While I’m glad the UGA Bulldogs won the National Championship in football to add to the World Series win for the Atlanta Braves, Georgia residents need to remain vigilant.
A year ago, right before the Jan. 6 insurrection, both Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, won the run-off elections to be the two Senators for the state of Georgia. And they were both Democrats. And Warnock is black. And back in November of 2020, Georgia went blue and carried the Biden/Harris ticket. I was so excited that my native state had finally grown up.
It seems Georgia has always shared the company of states like Alabama, Louisiana Mississippi, South Carolina and even Tennessee, meaning that people from the rest of the country or world have a pre-conceived notion based on stereotypes the people of these states have worked vehemently to upheld.
The Georgia Film Commission has been a Godsend to the economy of the state. And despite what people in Georgia want to think, they should be kissing the beanbags of all Hollywood producers. Because there are other states and Canada with film commissions and major tax rebates. The problem with a booming economy is it’s always going to invite people from the rest of the country or the world to want to get their piece of the pie. But many states in the south often have acted like this is an invasion rather than a blessing.
When people want to relocate, that means new homes are made or bought. Land is bought and sold. Ad valorem taxes can increase. The communities get more assistance. There are too many communities in southern Georgia that look like something out of a post-apocalyptic movie. I’ve seen them. There’s some exits off the Interstates you just don’t get off.
Now, what does this have to do with athletics. Well, easy. Athletics take away from academics and the arts. And at first, no one really notices until its too late. A school I used to cover was in the middle of nowhere. Okay Public Schools only became famous for erecting a sign that said the teachers and staff are packing heat. More than a decade ago, they had two band students who had gone to march in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, not once but twice. Imagine all the schools in one state and times it by 50 and think to yourself, two band students from just one school were so determined they raised the money and performed the music after practicing hard to march in a parade twice.
Okay did away with their band program shortly after this. Then, they did away with their football program. The reason they did away with the band program was they didn’t have the money. The reason they did away with the football program is they didn’t have enough eligible players. Mind you, this is a school where people don’t have the resources or the encouragement to make good grades. And many grades were about 30-40 students.
Now, I’ve often thought the main reason many schools still keep athletics is because they know a lot of high school students will drop out otherwise. And the last thing a school wants to be known for is its drop-out rate. But when a school is only known for its athletics, it’s not any better. Some of the schools that Wagoner (one of the schools I covered) played in the football playoffs were in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma. No Interstate is nearby. No main U.S. Highway is nearby. You have to at least travel a few state and county roads to get there.
But when they only have athletics to offer, they don’t need much. Maybe some of the students graduating will go to college. Some are joining the military. And some are going into vo-tech education. But a lot of them more than likely will be working at the few factories in towns or shops and stores.
A few years ago, Kia did a commercial for the Super Bowl when Atlanta hosted and there was this kid with a cowboy hat and the basic country-living attire staring at the camera and he says in a southern accent thicker than molasses, “We’re not famous” and then goes on to act like they’re a podunk little town. I hated this ad. It’s so cringeworthy and offensive I was glad when others started trashing it.
The ad was created by David&Goliath, a Los Angeles-based agency which says a lot. It upholds a stereotype that to be from the South, you got to be within a 15-minute drive from a metropolitan area. I grew up halfway between the Atlanta area and the Chattanooga area. And hardly anyone dressed up as a 19th Century mythical figure. As a matter of fact, rodeos and country-western music didn’t sit well with many of the more conservative people in the community.
There’s seems to be this notion that anyone from small-town southern America rides horses and listens to “Tear in My Beer” on repeat. This was also the notion in 1994 when the first time Atlanta hosted the Super Bowl and they decided to have a country-western spectacular that is remembered as one of the worst half-time shows ever. It’s not like Atlanta by the early 1990s wasn’t known already for its rap/hip-hop scene. But let’s face, a rap/hip-hop half-time in 1994 wasn’t happening. They’re just 10 years away from the cultish Up With People.
But this notion that an L.A. based ad agency has this stereotypical idea is based somewhat in truth and somewhere in prejudiced. I don’t remember who said it because he wasn’t part of my circle of friends at Georgia Southern University, but someone was telling me about a person in his class who was “surprised” that people at the college “wore shoes.” And we wore regular clothes, too. I guess they were thinking we just wore potato burlap sacs.
People from small-town America don’t have to confirm to what they’re just being offered. But when they are presented with many options or encouragements, they can branch out. Even big cities in the North and out in California can have honky-tonk bars and cowboys. I’m all for breaking down stereotypes.
When I moved to Oklahoma 20 years ago, some older people were surprised that I was able to live around “so many black people.” And they had high positions in civic leaderships as they were school superintendents and on the board of directors at banks and so on. There’s still racism in America but most of it is in the non-southern areas in my opinion. When you have so many people living so close to each other, they have to learn to get along.
Georgia Southern had a high percentage of black to white students. It wasn’t like the other Historically Black Colleges and Universities such as Morehouse, Spelman and Morris Brown that were in the metro Atlanta area. But we had more black students per capita than UGA. I worked for the Student Housing Department as a night supervisor and was one of the few token white students. At one dorm, some people even said they were surprised to see me as they had never seen a white night supervisor.
Georgia is one of those states that is going to have to realize that it can be the rule not the exception. While its current governor Brian Kemp looks like the racist sheriff in every White Savior Civil Rights movie, voters need to make sure he’s a one-time governor. And that’s what the people are trying to prevent. This past summer, the All-Star Baseball game pulled out of Atlanta because of its bullshit voting laws. And some people feel the MCU pulled out of Atlanta for the same reason.
Those who don’t understand why it’s a big deal for Georgia to turn blue and have two Democratic Senators but don’t understand why these voting laws are so controversial are part of the problem. Throw more money at athletic and keep uneducated people voting. That’s what Alabama does. That’s what Mississippi does. That’s what South Carolina does. North Carolina was almost about to change up things prior to the 2010 elections but poor voter turnout allowed the Republicans to take over.
I don’t mean to bring politics into it, but elections have consequences. And when businesses start looking for other places to hang up their shingles, they’ll do so. I don’t think Georgia will take too much of a hit. It is a nice one-two win for the state. The Atlanta Falcons are out of any Super Bowl chance. It’s nice to see Atlanta to win the World Series for the first time in over 25 years and UGA to win a championship for the first time in over 40 years. But fans don’t need to be expecting it each year.
My father and brother are Georgia Tech fans but they support UGA. My father said the problem with UGA is they expect a National Championship every year. And if they keep expecting something, they’ll never be satisfied when they win.
I look at it this way, sports, just like movies are great for escapism. But it’s when you let the escapism become a part of your reality, you lose track of other things. The way people talk about sports is the same way people talk about movies. And I think when they start betting on them, then it becomes more serious. The stakes are higher. As for movies, it’s just a movie. I wouldn’t be able to do work on a MCU movie because so many fans are expecting so much, it’s impossible to please them. Look at how the Star Wars franchise has been handled.
But we keep focusing on the escapism, we let others take out realities. Education loses its funding. More money is thrown at athletics. Youth loses out on the arts and they end up having their talents go to waste. I’m not saying everyone in band or an art class will become famous, but the lack of encouragement will have a profound effect on them.
I think part of the reason they don’t want to lower tuition and fees is that’s how they’re able to keep all these high-priced coaches on staff with benefits and amenities for them. I’ve covered school districts where there is a feud between athletics and the arts or between the athletics. It tears people apart and causes more problems than needed.
For what it’s worth, I think we might seeing the end of the focus on athletics over academics and the arts. The issue has been addressed several times of how college athletics leaves students and their family with high medical bills and permanent injuries. One has to wonder how much longer will parents allow their children to do this knowing they’re going to be stuck with the bills, while the colleges and universities can wipe their hands clean after making money off the students.
I don’t want to turn a negative into a positive. But all these college bowl games resort in a lot of revenues for the teams and schools but the players can’t even get a slice of pizza unless it’s purchased through a verified sports booster club or organization. Be vigilant. Celebrate the wins but focus on others things after the fanfare dies down.