On the second day of Pigskinapalooza 2011, my eight year old E and I got on the road at 11a.m. e.s.t. and headed down to Atlanta, or more accurately, Alpharetta. Friday was a swing day of sorts, with the only football on tap being a high school game involving two Kentucky Wildcat recruits. Daron and Zach Blalock are defensive backs/athletes for Walton (Ga.) H.S. and both are verbals to UK.
As I've mentioned previously, I am a pretty experienced road tripper. I'm totally inept with things like cars, home repair and putting together furniture. I fail at a number of manly pursuits. But I can grill and I can drive for hours on end without complaining, even if everyone else falls asleep on me. But there is something eerie about being in a car with your eight year old son who might not look up from a video game to engage you for a couple hours on end.
The four hour drive lasted an eternity.If I've failed to mention it so far, it has been really hot in the south this weekend. My car temperature telling thingy (is it really a thermometer if it is in your car?) has hit triple digits several times in the past couple of days. Arriving at check-in time we hit the pool for a couple of hours, as the outside is otherwise unfit for human habitation. We followed this up with some chicken wings (Wild Wing Cafe, pretty good), mozzarella sticks and of course, football.
E and I wore our Kentucky shirts to the game in what I assumed would be a conversation starter. Early on it was clear I'd underestimated the magnitude of Georgia high school football. Unless you've lived in Florida, Texas or small pockets of Southern California, you probably would too.
First off, we had to pay to park. The high school and the junior high next door were actually competing to get people in their lots. Milton's PA system rivaled that of many colleges and would have been the envy of Legion Field. I could hear it before I could even see the bowl. The home and visiting stands were near capacity and hundreds of people stood on railways overlooking the field. My hopes of walking around and talking to all the fans were quickly dashed. We were lucky to find a seat. Once we sat down, I realized again this wasn't Kentucky High School football. The women behind me were talking, not about Bunko or volunteer work, but about where kids from other schools has signed and which college football game they were attending the next day. The twins were not the only Division 1 athletes on the field, that much was evident, so our Kentucky outfits could have been seen as a coincidence. To complicate matters, Walton's colors were blue and white, so we didn't exactly stick out.
However this shook out, Daron and Zach played very good football. Zach is projected to play outside linebacker, and I could see him being one in the Wesley Woodyard mode. He is a huge hitter and a raw athlete. For good measure, Zach caught a 50 yard touchdown pass on offense. Daron is a speedster with a nose for the ball. He recovered one fumble, caused another and returned an interception for a touchdown. All of this happened in a half.
Eventually, we broke the ice around us. I say we, but of course it was my son. Since he knew why we were there and I had told him the twins' numbers, he cheered for them. Because they were so good, he cheered often. Because he was him, he cheered loudly and in often humorous ways. This led to me explaining why we were there, which the people thought was neat and likely a bit nutty. One of the coolest things about this trip? If Daron and Zach Blalock make it to UK's campus, E and I will always remember that we made a special trip to watch them play.
We left at halftime, not because it wasn't fun, but because our room is air conditioned and comfortable, and we were missing the TCU-Baylor game. This one turned out to be a 50-48 barn burner that Baylor pulled out after blowing a 24 point lead.
This morning I am letting him sleep in as it will be another long day of football. We are heading to my friends' house in Buckhead at noon, then on to Taco Mac for the UCLA-Houston game. At some point we'll take the MARTA to the Georgia Dome. Apparently the night carries a bonus as something called Dragon Con is going on in downtown Atlanta. So, the Georgia and Boise St. fans will be mixed in with people dressed as Zombies and Chewbacca. It should be quite a scene.