ATHENS – It was Lewis Grizzard who made Tim Hutchison a Georgia fan.
Born and raised in southern Indiana, Hutchison doesn’t have any ties to the University of Georgia. A high school teacher and baseball coach, he attended Southern Indiana and kept up with Big Ten sports, like most everybody else in the region.
But Hutchison’s mother, Claudia, was a big fan of Grizzard, the late Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist, humorist and comedian. She had all his books and VHS tapes and read his syndicated column in the 1970s and ‘80s.
As a result, Tim Hutchison was exposed to Grizzard’s unique humor and perspective, which introduced him to the greatest college football player of the day, Herschel Walker.
“We actually saw Lewis Grizzard in a concert once,” said Hutchison, speaking by phone Tuesday from his home in Vincennes, Ind. “At the same time, Herschel came on the scene. From that moment, I just started following Herschel Walker and Georgia and Buck Belue and the next quarterbacks and running backs that came in. I’ve just become a lifelong fan. The funny thing is, there’s not many Georgia fans or even SEC fans around here.”
Hutchison’s passion, quite naturally, became the passion of his children, Gunnar and Claudia Hutchison. Grownups now, Hutchison’s children would take turns going with their dad to see the Bulldogs play each year. One year, they’d go to Nashville to see Georgia play Vanderbilt and the next they’d go to Lexington, Ky., to see the Dogs face Kentucky as those were the closest games to get to.
In fact, Hutchison has been to one Georgia game at Sanford Stadium in his lifetime. It happened in 2018 when his girlfriend, Tai Blythe, surprised him tickets to the Middle Tennessee game. Hutchison and his son actually were making the pilgrimage to Athens again 2020 when they got news the Vanderbilt game had been canceled because of the Commodores’ COVID-19 issues.
“We were actually in Chattanooga when my son got the news on his Twitter feed,” Hutchison said. “We had to turn around and go back home.”
This year, though, the Bulldogs are coming to the Hutchisons, and it could not have come at a better time. Hutchison’s son could not make it to Nashville this year because, just days before they were scheduled to make the trip, Ann Bobbitt – Gunnar and Claudia’s mother and Tim’s ex-wife -- was diagnosed with leukemia.
For months now, Gunnar and Claudia have been staying with their mother at an Airbnb property in Indianapolis caring for Bobbitt while she received stem-cell treatments for the cancer. Over Christmas, Tim Hutchison surprised his son with two tickets to the College Football Playoff Championship game.
“He is 27, and I have seen him cry twice in the last month — once when she was announced as cancer-free and the second time when I showed him the ticket order,” Tim Hutchison exclaimed. “All he could say was ‘Go Dawgs!’”
Besides Bobbitt’s remarkable recovery, the best thing about that whole ordeal is they still have the Airbnb in Indianapolis. So, that’s where Hutchison and his son will be staying over the weekend as they prepare for Monday night’s championship game between the No. 3-ranked Georgia Bulldogs and No. 1 Alabama (8 p.m., ESPN).
“We’re so excited,” Hutchison said. “We lived and died through Georgia’s last national championship game against Alabama. It’s something we’re really looking forward to as our whole family from southern Indiana are huge Georgia fans.”
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The Hutchisons’ story is just one of dozens that Georgia Bulldogs fans shared with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which put out a social-media call to hear their travel and tickets stories in advance of Monday night’s game. As one might expect, they are many and varied.
Here is a selection:
BOBBY MARIENCHECK, Raleigh, N.C.
Hey Chip. Happy New Year! Going to Indy to meet up with Manny (Diaz), Allen Miller and many former tennis Dawgs. Can’t fly into Indy. Way expensive and limited options. So, I’m hitting Louisville and driving up. Buying extra layers -- hear the low next Monday night is 8 degrees. Hope to see you after Dawgs win big. Destiny awaits!
STEPHEN BAILEY, Greenville, S.C.
Back in September, before the Clemson game, I had a feeling we would go all the way this year. I paid a little under $100 for a voucher that allows me to buy a lower-level ticket for face value ($625) through Sports Illustrated tickets. I couldn’t get a flight into Indy, so I’m flying from Greenville to Louisville (Ky.) and driving the remaining two hours. My brother-in-law, who is a UGA alum, is flying from Louisiana and meeting me in Louisville. I married a die-hard Bama fan. Her name is literally Crimson. My father in-law named her after the team. We just had our first baby, a son who got the middle name of Herschel. It should be a great game! I’m just hoping to finally have bragging rights next Christmas. Go Dawgs!
LEE EIDSON, Woodstock
My daughter (Mallory Stavrinakis) and son-in-law (John Stavrinakis) presented me with a Christmas poem and it reads as follows:
Ho, ho, ho!
Do you wonder where you’ll go?
Is it near or is it far?
Will you go by plane or will you go by car?
Now that I have you thoroughly confused
Let me give you a hint or two
The last time you were there it was nineteen-eighty
Oh my, I wasn’t even a baby!
Now if this doesn’t give it away
We might just be here all day
While we’re there you might even mime
“I know I’m asking a lot you guys but hunker it down one more time!”
On the opposite page was a ticket to the national championship in Indianapolis! I’m 70 now, but I was in New Orleans in 1980. I’m hoping to be 2-for-2 by the time the game is over. Go Dawgs!
SCOTT KEEBLE, Champaign, Il.
I’m driving over to Indy from Champaign. Easy drive. About the same as Alpharetta to Athens. My brother and I were at the Rose Bowl four years ago. Hoping our in-person luck holds!
JIMMY TAYLOR, Berkeley Lake
Due to the stupid decision to host this game in a cold-weather city that requires a three-night stay, we made the decision and are fortunate enough to be traveling to the game on a private jet out of (DeKalb-Peachtree Airport). Leaving the day of and returning right after the game. We were able to secure tickets from UGA as a longtime season-ticket holder. Our group will include my wife, brother, nephew, niece, and their spouses.
JOHN BRANYAN, Athens
We’re headed out by car early Sunday morning. Qualified for two tickets as a Bulldog Club member and got two more from a friend who also qualified but not going. Just bought two parking passes for our entire group of 10. Made hotel reservations back in October, but only place we could afford is about 18 miles south of the stadium. I made the mistake of not going to New Orleans for the 1980 season Sugar Bowl and said if the Dawgs ever play for it again I wouldn’t miss it!
TY WHEELER, Woodstock
I am a former UGA sprinter and have been a Dawg fan for all 53 years of my life. I haven’t missed a game (other than the COVID year) in 11 years. … I have hotel in Indy, but am flying into Louisville and driving up Sunday. Still looking for a ticket though.
MATT PEELE, Atlanta
After a lengthy negotiation with my wife the likes of which could rival a Middle East peace talk, I have secured transportation, lodging, and, yes, a ticket to the final game of the year. I am flying alone as I was able to use Delta points, but will be meeting my other buddies, who are either driving up or flying separately. … I will be flying in on Sunday morning (and looking for things to do until my friends arrive later) and will fly back to Atlanta on Tuesday around lunchtime. I will be staying northeast of the city where I surrendered most of my saved-up hotel points and still needed to shell out a few hundred more in currency to satisfy their wishes. I am equal parts ecstatic that I have the fortune to be there in person and nervous as to the potential outcome. I have never seen a football championship in my lifetime and I hope and pray that comes to an end next Monday evening!
KIM ROGERS, Watkinsville
My daughter Jennifer and I are driving from her house in Atlanta early Saturday morning with my brother, Al Quillian, his wife Thea, my nephew Drew and his fiancé Jessica Ruffo.
Looking forward to the trip SO much! Will the Dawgs win? Who knows? But if they do, we want to be there. I’m 71 years old and didn’t go to the 1980 championship game. Remember the season well as I was pregnant with Jennifer. … My husband Al and I have been Dawg fans from the time we were born! My Daddy was in law school at UGA, so some of my first words were “To Hell With Tech!”
JESSE L. MACK, Indianapolis
I am a native Atlantan, Decatur to be exact, and I have secured tickets here in Indy. The great part is I live here and love the city. Can’t wait for the Dawgs to win! Any questions about Indy let me know. I will always keep my 404 area code!
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