A Word on Game Day Manners

Earlier this week, I received the following e-mail from a reader, which is reproduced in its entirety with the author's permission:

Dear Mr. King,

By way of background, I am a life-long UGA fan, raised by two alums to bark proudly and root loudly for every Bulldog team since the early 70's -- good or bad, hurt or healthy, lucky or cursed. I became an official Dawg myself when I graduated from UGA's law school. After several years of practicing law, I officialy "retired" to raise four future Dawgs, who currently don their red & black and continue the Saturday tradition of woof-woof-woofing. My family and I also read your blog religiously. I am, however, a simple housewife, with no national or state or local platform at which to raise a real concern about a growing taint on our beloved University. This brings me to the reason for this email: YOU DO. And I humbly ask you to devote a few quick sentences to address this embarassment.

With each passing year, it seems there is an increase in the number and volume of crass voices among Dawg fans at the games. Now, I remember attending contests when Sanford Stadium still sold beer and the alcohol flowed as openly as it flowed freely. But even in that era, the loud profanity and rude outbursts were limited to a FEW, select, usually sloshed individuals, whose impaired judgments were tolerated and humored, but always kept in check by the rest of the crowd. I would also add that my ears are not overly sensitive to salty I said, I used to practice law. But a visit to any current game will clearly reveal that we are on a quick descent into Neaderthal Hell. Every section of the crowd is now peppered with growing numbers of self-centerd "fans" who lack any semblance of self-control, any demonstration of the basest level of human decorum, or any indication of possessing even a passing thought that everyone within ear shot is not interested in their foul-mouthed running commentary. Perhaps the most disturbing part of this experience is that the harshest, vilest venom is not reserved for the opponent, but for our own team and its coaches.

Sadly, my last two trips to Jacksonville and my subsequent enjoyment of that great and time-honored tradition have been marred, not by classless Gators, but by Georgia fans who can't seem to shut their traps for longer than 20 seconds at a time, despite the efforts of those few around them courageous enough to stand up to the barbarians at the gate. Sadly, they have not had the excuse of inebriation, but instead stand condemned by nothing but their own lack of social skills. Somebody needs to put them in a time machine and hit "re-do" on their upbringing before the final shreds of the reputation of Bulldog Nation is left flapping in the breeze. This past Saturday, our party stretched nine seats on the Club Level and from one end to the other, for three rows behind us and one in front, it was impossible to escape the angry cursing. A very, very small sampling: when Boykin dropped a kickoff, one women in her late 60's screamed, "You dumb piece of sh*$!" When Richt ran into the tunnel at half-time, a grey-haired man, blood vessels bulging on his neck, yelled "You g^#-d@*^ idiot! You better get your family packed before we get to Athens!"  When Orson Charles dropped a pass, a chorus of f-bomb laced comments were hurled his way. I could go on, but it pains me to even type this garbage and you get the point. 

To further expose their true colors, when our guys failed to crumble and began storming back in the fourth quarter, they were cheering loudly, unapologetic to have their ticket punched for the Fair Weather Band Wagon. It took no small amount of self-restraint on my part to not turn around and say," Who's the piece of trash now, you losers!" But, that's the point -- not that you don't feel like saying it, but that everything that pops into your head doesn't necessarily need to make a bee-line to your mouth.

For the love of Pete, these players are someone's children! They are barely out of puberty, playing under the spotlights of a national stage. I think some grace is in order here, and really shouldn't be a problem for those who have any. It is pathetically ironic to listen to them rail against a lack of discipline of the team while making an embarassing spectacle of themselves indulging their own unrestraint. I can't even imagine for every mistake they made during their work week, someone completely inexpereinced in their field was standing by to shreik, "You a$& hole!" Even if you think you would make a better coach than Mark Richt, the man is a human being, not an animal (although, admittedly, waking up every day and seeing one in the mirror can apparently cause you to forget.) And then there's the fact that my own 15 year-old child, who is sitting right under their noses, within clear view and uninhibited ear-shot, would have to leave the game and give up the seat we paid our hard-earned money to purchase in order to escape their disgusting and unending diatribe.

Now, before I hear that it was probably a lot worse on the other side of the field, I will respond to this point with two points of my own: (1) That is pure speculation; and (2) when we start looking to UF, Urban Meyer and Gator Nation as the gold standard for the acceptability of our behavior, it's time to start looking for the four horsemen of the Apocolypse. We teach our children that they do not have to be perfect, but they do need to be faithful. It's not that people can't make mistakes, but how are your actions characterized when people think of you? What's on the inside spills out when you get bumped, so let the inside be honorable, for character is best measured under pressure rather than calm. The University of Georgia and her graduates (at least the ones I have always been around) are not perfect, but they are characterized as intelligent, educated, upstanding, and gracious. If someone doesn't speak up soon, that reputation will become the exception rather than the rule.

OK, consider my two cents registered and my humble request for help made. I will leave with this simple thought: Your support for your school is BEST demonstrated by representing her well.  

Warm regards,

A Loyal Bulldog Law Mom

To me, this issue is related to the need of tailgaters to clean up after themselves on North Campus. The practical reason for needing to bag and dispose of our own trash afterward is that, if we don't treat the campus respectfully, we will lose the privilege of using it every Saturday, but the more important reason for doing so is that we owe it to the University of Georgia to treat everything about that venerable institution with the respect it deserves.

I am sure that we all have been guilty of our own overzealous and obnoxious moments as fans, but we have to remember that we are representatives of all the groups to which we belong in everything we do; when we wear our team apparel to the stadium on game day and behave boorishly, it is a reflection on the university. All of us owe it to the institution to put the best possible face on the University of Georgia. Let each of us sweep in front of our own doors, and all Bulldog Nation will be clean.

Go 'Dawgs!

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