Jackets Off To Shreveport For The Independence Bowl

Dec. 5, 2010

By Matt Winkeljohn

Sting Daily

I want to write an upbeat story about Georgia Tech going to the Independence Bowl to play Air Force, but that’s proving difficult because I’m powerless. I need Santa Clause.

Literally . . . I’m powerless. In the dark, getting colder, trying to figure where I can find wireless, and worried that much of the food in the house is going to rot – especially since I just made a grocery run.

Tree fell, power’s out.

Update: I’m writing from a bar. Wife’s not happy. Me? I’ve been worse at other times.

Right away, know that Tech, with a rushing average of 327 yards per game, is the only team in the nation that averages more than Air Force (317.9), and the Falcons’ top two rushers are from Atlanta.

This will, as per my occasionally (I’m, not always like this) style, be a dis-jointed missive. Off the top I have to wonder if one of Tech’s greatest fans, Lamar B. Doolittle of Sandersville, Ga., is related in some way to one of the greatest Air Force aviators of all time – General Jimmy Doolittle.

I know this; Lamar’s happy about the $14 bowl tickets he’s buying today. And if I were in Shreveport, La., now, or on Dec. 27, when the Yellow Jackets will play Air Force in a game of triple option chicken, I wouldn’t have techno problems. They have electricity down there.

I don’t. Or didn’t until I got to Manuel’s.

While I was at a grocery Sunday loading up on a week’s worth for a family of five, an old-growth oak fell six doors down and on the street behind ours. Big mess. No power. I’m at Manuel’s now, where there’s electricity and wireless. I taught my family members how to make a fire.

On a good day for Techsters (the women’s basketball team scorched Georgia, Tashard Choice rushed for 100 yards and a TD to help the Dallas Cowboys beat Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, Stewart Cink shot 67 and tied for sixth in the Chevron World Championship to earn $205,000 and Matt Kuchar earned $140,000 while finishing 18th), the football team landed in the Independence Bowl.

Once I committed to the idea of treating the Independence Bowl with an open mind, which is tricky coming off a BCS bowl like the Orange Bowl, I called uber-fan Joel Langsfeld. Dude’s dead sick.

Backup plan: Dr. Doolittle came to the rescue.

Lamar B. Doolittle is not a doctor, actually, but he’s a hell of a Tech fan, and he’s going to Shreveport with six, seven, eight, who knows how many friends. Doolittle’s been to every Tech game, home or away, for something like three years. As a bedrock member of the Conyer’s Mafia, a group of Tech fans that attends so many games (most road games in an RV based with a Conyers resident) it’d make your head spin, he is in a way as jacked up about going to the IB as he was before going to the Orange Bowl last year. Not for the same reasons, however.

Going to a BCS bowl is a big deal, no doubt.

But for social reasons, for sake of camaraderie, the Orange Bowl reeked. And it was cold.

“I was at the Orange Bowl last year, and sometimes you’d be talking to people and some were in the Keys or wherever, splintered,” Doolittle said. “I read up on Shreveport . . . and it sounds like those people really go out of their way to make sure everybody has a good time.

“I kind of enjoy that smaller environment rather than the big stage like last year.” OK, to be sure, nobody would rather Tech go to the Independence Bowl rather than the Orange Bowl.

But the social environment will be better in Shreveport, I guarantee it. Tech is going to a bowl for the 14th straight year, tying for the fourth-longest streak in the nation.

And Tech’s attendance in Shreveport might affect future bowl game selections. Do Tech fans have a reputation for traveling well?

You know I’m a Big 10 guy, an Ohio State fan. I grew up in Columbus. Ohio State’s in the Sugar Bowl instead of Michigan State because the Buckeyes are known to travel well.

Plus,l was on the teleconference Sunday night, and Tech coach Paul Johnson said, “I don’t think our team will view anything as a letdown. We’re excited to have a chance to play again. I guarantee . . . if we’re not ready to play, Air Force will embarrass us. I’ve been there; I know.”

He coached against Air Force for years while he was at Navy, winning five out of six. You cannot go to Shreveport and get $14 tickets like those offered by Tech. They will cost more.

Tech is offering tickets at this price as an acknowledgement that there’d be a better place to be (like, maybe, Glendale, Ariz.), and to honor the fact that the Jackets have been to a bowl for 14 straight years. That ties for the 14th-longest streak in the nation. Tech has an obligation to sell 10,000 tickets.

This is more than a bowl game. It is, in a way, a referendum on Tech football. If you appreciate the Jackets, and their coaching staff, prove it.

Jimmy Doolittle, one of the great aviators of WWII, was worried about Japanese Zeroes. BING him here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_Doolittle).

Lamar Doolittle was worried that the Jackets would end up in a California bowl. He and fellow Tech fans whom he has met over the years have developed a habit of attending road games. Santa Clause’s sleigh might not have made that trip.

“We’re probably going to be driving,” Doolittle said. “A lot we normally drive to; we take an RV based in Conyers most of the time. That’s owned by Alton McCullough, who we call Santa Clause. If you saw him, you would say he’s Santa Clause 365 days a year. He comes to my bank [in Sandersville] one day a year, and he’ll see about 300 kids a day. That’s a big day.

“It’s always neat for me, and the members that travel with us, to go to new places.” You should look up Jimmy Doolittle if you’re not familiar with his story; big part of our nation’s history. As an aside, Air Force quarterback Tim Jefferson is a graduate of Atlanta’s Woodward Academy (769 rushing yards) and AF running back Asher Clark, who went to Peachtree Ridge, rushed for 1,001 yards. Thoughts? Send them to stingdaily@gmail.com. Never mind about all that business of the tree falling.

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