Bulldog fans expect ‘grown man’ football Saturday

pobley@thestate.comOctober 4, 2012 

  • GAMECOCKS VS. BULLDOGS WHO: USC (5-0, 3-0 SEC) vs. Georgia (5-0, 3-0) WHERE: Williams-Brice Stadium WHEN: Saturday, 7 p.m. TV: ESPN RADIO: WNKT-FM 107.5 SATELLITE RADIO: Sirius 91/XM 91 LINE: USC by 2

— It’s Tuesday night in a town where the bohemian meets the collegian and Chantz Faulker is roaming the downtown streets with two buddies.

As both regale the 20-year-old Faulkner with tales of how much fun he’ll have once he turns 21 next month, talk turns to this week’s big game between the hometown team and a certain crew from across the Savannah River.

“They’re not a rival,” Faulkner says of No. 6 South Carolina, which will play host to No. 5 Georgia on Saturday. “It’s just a good game.”

Faulkner, from nearby Commerce, is loathe to talk about Georgia’s most recent game, a 51-44 scare against Tennessee, the team he considers a true rival. But he is sharp-tongued when it comes to South Carolina’s 38-17 win at Kentucky.

“Nah, I’m not worried about South Carolina,” he says. “I saw them play Kentucky and Kentucky whupped them.”

He quickly backtracked, but added, “I think we’ve got ’em this year.”

Tuesday night is Karaoke Night at Bad Manor on East Broad Street and, as you might imagine, the place is packed with enthusiastic voices making unfortunate choices.

“I apologize for what I’m about to do to your ear holes,” one patron offers.

As a newly christened 21-year-old celebrates his birthday by growling through a rendition of “Toxic” by Britney Spears, Michael Beeson and Rachel Christian talk Bulldog football with a cautious optimism honed by a season of great expectations tempered by that mercurial Tennessee performance.

“I think this is the one game that will decide who we are,” Christian says. She hails from Ringgold, Ga., on the Tennessee border.

“That’s a rival. That’s a big rival,” Christian says of the Volunteers. “But if we can beat (USC), I think we have a great shot at (a national championship run). I think that’s what a lot of people are saying.”

“Who are they playing?” Beeson replies. “Yeah, yeah, now you tell me, I remember.”

Beeson admits he, too, was rattled by the Tennessee game.

“I still don’t know how we had all those turnovers and still came out ahead, winning,” he says. “Seemed like we really could have killed them if we were on our game. Could have started it a lot better. Beat ‘em but …”

Christian bemoans Georgia’s kicking game. She fears it could lead to doom on Saturday. But … cautious optimism prevails.

“I think we have a great team this year, probably more so than we’ve had in a long time,” she said. “This is the first time in history we’ve scored over 40 points in the first five games. It’s never happened before.

“But everybody’s scoring. That’s something to think about, too. South Carolina has got a good coach. They’ve got a good team. They’ve got that guy …”

Jadeveon Clowney?

“Yeah, that guy.”

Sometimes, Athens’ artsy vibe gets drowned out by white noise.

Outside the wonderfully Irish bar Flanagan’s and The Half Moon Pub, Rihanna’s monotonous droning can be heard all the way across Clayton Street.

“That guy” is present as well, if only in limerick.

“Jadeveon Clowney makes me frowney when he turns Aaron Murray upside-downey,” says “Charlie Runkle,” who in a very dark room might have a passing resemblance to the short, bald character from “Californication” if not for being tall and having a full head of hair.

“Runkle” offers up a business card that reveals him to be an out-of-town attorney specializing in traffic stops.

“Don’t use my name,” he says. “Go Dawgs.”

Anonymity is the name of the game among the older denizens of Athens. It would seem as if they have an understanding that, in the age of the Internet, their witticisms could wind up on the bulletin boards of the enemy.

Earlier Tuesday as the lunch crowd thins at Weaver D’s, a local restaurant that earned its fame when the band R.E.M. used its slogan “Automatic for the People” for an album title, a full belly is the only thing on the menu.

“No. I’m not going to say anything,” says one man as he steps out of his Georgia red Ford F-150 with Bulldog flags.

“Gonna have to look to someone else,” says a statuesque woman, leaving the low-slung, lime-green establishment with a take-out container of fried chicken and green beans.

“Grown Man Football,” says “Ron,” who had to be talked into allowing his first name. “That’s what Georgia football is, bro. Missouri found that out this year. That’s the SEC, man. We gonna have two Grown Man Football teams throwing haymakers on Saturday. Write that down.”

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