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Of Redshirts and Blackouts: A Stroll Through the Diaries

It already has been a busy week for me, so I'm glad it has been a busy week here at Dawg Sports even in my absence, as the diary section has been an active place, featuring such classics of the genre as Dave the Dawg's "Why I hate Auburn." The point at which I found this essay persuasive and compelling was Dave's use of "I hate Auburn," which is the phrase that pays here at Dawg Sports, since I hate Auburn, as you may have heard.

Two other recent diaries, in particular, warranted our attention, as well. Dawgb1, a University of Georgia student, has noted that the Bulldog players have asked the fans to show up dressed in black on Saturday.

Something like this would do nicely. Where can you get one of these, you may ask? Why, right here, as a matter of fact!

This request comes from the team's upperclassmen, as Mark Richt explained on Tuesday:

The seniors asked me to encourage the Bulldog Nation to wear black to Saturday's game. I asked them why, and they said it would be cool and a great sign of unity.

That was all I needed to hear. It is emblematic of the crazy nature of the Deep South's oldest football rivalry that Georgia needs all the help it can get when playing Auburn at home and with a higher ranking---1997, anyone? 1999, perhaps?---so I'm all for anything that gets the mojo flowing in the right direction.

The rumor is that the team may wear black jerseys, as well, with which Paul Westerdawg is down if it reverses the longstanding trend of "away field advantage."

As I say, I'm all for it if it helps the defense keep the Plainsmen under control between the hedges. In the eight series meetings played in Athens since 1991, the 'Dawgs have surrendered 31 or more points five times and have held the Tigers under 24 points just once. If you think going shirtless and shaving Knowshon Moreno's jersey number into your chest hair will help the Georgia D, knock yourself out, pal.

(Obligatory reminder of Odell Thurman's 99-yard interception return in 2003.)

While we're on the subject of Knowshon Moreno and shirts, the other diary that deserved a mention was this request for advice from Randomterrace:

Dear Dawgsports:

I've never written in to an advice column before, but there's an issue that's been bothering me recently which I'm wary of revealing to friends.

You see, I'm an expatriate dawg living in the Chicago, and recently I've been bragging about our freshman 1,000 yard rusher (who will run for more than 1,600 if he continues to rush for over 154 a game) Knowhson Moreno. They are always impressed, and this gives me a sense of well-being. However, I have a secret - Moreno is in fact a RED-SHIRT freshman.

I know, I know. But a little white lie never hurt anyone, right?

Here's my question: Should I feel bad about refering to Moreno as a freshman? Should his accomplishments really be compared to other freshman like Walker and Brown? Am I being dishonest when I leave out the "red-shirt" part?

Thanks, Dawgsports.

Intellectually Dishonest in Chicago

Here is my take on this question, which other commenters are free to address, too:
Dear Intellectually Dishonest in Chicago:

A few years back, when my brother-in-law, Travis Rice, and I were back in the Classic City for an alumni function, Trav struck up a conversation with a student. When asked her class standing, the young lady replied that, due to her extensive advanced placement credits from high school, she was "a first-year sophomore." Trav, never one to mince words when encountering overinflated egos in need of puncturing, informed her: "You're a freshman."

For a student-athlete (which is, in many instances, itself something of a misnomer) on scholarship, class standing is a matter of eligibility. Knowshon Moreno has as much of his eligibility remaining as a second-year student who saw no playing time in his first year as he would if he were a first-year student who made it onto the field during his rookie campaign. In that sense, it is fair to characterize him as a "freshman," and removing the qualifier "redshirt" is not as egregious an omission as, say, deleting "vice" from in front of "president."

Is Knowshon Moreno's 1,000-yard season as a redshirt freshman really the same as Herschel Walker's 1,000-yard season as a true freshman? No, it isn't, not any more than Matthew Stafford's freshman season as an early enrollee who arrived on campus in January before taking the field in the fall put him on an even footing with someone who first came to the University of Georgia in late summer.

If, however, Moreno manages to break the Goal Line Stalker's freshman record of 1,616 rushing yards, it will be for reasons other than his redshirt experience. In Herschel's day, the Bulldogs played an eleven-game regular season with no conference championship game and a player's performance in a bowl game did not count towards his season totals. (For what it's worth, Walker rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns in the 1981 Sugar Bowl, 84 yards and two touchdowns in the 1982 Sugar Bowl, and 103 yards and one touchdown in the 1983 Sugar Bowl, but none of these numbers counts towards Herschel's career totals.)

Knowshon Moreno gets the benefit of a twelve-game regular season schedule---an advantage comparable to that which earned Roger Maris an asterisk when he broke in the 162-game 1961 baseball season a record set by Babe Ruth in the 154-game 1927 baseball season---and his postseason numbers will be tallied, as well. A bowl game is all but assured and a conference title tilt remains a real possibility.

In short, if we make too much of every meaningful distinction between the world as it existed in 1980 and the world as it exists today, the asterisks will abound. What matters is that Herschel Walker was then a man among boys; in the due course of events, Knowshon Moreno may become a dominant force in his own era, as well.

Knowshon Moreno is a freshman. This is a fact. While that fact could be stated with greater precision, the ability to qualify his class standing does not render the reality of that class standing untrue. I probably would include the term "redshirt" for the sake of full disclosure, because I do not believe Moreno's achievement is diminished by the presence of that modifier, but you are not lying by omitting a datum which draws a distinction but, at the end of the day, does not make a meaningful difference.


T. Kyle King
Dawg Sports

There you have it, then. Break out the black outerwear for Saturday, send in your questions for advice on football-related matters by which you are morally troubled, and keep the conversation going by writing diaries of your own. You, and I, will be glad you did.

Go 'Dawgs!