Most Georgia football fans probably have specific memories about December 1, 2012. As much as we’d like to, some losses are too painful to forget.
I made arancini that day — you ever had arancini? They’re fried risotto balls stuffed with ragu and mozzarella with Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings over the top. A decadent dish, befitting of marking a momentous occasion.
And on that day in 2012, there was an occasion worth marking — Georgia was 11-1 and squaring off with Nick Saban and his mighty Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship Game with a berth in the BCS National Championship Game on the line.
Whenever the Dawgs play in a big game, you can count on a spread of food at my house.
Although a willing host, it’s not because a crowd is coming over to watch the ballgame. The culinary labor is just a productive way to get out my nervous energy before Georgia tees it up in an important matchup.
Arancini were that day’s distraction. I didn’t even eat them — too nervous.
It was fortuitous that I waited to partake until the next day because riding the Red and Black rollercoaster for four quarters that night left me feeling several things, the most prominent being “not-quite-nausea.”
Don’t act like y’all don’t know what not-quite-nausea is.
It’s a special kind of affliction known intimately by Georgia football fans. Its onset, usually prompted by an almost lethal combination of breathless anticipation, elevated hopes, and unrequited championship aspirations.
Y’all know what happened that dreadful 2012 December night.
A 21-10 second-half lead evaporated. The one-minute drive that almost propelled Aaron Murray into the pantheon of Georgia sports heroes. The Dee Milner interception that wasn’t. The clock play that wasn’t. The C.J. Mosley batted ball that was. The only Georgia catch Dawgs fans ever wished was a drop.
And just like that, “5 Yards Short” was born.
That 2012 SEC title game was the equivalent of Georgia football fans getting sprayed by a what-might’ve-been skunk. It didn’t matter what you did. You just couldn’t get the stench off of ya.
For most fanbases, that’s a full meal of misery, but for Georgia fans, that was just the appetizer.
The 2017 season, in so many ways, came out of nowhere. Hopes were undoubtedly high for head coach Kirby Smart and quarterback Jacob Eason’s second seasons, but was anybody thinking the Dawgs were bound for a national championship that year?
Even the most optimistic Dawgs fans had to take off their Georgia-rose-colored glasses when Eason went down in the opener against Appalachian State with a knee injury.
Then Jake Fromm happened. Notre Dame happened.
Then the flea-flicker to Terry Godwin against Mississippi State, followed by the romp over the Gators at the Cocktail Party.
Then a No. 1 ranking in the inaugural College Football Playoff poll.
Then came Georgia’s first SEC title since 2005.
Then Sony’s dash in Pasadena and the greatest Rose Bowl of all-time.
Dawg fans finally began to wonder, is this the year? There was undeniable magic in the air.
Let’s see if this script sounds familiar. Another two-score second-half lead squandered. And just because Georgia football fans need a little extra seasoning for their open wounds, it came from a freshman backup quarterback.
The placekicker — Alabama’s Achilles heel — misses a chip shot to send the game into overtime. For once, good fortune smiles upon Dawg Nation.
Reminiscent of his boot in the Rose Bowl, Hot Rod blasts one from 51 yards to give the Dawgs the lead in overtime.
Ledbetter and Bellamy got him! Ledbetter and Bellamy got him! It’s 2nd-and-26!
Is this gonna happen? Are we gonna be National Champs?! It feels like this is gonna . . . OH. NO.
I was standing up when Devonta Smith hauled in that laser-guided smart bomb from Tua Tagovailoa. Before Smith could raise his arm in celebratory exultation, I crumpled to the floor in a heap of “Not Again” paralysis.
And just like that, “2nd-and-26” became the down-and-distance to describe the despair of Georgia football fans.
I hope everyone saved room for dessert.
The cart at Trattoria di 2018 SEC Championship Game is full of so many delicious options to choose from: the two-score second-half lead lava cake, the tira-missed-field-goal-misu, the not-the-backup-quarterback-again brûlée, and last but certainly not least, the delectable fake punt fondue.
Give me a minute — my not-quite-nausea is back.
For head coach Kirby Smart and the 2021 Georgia football team, none of those memories should matter.
They should remain focused on upholding the standard. They should continue practicing to beat everybody. They should stay consistent in their season-long pursuit to be ELITE.
The simplistic beauty of Georgia football’s core maxims this season stems from being opponent-independent. As a team, the Dawgs are singularly focused on controlling the controllables.
Georgia football fans, however, are not beholden to those same stoic principles. For Dawg Nation, there are still some demons that need exorcising.
It remains to be seen who will line up against Georgia on December 4th at The Benz in the 2021 SEC Championship Game, but Georgia football fans should want it to be Alabama.
There’s an unspoken longing to avenge all of those painful endings against the Crimson Tide — to flip the apple-cart-of-almost upside down and to deliver Alabama a four-quarter reckoning.
If the Tide does indeed represent the SEC West in Atlanta this December, maybe I’ll prepare a game-day gazpacho.
Revenge is a dish best served cold.