Every year the UGA vs. Tennessee game is one of the most anticipated matchups of the season. The Volunteers and the Dawgs have been facing off since 1899 for a total of 43 games. Even though the Dawgs have had the Vol’s number in recent years with a 10-4 record since 2000, perhaps the best indication of the evenness of this rivalry is their lifetime record, which Tennessee holds at 21-20-2.
Since I became a Georgia fan I’ve know of this long-standing rivalry (and to never, ever wear the color orange), but in my freshman year of college the rivalry took on a new meaning for me. My roommate, Shana, was raised a Tennessee fan. While my blood runs red and black, her family’s runs bright orange. I couldn’t wrap my head around it: how could you go to a school like Georgia, be in Sanford Stadium on a Saturday in Athens, “call the dawgs”, and still not be a fan? See, I was raised by Long Island, New Yorkers who had no college sports affiliation at all, so when my oldest brother started looking at colleges in 2002 and took a special interest in UGA, my family immediately fell in love. We instantly became Dawgs for life. But living with Shana opened my eyes to something I had never even thought of: loving a team besides the bulldogs.
“I love the school and education at Georgia more, but I love Tennessee football because it’s all I’ve ever known.” This is Shana’s response to the question “Tennessee or Georgia?”, a question that she says she gets quite often. “I will admit, though, it’s infectious being on campus with Georgia fans, and I love rooting for the Dawgs when they’re not playing Tennessee”. But does her family feel the same way? “No way!” She says, laughing, “my dad would never touch red, ever.” At first this was a strange concept to me. How could your parents not love your school? But Shana, having gone through this for four years now, says she gets it, “I understand because that’s [my dad’s] team. He can support me and my education and my school without supporting the football team.”
As I prepare for my own family to head up to Athens and set up a tailgate tomorrow, I can’t help but think of what Saturdays in Athens mean to us. There is no place I would rather be than in Sanford Stadium with the people I love, cheering for the team that we love. And as much as I don’t understand the dynamic of being torn between two different teams, I know that Shana’s family is doing the same thing, just with the orange team instead of the red and black one.
So what will Shana do tomorrow, when the Volunteers and the Dawgs tee up between the hedges? “I’ll wear white and sit in the student section with my fellow UGA students, but I’ll be rooting for my Vols.”