The taste of victory. Georgia football fans chug 41-year old Coca-Cola in celebration

Ryne Dennis
Athens Banner-Herald
Derek Griffin's empty coke bottle sits beside a cardboard national championship trophy after he finished the 41-year-old bottle of soda.

Georgia football fans had waited 41 years to taste another national championship.

After Monday night's first title since 1981, a faction of Bulldog fans say it tasted pretty sweet. And perhaps a little bit flat.

Social media was replete with Georgia supporters washing down years of frustration by chugging Coca-Cola out of commemorative bottles that were produced in honor of the 1980 national championship team.

As Derek Griffin's family and friends counted down the final seconds of Monday night's 33-18 Georgia victory in his Buford residence, he decided to go for it.

"We were in a room with a bunch of friends and kids, and I don’t know what I was thinking, I was just like, let’s do it, I’m going to drink it," Griffin said. "It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and maybe next year will be a newer bottle, but I was just like, ‘I’m going to do this.’"

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Griffin, 45, popped open the bottle, turned up the 10 ounces of cola and chugged every single drop as his watch party joyously celebrated.

The taste, he says, was that of an uncarbonated soda, with a bit of a metallic jolt and a mildew aftertaste.

Well worth it, he said, though the days that followed were somewhat uncomfortable.

"I took a lot of Tums because I had a lot of acid reflux for about a day and a half," said Griffin, a Valdosta native who is a lifelong Bulldog fan. "I don’t know, I probably need to see the doctor, honestly."

A collection of the 1980 championship bottles is pictured with the season schedule and logo.

Others reveled in the flat flavor.

Marc McAfee, a 2009 UGA alumnus, said it didn't taste as bad as he expected, joking that "Dixie champagne just gets finer with age."

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The longtime Bulldog believer, who was in Indianapolis on Monday, enjoyed a collector's item bottle in front of Lucas Oil Stadium on Tuesday morning.

"The taste, give credit to Coke’s bottling practices," McAfee said. "It tasted like slightly flat Coke with a little bit of a bitter aftertaste. Kind of like Pepsi."

Savannah resident Wesley Mullins, 57, drank one of his three bottles and said “It tasted OK, just flat as you know what."

The now-antique 1980 national championship bottles had Georgia's undefeated schedule on the backside with a cartoon Bulldog in full pads propped up on a Georgia helmet, legs crossed and enjoying a Coke on the front.

It reads '1980 National Champions' along the top and 'Coke and Bulldogs #1' along the bottom. The Atlanta soft drink company produced similar bottles for other football champions before and since.

McAfee has collected over two dozen of the souvenir bottles that have been sold at flea markets and yard sales aplenty during the decades since the Bulldogs 1980 title.

"That’s the sad thing about being a Georgia fan until now," McAfee said. "If you wanted to get national championship swag you had to go antiquing."

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He'd planned throughout the years to break one open should the Bulldogs ever snatch that elusive national title. Like in 2008, his junior year of college, when the Bulldogs were preseason No. 1. Or in 2018 when they fell to Alabama on an overtime touchdown—on 2nd down and 26. 

The bottle sat in his trunk that night outside of Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium and was never opened.

But after 41 years of heartbreak and near misses, earlier this week the metal caps could be taken off the bottles as a farewell to four decades of anguish.

"It’s burying the 40-year-old demons there," McAfee said. "We’ve been worshipping this old stuff, so now let’s drink this thing and get some new ones."