It was the Saturday before Georgia would play Alabama in Mercedes-Benz Stadium for college football’s national title. I had braved a bitter cold January morning to drive to Atlanta before dawn to participate in the team media sessions. Loaded down with photos, videos, and notes I’d driven back to Macon and spent most of the afternoon collaborating with one of the contributors at Roll ‘Bama Roll on coverage leading up to the game.
I think I had something like twelve separate posts going at the same time. And I was stopping to pinch myself the whole time to remember that it was actually real.
“You know” my colleague said to me at one point, “You’ll never enjoy college football as much as you do right now. It gets less fun from here.”
I laughed it off.
He may have been right.
Nothing beats that “new football dynasty smell.” That first whiff that everything is possible. My collaborator went on to explain how everyone at his site was thrilled with the possibilities in the late aughts when Nick Saban was finally able to demonstrate proof of concept for “The Process.” They won a national title, and believed they’d never lose another so long as the short guy from West Virginia was running the show.
But then, he noticed, something happened. People weren’t happy just to win. They wanted to decimate opponents. Heaven forbid the Tide lose due to a generational effort from Johnny Manziel. Or decline to show up for a bowl game against Oklahoma. The Tide were at the apex of the college football universe, and their fans, at least the ones posting on the internet (which is all of them, no one in the state of Alabama isn’t online and no one is online to talk about anything but college football) were miserable.
Twenty-one years and four months earlier I’d sat in a harvested-over corn field in Macon County on the last morning of August. It was the opening day of dove season, the opening weekend of college football season, and I was a college freshman. The Georgia Bulldogs had a new coach and a date with the University of Southern Mississippi in Sanford Stadium. I had a ticket. I also had an invitation to a dove shoot in a spot where I’d been told a blind man could shoot his limit in an hour and follow it with lunch at Yoder’s Deitsch Haus in Montezuma.
I chose Montezuma over Athens. I shot my limit in an hour and a half and the german chocolate pie for dessert was exquisite.
Jim Donnan and his boys lost 11-7 at home to a team in its first season as a member of Conference USA. The next weekend they’d lose to South Carolina. There would be no bowl at the end of that 1996 season.
The prior fall Georgia football coach Ray Goff had been the keynote speaker at my high school football team’s end of the year banquet. He was fired less than a month later. I didn’t have to be Nostradamus to have a hunch the doves would be more fun than the ‘Dawgs.
The point of this recitation of historical woe isn’t to make you feel bad for me as a Bulldog fan, because many of you were right there with me. Maybe not sitting in a field between shots listening to Bulldog fans boo a first year head coach, or eating dry fried chicken while Ray Goff tried gamely to put a brave face on Steve Spurrier hanging half-a-hundred on him a month before. But you remember those teams and you know how far things have come.
We’re a spoiled fanbase. Eleven of the fourteen fanbases in the SEC and almost every one in every other power conference in America would give their eye teeth to root for a team as good as the one you’ll root for this evening against the Missouri Tigers. If you disagree with that, I’d be pleased to hear your argument.
But I’m not pleased to hear you make it over and over again in ever lengthier and more withering detail. Past a certain point, no one is, even if they share your position.
This site serves as a sort of virtual watch party for games and a virtual water cooler for talking about Georgia football between games. In the next few days it will shift over to serving the same function vis-a-vis UGA basketball (which, against all odds, appears to be worth talking about this season).
Just as you wouldn’t get blitzed and run off at the mouth insulting the folks sitting around watching the game at your buddy’s house, don’t do it here.
The obligation of the folks who run this site is not to approve of your opinions or admit when you’re right. It’s to foster a community where Georgia Bulldog fans (and to an extent well-behaved fans of other teams and college football in general) can come for news, analysis, and lively discussion.
This doesn’t mean you can’t express your displeasure with a play call or the execution or uniform choices. This is college football. Living vicariously through the folks on the field is the thing that makes it fun. But at the point that the outlook you express is legitimately driving people away from our party, it’s time to cool it. And if you insult the hosts, well, there’s a Buffalo Wild Wings down the street and they’ll let you gripe all you want as long as you keep ordering wings.
The people who write for this site will always get backed up when they’re just doing their jobs. As editor it’s the least I can do in exchange for having to put up with me. They write for this site because they’re genuinely enthusiastic about University of Georgia athletics. They don’t do it so that others can drop lengthy diatribes and personal attacks on them. If you do that, you won’t be commenting here anymore.
Going forward we’re probably going to be a little more hard-nosed in comment moderation, especially in game threads and post-game threads. That pains me, because in an ideal world we’d all act like our mamas and daddies taught us and these threads would run themselves. We wouldn’t say anything about our fellow commenters if we didn’t have something nice to say. We’d recognize that as the inventor of the internet, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, put it “accidental rudeness occurs alarmingly often.”
In recognizing that we’d give our fellows the benefit of the doubt, and find that more often than not they didn’t mean it “that way” for whatever value of “that way” is most ill-informed and cloddish. The conversation at a cocktail party (not the WLOCOP, but an actual cocktail party) doesn’t require someone scanning and refereeing the flow of things because when someone gets disagreeable you can just walk away. Here that occurs by people not coming to the site. I hate that. Because I want as many people to come to this site as possible and enjoy it because I and the staff spend a lot of time collectively making it something of which we can be proud.
As we saw yesterday, there are people who legitimately would like to come to Dawg Sports to discuss Georgia football but don’t because of (and I’m still a little surprised I’m typing this) the negative tone surrounding a 7-1 football team that remains in the running for the national title in mid-November. That’s a problem, folks. And if you’re not part of the solution to that problem, I know of a nice newspaper with comment sections that are world-renowned for letting you vent your bile.
We’re not laying down hard and fast rules about what you can and can’t say at Dawg Sports. You don’t have to like James Coley or have any particular stance on D’Andre Swift’s place among all-time great tailbacks.
What we are declaring is that if you say the same thing over and over again we reserve the right to tell you to move on. If you say even something new and original and terribly witty in a way that’s offensive or rude or just generally makes you unbearable we reserve the right to warn you about it if appropriate, and ban you from commenting altogether if the warning doesn’t take. That’s not what we want to do, but to preserve the user experience for others we’re willing to.
If you have questions or comments about specifics please feel free to drop me an email. Enjoy the rest of your college football Saturday. And...