(Author’s Note: Sometimes, a confluence of circumstances coalesces in such a way that it is hard to take it as anything other than a sign. It has been a busy week, both at work and on the weblog; we have been discussing what we as fans might do to boost the mojo of the Georgia Bulldogs as they head into their critical SEC East showdown with the Florida Gators; I have been wondering how I would be able to get everything done that needed doing; I have been looking for ways to shake it up again in Too Much Information; and, as attested to by the prominent Samsung Enhanced Content advertising apparent on SB Nation weblogs, the ongoing effort to take fan-produced sports content from cottage industry to viable enterprise sometimes involves finding creative ways to combine commercial opportunities with partisan exhortations in what Jack Donaghy would call "synergy." After all of these data had rattled around in my head for a while, it hit me how to juggle everything I had up in the air without dropping any of the metaphorical balls or coming across like Krusty the Clown trying to convince you to buy a Canyonero. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you this week’s special World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party edition of Too Much Information.)
I have a confession to make: I hate watching Georgia football games on television.
Don’t get me wrong; I love watching Georgia football games in person, and I love watching other teams play college football games on television. It is the combination of watching the Bulldogs play a football game in a place I am not that drives me nuts.
I rarely participate in game day open comment threads here because I find the experience of watching a Georgia game on television too nerve-wracking. I pace during tense moments, as everyone who was present for the First Annual Dawg Sports Sacrificial Goat Roast saw firsthand. When I am in the stadium, I feel like I can contribute in some minuscule way by cheering the team on at the appropriate junctures; when the game is taking place in an arena from which I am absent, however, I am truly and totally a bystander. For someone as utterly obsessive as I obviously am, there is no more frustrating or helpless sensation than that which accompanies the act of watching an event whose outcome is deeply important yet whose course cannot be influenced from without.
Not so very long ago, the only options were being there in person or listening to Larry Munson, which is a pleasant experience in retrospect but an excessively stressful exercise during the game. (My tendency to fret about Georgia football is an ingrained part of my fandom bequeathed to me by the likes of Wally Butts, Vince Dooley, and Larry Munson.) The 1980 Bulldogs were deep into their undefeated season before they had appeared on television even once; games such as the Red and Black’s 1984 encounter with Clemson and their 1993 outing against Auburn were kept off of the airwaves because of sanctions accompanying the probations levied upon those orange-clad rivals; lights had to be installed in Sanford Stadium in 1982 to accommodate the unusual request of a television network to broadcast a Georgia season opener on Labor Day night. The marriage of college football and television, for which the University of Georgia deserves a great deal of the credit, is more new-fangled than we now suppose.
Perhaps because it was not at all a given that the Bulldogs would be on television on a particular Saturday when I first began following the Red and Black, I prefer being there. I love the atmosphere of a game day in Athens, and I love the atmosphere of a game day in Jacksonville. I strongly favor keeping the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party by the banks of the St. John’s River because I have a solid family connection to attending the Georgia-Florida showdown on Duval Street.
While I hope to make the trek to Jacksonville an annual affair again after a few years, I cannot currently justify the time or expense of the trip now that my wife and I have small children in our home. For the time being, therefore, I will be spending this particular weekend at home each year with my television tuned to CBS at 3:30 on Saturday afternoon for the foreseeable future.
Despite the fact that I would rather be in Jacksonville than parked in front of my television, I am grateful for the technological advancements of the last three decades, which have made it possible not only for me to watch virtually every game Georgia plays (even if it sometimes involves ordering ESPN GamePlan for one week) but also for me to be connected with Bulldog athletics in ways that extend beyond the emotional and the financial.
In 1999, my sister-in-law’s husband was working in local cable television. His employer was on the lookout for new home-produced content, and out of that need grew "The Dawg Show," a 30-minute weekly broadcast that basically boiled down to the two of us having the same conversation about Georgia football that we would have had anyway, taping it, and airing it (not altogether unlike my participation in Kit Kitchens’s podcast).
Because "The Dawg Show" had only limited distribution, I got into the habit of taking my notes for the show and converting them into e-mails, which I sent out on a weekly basis during football season. Televised bits like "Don’t Bet On It!", "Too Much Information," and (beginning in 2001) "The Mark Richt Victory Watch" were typed up and forwarded along to a steadily burgeoning list of recipients that ultimately included the Georgia Sports Blog’s Paul Westerdawg, who wrote me back to say, "You should start a weblog."
That brings us to the here and now. Technology allows me to watch virtually any game I want on television, and to write and converse about it on-line; those of you who are more electronically savvy than me can attend games, read this weblog, and participate in comment threads at the same time. The ready availability of information and interaction continues to fuel the division of labor between commentary in the blogosphere and journalism in the traditional media, but it also brings fans together . . . literally, in such instances as the aforementioned Goat Roast or the Tent City tailgate before the Tennessee game, but also figuratively.
Think of how divided the Georgia fan base was during the final days of Jim Donnan’s tenure as the Bulldogs’ head coach, before the blogosphere had emerged; think of how much more divided the Georgia fan base was during the final days of Ray Goff’s tenure as the Bulldogs’ head coach, before the internet and its potential truly had come into their own. Even in the face of extreme adversity earlier this autumn, we were able to have an intense, impassioned conversation which, while sometimes growing heated, nevertheless generally remained civil even during a four-game losing streak. (Also, contrary to what some bloggers would tell you, we’re certainly no more insufferable when we win than any other fan base, most definitely including the students in orange and blue down in Gainesville.)
Sometimes, the anonymity of the internet allows us to abandon all sense of decency and responsibility, but, sometimes, the universality of technology allows us to take what would have been a thousand different arguments in a thousand different sports bars and conduct them in a few centralized locations until we are able to reach something approaching consensus. The Dawgosphere may not be an Algonquin Roundtable, but we have our Fugitive-Agrarian moments!
While there remain issues about which reasonable fans can and do differ, technology has allowed us to be more unified as a fan base than we were in earlier eras under comparable circumstances, and technology will allow us, whether in the stadium or in our own living rooms, to cheer on the team that has pulled together and found ways to win. As I prepare to sit down in front of my television on Saturday afternoon, I find that thought gives me, if not confidence, then at least hope.
Before I resign myself to the reality of pacing a path across the rug, though, I would ask your indulgence in allowing me to return briefly to the ways of yesteryear, before big-screen televisions and satellite dishes, before the internet and, for many of us, even before cable, all changed our lives in so many profound ways. In days of yore, those of us who could not be there in person were left to listen to Larry Munson, who might have called the critical play in this Saturday’s game like so:
Florida in a stand-up five. They may or may not blitz. They won’t. Murray back, third down on the eight. In trouble. Got a block behind him, going to throw on the run.
Complete to the 25, to the 30! A.J. Green! 35, 40! A.J. Green! 45, 50, 45, 40! Run, A.J.! 25, 20, 15, 10, 5! A.J. Green! A.J. Green! A.J. Green!
I can’t believe it. 92 yards and A.J. really got in a foot race. I broke my chair. I came right through a chair, a metal steel chair with about a five-inch cushion. I broke it. The booth came apart. Well, the stadium fell down. Now they do have to renovate this thing.
This is incredible. I didn’t mean to beg A.J. to run, but I had to. 26-21 with a passing attack that wasn’t working all day. You know this game has always been called the World’s Greatest Cocktail Party. Do you know what is going to happen here tonight, and up at St. Simons and Jekyll Island and all those places where all those ‘Dawg people have got condominiums for four days? Man, there is going to be some property destroyed tonight!
26-21 ‘Dawgs on top. We were gone. I gave up. You did, too. We were out of it and gone. Miracle!
My Prediction: Georgia Bulldogs 26, Florida Gators 21.