The Last Row

ATHENS - Randy Stripling bleeds red and black like a gambler bleeds cash.

The Warner Robbins native makes the two and a half hour trek to Athens each Saturday and has done so for decades. He used to bring an RV to each game before it got too expensive. His tailgates consist of low country broil and deep fried turkey. He's "brainwashed" his daughters (age 26, 18 and 5) into becoming life-long Bulldogs.

But perhaps the oddest aspect about Stripling's fan-hood is the location of his season tickets –– the last row of the furthest section from the center of the field. He literally squeezes into the last nook and cranny of Sanford Stadium.

And Stripling wouldn't have it any other way.

The family atmosphere with his friendly neighbors and the perfect view of the historic bridge provided much appeal. The mammoth brick wall that sits just behind him, however, is what sold him.

Stripling enjoys standing for the entirety of each game and avoiding pesky fans that request him to sit. The wall also allows him to bring children to games because they can stand on the bleachers and get a decent view of the field.

"Sometimes youngins don't like going because they can't see," Stripling said. "I just tell them ‘Hey, way up here you can see the whole ballgame the whole time.'"

Stripling, after all, brought his two older girls to games as children and plans to do the same with his five-year-old and eventually his newborn granddaughter.

"We went out and bought her some Georgia gear today," Stripling said during Georgia's 51-44 win over Tennessee in 2012. "She's going to grow up being a Bulldog, and she doesn't even know it yet."

Stripling's father did the exact same thing by bringing eight-year-old Randy to Sanford Stadium back in the 1960s. Since then, Stripling estimates that he's watched the Bulldogs live "probably 150 times."

"My dad was a big fan and probably had the biggest impact on me becoming a fan," he said. "But all of our neighbors and everyone I knew growing up was a Bulldog fan, so it was bound to happen."

His greatest father-son bond was listening to legendary Larry Munson call the games –– even when the pair watched from the stands. It was a tradition that lived after his father's death and until 2008 when Munson retired. Ever since, Stripling refuses to listen to radio commentators from the stands.

"It's just not the same," he said.

Stripling may be done with his radio-listening days, but he says that he's happy to watch from high up in Sanford Stadium – or any stadium for that matter.

"If Georgia plays in Atlanta or Miami, there's no doubt that we'll be there," he said. "They can play the damn [national championship game] on the moon, and I'll be there."


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