Texas representative Chip Roy said, “Saban should have studied Georgia’s voting laws better than he studied their defense.” Just one month after dropping their first loss of the season to Alabama, Georgia would exact sweet revenge for the ultimate prize that had eluded them for so long.
I’m not convinced that God showed favor in determining the outcomes of these unlikely post-season victories. I’m sure God casts favor where He is able to best advance His cause. Still, for those of us Georgia sports fans who were wrongfully maligned in our desire for electoral integrity, and who’ve endured decades of winless post-seasons, the sweet taste of victory is all the sweeter. Go Dawgs!