My name is Brian. I am a 2006 graduate of the University of Georgia and life-long Georgia Football fan. I grew up during the Ray Goff era, and my first memories of Georgia football were listening to Larry Munson on a portable radio, and eating a bbq sandwich from a road-side stand on the way out to the dove fields. I had no emotional expectations of winning all of our football games as a child. I relished in the underdog role that our Dawgs often wore during that time, and I sat on the edge of my seat waiting for Larry to lose his composure over the next implausible play.
When it came time to apply for college, there is no doubt where my heart was. But there was an expectation that when I graduated I would go to work. And so I turned down an offer to attend Georgia and instead attended a semi-local school and worked 40+ hours a week instead. I would commute an hour one-way to school starting at 6am and I would be out of classes by 1pm so that I could drive an hour back and be to work by 3pm. With my heart not invested in my situation, I focused on work and not studies and it didn’t take long for me to flunk out of college. It took 3 years and multiple transfers at lesser institutions for me to get my GPA back up to the minimum required to apply once again to Georgia. When the time came I penned a letter to the admissions office to plead my case, provided my lackluster transcripts and waited with bated breath. My wife would tell you that she could count on one hand the number of times that I’ve cried in the last fifteen years. The day I received my re-admittance letter was one of them.
During my time at Georgia I was at the beginning of the line when student football tickets went on sale. Like any good Dawg I dressed up early for game day, tailgated and got to the stadium hours ahead of time to watch the team warm up and save a spot as close to the field as I could get. In 2004 Georgia entered the season a heavy favorite during David Greene’s senior year. We dropped a close game to Tennessee and I walked out of the gates hopping mad. As I exited the gates of the stadium I received a text message that the spouse of a respected friend had tragically passed away. I struggled with an internal conflict of sadness and anger, but ultimately my entire worldview of football was tempered. Since that I day I have made it a point to keep football in perspective when I watch my beloved Dawgs play.
Now 10 years removed from the University, living across the country with my wife and my son, I rep. my Georgia Dawgs everywhere I go. I get my fair share of middle finger salutes out West. Most don’t realize that the emblem on my windshield isn’t a Greenbay Packers logo. I wear it with pride. Most people out here don’t know much about Georgia Football in general. They know that our Coach is a good man and that we win 10 games a year. But I take pride in telling them about our ethics. I take pride in telling them about being the oldest public University in the nation; about our graduation rates and GPAs that rival Vanderbilt. They don’t know that we are in the top 10 for putting players in the NFL. They don’t know about Saturdays down South or tailgating on North campus; our traditions like the Dawg walk or ringing the Chapel bell after a victory. I had to earn the right to put a University of Georgia diploma on my wall, and so I take great pride in it.
As a Georgia football fan, there’s no question that this year has failed to meet our expectations. All of the pundits have their diagnoses and solutions, but much of the expectations were set by question marks around other programs. Because we had fewer question marks, Georgia was the de facto pick for the SEC East. It’s good to be in a position to be given that benefit of the doubt every year. The internet is a hostile place right now for fans of Georgia Football. Fans want victory or fans want blood. I can understand this, as I once hung my happiness every fall on the outcome of a game played by 18-21 year old kids. In hindsight, it’s as illogical as it sounds. It’s near impossible for one to convince themselves that it’s only an amateur football game when it has been turned into a multi-billion dollar industry. I get that. But ultimately, it’s still an amateur football game. The players are still kids barely removed from late night curfews and provisional drivers licenses. They spend half of their days in classes and books, and half of their days on fields and in playbooks. We’d do well to keep that in perspective when we take to the airwaves and blogosphere to tear apart players and coaches so that we can feel better about our frustrations.
In regard to the media and forum gossip as of late, can we stop this already? It is the collegiate sporting version of E! News, and it’s caustic. It’s bad for morale and it’s bad for recruiting. Can we stop dropping cliches like ‘dumpster fire’ and acting as if the sky is falling? Much of this lies on the University and Athletic Administration for not putting a stop to it sooner, and there is a large part that falls on media pundits and prognosticators who want to be able to say they were the first to write about it. If they say the sky is falling enough, it will fall and they can say ‘I told you so’. There is also blame to be shared by alumni and fans. There should have been a realization before we ever got to Jacksonville, that barring the magical mid-season return of Todd Gurley for a 4th year of eligibility, we should have adjusted our expectations by now. We’re a team trying to find an identity with new players and staff, and it is apparent there are some pieces missing to this puzzle that aren’t going to be acquired mid-season.
It is my hope that we can collectively turn our attention to supporting these kids and our team, and let’s channel that energy into finishing as strong as possible. There are some exciting pieces on the horizon for the University of Georgia. Between the practice facilities, some new blood in the coaching staff and some electric future Dawgs on their way, we have a lot to hang our hats on. Despite what you see on the tv, Georgia hasn’t forgotten how to play football. That would require the same pieces in place every single year. Georgia is learning to play football with a largely new crop of kids and coaches. In the end, how I feel about the piece of paper on my wall isn’t predicated on the record of a football team of kids. It is defined by my own struggles and victories in life to obtain it. I’m as proud as ever of my alma mater, and our kids who wear the Red and Black. I hope that we can all be the adults in the room and get behind our team and leave the theatrics behind.
Always a Dawg,
Class of 2006