#RichtDickPics and the Three Kinds of Georgia Bulldog Hurt that You Love to Hate
For the better part of four years this site has grown equally as a result of folks loving and hating us. I made an unpaid living defecating on Boise State’s masochistic fan base as Bronco loyalists just kept coming back in 2010 and 2011. In 2012 we used Microsoft Paint to illustrate fan faction dedicated to Jarvis Jones, he and others loved it. That was our first “break.” Our annual predictions for the SEC are both lauded and despised by (now) tens of thousands of readers. If I use a catchy title to draw readers into something they don’t like, I’m crucified for click-baiting. When I re-word a Jason Smith post that goes on to be the most appreciated and most celebrated piece in the site’s history, everyone loves it.
And I kind of love all of those scenarios. Love it. Hate it. I’m down with it. We don’t write for you, we write for us. So we expect some degree of give and take. But there’s a direct relationship between the quality of our work and the passion of your response (be it positive or negative). And that makes the site and its continued growth incredibly fulfilling.
So here I am, opening up with a sophomoric joke #hashtag before diving into the heavy topics at hand.
I’ve long been threatening to run a “Richt Dick Pics” article featuring a picture of Mark Richt accompanied by Richard Samuel IV. The idea is as childish as any I’ve pursued as a man who’s closer to 30 than 20, but I’ve remained fond of it because it would accurately encompass what I’ve learned from operating a college football site: Half of you will love it. Half of you will hate it. Very few of you will remember it.
In that regard, this article had to be the Richt Dick Pics article. You will love it or you will hate it. There won’t be any middle ground. Then you’ll forget about it.
You might want to fire me as a Bulldog fan. Or you might fulfill my twisted fantasy of making #RichtDickPics trend on Twitter.
Georgia got embarrassed on Saturday in Jacksonville. It was so disastrous that when WifeYouCrazy got home from a movie she was stunned to see the game’s score after first having a respectable conversation with me. Why was I so calm? Why was I not mixing bourbon with gasoline and making an afternoon of it? From the outside looking in, something didn’t add up. Where was that good, old fashioned Georgia hurt?
The hurt was there though. It was deep.
But I’ve experienced three kinds of Georgia hurt.
There’s the sharp, senseless hurt brought about by the inexplicable. That Vanderbilt loss last year fell squarely in this category. Remember that beaut? Georgia led 27-14 as the third quarter wound down. Vanderbilt was forced to punt. Damian Swann fumbled the punt and Vandy recovered on the 36. Moments later, Vanderbilt scored to close the lead to six points. The Commodores knocked a field goal home and a bad snap on a punt by Georgia gave Vanderbilt the ball on the 13. One play later the Commodores scored to go ahead 31-27 with 2:53 left to play. Georgia got two more possessions in the game (which is statistically abnormal to begin with). The Bulldogs fumbled one away and threw an interception on the other. That was a biting pain.
Then, there’s the down on your luck, “of course this happened to us” kind of hurt. The waning seconds of the 2012 SEC Championship epitomizes this dissatisfying pain. More recently, Georgia’s loss this year to South Carolina fell into this category. Lightning, phantom holding calls, Brandon Wilds running wild and complete indecision by an entire officiating crew. Of course that happened to Georgia.
But Saturday’s loss fell into a third tier of hurt. It fell into the “let’s just move on” pain bucket. There’s actually an awkward peace that accompanies the “let’s just move on” kind of discomfort because what ails you is a slow-brooding but clearly intentioned bout of doubt. There is no surprise. There is no resigning to, “Well, of course.” There’s just the least surprising confusion ever. “How did this happen?” is the question that comes to mind, but before it can be vocalized, everything—the question and the game that brought about such macabre curiosity—seems inconsequential.
What’s more interesting than the pain itself, however, is how others define the hurt and more telling still, how they deal with it.
The senseless pain brought about by inexplicable losses tends to yield dramatic reactions. Take a shot of Fireball, Tweet a #FireBobo Tweet and call your buddy to tell him there’s no way in hell you’re renewing your season tickets if Mark Richt is still the coach next year. But as fast and furious (R.I.P. Paul Walker) as your crusade to wreck the athletic department .001% of Sanford Stadium ticket allotment at a time may be, it doesn’t last long. These losses rarely typify Georgia football. They are frustrating because they are a culmination of multiple shortcomings. But those shortcomings rarely coincide simultaneously. The team tends to bounce back the next week. Someday, you’ll laugh at that loss. The Vandy game from 2013, for instance, is hilarious to me now. Seriously.
The “Well, that’s Georgia football for you” pain breeds emotions. All kinds of feelings pop up in the days, weeks, months and even years that follow a loss like the 2012 SEC Championship Game. Depending on the day, the amount of coffee you’ve had and the color of your shirt, Georgia either came heart-breakingly close to winning a national championship or Georgia will never win the big one. Truth be told, you probably never fully believe either sentiment. But you’ll share them both with a familiarity that is more comforting than the words themselves.
The third kind of hurt brings introspection. In its slow-developing disappointment, each and every Georgia fan finds him or herself on an island. My island was the chair that I’ve returned to now in my living room. Just a man, his thoughts and his laptop. And his hurt.
Where this introspection gets interesting—and where you will begin to love or hate this article if I didn’t already lose you with the title—is the places it takes us when we leave the island. Undoubtedly, it has taken most of us to dark places over the past few days. But the source and interpretation of that darkness divides us in countless ways.
Some of you out there want Mark Richt fired. I don’t agree with that sentiment, but I can sympathize. Georgia should not have lost that football game. By all accounts, the Florida Gators had no business beating the Bulldogs and Will Muschamp may have had no business keeping his job beyond Saturday afternoon. And yet, the coach with the hottest seat in America just beat Richt. Surely some of that heat was conducted to Richt’s chair.
My introspection didn’t take me there, however. Mine took me back to the beginning and back to the core fundamentals of this year’s edition of the Georgia Bulldogs. And when I went back, I felt an odd anger.
Offensively, this Georgia team was replacing the most accomplished passer in the history of college football’s best conference. That was never supposed to be easy, and though Hutson Mason played statistically well it wasn’t easy Saturday night. Additionally, Georgia missed the best football player in the country yesterday. Nick Chubb was fantastic (over 200 yards of offense), but for the third consecutive game, Nick Chubb still was not Todd Gurley. And that’s not a cheap shot at the freshman star.
Defensively, this team was supposed to be rebuilding. The entire defensive coaching staff turned over after the 2013 season. A shit-ton of talented stars were dismissed or chose to leave of their own volition. The defense sure looked like a work in progress on Saturday. That’s exactly what it was supposed to be. And though we can all agree that allowing 400+ rushing yards is inexcusable, we should also be able to accept that such a performance was completely unexpected. Prior to Saturday, no team had run for more than 176 yards against Georgia and three Bulldog opponents had been held under 100 yards. On the other side, Florida was averaging just north of 150 rushing yards per contest in SEC play.
And of course Special teams play has long plagued Georgia, and though it’s been better at times this year the third phase of the game is still inconsistent for the Bulldogs. Saturday was no exception.
Saturday’s loss was disheartening based on expectations, but within a grander scheme it wasn’t nearly as devastating as some folks want to make it. No one should be fired. No one should be chewed and spat back out. Just move on.
And that’s where my anger begins to take root. I’m not mad at Georgia football; I’m mad at Georgia football fans. I’m angry that my disappointment in the average Georgia fan has surpassed my disappointment with a very below average Georgia performance on the field Saturday. That game should have been the low point of my football weekend. Instead, reading B.S. Tweets, blog posts and Facebook comments took the crown of feces.
Georgia fans (and I may be one of them) are famously off-base with their lofty expectations. Accordingly, I can’t give you a “if I had told you…” scenario that would make you feel better. I can’t do that because regardless of what Georgia lost, needed to replace or didn’t even know about itself, you expected perfection this year. To hear Georgia fans today the Bulldogs were always destined to win a championship this year.
But if I told an impartial party that Georgia had to replace Aaron Murray, lost Todd Gurley for a crucial four-game conference stretch, re-worked its entire defense and still found a way to open the year 6-2, they probably wouldn’t think we’d be entertaining firing a coach. And if I added that Georgia’s two losses came away from home against the winningest team in the division over the past three years (South Carolina) and a rival that has won 19 out of the last 25 contests against the Bulldogs, the season itself might seem pretty defensible. And if I said, “The crazy thing is, Georgia can still win the conference,” this independent party might actually agree. Hell, that person might even become a pseudo Bulldog fan just for fun.
When we have these “let’s move on” pains and we get introspective, we lose sight of anything other than ourselves.
Suddenly, it doesn’t matter that Mark Richt’s team has overcome a lot of adversity this year and might still overcome even more. It doesn’t matter that Georgia can still win the East and has (at times) looked capable of competing with anyone in the conference. It doesn’t matter that Florida is a supremely talented team (Florida’s last four recruiting classes had an average national ranking of 6.75, Georgia’s average ranking was 8.25) that played in a BCS Bowl in the previous calendar year.
And as folks lose perspective, the coaching change conversation always comes up. I can’t convince you that Mark Richt will win a national championship, because I don’t know that he ever will. I can’t convince you that there aren’t better coaches who would take the Georgia job, because there might be.
But I’d love to convince you to change your damned expectations and stop making me so angry. And get off my damn lawn.
Georgia deserves to be in the national championship conversation every year. The school has the resources to merit that. But that doesn’t mean the Bulldogs are supposed to contend—much less win—a championship every year. There’s a difference.
I was negative seven years old when Georgia last won at the highest level. To hear people talk now, the Dawgs won every title prior thereto. Guess what: they didn’t. Where did this National Title or Bust mentality come from? Ray Goff? Jim Donnan?
Mark Richt has a .737 career winning percentage. He’s won 132 total games in 179 contests during the peak of the Southeastern Conference. He’s done this with—and sometimes despite—the highest standard of character and integrity one could imagine. Why do we expect more?
Is it because Vince Dooley was so much better as a coach? Dooley had a .715 winning percentage. And at this stage of his career (179 games in) he was hovering around .670. But those are just numbers. Wins and losses only mean everything when we discuss Mark Richt.
Do we expect more because Georgia has traditionally won with more consistency? Prior to Mark Richt’s arrival, Georgia’s all-time winning percentage was .632.
Or do we maybe just expect more because we’re greedy, ignorant, unashamed homers who think that our team should be the best at everything all the damn time?
I think that might be the answer, but that’s what makes us college football fans. So let’s ascend beyond that this week. And while we’re doing that, let’s decide to do one of two things:
- Adjust our unfounded expectations of perfection. OR
- Recognize that if this season is so disastrous so as to deserve a personnel change, next year will be even worse.
You can love or hate Georgia football. But stop loving to hate it.
That’s all I got/