I recently received an e-mail from someone who was researching sports taunting and the particular types of jabs that would get under the skin of a particular fan base. He posed a half-dozen questions, to which I sent him my answers, but I found the topic intriguing, so I decided to post his inquiries (in bold) and my responses. Please feel free to answer some or all of the questions in the comments below:
Who do you consider the Bulldogs' biggest rivals?
As a 40-year-old Bulldog fan, I consider Auburn Georgia's biggest rival. The Bulldogs and the Plainsmen have the Deep South's oldest football rivalry and, since the mid-1890s, it literally has taken the death of a player from injuries sustained during a game or a world war to keep these two teams from playing one another. Plus, during the '80s (my most memorable early years as a fan), Auburn represented Georgia's chief obstacle to SEC supremacy. (Along those same lines, I would argue that, historically, Clemson is Georgia's second-biggest rival, even though we don't play that often any more.)
Fans of my father's generation are more likely to say Georgia Tech is Georgia's biggest rival, because they remember Bobby Dodd, the eight-game losing streak in the '50s, and facing the Yellow Jackets as a conference rival. Likewise, fans younger than me almost all would say Florida is Georgia's biggest rival because of the way the Bulldogs have struggled against the Gators in the last two decades. Basically, if you ask a Georgia fan, "Which major rival beat Georgia most often between the time you were twelve and the time you were 25?", his answer is likely to be the same as his answer to your question.
What teams and specific players do the casual or die-hard Bulldogs fan hate the most?
At this point, most of the average Georgia fan's hate probably is reserved for Florida, although the attitude displayed by the Georgia Tech faithful on those rare occasions when the Yellow Jackets actually win one against the Red and Black reminds us how deep-seated our disdain for the Ramblin' Wreck really is.
On a personal level, I don't know that there's that much hatred for particular players; with Florida, for instance, it's hard to have any personal dislike for Danny Wuerffel or Tim Tebow, who are good people even if they play for a despised rival, but we have all kinds of hatred for Steve Spurrier (as a coach, not as a former player) and Urban Meyer.
If you wanted to taunt players from the SEC, who would be the biggest targets? The rest of college football?
Probably the easiest players to taunt are the ones with off-the-field issues, such as South Carolina's Stephen Garcia, or ones whose mouths write checks their rear ends can't cash, such as former Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen. By and large, I think we confine our taunting to teams, coaches, states, and fan bases while leaving individual players alone, unless they're players (like Georgia Tech's Reggie Ball) who have shown that they can be rattled by crowd noise.
What kind of taunts would sting the casual Georgia fan the most—going after the make-up of the fan base, individual players, coach, or the state?
I think we pretty much write off attacks on the fan base, the state, or the university as ignorant stereotyping that is, at best, 25 years out of date. Opposing fans who go after the University of Georgia's academic standards or portray us all as extras from "Deliverance" simply don't know what they're talking about and can be easily dismissed.
The worst taunts we endure are attacks on Mark Richt and on the players, because they tend to take the form of "can't win the big one" assaults in the former case and accusations of lawlessness in the latter case. It gets very frustrating having to explain that the 2002 and 2005 SEC championship games, the 2003 and 2008 Sugar Bowls, and the 2007 Florida and Auburn games (to name a few examples) were "big ones" and that a program is not "lawless" just because law enforcement in Athens is overzealous about open container ordinances and unpaid parking tickets.
In less than 100 words, best describe the Bulldogs fan base.
Georgia fans are rabid, dedicated, and willing to support a successful football program with our vocal presence and our financial contributions. While we have gotten much better about showing up and standing up for our team, we are impatient, often fickle, and demanding . . . but, given all the natural advantages the program enjoys, our lofty expectations are not unreasonable, however much the media may wish to portray us as unrealistic.
What are the common stereotypes associated with Georgia fans? In what ways are they true/false?
We suffer from some of the same image issues as all SEC programs; namely, that our fans are all message-board yahoos and uneducated yokels. Not only is that stereotype generally false, it completely misses the mark most of the time. If anything, we're probably a little more yuppified than we'd care to admit; like archetypal alumnus Lewis Grizzard, we as a fan base tend to be affluent suburbanites adopting a good ol' boy persona on game day.
Let me know your take on those questions in the comments. If you’re impressed that I could answer any question in under a hundred words, feel free to say that, too.