SEC Championship: Alabama-Georgia football game fuels family 'feuds'
By SARAH FAY CAMPBELL
If you’re a football fan of either Georgia or Alabama, Saturday’s Southeastern Conference championship game at the Georgia Dome might as well be the Super Bowl.
In most minds, a chance for their beloved Bulldogs or Crimson Tide to play in the 2013 BCS Championship doesn’t even compare to another game.
Tim Higgins and his son Jack, 7, root for Alabama while Kim Higgins, her mom Patsy, and son Sam, 6, are Bulldogs fans. Daughter Reagan, 9, “cheers for Georgia more often than not, but reserves the right to say ‘Roll Tide’ if she thinks she might need her daddy on her side,” said Kim.
Luckily UGA and Alabama haven’t played one another since 2008. But this weekend’s game is so big, the family might be compelled to tape the room into two halves.
“Most of the time there is peace and harmony at home,” said Tim. “Kim will watch games with me and cheer for the Tide and I’ll watch games with her pulling for the Dogs. We usually don’t have much trouble,” he said. “For us, football Saturdays are a good excuse to make tasty treats and watch football as a family.”
The SEC schools have only met four times since 1995, all coming in the regular season. Saturday’s, however, comes with as much fanfare as any previous Alabama-Georgia meeting since the schools first played once another in 1895, when Georgia beat the Tide 30-6. Alabama leads the series with a 36-25-4 record, though, while coming off two BCS Championships in the past three years, including last year’s victory over LSU.
For Bulldogs fans, a victory puts Georgia a win away from a national title since Vince Dooley’s squad played Penn State in 1982. Dooley, ironically, will be in town today for an local appearance at Ken’s Bargain Outlet on the Newnan Square starting at noon.
“I am glad we don’t play each other on a regular schedule,” said Kim. “It’s fun for it to happen occasionally, but I can’t imagine if it was a big annual rivalry,” she said. “I don’t think I would have been able to marry a Tech, Auburn, or Florida fan.”
While excited to see his Crimson Tide back in the SEC championship again, Tim feels he and his wife can survive three hours at each other’s throats cheering for their teams in the same room.
“It’s good to have a little conflict,” he said. “I originally wondered if I needed to go somewhere else to watch the game, but Kim believes we can both be civil with each other for a few hours.”
Added Kim, “It could be a really loud Saturday evening and a really quiet ride to church on Sunday morning.”
Hopefully it won’t be as quiet as the ride home from their first UGA/Alabama game as husband and wife. It ended with Tim leaving his new bride behind in the stadium, unable to stand watching Georgia fans celebrate a game-winning field goal with 38 seconds left after Alabama seemed to have taken over the game on a late interception.
“People started throwing empty cups at me and hollering. And my new husband left me in the stadium. Just walked out!” Kim said. “I did what any good Dawg would do. I found some Georgia fans and hung out celebrating with them for a little while. After all, I had the keys in my pocket,” she said.
When Kim finally got back to the car “we rode all the way back to Newnan in silence — and I was smiling the whole way,” she added. “It was my favorite football game EVER.”
It’ll be the first test for the Stovers, who married in September. Matthew, an Alabama fan, works the late shift Saturday night and “is supposed to be sleeping while the game is on,” said Aleta.
“He’s not happy about it. He said ‘I think I just might try to stay up,’” she said.
There’s no doubt, however, between their rooting interests.
“[If] someone says ‘Roll Tide,’ he’ll say it,” she said. “I’ll say Georgia all the way,” she said. “I have to say something to make sure they know I’m not an Alabama fan, to make sure people know we are a house divided.”
Alabama fan Diane Spurling has a good-natured rivalry going on with her cousin, Randy Kittle, who roots for Georgia. They’ve been sending each other rivalrous text messages all week and are dreading what might happen if their team doesn’t win.
“Randy will call me every morning at 5:30 just to wake me up,” Spurling said. “I will never hear the end of it ... ever.”
Spurling posted on her Facebook page “To all my Georgia fans, I love you, but I am a Bama fan. Please don’t delete me,” she said. Some friends said they wouldn’t delete her but “you know if you lose you’ll never hear the end of it.”
But she doesn’t expect that to happen.
“I personally think that we will beat them,” she said. “I don’t foresee us losing, really. It might be a good game but I think we’ll end up on top.”
The Spurlings have always been Alabama fans, and her sons Kenny and Chris have even bought brand new jackets and other Alabama apparel just for Saturday’s game, which they are going to. Spurling’s 19-month old granddaughter can already say “Tide.”
“It’s hard to be an Alabama fan in Georgia,” said Bret Dailey. “When we beat them, it’s going to be even harder.” Dailey grew up in Alabama and said, with a straight face, that “Roll Tide was my first word.”
Newnan business development director Hasco Craver, a diehard Georgia fan, met his wife while attending the school in Athens, and they take their two children to one game a year. For all the other games, the kids stay with Craver’s parents in Braselton.
“It’s a family affair, of course,” he said.
Craver keeps plenty of UGA memorabilia in his office, ranging from autographed pictures to the toy UGA helmet that he and his daughter Adeline ate ice cream out of at her second UGA game.
He thinks the Bulldogs will match up well against Bama on Saturday. He also thinks it’s interesting — and possibly prophetic — that the last time UGA won a national championship in 1980, the Bulldogs defeated Notre Dame.
The No. 1-ranked Irish, who finished its season unbeaten, are a lock to appear in this year’s BCS Championship, set for Jan. 7 in Miami. The winner between No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia expects to earn the other spot in the title game.
Saturday’s loser will be out of the BCS altogether with No. 4-ranked Florida expected to grab the SEC’s other allowed conference bid.
“Regardless of who wins or loses, somebody’s team from the Higgins house is going to have an opportunity to play Notre Dame in the championship game,” said Tim Higgins. “No matter which team it is, I’ll be cheering for them over Notre Dame.”
Son, Sam, has a different opinion. When he and his father went to last year’s Alabama-Georgia Southern game, he refused to even wear an Alabama sticker on his shirt.
“He only cheers for Georgia,” said Tim.