August 2013 Archives


The Ol' Bloviator thanks his friend Ann profusely for calling his attention to this column by Lewis Grizzard, which seems timely and should prove evocative, especially for some of the old timers around here. Save for Lewis's proposal for making hunting a real sport by arming the deer, the O.B. didn't care much for his politics, but their shared affinity for the Georgia Bulldogs made them kindred spirits nonetheless.



To my Son, if I ever have one:

Kid, I am writing this on September 3, 1984. I have just returned from Athens, where I spent Saturday watching the University of Georgia, your old dad's alma matter, play football against Clemson.

While the events of the day were still fresh on my mind, I wanted to recount them so if you are ever born, you can read this and perhaps be able to share one of the great moments in your father's life.

Saturday was a wonderful day on the Georgia campus.

We are talking blue, cloudless sky, a gentle breeze and a temperature suggesting summer's end and autumn's approach.

I said the blessing before we had lunch. I thanked the Lord for three things: fried chicken, potato salad and for the fact he had allowed me the privilege of being a Bulldog.

"And, Dear Lord," I prayed, "bless all those not as fortunate as I."

Imagine my son, 82,000 people, most of whom were garbed in red, gathered together gazing down on a lush valley of hedge and grass where soon historic sporting combat would be launched.

Clemson was ranked number 2 in the nation, and Georgia, feared too young to compete with the veterans from beyond the river, could only dream, the smart money said, of emerging three hours hence victorious.

They had us 20-6 at the half, son. A man sitting in front of me said, "I just hope we don't get embarrassed."

My boy, I had never seen such a thing as came to pass in the second half. Todd Williams threw one long and high, and Herman Archie caught it in the end zone, and it was now 20-13.

Georgia got the ball again and scored again, and it was now 20-20, and my mouth was dry, and my hands were shaking, and this Clemson fan who had been running his mouth the whole ballgame suddenly shut his fat face.

Son, we got ahead 23-20, and the ground trembled and shook, and many were taken by fainting spells.

Clemson's kicker, Donald Igwebuike, tied it 23-23, and this sacred place became the center of the universe.

Only seconds were left when Georgia's kicker, Kevin Butler, stood poised in concentration. The ball rushed toward him, and it was placed upon the tee a heartbeat before his right foot launched it heavenward.

A lifetime later, the officials threw their arms aloft. From 60 yards away, Kevin Butler had been true, and Georgia led and would win 26-23.

I hugged perfect strangers and kissed a fat lady on the mouth. Grown men wept. Lightening flashed. Thunder rolled. Stars fell, and joy swept through, fetched by a hurricane of unleashed emotions.

When Georgia beat Alabama 18-17 in 1965, it was a staggering victory. When we came back against Georgia Tech and won 29-28 in1978, the Chapel bell rang all night. When we beat Florida 26-21 in the last seconds in 1980, we called it a miracle. And when we beat Notre Dame 17-10 in the Sugar Bowl that same year for the national championship, a woman pulled up her skirt and showed the world the Bulldog she had sewn on her underbritches.

But Saturday may have been even better than any of those.

Saturday in Athens was a religious experience.

I give this to you, son. Read it and re-read it, and keep it next to your heart. And when people want to know how you wound up with the name "Kevin" let them read it, and then they will know.

--Lewis Grizzard

Sadly, of course, there would be no Kevin. And in less than a decade, there would be no Lewis either. Thrice-divorced, Grizzard was a lot better at telling stories than sustaining relationships with the opposite sex. For that matter, despite a coterie of drinking and golfing and tailgating buddies, not to mention a huge fan base spread across the South and sprinkled across the nation, for much of his abbreviated life, he was probably one of the loneliest people on the face of the earth.


In the self-deprecatory tradition of southern humorists, Grizzard often called himself a redneck, but as journalist Peter Applebome has observed, he was actually "the patron saint of the new suburban South, where you could have both the values of the old general store and the designer label wares of the megamalls." He lived in Atlanta's exclusive Ansley Park, his footwear of choice was Gucci loafers (worn without socks), he was partial to Geoffrey Beene cologne, and he used the gun rack behind the seat of his truck to hold his golf clubs. Although he protested that he liked pork barbecue much better, he owned up to eating caviar at Maxim's in Paris and even to visiting the Louvre.


He seldom passed on a chance to reaffirm his country-boy bona fides, regaling audiences with stories of "rat-killings" in his native Moreland, Ga. or discussing the subtleties of the southern pronunciation of "nekkid." In truth, however, like all southern writers worth a flip, he did his best job of telling about the South and its inhabitants by telling about himself. Even occasional readers knew of his love for his mother and his dog, Catfish, his yearning and ambivalence toward his absentee father, his health problems and his sense of impending doom (both of them simultaneously cause and effect of the way he pounded the Stoly and burned through the Marlboros). There was also his deep-seated anger and refusal to accept the social and demographic changes that arrived in tandem with Sunbelt prosperity. Never was a book more aptly titled than his I Haven't Understood Anything since 1962 and Other Nekkid Truths, published in 1992. Two years later, his poked, prodded and perennially abused ticker would simply have no more of it, and Lewis Grizzard was dead at forty-seven, an age when many of his old UGA classmates were just readying themselves to drop off their kids in Athens. If Lewis was the classic example of the funny man who could ultimately make everybody feel better but himself, then it is small wonder that he managed to wring so much pleasure not only out of beating Clemson, but out of  every precious minute he spent between the hedges in Athens. In this respect, at least, he was the brother the OB never had.

A Little Pomp Is OK--In the Right Circumstances, That Is.

            On a recent Friday, the Ol' Bloviator attended what was surely his umpteenth-plus-several college commencement ceremony. This occasion marked the twenty-first conferral of the Doctorate on High on a graduate student who had endured the pure un-shirted hell of having the O.B. as a dissertation director. On graduation day, the director is invited to participate in the symbolic "hooding" ceremony that makes the whole business sound more like a Klan rally than an august recognition of great academic achievement. Although a Ph.D. candidate is not required to show up to have this unwieldy piece of academic regalia draped over him or her, the designation "Doctor" seems more authentic this way, as opposed to having your doctorate effectively presented to you by the mailman. (Think about that before you sign up to get one of those six-week Ph.Ds in molecular biology on line.) Either way, of course, compared to "Doctor of Medicine," the "Doctor of Philosophy" is way, way down the cachet hierarchy, but commencement at least gives us a couple of hours of the reinforcement that will be largely lacking our desolate lives until graduation rolls around again. (Long ago, before he resigned himself to this reality, the Ol' Bloviator ordered a gas credit card with "Dr." preceding his name. Why he hoped to gain more respect or notice from gas station cashiers is unclear to him now, but the only time his more exalted identification appeared to really make a difference was when a woman behind the register at an East Tennessee convenience store looked at his card and said, "Doc, can you tell me what this here thang on my neck is?" So much for posing as the kind of doctor who could actually help anybody.)

            Given the current job market for Ph.D.s in the humanities, it is unlikely that many of the recently minted variety are going to be bothered by autograph seekers anytime soon. Although the University of Georgia is surely the only institution of higher learning where those clutching brand new Ph.D.s are serenaded with a chorus of "Go, Dogs!"--topped off with a solid round of "woofs," the O.B. can assure you that this summer's crew walked away with a lot more of their dignity intact than those who preceded them way back on June 7, 1969. The Ol' Bloviator remembers this commencement with fondness, for it not only marked his receipt of the first of three degrees that would eventually make him a "Triple Dog" (n.b. The O.B. don't do "Dawg."), but it came roughly twenty-four hours in advance of a much more important ceremony, indeed the single biggest event of his life, a.k.a. his nuptialization with his beloved Mrs. O.B.

This particular graduation was also notable for other reasons, however. The proceedings unfolded in Sanford Stadium on a day with temps in the mid-90s. Attendance was mandatory for all graduates back then; so the stands were jammed with soon-to-be recipients of bachelor's degrees, many of them clad in no more than Bermudas and T-shirts (if that) beneath their robes, their brains under relentless assault from the likes of "Indian Giver" by the 1910 Fruit Company via the ear plugs from their transistor radios. This is to say that for most of the ceremony, the undergraduate honorees were largely oblivious to the proceedings on the plywood platform especially constructed for this occasion. The platform itself was well-constructed and gave no visible reason for concern, but although gray seemed a suitably somber and institutional color choice, no one had checked to see what sort of finish this particular type of paint would leave, the upshot being that the platform floor and steps were, to put it in scientific terms, slicker than owl poop. It was certainly amusing to see the distinguished speakers making their way to the podium so unsteadily that they might as well been traversing black ice, but for some reason the most frictionless surface of all belonged to the steps from which the just-hooded Ph.D.s were to exit the stage.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me be clear that the O.B. is not talking about several or a good many or even most, when he promises you that not a single member of this unfortunate lot made it down the steps with his or her newly enhanced dignity intact. For the hot and bored candidates for baccalaureate degrees, it was as if they were suddenly watching the "Three Stooges' Greatest Hits." The newly invested "doctorati" were falling on their butts, their faces, their shoulders, their ribs, and their thighs, each to a successively mounting chorus of side-splitting, britches-wetting, totally out-of-control guffaws. It finally got so bad that they tried positioning sheriff's deputies alongside the steps to try to catch or at least break the falls of the suddenly humiliated honorees. On at least a couple of descents, the deputies simply could not handle the force generated by the involuntary, utterly unchecked descent of one of the heftier hood-ees, and they all fell sprawling together in a wriggling, thrashing, sweating pile of peace officers and plant pathologist. Needless to say, the undergraduate students couldn't get enough of this spectacle and eventually even took to shouting out scores, "7.5, 9.5, etc.," after each tumble. Needless to say as well, this may have been the first and only time a new crop of UGA Ph.D.s left Sanford Stadium more banged-up than the football team.

            That's the thing about commencement; as an occasion pile high with gravitas,  it can also be a lightning rod for irreverent behavior. Certainly, if the energy and creativity devoted to outlandish modifications of their caps and gowns by some degree candidates who barely cleared the C-minus hurdle had been invested in their studies, the list of cum laudes would be a lot longer and laudier.

Sadly enough, faculty are not always immune to the temptations of anti-authoritarian behavior on commencement day. Since he is not quite sure about the statute of limitations on certain offenses in the Magnolia State, the Ol' Bloviator had best just say that he knows of a certain immature junior professor at Ole Miss who objected to the strong-arm tactics of administrators who, at that point, did everything but demand a physician's excuse when a faculty member missed commencement. Thus it was that, instead of getting himself all hooded, gowned, and mortar-boarded up, at the appointed time, this young firebrand went out for a jog that, not coincidentally, took him past the commencement proceedings just as the faculty processional was forming. When cat-called to account by some of his colleagues in the distinguished assemblage, he proceeded to moon the whole bunch of them.

All of this happened, of course, before this brash and uncouth fellow grew up (albeit just a little) and began to experience the enormous satisfaction of helping some genuinely terrific students through the dark and bloody ground of graduate school and the particularly painful process of writing a dissertation. From what the O.B. understands, this recovering fanny-flasher even came to actually relish the opportunity to attend graduation  and be part of the ritual launching of yet another student's career. Indeed, the word is that, these days, as he slips into his dotage, this one-time rebel-without-much-of-a-cause beams his brightest when talking about the publications and other achievements, professional and personal, of his former students. As to graduations, he maintains just a touch of his former irreverence by steadfastly refusing to upgrade his ceremonial garb from the 1930-something robe given to him thirty-five years ago by an emeritus colleague and held together with staples and Velcro lovingly installed by its proud new owner. Much to the relief of this ol' geezer's colleagues, however, he shows no inclination whatsoever to bare his backside at commencement, (Cue faint strains of Pomp and Circumstance here.) which has become, for him, a poignant reminder that whatever he may have managed to do for them, it is his students who have truly given him the best years of his life.

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