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An Open Letter to the Georgia Football Team

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

To The Georgia Bulldogs-

I am writing this well past midnight. I am supposed to be up early in the morning to get some things done before heading out to a work conference. Once there I need to get some more things done. To sleep would be responsible, but I can’t.

I woke up Sunday morning with a churning in my stomach. The Gamecocks had beaten you the day before, and it felt like the World was out of order. Truly it is not. Teams who turn the ball over four times while forcing none are not meant to win football games. Since Sunday morning, I have found myself thinking of the poem ‘Carry On’ by Robert William Service. I love this poem, and it has given me motivation in times of doubt and defeat.

It is easy to fight when everything is right,

And you are mad with the thrill and the glory;

It is easy to cheer when victory is near,

and wallow in fields of glory.

It is a different song when everything is wrong.

When you are feeling eternally mortal;

When it’s ten against one, and hope there is none,

Buck up little soldier and chortal

I want to tell you how badly I wish you guys would break our drought. I’m tired of opposing fans needling us with comments of “1980” every time I bring up the glorious institution that is the University of Georgia. My parents were there in New Orleans on January 1, 1981. I’ve heard them tell countless stories about that year. Their speech quickens and their voices raise just a bit. Their eyes widen, and they sit up proudly when they talk about that day. I wish desperately to see you win a championship, and to know that joy myself. I want to share that joy with my family and friends and all the folks in Bulldog Nation.

I’ve thought about what that moment might be like a thousand times. But you guys don’t owe that to me or anyone else. We don’t own you, and your lives are yours to live. That’s your right as human beings.

Football, much like life, is easy when things are going well. I’m sure you remember the cheers of the crowd, and the joy you felt, that night against Notre Dame. Many of you know that life is not easy. I don’t pretend to know what struggles you’ve had to overcome to get to this point. It is okay to lose a football game. It is okay to drop passes and fumble balls and get whipped on a block. But it is only okay if those things happen when you have given all of your effort on the field. Days like last Saturday against South Carolina are only okay if they happen after you have prepared to fight as best you can and then fought your hardest.

The University of Georgia has been playing football for 123 years. On the scoreboard before you take the field at Sanford Stadium on Saturdays, Larry Munson refers to the players who came before you as “men with hearts, bodies and minds of which the Bulldog Nation should be justifiably proud.” Not all of those teams were champions, but almost all of them fought like hell to be.

I have watched Georgia teams that barely scratched out a winning record that I loved. I loved them because they gave their all for Georgia, and most importantly, they gave their all for themselves. Despite their lack of size, speed or talent they figured out how to whip the man across from them. They got the most out of their God-given abilities.

Carry On! Carry On!

Things were never looming so black.

But show that you haven’t a cowardly streak,

And though you’re unlucky you never are weak.

Carry On! Carry On!

Brace up for another attack.

It looking like hell – but you never can tell;

Carry On, old man! Carry On!

To avoid hypocrisy, I must tell you all that I have failed plenty in my personal, professional and spiritual life. As a younger man I showed great promise and was blessed with some natural gifts. So many people told me that was the case that I began to believe I was special. Things came easy for me. Soon I got out into the real world, and there I floundered for a time. I grew resentful, and wondered why life wasn’t falling my way like everyone had told me it would. However, nothing simply falls your way in life. No amount of natural ability can make up for work. There are things that take no talent, only effort. I have found those things are often the difference between success and failure.

You are unquestionably talented. Every recruiting service and football coach in America knew it when you decided to come to Athens, and everyone still knows it now. That talent is a gift, but it also may have opened doors for you that others had to work harder to crack. There is no shame in that, but now you have been knocked down and you must decide how you will respond.

There isn’t the usual adulation around you guys this week. They have been having a funeral for you the last few days on all of the national sports shows. They have talked about how you lost a game to a team with nowhere near the talent you have, and written you off because of one bad performance. It’s easy to pack it in when everyone is saying the cause is lost. You have been given an out. If you take it now, it will become easier and easier to take it each time.

I implore you to fight. I urge you to work harder than you ever have. I beg you to look at each opponent and ask not if you are more talented, but if you have worked harder than them. Ask if you are more well-prepared. Ask if you are hungrier. Ask if you are more willing to suffer to get what you want than the team across from you is. If you can answer “yes” to those questions you will forever be champions in my book. You will sleep peacefully at night, and live your life without ever wondering what would have happened if you had given it your all. You will be beloved by Bulldog Nation for years to come.

What is at stake here is not just a football season. The choice in front of you now will be thrust upon you time and time again. I do not know if you will win the rest of your games, but you could. You possess the requisite talent to win a national championship, but there are other teams who have talent too. The difference will be the work you put in, and the eagerness with which you attack it. It cannot and should not be done for anyone else. It must be done by you and for you.

It’s looking like hell, but you never can tell; So go find out what you can do.

I will be pulling for you every step of the way.

There are some who drift out in the desert of doubt,

And some who in brutishness wallow;

There are other, I know, who in piety go

Because of a heave to follow.

But to labor wih zest, and give it your best,

For the sweetness and joy of the giving;

To help folks along with a hand and a song;

Why, there’s the subshine of living.

Carry On! Carry On!

Fight the good fight and true;

Belive in your mission, greet life with a cheer;

There ‘s big work to do,and that’s while you are here

Carry On! Carry On!

Let the world be the better for you’

And last when you die, let this be your cry;

Carry On, my soul! Carry On!

Carry On Men... And Go Dawgs

Graham Coffey