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A Florida family affair

This is a guest essay from Matt Boedy, a professor of English at the University of North Georgia who teaches in its First Year Composition program, as well as upper-level courses in writing and publication. He is the author of Murder Creek, chronicling the story of the last man to die in Georgia’s electric chairand Speaking of Evil, an examination of the question of why God would allow for the existence of evil through a rhetorical prism.

There is a picture somewhere lost, but always in my mind. It is a Saturday morning in the fall in the South and like many of you we are dressed up in our team’s colors. It’s the 1980s, and we are standing outside a Knights Inn in Gainesville, Florida, a medieval-style rent-a-room with purple bed covers and coats of arms on the wall. 

There is my family — two parents, three kids — and my mother’s parents, all dressed in some shade orange and blue. Visors and hats and some with jackets. Some also with Gator icons rubbed on their cheeks. 

There is also in the photo the other half, my mother’s brothers and their children, dressed in garnet and gold. All dedicated to a school which these are directions to find it: drive north from Gainesville until you smell it and then left until you step in it.

We would chomp, and they would do that stupid arm motion and sing that stupid song where they spell the name of their stupid school like they are hooked on phonics. 

And win or lose, we all the next day would go to Shoney’s for breakfast. I loved that place.  

Still in Dale Earnhardt’s shadow, NASCAR leans into future

Photo courtesy of Joe VanHoose

It’ll be 20 years Thursday since Dale Earnhardt, the greatest NASCAR driver of his generation, died on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. 

No, that can’t be right. 

How can it be 20 years since my greatest hero was found to be mortal? I can still remember being bummed with my mom at Daytona International Speedway the Thursday prior when Earnhardt lost the lead on the last lap of his Daytona 500 qualifying race. I can still remember racing off to my job at Baskin Robbins as FOX left the air that Sunday, my mom saying to me, “I don’t like this” as I walked out the door. 

Me neither.

I remember the phone call from my brother at work. Fortunately, the ice cream parlor was empty. 

“Dale’s dead,” my brother’s voice told me directly. That’s when I found out, but I already knew. 

NASCAR changed forever that day, and it’s been changing ever since. An entire generation of drivers have come and gone since Earnhardt helped steer it to national prominence. It’s hard to say what he would think about NASCAR’s path it has been on since he left us. 

Is Twitter the new AM radio?

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Photo by Tracy Le Blanc via Pexels

Part of the challenge, you see, was trying to get a clear signal.

Really, it was an artform — shifting the knob ever so slowly, ever so softly, a degree to the right or left, hoping to boost the volume a bit while tamp down the static just enough to make out what was going on. 

I’d squint and sigh, inching the dial back and forth in what all too often was a futile attempt to secure an unfettered, unhindered reception. It didn’t really matter. The crackle that would accompany Larry Munson’s voice as he fretted his way through a Georgia game only heightened the experience.

For generations of sports fans, the radio was the only way you could connect with your favorite team week in and week out, ensuring you didn’t miss a single play. From Munson urging Lindsay Scott to run to John Ward correcting himself after a Notre Dame field goal slid by the goal posts to cap off a Tennessee victory, it was these voices that brought our favorite teams into our living room.

Today, we don’t need the radio. 

It only hurts so bad because you care so much

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Photo of Aaron Murray and Todd Gurley at the 2012 SEC Championship Game courtesy of Parrish Walton

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

There’s this longtime underdog team. Much of its existence has been a mixture of a few tantalizingly close highs balanced out by a preponderance of underachieving lows. The fans are loyal and true, but they’re growing more and more restless. The years of falling just short are wearing on them. 

They’re ready to win. Finally.

The team makes it to a championship game. Everything is on the line. The thing the loyal fans have wanted for so long seems within reach. 

And things are going great! The underdog has built up a pretty big lead early against an opponent that has long dominated the sport. Surely, this is the year it all comes together. This is the time they finally break through.

But … they don’t. 

There are some confusing coaching decisions. The once confident players now seem suddenly unsure. Anxiety builds among the fanbase. That dreaded, familiar feeling washes over them.

Here it comes again.

Welcome to Jacksonville, you maniac

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Photo by Jay LaPrete via jaguars.com

When I found out that Steve Spurrier had broken my heart on January 4, 2002, I saw it on the ESPN Bottom Line. I walked into the hall bathroom at my mom’s house and started to cry.

Spurrier’s departure was sudden and unexpected. I just knew that he was going to grow old coaching at his alma mater, swaggering down the sidelines while his offenses ran up and down the field, scoring touchdown after touchdown and keeping us in the national championship chase season after season.

Spurrier’s 2001 team at Florida fell a two-point conversion short of playing for another SEC championship with a shot at the national title in the Rose Bowl on the line. On my birthday that year, Florida beat Nick Saban’s LSU Tigers, 44-15. The Gators beat Mississippi State, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida State and Maryland — all ranked teams — by 52, 14, 37, 24 and 33 points, respectively.

Many of the major pieces of that 2001 team were coming back in 2002. Rex Grossman at quarterback was to be a Heisman Trophy frontrunner. Certainly, Spurrier was ready to make a run at a second national championship.

I was wrong.

Wrestling with the Hall of Fame

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Photo courtesy of Marc Lancaster

In the years before I crossed the threshold to become a Baseball Hall of Fame voter, I always swore I wouldn’t be one of those writers who yo-yoed on candidates from year to year. 

Some voters’ apparent distinction between a “first-ballot” Hall of Famer and a run-of-the-mill Hall of Famer — like the handful who dropped previous support of other candidates to vote for Derek Jeter and no one else last year — made no sense to me. Hall voting is mostly, though not entirely, a function of statistics. And it’s not like any of these guys’ statistics change from year to year once they retire. 

Yet there I was late last month, agonizing as always over which boxes to check, reevaluating a couple of players who have been on the ballot for years and never received a vote from me. 

Point-counterpoint: Bulldogs and Gators edition

Given that 2020 was pretty much a dumpster fire of a year, Joe VanHoose and Johnathan McGinty decided to kick off 2021 in a more lighthearted way. If you know them, you know that informal back-and-forth exchanges can make for some pretty entertaining literary journeys. For instance, just check out the time the duo went to see Bruce Hornsby and wrote up a review for Athens’s independent newspaper, Flagpole (additionally, Bruce Hornsby fans can be INTENSE). With that in mind, they decided to write about their collective best of times and worst of times in Jacksonville, Florida.

JOE VANHOOSE: First of all, happy new year. Can’t fall through the floor, right?

Anyway, as we flush 2020 down the toilet and hope 2021 brings us something better, now seems like the perfect time to take stock of some of the disasters of the football series that binds us together.

Because, man, I have had some bad times in Jacksonville at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. 

JOHNATHAN MCGINTY: I mean, to be fair, it is Jacksonville. You’re already starting your weekend off behind the curve.

‘A right jolly old elf’

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Photo courtesy of @OfficialSanta

It’s Christmas Week, and we figured there’s no better topic to dive into this week at Beyond The Trestle than that of a big guy himself – Santa Claus. 

The world’s most famous gift-giver has a history that spans more than 1,700 years, with geographic roots that are as diverse as Asia Minor and Scandinavia. He’s been viewed as a cheerful, round grandfather figure who delights in the joy of children, as well as a truly weird, fairly terrifying hairy beast that demands offerings and sacrifices.

Fortunately, the story of Santa today is one of merriment and joy. So, in the spirit of the season, we’ve decided to dive into the history of Santa by asking a few key questions and sharing the origins of his story.

Let’s dive in.

Rebuilding the Ramblin’ Wreck

This week’s article is made possible thanks to a collaboration with Matt Brown’s Extra Points newsletter, which shares news and analysis about some of the forces that shape college athletics beyond the field. It’s one of our favorite reads at BTT, and we’d encourage everyone to sign up for his free subscription and consider supporting his work with a paid one as well.

This piece was written by Jake Grant, a History and Non-Revenue Sports Editor for SB Nation’s Georgia Tech team site, From the Rumble Seat. He hails from River Forest, Illinois, outside of Chicago, and is a 2020 graduate of Georgia Tech in mechanical engineering currently pursuing an MS ME back on the Flats. Feel free to follow @jakegrant98 on Twitter.

The headline “Georgia Tech cuts Swimming, Golf, Lacrosse, and Tennis” might not be all that out of place in our current circumstances. Schools, even Power Five (P5) schools, are dropping sports programs almost every month. And yet, even in these times, if another P5 school with a long history in high-level college athletics were to trim half of its teams in a single cut, it would certainly be national news. 

That headline was real — the budget constraints of the Great Depression forced Tech to shutter each one of those programs. However, thanks to an interesting collaboration, the hard work and investment of the Tech student body, administration, and alumni, all of those programs recovered, and (in all but one case) returned to full competition by the end of the decade.

In a time when people are looking left and right both inside college athletics for some direction, Tech’s Depression-era recovery seems like a good example of how to navigate these waters while minimizing athlete harm. Maybe we can use some of the lessons from Georgia Tech’s past to help us think about what may come next. 


A trip worth taking

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Photo courtesy of Relton McBurrows

The plot is simple, yet far-fetched.

There’s this freshman college student who heads off to the stereotypical party atmosphere that many of us might associate with our days on a university campus. He sees a familiar face in a young woman with whom he shares a few classes and, well, one thing leads to another and they share a blissful evening.

Of course, plots need twists, and this plot has plenty of those. For starters, this freshman foolishly videotapes the encounter and then, somehow, a videotape of this encounter is inexplicably dropped in the mail and destined to reach, of all people, his high school sweetheart at her college a few thousand miles away. 

What ensues is a race against time to intercept the delivery of the footage before the original girlfriend has a chance to see it. As you might expect, hijinks ensue.

That’s the story of Road Trip, a raucous and, at times, raunchy comedy set at a fictional college in upstate New York. To tell it, Dreamworks and The Montecito Picture Company looked south and turned to the small college town of Athens, Georgia

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