One of the impromptu summer projects being undertaken here at Dawg Sports is Dawg2011’s "bracket of hate" to determine the Georgia Bulldogs’ biggest rival. In the course of the balloting, the South Carolina Gamecocks eliminated the Clemson Tigers in the second round, and, presently, the Auburn Tigers are being given a run for their money by the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the fourth round.
I take issue with both of these votes. During a highly successful era of Georgia football, the Bulldogs went 5-5-1 against Clemson between 1977 and 1987, a period during which both the Red and Black and the Orange and Purple won national championships; this, in my mind, makes the Fort Hill Felines a much more significant rival than the team with which the Jungaleers share the Palmetto State, which, in a comparable number of series meetings featuring a comparable overall record, has never beaten the Athenians more than twice in a row. Likewise, while I appreciate the in-state rivalry with the Engineers, I consider the Plainsmen not just Georgia’s oldest rival, but our fiercest, as well.
The problem, therefore, is clear: Bulldog Nation lacks adequate disdain for teams nicknamed the Tigers.
Let’s start with the animal itself. Panthera tigris is the largest of the big cats, and it ranks behind only the polar and brown bears as the world’s largest land carnivore. I’m not a cat person, but even folks who consider felines friendly have to recognize that tigers are pretty nasty creatures, of which you want to steer clear. Also, they’re orange, which pretty much seals the deal, doesn’t it?
In intercollegiate competition, there are five Division I teams nicknamed the Tigers, four of which either are or were conference rivals of the Red and Black at one point or another: Auburn, Clemson, Louisiana State, and Missouri. The fifth, Princeton, is an Ivy League rival of Yale, from Georgia’s association with which our Bulldog nickname arguably was derived. There is, it seems, simply a natural animosity between cats and dogs.
Finally, there is the matter of professional golf allegiances. Faced with the choice of rooting for Gerry Lester Watson, Jr., or Eldrick Tont Woods, every Georgia fan knows you root for the guy called Bubba and not the guy nicknamed Tiger.
So, please, Bulldog Nation, when asked to identify the Red and Black’s most despised rivals, remember the “Chiz Rag” and declare your institutional disdain for all Tiger teams, of whatever stripe. If you don’t, you shouldn’t be surprised if I ask, as William Blake did, “In what furnace was thy brain?”