Kyle Gets Contrary: Why the Georgia Bulldogs Should Not Play an Exhibition Game Against the Clemson Tigers

It's so very infrequent that you and TKyle disagree in print! My faith is shaken in the Bulldog nation's glorious blogospheric leaders! Next thing you know, one of you will make a power move and someone'll end up stuffed in an open casket in Butts-Mehre.

Will to Paul Westerdawg

Well, I don’t know that it’s as bad as all that, but I do disagree with Paul when he says: "I see little value in playing Clemson more than one series per decade in football (regular season). Mainly because it benefits them more than us in terms of in state recruiting."

Paul wants to see the Bulldogs play the Tigers annually in basketball, and I agree with him. I’m glad we still play the Country Gentlemen every year in a two-game series in baseball. It makes no sense to me to play a major rival in other sports but not in the biggest sport; what are we, Notre Dame playing is-you-is-or-is-you-ain’t-my-baby with the Big East? We don’t want to stoop to the level of some insignificant quasi-independent small sectarian has-been institution in rural Indiana that couldn’t even keep us from swiping the College Football Hall of Fame right out from under their upturned noses, do we?

Besides, if we’re going to quit playing non-conference opponents whose Peach State recruiting benefits from their games against the Bulldogs, we’re going to quit playing non-conference opponents, starting with Georgia Tech. We can’t take our ball and go home, nor should we want to do so. You don’t hear Florida fans complaining that an annual game in Jacksonville provides Georgia with a Sunshine State recruiting beachhead, although we demonstrably and undeniably benefit from the location of the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party every February.

Clemson is one of our oldest and most heated rivals. We’ve been playing the Tigers seven years longer than we’ve been playing the Gators. In the 20 seasons from 1897 to 1916, the only team the Fort Hill Felines played 20 times was Georgia; in those same 20 seasons, the only team the Classic City Canines played 20 times was Clemson. The Bulldogs faced the Tigers 24 times in 26 seasons between 1962 and 1987, with no out-of-conference rivalry being more consequential in the 1980s than the border war running along I-85. Assuming the two teams do not meet in a bowl at the end of the 2010 campaign, Georgia and Clemson will enter the 2011 season having gone more than seven years without meeting on the gridiron for the first time in either of their histories.

This brings me to Dabo Swinney’s recent remarks regarding a Georgia-Clemson exhibition game, which generated reactions from Team Speed Kills, David Hale, Senator Blutarsky, The Grit Tree, The Leather Helmet Blog, Bill King, and the aforementioned Paul Westerdawg. The consensus in "The Dawgosphere" has been positive, to say the least.

I take the contrary view. Even assuming that the NCAA would allow such a thing, the risk of injury in a meaningless game would be too great . . . and there literally may be no harder-hitting rivalry the Bulldogs have than their series with the Tigers.

Prior to the 1986 clash between the two clubs, Georgia linebacker John Brantley declared: "This is one to see who the men are. It is the kind of game where women and children need to be sitting in the top level because bones are going to be cracking. It’s going to be really intense." Three years earlier, Vince Dooley had proclaimed that the Bulldogs’ rivalry with Clemson was "a series as heated as we have, a game as intense as we play."

That same year, Red and Black assistant sports editor Edward Thomas wrote that the two teams "have always fought fiercely on the field, but in recent years a bitter hatred has erupted between fans of the two schools, due to the colleges’ proximity, mutual success of both football programs, and the hotly-contested recruitment of Herschel Walker." The passage of two decades did little to change that sentiment, as a 2003 article in the Fort Hill student newspaper, The Tiger, panned ACC expansion by noting that "many Clemson fans, particularly ones who attended Clemson in the 70s and 80s, would rather see the Tigers take on the Bulldogs every year. . . . [R]ivalries like Clemson-Georgia are good for the landscape of sports."

Multiple journalists have noted the peculiar ferocity of the series. Before attaining on-air fame with ESPN, Ivan Maisel observed that "the rivalry has grown big enough here that quarterback Homer Jordan can say, ‘It’s getting bigger than the South Carolina game’ and no one blinks an eye." The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jeff Denberg concurred that "[n]either has played more fiercely against an opponent in recent times." Tony Barnhart called the rivalry "even more intense" than war and the Greenville News-Piedmont’s Dan Foster quoted a University of Georgia athletic official as saying, "I think now the Georgia Tech game is the one we’d hate most to lose, but the Clemson game is the one we most want to win."

Those sentiments were expressed about a rivalry that is not suited to a simulation reminiscent of a Gettysburg re-enactment; you don’t challenge your old enemy to a duel if you don’t intend to use live ammo. To paraphrase Chris Rock from his distinctly NSFW video of more than a decade ago:

No matter what a blogger tells you, there is no football in the spring game. Oh, there’s non-contact scrimmage in the spring game, but you don’t want non-contact scrimmage; you want football . . . and there is no football in the spring game.

I’m all for renewing hostilities with the Country Gentlemen, but there’s no use pussyfooting around with the Fort Hill Felines. Take off the green jerseys, break out the orange pants and the red britches, and play some football in the fall. The Arena League, the NFL, and whatever that European thing is that involves those metric four-point field goals provide me all the meaningless exhibitions I can stand. This is a competition that counts, not a ballet recital, for crying out loud.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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