Reversal of Expectations: An Odd Post on Irony

This week, I'm going to do something a little different. There has been much ranting on this site and within Bulldog Nation over the past few weeks advocating a need for change of some sort, so I will do my part to offer something new and different. This will still be a literary, nerdy post, but I will not be Dawgifying a poetic work (partially because I would probably just end up rhyming all the words that end in "uck" or something). Instead, I will write about something that has caused some discussion on Dawg Sports and numerous raging arguments across the Internet.

One of my sources claims one sub-type of this thing to be "absolute infinite negativity;" the other claims a different sub-type to be, "subjective, confusing, and [dependent] on the expectations of either the reader or the characters in the situation." As much as those descriptions could apply to this past weekend's ballgame debacle, these definitions are also used to describe that dread of teachers and bane of students: irony.

Even on Dawg Sports, a consensus on the definition of irony can be difficult to reach. Some people may only acknowledge verbal irony and sarcasm, while others take a more open-minded view of the device. I've always felt that irony cannot always be defined, but I often feel that I know it when I see it or experience it. I suppose in athletic jargon, irony would be considered an intangible, something that is not necessarily easily grasped or defined but that is unmistakable in its presence. So here are all of the types of irony I found on Wikipedia and The Oatmeal keep stored in my genius brain, accompanied by illuminating examples of each.

Verbal irony

This is the type of irony that most people refer to as sarcasm. I read a boring and hair-splitting riveting paragraph or two about how sarcasm and verbal irony are different, but most of the world sees both of them as saying one thing to mean another in a way that is often insulting or caustic. For example, it is not unusual to read comments on Dawg Sports that say something like, "Draw play up the middle on 3rd and 15? Great call, Bobo!" Obviously, the commenter does not actually believe the call to be a good one, but verbal irony provides a socially-acceptable outlet for the commenter's frustrations. Come to think of it, the Ol' Ball Coach knows a thing or two about verbal irony; after all, you can't spell "verbal irony" without "bravely iron."

Socratic Irony

Socratic irony involves pretending to agree with a person with whom you disagree in order to reveal the flaws in his or her argument. In Biblical terms, this is the proverbial "answer a fool according to his folly" method. Essentially, you express opinions contrary to your own as a means of drawing foolish or contrary statements out of your opponents.

For example, let's say chuckdawg has the following conversation (which has been cleaned up considerably in terms of both grammar and content for the innocent eyes of Dawg Sports readers).

No-good Hoodlum: Hey, Dawg! You're wearing red and black, so you must be as angry as I am! Let's go roll and egg Murray and C-rob's house!

Chuckdawg: Yeah! That sounds like a great idea! Nothing will convey our true fandom like vandalizing our own players' property.

No-good Hoodlum: Exactly! They thoroughly disgraced the red and black tonight, and they should pay!

Chuckdawg: I know. Nothing is more disgraceful in life than losing a football game. Everything else pales in comparison.

No-good Hoodlum: You're absolutely right. I'll bet the ACCPD won't even stop me because they're too busy monitoring the football players who are not actually here. How ironic!

Chuckdawg: If we're not worried about the cops, why stop with egging and rolling? Why not throw bricks through their windows? Why not spraypaint "Dwags Sux!" on their walls?

No-good Hoodlum: You're so right! Heck, why not set the whole thing on fire! I'm talking total destruction of property here tonight!

Chuckdawg: Wait a minute! That's not how this is supposed to go. I'm employing Socratic irony. You are supposed to eventually see that your opinion is ridiculous and bow before my dazzling wit and intelligence.

No-good Hoodlum: So you're not actually going to help me vandalize our players' house?

Chuckdawg: Of course not.

No-good Hoodlum: But you've seen my face and I have pretty much told you my entire diabolical plan. You could tell the cops everything you know. What should I do about that?

Chuckdawg: Assume that the cops aren't going to care since it involves something happening to the players rather than something done by them?

No-good Hoodlum: That's a risk I'm not willing to take. Sorry, Dawg; you never should've messed with Socratic irony.

Chuckdawg: Talk about infinite absolute negativity...


While satire is not, strictly speaking, classified as a type of irony, this literary genre relies heavily on irony. Satire resembles Socratic irony except that it is written as a single argument instead of as a give-and-take rhetorical exchange. Many of you likely had to read Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" in class, and the Onion is a well-known satirical news site that pokes fun at modern headlines using satire. I supposed I could have skipped satire, but I wanted to write satire, so I included it because I wanted to it's greatly important.

On Saturday night, Bulldog fans of all shapes and sizes reacted emotionally to a daring and bold coaching strategy employed by the University of Georgia's football team earlier that evening.

"Anyone can take the field with the goal of winning a ballgame," super-fan Larry Manson said of the unorthodox plan, "but only the Bulldogs strive for the more important goal of perfection."

"Deliberately trying not to score points...I don't know how to feel about that, really," admitted University of Georgia freshman Hudson Murphy. "My father always told me that winning was the most important thing, and my mother...well, she didn't usually agree with my father, but she did agree with him that one time."

"Winning is easy, but any hot-blooded American male should be up for the unique and impressionable feat of striving for perfection in the form of exactly zero points," LSU head coach Les Miles said. "I once tried to employ a similar strategy against Tennessee at the end of a ballgame, but Dooley and the Count outsmarted me. ‘Thirteen players on the field! Ah! Ah! Ah!' (may the Count rest in peace, or whatever they do in Transylvania)."

"The atmosphere here was electric," five-star recruit Robin Fester said. "The fans didn't understand the coaches' reasoning at first, but once we realized what they were doing, we rallied behind them 100%. Not that I'm a fan or anything...actually, I'm...yeah, I have Auburn gear and Eagle!"

"How clever of Bobo to call repeated runs right at Jadeveon Clowney!" gushed a source who wishes to remain anonymous. "I can't wait to go home and try that on NCAA '13!"

"Don't forget about the defense," chided Anonymous' buddy, Irvin Meyers. "Telling Shawn Williams to blow coverage on not one but two key passes and to tell Rambo to give that almost-interception back...the genius of it all reduces me to tears."

"I don't think we can single out any particular member of our team," professional Bulldog blogger and part-time lawyer C. Lyle Singh hastened to add. "Our determined and indomitable ballclub worked in unison like a well-oiled machine in an attempt to accomplish a true synergy of suck. I am as proud of my Classic City Canines as I can be--except, of course, for that aptly-named Boo."

"I can't believe what Boo did," spat angry former back Knowjohn Morebueno. "The Dawgs had perfection within their grasp, but Boo had to...had to run he wanted to reach the endzone," Morebueno finished with a rasping whisper.

"Yeah, Boo's in the dawg house," a current player who wishes to remain anonymous said. "He got kicked out of everywhere; he tried to get in the literal doghouse with Uga IX, but Russ shut the door in his face--and rightly so."

"Boo has always been a little spirited, bless his heart," Coach Mark Richt said during the post-game press conference. "He knew the plan, but his instincts just took over. I wish we could've achieved a perfect 0-35 ledger, but I guess we'll just have to wait for next week before we can card a scoreless game."

The Georgia Bulldogs are 0-0 in bye week competition, even though the Dawgs face at least one bye week per year. Isn't that ironic?

"Um, no, it's actually not," said an angry blogger.

"Um, yeah, it is," responded another angry blogger. "There's totally a reversal of expectations since one would expect that it was impossible to both face a team every year and to have a 0-0 record against them."

"But we haven't even gotten to situational irony yet, so that means it doesn't exist."

"Your mom doesn't exist."

"Oh no you ditn't, poopyhead."

"Shut yo face, chocolate pants."

Dramatic Irony

Dramatic irony occurs when the audience knows something the characters do not. One frequently used example is Romeo and Juliet because the audience knows that Juliet is not dead while Romeo does not. The audience knows that Juliet only appears dead, so they feel more sorrow and horror when Romeo is preparing to stab himself because they know the truth.

We Bulldogs should feel right at home with dramatic irony since our beloved offensive coordinator is fond of setting up such scenes himself. If we were watching a movie of one of our games over the past few years, it might play out thus:

The Dawgs prepare take the field for an important drive. The opposing team's defense huddles near the sideline, their DC intensely staring down each man.

"I know these guys," he says. "They are going to pretend that they mean to run or to throw short, but I've seen this movie before. No; they're going to throw deep. Bobo thinks he can outsmart me, but he couldn't even outsmart that group of women he played against in the offseason. You, drop back in coverage; you too. When Murray bombs it, we'll be ready."

The offense trots out on the field, each man taking his position. The ball is snapped, and everything develops in slow motion. The viewer feels an impending sense of doom because he or she knows something that Murray & Co. don't know. (Either that, or he or she has just watched a lot of Bulldog football.) I'll mercifully fade to black here, because it's OUR FUNERAL LOLOLOL!!!1

Situational Irony

Few types of irony cause more passionate disagreement than this type of irony because it has the broadest definition. Situational irony occurs when there is a reversal of expectation in the way something turns out; the hard part of determining whether or not something is situational irony is that not every reversal of expectation feels ironic. I may expect my football team to win, but if it loses, that is not necessarily ironic.

The situation of the Georgia Bulldogs losing to the South Carolina Gamecocks is not ironic in and of itself, but when you consider that the scheduling mess actually ended up working in favor of the Gamecocks rather than against felt it, right? That twinge that hits when you recognize irony? Or maybe that was just your stomach clenching in remembrance of our last game. That's why irony is so difficult to pin down sometimes: sometimes, with irony--especially situational irony--you just have to feel it.

Oh sure, I can argue that, from a technical perspective, this counts as situational irony. The general expectation at the beginning of the season was that playing South Carolina in the middle of the season would benefit Georgia, yet what actually happened was a reversal of that initial expectation. More importantly than technicalities, however, the sense of irony hits you like Clowney hurdling yet another lineman.

I almost included the example of Steve Spurrier suspending Kelcy Quarles for the Florida game as a definite example of a reversal of expectation, but then I read that Quarles would likely not have played anyway due to injury and realized that this was the status quo rather than any kind of situational irony.

Historical Irony

This is the last type of irony I'll be writing about today; there are a couple of other types of irony, but this is already long enough as it is. Historical irony occurs when people look back at the historical words and actions of others from the past. A good Bulldog example would be the so-called curse that Erk Russell put on all Bulldog football teams past that from 1980.

In his hype letter to that year's football team, Erk said that he wanted to make that year's football team the best ever in honor of the Railroad Track Crowd. He meant those words at the time to be inspiring and encouraging, but when we look back on them years later, they can take on the more sinister meaning of making sure that no Bulldog team will ever be as good as that 1980 team.

Anyone who disagrees with these definitions of irony should feel free to debate the proper definitions endlessly in the comments and confirm The Oatmeal's conclusion. Of course, this is already the weirdest thing I've done on this site this side of "Boledogge's Tale" anyway; it is almost Halloween, after all. Speaking of which, I've had some good suggestions for Hate Week already. I haven't started on anything yet because I'm lazy busy, but anyone who has an idea but has yet to submit it needs to do so soon. I know we still have to beat Kentucky, but Hate Week is almost here! So correct, suggest, debate, and/or complain away, Dawgs! Hopefully we will get back on track against mighty Kentucky (verbal irony!) and will be ready for foul, loathsome, pukey Florida (verbal honesty).

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