George Strait sings a song called The Best Day about a father being with his son through all of these milestone events in the kid’s life. It starts with their first camping trip together and then remodeling an old car in the teen years and it ends with the boy, all grown up by now, getting married.
After each event, the boy tells his dad, “I’m the luckiest boy alive, this is the best day of my life.”
A few weeks ago, I got to have one of those days with my two sons when I took them to their first Georgia football game. Neither one of them ever looked at me and told me that they had just had the best day of their life. But I felt like I had.
And even the two drunk guys sitting behind us couldn’t change that.
It was a noon kickoff so we got on campus early. I made arrangements with my friend Merv Waldrop, a great American, to tailgate with him. Merv has turned tailgating into an art form. The food on his table and the songs on his radio are all carefully chosen to fit with the occasion. When my wife took out the food that she prepared for everyone, Merv’s mouth fell open. He told me that I had married the perfect tailgating wife. That’s sort of like getting a compliment from Moses.
Not long after we started eating, Merv took us on a tour of the campus. He showed my boys where Crawford Long discovered ether and where leaders of the Old South once laid their heads. My sons were amazed. And so was I.
It was the best day.
When my sons finally walked into the massive Sanford Stadium for the first time, they were speechless. I don’t think that they had ever seen so many people in one place. Or so many red shirts. We were halfway through the first quarter before they realized that the crowd was real and not some sort of special effect.
Seated around us, we had a good crew of strangers who weren’t really strangers because they were wearing red too. The couple in front of us were season ticket holders. Next to them there was a family that looked a bit like ours. Behind us there was a young couple.
It was hot but we were all in Athens watching the Bulldogs.
It was the best day. For all of us.
And then the two drunk guys showed up and sat right behind us.
Remember, this was a noon kickoff so either they had just taken a single shot of jet fuel or they had been drinking since they woke up. My money was on the second option.
One guy was sort of drunk. That is to say, he was wasted but he was sober enough to know that he was wasted. The other guy just didn’t care. He threw caution (and his liver) to the wind sometime around 9:30 that morning. Or the night before. I don’t know. He was leaning on the people next to him and slurring and cussing and generally reminding me why so many people don’t like the Georgia Bulldogs.
At one point, he went on a cussing binge. And his cussing had no purpose. He was being foul just to be foul. I’ll spare you his word of choice but pretend with me for a moment that the word apple is a vile, disgusting word that would make a sailor blush.
Really Drunk Guy: “Apple!”
Sort of Drunk Guy: “Shut up. We’re going to get thrown out. I’m sorry, ma’am.”
Really Drunk Guy: “Apple! Apple! Apple! I love apples! Apple McAppleby. Martin Van Apple! Apple!”
Sort of Drunk Guy: “Your wife is going to kill us.”
I asked my sons if they knew what that word meant. They said no. I was relieved. But I turned it into a teaching moment.
“This is what happens when you drink too much.”
Judging by the look in their eyes, they’ll probably never have so much as a tablespoon of NyQuill for as long as they live.
Finally, the GBI came by and had a talk with the two inebriated fellows. Not the campus police. Not a state trooper. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation. You’re a special kind of drunk if it takes the GBI to settle you down. Whatever the officers said to those men must have worked because they didn’t make it past the first half.
After all of that, I decided that the family needed a drink. Powerade. Not whatever intoxicant that two fellows behind us were having.
Things on the field weren’t much better. Georgia was playing a daycare from Louisiana that day. And for a good portion of the day, the daycare was winning. I started to question the wisdom of my game selection. Perhaps I should have picked an easier team, I don’t know, maybe Georgia Tech, so that my sons were guaranteed to see a win. But in the end, the boys in red pulled it out. And all of us in red went home happy.
But we would have went home happy anyway.
It really was the best day.
I’m the luckiest dad alive.