I was sitting in my living room watching Paul Finebaum. My leg was propped up with an icepack taped to my knee. I was still trying to recover from the weekend in Knoxville. I was contemplating starting drinking again. The phone rang. An unrecognizable voice asked “Are you alone?’ “Yes” I answered. “I’ll be there shortly, I need to talk to someone.”
I was puzzled, but the anticipation broke me out of my depression. Could I possibly be finding myself in a Dashiell Hammett story? The doorbell rang. I limped to the door and opened it. He was unmistakable, even behind the dark glasses and straw Mark Richt hat. It was Cue.
I had met Cue at the Georgia/Southern game a couple of weeks ago. He is the front runner to replace UGA IX and become UGA X, the new Georgia Bulldog mascot. I had spent several minutes talking to Cue at his doghouse (or should I say at Russ’s doghouse) on the sidelines and he had patiently let me pose for a picture with him and he had been very impressive, but I had no idea that he would remember me.
“Come in” I stammered, “lay down wherever you’re comfortable. Can I bring you some water or a snack?”
“No thanks” he replied. “I just need to talk to somebody and I’ve been studying the UGA Scrapbooks. When I saw the story that you did on UGA V in 1990, I remembered you from the Southern game and thought that you were the person that I could talk to.”
“I’m honored to have you in my house” I replied “and I’d love to talk with you. Is there a problem that I can help you with?”
“Were you in Knoxville?” he asked. “Yes” I replied. “Then you probably already know what I want to talk about. It was my fault that we lost the game.”
I was startled. “Your fault?” I asked. “Yes, didn’t you see me? Walking around in a white sweater. I felt naked. I should of had my red Georgia jersey on and those silly Seilers told me that I couldn’t wear my red jersey for a road game until I had actually been crowned. I had to pose for pictures with all those hillbillies with a white shirt on. How embarrassing and then after the game over that toothless hound dog mascot of theirs grinned at me. I could see his tonsils. My red jersey would have been good for another 25 yards on that last drive. I know it’s worth at least eight points.”
I could see how frustrated he was so I tried reason. “The Seilers have been at this a long time” I told him “if they think it’s good to hold off on the red jersey, they probably know best.”
“I’ve just been working so hard” he answered, “I’ve been studying the Scrapbooks, I know Bulldog history since the mid ’50’s as told be those who know best, the real Bulldogs. I’m working so hard to control myself and represent the Bulldog nation well. I haven’t bit any opposing coaches or players. I posed for 10,000 photos with my eyes open and a smile on my face. I mean it’s getting frustrating.”
“Last month I could have bitten Spurrier on the butt, but I felt sorry for him. Such a bad team. However I was really proud of Coach Richt. He could have hung 70 on the ‘Old Ball Coach’ if he’d wanted but he called off the Dogs. You know according to UGA II’s Scrapbook Vince humiliated Spurrier in Jacksonville in ’66. I suppose that there is a certain type of symmetry in us humiliating him his Heisman year and then this year having him realize that if he continued on at South Carolina he would he would become Georgia Tech, getting lucky to beat us every decade. We drove him into retirement.”
“You know I could have taken a chunk out of Saban’s ankle after the ‘Bama game, but I’m still afraid that they might pick one of my brothers or cousins if they see me as unable to control my appetites. After I’m named UGA X there’ll be plenty of time for biting. Hopefully this year in Atlanta. I’ll have my red jersey by then, we’ll be playing Alabama for the SEC Championship and as Saban’s being interviewed before the game I’ll go trotting nonchalantly by and stop and take a bite out of his leg. It’ll be better than when UGA V bit the Auburn player in the 56-49 overtime win in 1996.”
“Do you think that you could become as big a celebrity as UGA V?” I asked.
“Well that might be asking a lot.” He paused, then continued “the cover of Sports Illustrated, top mascot in the country, a starring role in a Clint Eastwood movie, hey why not?”
“You know I was sniffing some of the recruits who were at the South Carolina game, there’s some talent on the way and we’re loaded with young talent on this year’s team. With the senior leaders in this group and the young players gaining experience, I think that we’re about to see a new golden era of Bulldog football dawning any week now.”
We’ll get a big test from Missouri this Saturday. They have a great coach and the kind of disciplined team that gives us trouble. But I think that we are ready for the light to go on for some of our players who have struggled and when that light goes on we might not lose a game for the next three or four years.” He hesitated and looked around the living room “if I’m the mascot, then I’ll be along for the ride, the cover of Sports Illustrated would just be the beginning.”
I was startled by the look that came over Cue as he talked. “Hey you’re getting a little wild eyed you’re not doing anything you shouldn’t are you?” I asked.
“No, you know they keep a close check on everything we do, and then there’re also the blood tests” he continued. “People tried to accuse UGA VI of using steroids but they were just jealous because he had so many wins. He was the biggest UGA, but he was just a freak in the weight room. But you just wait and see what I can do with an off season of workouts under Mark Hocke. UGA VI also knew about payback. His first year he wasn’t allowed to attend the Jeep O’hau bowl because of some stupid quarantine law in Hawaii. But he waited patiently for his revenge and seven years later when we played Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl he gave the team a pregame peptalk that has become legendary. I’m going to make my talk the next time we play Alabama and then bite Saban’s leg.
“Of course everybody knows that we’ve been subject to testing for illegal drugs ever since the wild party in UGA IV’s room in Nashville before the Vandy game in ’86. It cost him a four game suspension and Uncle Otto had to be brought in as a substitute mascot. The scandal really shocked the family. We’ll never let anything like that happen again.”
“Where does your name come from?” I asked next.
“It’s simple” he answered “most everyone in the family has always enjoyed a good game of pool and when I was born mama said that I looked like a little cue ball. You know UGA I used to make Sonny bring him up on Thursday before the games so that he could have an afternoon listening to Dee Allen tell stories up at Chili’s. There’s lots of memories and history in those nine scrapbooks. I can’t wait to start #10.