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Lost Tracks of Georgia: Athens Speedway

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It’s been 30 years since race cars have roared around Athens Speedway. Looking around the place, you can tell. 

A mature patch of woods now covers the old race track property off Jimmy Daniel Road in Athens. If you didn’t know there was a ⅜-mile dirt track and long stretch of concrete grandstands sitting in the shadows of the pines off the two-lane road, you wouldn’t even think to look. 

Leaving our Mark

This is a guest essay from “Sarah G.” We are keeping her identity, as well as the identity of the family involved confidential per her request. It’s a powerful, personal read, and we’re grateful for her allowing us to share it.

I first met Mark in 2016. The first thing I noticed about him was that he was strikingly tall, quiet, and gentlemanly. According to Mark, I was a little bit too extroverted for him but weirdly happy to discuss gap schemes in an air raid offense on date night, so he was in. Almost immediately, our relationship was sweet, easy, and natural. And soon, it was hard to hide that we fell in love quickly. Except for perhaps the number of dirty socks I’d find on the bathroom floor, I truly could not have been happier.

As I said, Mark was always a bit socially anxious, but I was the one who could small talk to a wall when we were out, so it worked fine. I naturally became his gatekeeper in a crowd of people. However, Mark did tell me that he had sometimes struggled with more generalized anxiety over the recent years but thought it was probably just his nature. He grew up in a fractured family and was the youngest kid who was shuffled around the most. So, it was probably him just not feeling comfortable around people he guessed.

Because it was undisputed that Mark felt most comfortable, not talking, but on a football field. He was the epitome of a gentle giant. He was 6-foot-5, over 260 pounds, and could block as well as anyone. He loved football. He played all his life. As a kid, whose home life was a tad chaotic, football was steady. And Mark immediately excelled at it. When I asked him why he loved the sport so much, I expected something about playing or the game. But no, for Mark, it was that he loved being a part of a team. He always just wanted to be apart of a team.

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 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.  

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 different shade of blue: The Trail Creek spill

Photo courtesy of Johnathan McGinty

There are a lot of blues in this world, even in the literal sense.

There’s the soft blue of a clear morning sky or the rich blues of the deep ocean. The navy blues that make up the marks of so many sports teams, as well as the paler blues prevalent in spring flowers.

On July 29, 2010, a different shade of blue flowed through Trail Creek in Athens. 

It was bright. It was harsh.

This blue contrasted against the greenery of summer, lush leaves filling out the plentiful trees that lined the waters. Gone was the murky, muddy mixture that punctuates creeks and rivers throughout the South. In its place was a near-neon blue snaking its way through a network of tributaries and leaving streaks of artificial color in its wake.

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