Stepping Into Atlanta’s Vortex

Georgia Tech took me back to the days of option football in the Big 8.

Many years ago I kneeled on the sidelines with my cameras at Kansas State’s football stadium on a beautiful Indian  Summer day in mid-October. Oklahoma had their “Wishbone” offense of the 70’s running at a blitzkrieg pace. The Wildcats were offering up little to get in the Sooner’s way.

The temperature continued to rise on the slab of blacktop covered with a thin rug of plastic stubble that was the Astroturf of the day. The score was rising just as fast and threatened to eclipse even the temperature on the field that day. There was not a wisp of air. That stillness, combined with the heat rising from the turf and the mounting score, seemed to put everyone in a daze. The dwindling crowd fell silent to the point where the only sounds were Wildcat feet clomping along while Sooner feet seemed to lightly touch the surface on their way across the goal line.

Late in third quarter, the Oklahoma quarterback took a snap, faking to the plunging fullback before taking off around the end. Sensing a closing defender, the quarterback made a perfect pitch to one of his two trailing halfbacks who broke free, speeding right along the sideline.

Reaching for my small wide-angle camera hanging from my neck, the running back quickly was upon me. As he blew past me on his way to the end zone, something happened that will always remain on my list of favorite memories. I felt a breeze.

A breeze! That runner was going so fast, there was a little vortex – a whirling wind – that trailed along like an mini-Oklahoma tornado. My goodness, I thought to myself.

That memory came back to me Saturday in Atlanta as Georgia Tech runners ran wild and free through Kansas at a school-record pace. College football has changed so much from the days when OU’s “Wishbone” and Nebraska’s “Power-I” ruled the Plains states and the nation with option football. Watching Georgia Tech Saturday was a complete step back in time for this old guy who loved those electrifying displays of speed. Turner Gill could never allow himself, but still I wonder whether way, way down  deep, did one of the all-time best option quarterbacks feel just a touch of deja vu?

That was just one twist on our trip to the deep South last weekend. Everything seemed so different from what most would expect on a journey to the city often refered to as “Hotlanta.”

For starters, it was not hot. As Laura and I walked the mile back to our hotel after dinner Friday night, we were both thankful for the extra bit of clothing we wore to combat the breezy night. Temperatures fell to a point where those less prepared pulled their bare arms inside shirts for warmth.

Atlanta's Vortex Bar & Grill

Dinner was a vortex in another form, The Vortex Bar and Grill. This is one of Man vs. Food’s favorites from Adam Richman’s tour of Atlanta. His high regard for the food, along with praise from former residents and friends, made this a must stop for what everyone called the best burgers in Atlanta. Proclamations on the bar and grill’s web site further enticed us.

At The Vortex Bar & Grill the customer is NOT always right. We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone, especially if we think that you’re a great big jerk. We strive to keep The Vortex an official “Idiot-Free Zone” at all times. So if you’re acting like an idiot, we’ll be sure to let you know, right before we toss your silly ass out.  –or

…don’t ever come in here and start moving the furniture around like you own the place or we’ll slap you like a red-headed stepchild  –and finally

Wah,wah,wah! “They wouldn’t let me in without ID,” “I had to pay for parking,” “the music’s too loud,” “the bar is too smoky,” “there were drunk strippers sitting at the table next to me,” “I don’t like all the rules.” Sorry, but we ALSO enforce a very strict “No-Whining Policy.” So if you don’t like it here, go somewhere else. And if you need to have total control over your environment, then you need to stay home. Crybaby.

The Vortex itself did not disappoint. The atmosphere through the sprawling bar area looked biker tough, but bikers were probably the fewest in numbers. The mix ranged from college students to gay couples. Yes, there were women whose attire screamed stripper. Elaborate tattoos seemed to be required for every member of the wait staff. The people watching was a real treat.

What disappointed us was the food. We started with a Richman pick, the Mucho Mas Macho Nachos smothered in chili. Very good, but lacking in kick. That led us to the decision to split the Hell Burger. The menu warned us that “it’s spicy, so don’t order it if you’re a pussy.” Topped with habanero relish and a roasted jalapeno pepper, we made sure glasses of water were at the ready.

No need. The relish was delicious but hardly habanero hot. The large jalapeno pepper had been carefully cleaned of seeds, so the pepper lacked fire. The burger itself was very good but overpriced. Walking back to the hotel, we passed a Five Guys. We both agreed their burger was still better at a fairer price. What we had paid for at the Vortex was the atmosphere. For one night, that was worth the price.

A view upward at the Marriott-Marquis

Something that did not disappoint was the Marriott-Marquis Hotel on Peachtree in downtown Atlanta. Hotels for football road trips range widely in class and style. What is most important are ample rooms for the various meetings and training room sessions that start the minute the team arrives.  We have stayed in Holiday Inns and luxury beach-front hotels. The Marriott-Marquis was at the high-end with its massive tower and dynamic architecture as the rooms overlooked a massive center courtyard.

The other amazing factor was how quickly and smoothly we moved between the airport to the hotel, then from hotel to stadium and finally back to airport. No trip took more than 15 minutes in a city known for its snarling traffic. Of course a police escort never hurts, but the merits of that privilege is a story for another time.

Princess Leia

This was a very quick in-and-out trip. The arrival seemed planned to miss rush hour traffic, and the early kickoff meant a quick trip home. Besides the game, there was really only one other major disappointment.

Mike Cummings and Kevin McCarty from the media relations staff asked us to join them at the Atlanta Braves game Friday night. We have been to the stadium before, and the New York Mets held no interest. Only later did we realize we had missed Star Wars night at the ballpark. Laura is a HUGE Star Wars fan.

Laura in the Princess Leia slave outfit! Boy, I blew that.

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About jeffjacobsen

Thank you for reading my blog, Here I Stand. You can read all about me, my wife and my family on the Family page. God bless and keep you.
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4 Responses to Stepping Into Atlanta’s Vortex

  1. Proud to be mentioned in this post! Still get dizzy when I look at that hotel photo. I was hugging the rail the whole walk down the hall.

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