The “Ides of October”: A Little Perspective and Seven Reasons Why This Season Can (and Should) Still Be Worthwhile
I haven’t written in a couple of weeks. And it is not because I haven’t had anything to say. It’s just that I, like everyone else, have been as disappointed and baffled since this month began. Call it the “Ides of October” if you will–I can’t explain the strange occurrences that have befallen Georgia any other way. It has been my goal over the last two weeks to take a few steps back try and make heads or tails of it all without getting too caught up in the heat of the moment, giving myself half a chance to find some meaning in everything that has happened.
So how am I doing with that?
I mentioned in my last article how I saw this season as a Hero’s Journey for our Dawgs, and therein I was cautious to note that while we’d faced a lot of challenges up to that point (just after barely emerging victorious from Tenneseee), I couldn’t say whether or not we’d actually hit the abyss, or the nadir (a word I’ve seen used in at least three different articles this week, one of which was written by our own Daniel Palmer–bravo for GRE words!) at that time.
Things did get worse, as we all know. The first home loss in 2 years. Special Teams mistakes costing us dearly and at most inopportune moments. Starters dropping like bowling pins. A loss to Vandy in Nashville, something that hadn’t happened since the first Bush administration. I can scarcely remember a Georgia team that came into the season with such high expectations and hopes only to have so much taken away from them (not even the pre-season #1 2008 squad could compare to this letdown). Heartbreaking, to say the least.
After the disaster last weekend, it was pretty easy to see what would come next. You didn’t need to dig too deep online to find the fan furor, and the degree to which it burgeoned was not just typical–it was pushing legendary. That, I fear, was what upset me the most, far worse than the loss itself. But after seeing post after post all over the virtual world about who was to blame, who needed to go, and how we would never win a National Championship with our current coaching staff, I’d had quite enough.
It is highly worth noting, of course that there were just as many messages out there of support and love for the program. I don’t deny this at all. It is is nearly always the case, though, that the “squeaky wheel” fan seems to command the most attention, sadly.
After nearly getting to the point where I wasn’t sure if I needed a bottle of Maalox or a bottle of Tequila, I had an epiphany: Spending any of my finite time on Planet Earth reading endless opinions of frustrated and (quite frankly) spoiled and insolent fans wasn’t going to change any game’s outcome, was not going to cheer me up any, and would definitely not contribute anything to help our team on down the road. There was no point in getting involved and trying to defend my beloved Dawgs against whiners who wouldn’t be happy unless we downed every gridiron foe 70-0. (These people would be well advised to revisit the ancient and timeless philosophy of Plato and the “Leaky Jar”, and probably wouldn’t be swayed by anything that the likes of I would have to say.) So I deemed it time to just let it all go. Nope, no more letting the internet trolls ruin my football season. Or anyone else, for that matter.
I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t understand what this program means or that I don’t want the best for our players. Believe me, I woke up last Sunday morning with a devastating hangover that had nothing to do with anything that came in a bottle. I’ve been a part of this community for a long time (as have many of you, no doubt), and I want a National Championship as much as anybody. Truly. And this year I thought, like many of us, that it just might come to be.
And then what happened? Ouch.
But folks, it’s time to stop complaining and start engaging. And start having some fun again this season. There are plenty of reasons why we should, too. Some might balk at my overly optimistic views right now, and they’re of course entitled to their opinion. But I have seven reasons why I’m going to live out the rest of this season a (reasonably) happy camper, come what may, and I’d invite you to join me. I give you this:
—Just because most (or rather, all) of our pre-season hopes are no longer mathematically possible does not mean that it is time to quit. It does not mean that there’s nothing left for us. Any time you have Florida, Auburn, and Georgia Tech on the road ahead automatically means there is plenty to play for. We shouldn’t even be bothering thinking about “next year” right now, either. All we have is this moment, this season, and five more games to play. No more. No less. Only complete losers would tank right now.
—We can’t be so self-centered as to think that we are the only one of over 100 D-1 football teams who set the lofty goal of an National Championship for the end of the year. Sure, we have the talent to win it all (when we’re full-strength, that is!). There’s no question about that. But are we the only ones with competent players? Are we the only ones with zealous and demanding fan bases? And are we the only ones looking to claim the ultimate prize, the likelihood of which hangs in the balance with every single snap of the ball? Of course not. At the beginning of the book “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”, the Wizard Prime Minister visits the Muggle Prime Minister to warn him of the Dark Lord’s return. The Muggle minister, wondering why the wizards couldn’t just stop this Voldemort guy, asserted, “But for Heaven’s sake, you’re wizards! You can do magic! Surely you can sort out–well–anything!” to which the Wizard Prime Minister replied, “The trouble is, the other side can do magic too, Prime Minister.”
And if you were at the Mizzou game, you saw the opposition’s magic for yourself. I daresay Vandy brought some magic of their own last weekend. We were the antagonist in their stories of glory. Never a fun role to play. But it happens.
—Stop worrying about things that can’t be controlled. We can sit here and hope and pray that Mizzou loses three times. But let’s face it: it’s not likely. Sure, it would be great to have their “help” in getting back to Atlanta (not to mention getting everyone else in the SEC East to contribute to our cause) but it can’t be counted on. It never–and I mean NEVER–helps to spend your time worrying about what some other team is going to do unless you’re playing them. I say forget about Atlanta for right now. Just focus on the next game. Period.
–Be cautious of criticizing CMR too much. Most Georgia fans would agree that Vince Dooley was the best coach we’ve ever had. I’ll admit to being a big fan of his myself. But it shouldn’t escape anyone’s recollection that Coach Dooley was in charge for 16 years before winning his first–and only–National Title. It should also be noted that he probably “should’ve” had two if not three more National Titles (I often reference ’76, ’81, and ’82), and that his greatest success came largely with the presence of that once-in-a generation (if not once-in-a-lifetime) player, #34. So if you asked me, I’d say CMR isn’t too far off course when looking at the big picture.
–Think that 33 years is too long to wait for a National Title? Think again. Unless you’re Alabama, chances are that if you’re an SEC team you’ve been a bridesmaid for a very long time. LSU waited 45 years after their title in 1958 for their next one in 2003 (of course, they did have another in 2007, but one might argue that it was because of the ever-bizarre BCS computers that they as a two-loss team even got a shot at the title that year). Tennessee had a drought of 47 years between their big prizes in 1951 and 1998 (the 1967 National Title claim made by UT not being accepted by the major polls), and have had yet to make their case for a return to the top since the new millennium began. Then there’s Auburn, who waited a whopping 53 years between the titles of 1957 and 2010 (the latter being purportedly an ill-gotten gain, but that is another story…). So as you can see, except for a few institutions out there, this National Championship thing can be a little bit hard to come by. It’s a laudable goal, and it should be everyone’s at the beginning of the season, but if it doesn’t happen….there’s nothing else to do but finish the season try again next year. End of story.
–You have to be tough to love this game. Sometimes as tough as the players. I get how much it hurts to lose. But it is pretty obvious that losing is sometimes a result of playing! (That’s Vern and Gary logic for you, right? Ha!) So friends, don’t plan on being a fan if you can’t handle losing. It happens. Even to Nick Saban. Don’t be a wimp. Stop whining. And get back on the horse and stick with your team. They have to show up for the next game, so you should too.
–-And Most of All……We have a Cocktail Party to go to!! In case you had forgotten, next weekend there is a pretty big deal going on in Jacksonville. Personally, I couldn’t care less about the record of either team. When one has the chance to beat Florida, no matter what the landscape is for the rest of the season, get up for it. I can’t think of a better team to take out our frustrations on. And moreover, it’s….well, it’s the Georgia/Florida game! That ought to say it all…….(and I’ll be getting into this particular contest in a lot more detail next week, so stay tuned!)
So that’s that. A little of mathematical reality combined with a lot of optimism and a little gentle smack down. And a healthy dose of gratitude for Football and all of its lessons.
As Chris Conley so correctly Tweeted, “When someone asks you how you’re doing, reply ‘it’s the best day of my life’ because you are alive. Your outlook on life is all you control.”
And on that note, I intend to enjoy a bye week and watch some other teams get knocked around this weekend. And I strongly suspect that the Cocktails just might start flowing early this year!
Am I just too happy? Too dismissive of the facts? Or just giddy at the prospect of a beach weekend that I have taken leave of my senses? Let me know! Next week I’ll share some of my favorite Georgia/Florida experiences and classic moments (and I look forward to hearing about yours, too!).
–Jennifer Rohner, Chief Cultural Correspondent