Georgia starts Rose Bowl trip near Fantasyland -- seems only right


People on the West Coast live somewhat in their own private Idaho, which I’m allowed to say as a native, and those who come to Disneyland intentionally pay hundreds of dollars to be even less connected to outside reality. (Dumbo The Flying Elephant is so much easier to process than life.)

So you can imagine what the reaction was when the masses filtered down fake Hollywood Blvd. to the corner of fake Sunset, not far off fake Main Street, and found their route to a theater showing, “Frozen” on an endless loop interrupted by football coaches and players from far away foreign lands known as Georgia and Oklahoma holding a press conference.

Excuse me. Why are you here and what have you done with Mickey?

“This is kinda crazy,” Kirby Smart said later, sitting in a director’s chair as a rollercoaster flew past him behind his back. “I’ll be honest, this is a first for me. It’s a foreign place for our kids. We could’ve gone to almost any other bowl game and there’s a good chance they had been there before. But not here. This is unique.”

Welcome to Fantasyland.

Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan have rides here. Make room for the flying Uga. Every other dream seems to have come true in Athens this year.

The Georgia takeover of Southern California has begun. More than 20,000 fans requested tickets through Georgia (which had an allotment of only 13,000). If that’s any indication, this could replicate the some-40,000 who descended on Chicago and Notre Dame early this same. (Georgia’s official allotment there was only 7,500.)

Many Georgia fans will travel West. Many don’t have to. They’re already here.

At least four prominent sports bars in the Los Angeles area host regular viewing parties during the season for fans and alumni. That includes the Barney’s Beanery restaurant and pub in Burbank, which sold out early for a “Bulldog Breakfast Brunch” that’s being staged by the SoCal chapter of the UGA Alumni Association on New Year’s morning.

The brunch starts at 8 a.m. It’s on the Rose Parade route. Parking could be a little problematic. But Barney’s general manager A.J. Sacher has dealt with Georgia fans before. He knows they tend to find a way. Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s will be flowing at dawn.

“Georgia fans are fun,” he said. “They’re not only fun, they’re …”

Pause.

“. . . confident.”

Continuing: “We have parties for other schools, too. Arizona State, Washington State, Penn State, Colorado. But Georgia’s just different. I’m from Virginia and I lived in Louisiana so I know what it’s like in the South. The fans are always boisterous. Nobody in the South goes to the game with any sense of dread.”

Um … Georgia-Florida in past years?

“Good point.

“But this year’s been different. The fans have kind of felt it building from the first week. And they’re superstitious. We have different rooms for different fans and I was going to move the Georgia fans. But they’re like, ‘No, we won sitting here last week, we’re staying here.”

Georgia’s fans are floating. So are Georgia’s players.

The biggest challenge this week not be defeating Oklahoma in the college football playoff semifinals on New Year’s Day but remembering that this week isn’t supposed to be a joy ride.

At a pre-playoff press conference with the three other playoff coaches a few weeks ago, Smart said, “This is not your typical bowl game. We’re not going to ride rides and do that kind of thing.”

Know what Georgia players did Wednesday? Ride rides and that sort of thing. It was unavoidable.

Most players started their Disney experience on the new, “Guardians of the Galaxy” ride, an accelerated drop where the rider sometimes leaves their stomach behind.

Sony Michel passed.

“A little too crazy for me,” he said.

Roquan Smith went on but spent the entire riding holding onto Smart.

“He about broke my arm,” Smart said.

“This is kind of crazy for a kid coming from Macon County,” Smith said. “You don’t see rollercoasters like this there.”

Nick Chubb celebrated his birthday Wednesday at Disneyland. If he was eight years old, this woud’ve been perfect.

“Pretty fun,” he said. When a roller coaster rolled past behind him, he said, “I feel like I have to watch my back.”

So this is where things get challenging for Georgia.

L.A. can be a dizzying experience. Georgia players won’t be going on daily tours of Hollywood, Sunset Strip and the beaches, but it’s easy to get swallowed up in this landscape, especially for kids from the small-town South.

“The big thing for us is to re-center ourselves each day and remember what their purpose is,” Smart said. “You almost have to beat that into their heads. It’s easy to forget. They knew coming out here what this was all about. They knew about today. But after Day 2, 3, 4, it’s easy to get tired. You have to be careful and make sure they have a chance to laugh and get away, but at the same time make sure they know what they have to get done.”

This will seem like a week-long dream. But the reality of a game returns on New Year’s Day. Fantasy’s on the clock.

EARLIER: Digi-Blog goes to Los Angeles for Georgia’s trip to Rose Bowl


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