Nov. 6, 2012
by Cal Powell
I'm embarrassed to admit that I once dreaded this day.
Saturday mornings bleed into long afternoons with my 3 ½ year old son; they generally involve me chasing him up and down the aisle at a sporting goods store, sitting in a greasy booth at the Burger King playground and/or staring at the large catfish at the Bass Pro Shops aquarium until even the slimy beast himself gets bored and retreats to a dark spot.
In football parlance, they call this "killing the clock." The exercise goes on for hours until, bleary-eyed and frazzled, I can't take it anymore and bring Parks back home, whereupon he promptly catches a second wind and I end up impersonating a beast of burden in the front yard while my amused son rides me until my knees bleed. Sometimes I wonder if he's on amphetamines, actually.
Fatherhood wears me out.
Sometime during the week, it occurred to me I could take Parks to Athens today. Georgia was playing Ole Miss, and surely among the mass of humanity and 12-packs I could spot Hairy Dawg, Georgia's over-sized mascot, and provide Parks with a story to share with his buddies at Sunday school tomorrow.
I had no intention of actually going into the stadium. Parks inside Sanford Stadium with 92,000 other barking fools? I'd rather ride the escalator at Dillard's 23 consecutive times, which, for the record, I've also done with Parks one otherwise perfect Saturday morning.
But then, a friend of mine offered me two tickets without me even asking. Then he offered me a parking pass right next to the stadium. Friday after work, I hinted to Parks about the possibility of going to Athens, half-hoping he'd prefer another romp through Academy Sports. All I envisioned was traffic and crowd and frayed nerves.
"That's where Hairy Dawg lives!" Parks shouted.
Precocious little guy. He gets it from his mother, who read to him a lot when he was younger, including "Hello, Hairy Dawg," an attractive book filled with watercolor paintings of Hairy Dawg on gameday. There's Hairy Dawg greeting some students; there's Hairy waving to alumni; there's Hairy giving the coach a high-five.
Parks doesn't know Jarvis Jones, Georgia's All-American linebacker, from Harold Jones, my seventh grade shop teacher, but he knows numerous intimate details about Hairy Dawg, including the curious hot dog-like hue and shape of Hairy's lone lip.
Saturday morning, we were off.
We went to the bookstore, saw the Arch, watched the band perform pregame and later got a glimpse of Uga IX, Georgia's actual bulldog mascot. Parks was pretty gleeful throughout much of this, and frankly I was just glad I wasn't staring at that stupid, lonesome catfish swimming circles at Bass Pro Shops, even if the trip did cost about $50 in gas money.
All along, though, Parks kept inquiring about Hairy. Once, Hairy appeared like a phantom during the famed "Dawgwalk," when the players walk, gladiator-like, through a mob of fans and drums and trombones en route to the stadium. It was not enough to satisfy Parks; even as the first notes of the trumpeter's "Glory, Glory" pierced our ears from the upper deck not long after we found our seats in the stadium, Parks was clamoring to find Hairy Dawg.
Off we went, leaving excellent seats in the shade in search of this animated beast.
Through persistence, charm and even a little harmless subterfuge, I managed to get us down to the field level, where we hung out for the entire first quarter and much of the second waiting for a glimpse of Hairy. Incidentally, I never watched a single play from snap to completion, such was my devotion to the mission. Finally, I spotted Hairy on the big screen and we made our way over to his general vicinity. About 30 minutes later, after the flirtatious Hairy grew tired of taking multiple pictures with the entire cheerleading squad and at least half of the homecoming court, he began walking our way.
At this point, I began impersonating a 12-year-old girl upon seeing Justin Bieber, hollering, idiot-like, for Hairy to come over. I have not felt less like a man since, well, Wednesday, when Miriam made me watch "Downton Abbey." Hairy, to his credit and my eternal gratitude, came right over. In fact, he opened the gate and scooped Parks up, holding him in an embrace worthy of a Harlequin novel.
I snapped a few pictures and Hairy left. I asked Parks what he thought, expecting blubbering, unbridled glee.
"But I didn't get to high-five him," he said.
Seriously, kid? Another 15 minutes of waiting, another round of hand-waving and hollering, and Hairy, dutifully, came back over.
This time, he high-fived Parks for a solid minute or two, then embraced him there in the shadow of the goalposts. There were 92,000 people in the stadium, but for those precious seconds, it might as well have been Hairy, Parks and me. The smile on my son's face!
I half-expected a chorus of angels to sing and Tinkerbell to appear with a fistful of pixie dust, and for a few minutes, I remembered what it was like to be a kid again.
For those fleeting seconds, I saw the world through the eyes of my son, who I love so dearly, and it made me practically tremble in wonder.
One of the stadium workers came over a few minutes later. He told me he'd never seen a kid smile so big as Parks did when Harry high-fived him. We practically glided our way out of the stadium and, eventually, back to Macon.
As per custom, I put Parks to bed. We talked about his day and we said our prayers and I kissed him good night.
"My favorite part was seeing Hairy Dawg, daddy," he told me as I left the room.
I closed the door and smiled. Praise God and Hairy Dawg and little boys like mine. I've never been more grateful.
Cal Powell is a UGA graduate and former member of The Red and Black sports staff.