Under the circumstances, you could be forgiven for failing to notice this fact, but, believe it or not, I was out of town on vacation last week. You probably couldn’t tell I was away, what with the news of our then-athletic director’s arrest for driving under the influence breaking on the day before I departed, but the Dawg Sports community was called upon to render yeoman’s service in my (nominal) absence, and the response was tremendous. MaconDawg did his usual fine job of holding down the fort, and I am particularly grateful to the many regular commenters who adjusted on the fly and offered timely analysis in the face of changing circumstances; accordingly, my thanks go out to vineyarddawg for grading Damon Evans’s stupidity on a curve, DavetheDawg for adding a welcome note of humor, Mr. Sanchez for turning our attention to a rising men’s basketball program that deserves our support, NCT for reminding us that there is still much to love and admire about the University of Georgia, podunkdawg for thinking outside the box when compiling a list of potential athletic director candidates, skigator93 for providing a thoughtful look at the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, RedCrake for telling us five good things he believes about the Georgia Bulldogs, blackertai for sharing five doubts he has about the 2010 ‘Dawgs, wwcmrd? for defining what it means to be a fan generally, and AuditDawg for describing why he is a fan specifically. It did not escape my attention, and I hope it did not escape yours, that these postings often played off of one another, and that more than one of these guest postings earned a nod as an SB Nation Atlanta editor’s pick, which attests to the strength of the community here. I am much obliged to everyone for doing a great job.
While the Damon Evans situation simply was too big a story for me to ignore for a week or more, I dialed back my online presence after Wednesday night’s Rays-Red Sox game because Thursday was my family’s and my last day at the beach, after which we left Sarasota in the wee hours of Friday morning, bound for a short stay in Valdosta that included two days at Wild Adventures, with an evening in between spent with my extended family at my first cousin’s 50th birthday party. We arrived home late Saturday evening, and I spent Sunday recuperating before returning to the office this morning. Consequently, I have been incommunicado, albeit not out of touch altogether. This puts me in much the same posture as Inigo Montoya in "The Princess Bride" (e.g., there is time to sum up, but not to explain), so here are a few observations ere we get back to our regular schedule and begin preparing in earnest for football season:
- It’s a Monday night in America, and ESPN is showing home run derby, featuring Erin Andrews and Train performing "Hey Soul Sister" live. Dang, I love this country.
- I do not bear LeBron James any ill will, but neither do I care where he plays his professional basketball.
- Judging by the team apparel I saw at the theme park, fans of the Florida Gators outnumbered members of the Georgia faithful at Wild Adventures on Friday, while there were vastly more Bulldog fans than Gator fans there on Saturday. This probably means that Floridians choose Valdosta as a vacation destination and Georgians opt for it as a weekend stopover, but I prefer to believe it means that Red and Black boosters have jobs.
- While on vacation, I didn’t get as much reading done as I would have liked, but I finally finished Barbara Strauch’s The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind. The book did little to assuage my growing concerns about my declining mental sharpness---it did not help that, during our trip, I suffered a pair of glaring memory lapses within a 24-hour period when I could not immediately recall the names either of the plaintiff from the court case that established the rule of proximate cause (Helen Palsgraf) or of the Bulldogs’ starting tailback from the 1980 season opener against Tennessee (Donnie McMickens)---but Strauch’s volume did offer this hopeful passage:
Along the way, we might as well try to enjoy ourselves, too, because our moods are also surprisingly important to our brains. Boxes of studies have found that people who are less grumpy, less lonely, happily married, or otherwise entwined with their fellow human beings or even their pet beagle have a lower risk of developing heart disease or Alzheimer’s, a better chance at staying mentally alert, and a greater likelihood of a long life. One recent study in England found that people in middle age who simply popped down the street to their neighborhood pub on a regular basis had better cognitive skills than their sit-at-home neighbors.
Of course, I read that to mean that, since I generally have a pretty dour outlook on life, my conviction that everything will go badly probably means that I inadvertently am making matters even worse, but, for those of you inclined to look on the bright side, the foregoing excerpt ought to cause you to feel more upbeat, particularly as it regards the prospects for our upcoming October 2 shindig.
- This is an aesthetic statement, not a political one, and certainly not a politically correct one, so I’m just going to throw this out there and let you do with it what you will: as evidenced by this photograph, the American flag is the best flag to incorporate into a bikini top (even if the stripes inexplicably are running the wrong way). However, it is equally true that the Confederate battle flag is the best flag to incorporate into a bikini bottom. Again, that’s not a political statement---heck, my co-author is using the word "Reconstruction" favorably---but trust me on this one.
- It was Senator Blutarsky who called my attention to this piece by Phil Steele, but it warrants amplification that, over the course of the decade from 2000 to 2009, Georgia had the SEC’s third-most conference championships (two, behind Florida’s and LSU’s three apiece) and division championships (tied with Tennessee at three each, behind Florida’s and LSU’s four apiece), second-best winning percentage (tied with LSU at .688), most bowl appearances (tied with Florida and LSU at ten each), most bowl wins (eight), most AP top ten finishes (tied with Florida and LSU at five apiece), and most AP top 25 finishes (nine). We sometimes forget this (largely because the Bulldogs are tied for last in national championships with zero), but Georgia actually has a pretty good football program.
- I was pleased to learn that Tony Barnhart agrees with me that Greg McGarity should be our alma mater’s next athletic director.
- All right, so. Dontavius Jackson and Tavarres King. Yeah. King (no relation) will sit out at least the season opener, per University policy, and Jackson will miss half of the Bulldogs’ regular slate, with both players potentially facing more stringent penalties as further facts come to light. How the Damon Evans fiasco wasn’t a metaphorical two-by-four upside the heads of all 85 scholarship football players in the Classic City, I have no idea, but there you have it. I think it’s ridiculous that King is old enough to vote, marry without his parents’ permission, and be compelled under penalty of law to register for the draft, yet he isn’t old enough to have an alcoholic beverage in his possession, but I’m on the same page with Potter Stewart: uncommonly silly laws are still laws. Tavarres knew that, so he should have known better than to do this.
Much as Michael Lemon wasted all the goodwill arising from his family situation by getting his name in the paper in a bad way later, Jackson has squandered much of his positive reputation as a peacemaker by doing something so stupid at a time when the consequences were so clear. Since I presume that Tavarres’s underdrawers were not in Dontavius’s lap, why didn’t he call a cab?
This kind of behavior is unbelievably dumb, which is what makes it so maddening . . . particularly when it results in such outsized claims as these: "[S]hould we call it the University of Oregon-Athens? . . . This is really reaching Fulmer or Holtz levels of criminality here. Really, the question at this point seems to be less one of whether they'll win the Fulmer Cup -- though that could change depending on whether Tennessee players really live up to their potential by driving a tank through downtown Knoxville, with players riding on the vehicle firing celebratory gunfire into the air -- and a more an issue of whether they'll lap the field."
I don’t want to come down too hard on C&F for those characterizations, since he’s been politely deferential to me lately and his "Sprints" roundups unabashedly exaggerate for the sake of humor. Nevertheless, I believe it is fair to say that any such broadsides against the Bulldogs need to be leavened with a good faith attempt to tell the full story. Take it away, Dr. Saturday:
The margin of error for the seemingly endless stream of alcohol-related offenses at Georgia is even slimmer after the rapid fall of athletic Damon Evans earlier this month, and Dontavius Jackson and Tavarres King are the first to feel the brunt of the crackdown. Jackson, a backup running back, has been suspended for at least six games, one for each charge he obtained (driving under the influence of alcohol, underage possession of alcohol, following too closely, leaving the scene of an accident, violation of the move-over law and violation of learner's permit) during a DUI arrest early Saturday morning. (Why a 20-year-old college junior was driving on a learner's permit is the mystery.) King, 19, will miss at least the season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette for getting dinged with underage possession, per athletic department policy.
It could be worse: Like Evans, quarterback Zach Mettenberger and linebacker Montez Robinson were both given their walking papers following alcohol-related offenses in the spring, though in their cases the drankin' rap was exacerbated by charges of sexual assault and domestic violence, respectively.
Precisely. There undeniably have been problems---multiple problems, several of which were very serious---but there also invariably have been efforts to address those problems. The Georgia athletics program certainly hasn’t underreacted to any of these situations. Mettenberger was suspended immediately and booted from the team as soon as the facts came to light. Robinson’s departure followed a similar course, with a two-game suspension accompanying the first incident and dismissal from the squad following the second. Evans’s indiscretion occurred while Michael Adams was on vacation, and the full details of the arrest were not made known until the Friday of a holiday weekend, yet the former athletic director’s office was cleared out within a week of the incident. As Doug Gillett notes, Mark Richt’s reaction to the situation with Jackson and King suggests that the SEC’s toughest alcohol policy is getting even tougher. There is no comparison between Mark Richt, who can be patriarchal as well as paternal, and Lou Holtz, who was a repugnant coach before he was an avuncular announcer.
With the arguable exception of Tavarres King (who ought to have known better than to get in a vehicle driven by someone he knew had been drinking), none of this falls under the heading of "boys will be boys." In Evans’s case, it clearly involves misbehavior by a man, and, since everyone involved in these incidents was a legal adult, I would contend that it all involves misbehavior by men. Assault and drunk driving are serious offenses that should not be minimized, cannot be excused, ought not to occur, and must not be tolerated.
It should be noted, therefore, that such incidents are not being tolerated. People are making bad decisions---horrible decisions; decisions that threaten life, limb, and property; decisions that are illegal and morally wrong---but they are suffering the consequences. What more can be done? What about the situations into which Damon Evans, Dontavius Jackson, Tavarres King, Zach Mettenberger, and Montez Robinson chose to place themselves ought to have prompted a different institutional response from the University? Other than outlawing the consumption of alcohol in Athens (a policy prescription with a dubious track record of success), what preventive or punitive measures can the University adopt to address such incidents which have not already been imposed?
Once again, I do not wish to oversell the point; C&F summarized the news in a nonpartisan fashion and offered witty observations in his usual manner, so I don’t want to make a federal case out of what were cracks rather than attacks. Even so, though, I feel obliged to point out to the critics that punishments are being levied which are, at the very least, commensurate with the wrongdoers’ actions. Yes, we’re racking up Fulmer Cup points (although, far from lapping the field, we’re tied for fourth with Louisiana-Lafayette) . . . and those points are causing the perpetrators to be sent packing. Those who dishonor the oval "G" are being stripped of their right to wear it as representatives of the University of Georgia, oftentimes permanently. It is fair to criticize those who run afoul of the law for their transgressions, particularly when those misdeeds cause or recklessly risk causing harm to innocent bystanders. It is unfair to charge a program with lawlessness when those in power are laying down the law.