Justin Champion needed a banner. Joe Purcell had one. And within a few hours a beautiful memory of the Bulldogs was created.
Champion is a fireman. He is the engineer who runs the Rescue 2 truck for the Nashville Fire Department. He is also "as big a Bulldogs fan as you will ever find."
The champion posted APB on social media on Friday. He was looking for a Georgia flag that could be able to fly from the back of his rescue vehicle as he drove up and down Broadway and West End Avenue during a long shift that began at 6 a.m. Friday and would not end until sometime on Saturday before the Georgia-Vanderbilt match.
Purcell, an Athenian realtor and a huge Georgia fan, for his part, follows the Bulldogs just about anywhere they go. It got wind that a NGA firefighter with a UGA attachment needed a Georgia G flag. It just so happened that he had one that he intended to fly over his back door Saturday south of Vanderbilt Stadium.
The two parties were linked via a Twitter broker and they met on Friday afternoon near the SEC Nation broadcast on the Vanderbilt campus for what became a near-ceremonial "D-flag" exchange.
The champion promised to return the flag when he got off his shift sometime before Saturday at 1
And so, another Bulldogs friendship was born.
"I saw all these Georgia fans pour into the city and wanted to introduce myself," explained Champion, a Brunswick native and 19-year veteran of the Nashville Fire Department. "I'm a true Georgia fan. I've been a lifelong fan. I would run up and down Broadway all day and all night, so I thought if I could find Georgia's flag somewhere, it would bring out all those bulldozers barking. ”
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There was a lot of barking in Nashville already. Second-tier ticket broker forecasts say 70 percent of tickets purchased for Saturday's game are snapped by Georgia fans.
Vanderbilt has the smallest stadium in the SEC, with a capacity of 40,500. Based on these estimates, it is estimated that between 28,000 and 29,000 Georgia fans will be present.
There was evidence Thursday and Friday that more could actually be had in Music City. Hotels from downtown Honky-tonk to downtown West End, where Vanderbilt is located, were dressed in red and black fans. Broadway's buds were full of Georgia fans, where the occasional "Go Daughes!" Chants erupt. Reservations requiring reservations report no late-night access.
Georgia fans – and those of other SEC football forces such as Alabama and LSU – have long considered Nashville a favorite destination because of the music scene and relative proximity. This year, the game has the added element of being the first of the season and the first in 25 years when the Bulldogs opened the season on the road against an SEC opponent.
Between that and the overwhelming optimism – over the outcome of Saturday night and the stubborn pursuit of a national championship – Georgia fans seem to be motivated by several other fan bases everywhere.
"This year is, I know it is," said the 40-year-old champion, who moved to Nashville from Brunswick as a high school student. "This year we win everything. I can feel it. ”
With his newly acquired Georgia, affixed to the sign, securely attached to Rescue 2 with black, plastic zippers, Champion and his crew sneaked into Rescue 2 and headed back to Broadway.
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