Long before the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship, Becky Katzowitz had requested Tuesday as a vacation day.
“A red-and-black day,” she billed it, figuring she’d be exhausted from the victory celebration.
She did indeed stick to her pre-arranged day off, but it was a day of mourning after the University of Georgia lost to the University of Alabama in an overtime heartbreak. The end-zone tickets Katzowitz and her husband, Bryan, who live in Dunwoody, had been able to score ended up providing an excellent view of Georgia’s tragic end.
“We had Row 5 seats to the massacre,” she lamented. “It’s heartbreaking.”
Monday’s epic matchup followed a weekend full of concerts and other fun events, not to mention a thrilling season. The Bulldogs’ historic Rose Bowl victory over Oklahoma was barely a week old before the team met the University of Alabama on sort-of home turf in Atlanta.
For days, it felt like the Bulldog Nation’s collective heartbeart reverberated throughout downtown Atlanta. You could sense it in the thumping base coming from Centennial Olympic Park, where a string of performers took the stage, in the crack of drummers who entertained on the fan plaza outside Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the chilly sunshine.
That boom of the confetti cannons heralding a ‘Bama victory? That was the sound of a million Dawgs’ hearts breaking.
With delirious Crimson Tide fans filling the air with their cries of celebration, Catherine Koonce had her head on the bar, her lucky UGA outfit having failed to do the trick.
“I’ve become such a superstitious fan,” said Koonce, who recently moved from Atlanta to Athens. “I made sure I had all the things I needed. I was wearing a red dress and black tights that I have worn when we have won other games this season. I was super focused.”
By Tuesday, she’d shed the red.
“I’m wearing all black today,” she said. “I had one meeting at 11:30 a.m. and then I went to Grindhouse in 5 Points and had a gigantic turkey burger and fries and all the sauce they would give me. That’s as far as I’ve gotten today.”
Midday, she was contemplating a milkshake. For therapeutic puposes.
Official commentary has been sort of sparse. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart kept it short and bittersweet: “In overtime we didn’t finish when we had to and Alabama did. Give them credit, but I think everybody can see that Georgia’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.”
Freshman quarterback Jake Fromm called the games heart-stopping few minutes “a total rollercoaster,” while seniors Sony Michel and Nick Chubb struck statesman-like chords.
“That was a great defense we went up against,” Chubb said. A lot of big bodies up front, makes it hard to run. But at the end of the day, it just comes down to us not executing well.”
Ken Ashley, an executive director with real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield who played baritone in the UGA marching band back in the day, also managed a diplomatic response amid the emotional wreckage that was Monday night’s game.
“We went from a Charlie Brown team to within three points of a national championship,” he said. “It’s a stunning turnaround. I can’t wait for 2019”
Plus, there were no major incidents (other than what happened on the field). That’s something, right?
“Chief Shields and her team delivered,” Ashley said, offering plaudits to Atlanta Police Department Chief Erika Shields.
Few fans had warm feelings about the process of getting through security – more arduous than ever – or getting home via MARTA – deluged with more demand tha usual.
It took Rob Lockery and his friend Warren Thomas two hours to get through security Monday night and then more than an hour to make to Midtown afterward.
“They’re wrecked,” was the succinct day-after verdict delivered by Lockery’s wife Lindsay the next day.
Jon Javetz of Savannah drove to Atlanta for the game and woke up on Tuesday in three-pronged suffering.
“I was mentally, emotionally and physically hungover,” he said, having suffered flashbacks to the 2017 Super Bowl there at the end. At that game, after dominating in the first half, the Atlanta Falcons succumbed to the New England Patriots in overtime.
“Unfortunately as a Georgia fan – not just the University of Georgia, I mean Georgia sports in general – you can see it slowly unraveling,” he said. “This game was the mirror image of the Rose Bowl (where Georgia came from behind to beat Oklahoma) and similar to watching the Super Bowl.”
But he did end on a positive note. The ticket he bought from an online broker landed him squarely in Tide country, but it worked out.
“The Alabama fans I was sitting next to, we were all friends throughout the game,” he said. “Everyone was respectful in the winning and the losing.”
Contributing: Greg Bluestein and Scott Trubey. Information from Dawg Nation and the Associated Press was used in this report.