Many people have stories about how they’ve been Bulldog fans their entire lives, how they’ve always wanted to come to UGA and cheer on their favorite football team, and how meeting up at a game between the hedges is something they’ve wanted their entire lives. My story’s different.
I didn’t grow up a sports fan or as someone who thought much of college athletics at all. The first time I watched a football game was my sophomore year of high school when I joined the Dunwoody Wildcat marching band, and even then I only half paid attention; I was there for the music and my friends.
As the seasons went on, I started paying more attention and caring more about the games. I still didn’t care about college or professional sports, but this was MY high school, this was MY team and that MY band it was supporting, and I was going to scream and play as hard as I could to support them.
Now the Bulldogs were the team I would support. I was ready to be out of high school, and ready to become fully immersed in this new stage of my life at The University of Georgia. I hadn’t been a Dawg my whole life, but now I was, and it was time to embrace that culture and my new team 100%. I decided not to audition for the Redcoat Marching Band, wanting to expand and try different things in college that would be more relevant to my life further down the road.
I was a member of the huge audience and the amazing atmosphere there to experience Georgia football. And it was a great experience, but it just wasn’t right for me.
I was there with friends who only half cared about the games and wanted to go home at halftime, who sat on their phone or chatted away while the game was going on and I felt out of place for getting too into the games. I wanted more; the actor in me wanted to be more a part of what was happening, to help build the atmosphere the way I did in high school with the band.
I would look down to the front sections of the stadium and see the people painted up, going crazier than anyone else in the stadium, and knew I wanted to be down there, to be a part of that aesthetic that carries so much weight and meaning. To be one of these fans who had put on this mask to become something different than human, to transform into a vessel for Bulldog pride and enthusiasm.
My RA was a member of one of these paint lines, The Maniacs, and I asked him if I could paint with them. He happily invited me, adding me to the Facebook group, and by sophomore year I was a member of that group. But it still didn’t feel right. I didn’t feel like I was part of a community, and that the superfans I was going crazy with were strangers.
So at the end of the season I decided to leave that group and join another one, hoping to find one of the other groups that I would be a better part of. I went to an open interest meeting for the Spike Squad, and knew from the beginning that it would be a much better place for me.
I went through an initial interview and was brought on to the squad, and that football season was probably the best I’ve experienced in my entire life, because I was at the games going crazy and having fun with my friends.
If there’s one thing being in this beautiful fandom is about, it’s community. Being in the Spike Squad, just like being in any of the other spirit groups UGA has, is about dedication, passion, and a love for your school.
We are the first fans in line at the gate and the last to leave after every game. We are down in the front row, screaming until we can scream no more, and then we keep on screaming.
This is a part of who we are, our identity as UGA students and fans. Above all else, this is our community. Everything I do as a member of the Spike Squad I do out of love and passion for our athletes on the field, and my brothers and sisters in spikes standing next to me, and I can’t wait for this bittersweet experience that will be my last season in the student section.