Dearest Georgia Fans,
First, let me begin by saying, GOOOO DAWGS!!!
And now that I’ve taken care of that obligatory business, I want to tell you a story. On the first day of 2008, my father and I awoke in beautiful New Orleans, Louisiana. We found our way to the French Quarter and began that holiest of college football rituals: having entirely too much to drink at an hour that is not socially acceptable. As we hopped from bar to bar, eventually finding a suitable location to hunker down and watch what I think was an 11 a.m. (10 a.m. Central) Outback Bowl featuring Tennessee and whatever Big 10 also-ran was playing that year, we talked for a bit, laughed, and (I’m probably remembering this wrong) I introduced him to the concept of the Red Bull and Vodka. The Sugar Bowl didn’t start for like 10 hours at that point, so I hope you’ll give me a pass. At any rate, things continued that way for quite some time, bouncing from place to place. Around 4:00, we headed back to the hotel room. Georgia’s opponent for that Sugar Bowl was Hawaii (as you likely remember) and in the lobby of our hotel, there was a bald man with the state of Hawaii tattooed on his head, which is... a choice. Many of the other Hawaii fans staying there were what I would call “adorably obnoxious”. I say those things to say this, no matter how “nouveau riche” Hawaii may have seemed leading up to that game, these were clearly passionate and dedicated fans.
Several drinks and several hours later (and after watching what I think was the Rose Bowl), we headed to the Super Dome a few blocks away. As I recall, there was some kind of ticketing issue that resulted in a massive line to enter the stadium (at our gate anyway). So we stood there for awhile, just chatting with other fans waiting to enter. We talked with a number of Hawaii fans, many of whom were just excited to be there. They talked about the majesty that was Colt Brennan (prior to his Marcus Howard-initiated incapacitation), their high-flying offense, and complimented Georgia on what, by all accounts, had been a pretty fantastic season. We finally got in, more beverages were consumed, and the game commenced.
We all know how that game went. If I wanted to describe it charitably, I’d call it a bloodbath. But, to their credit, the Hawaii fans around us stayed until the end, occasionally expressing some frustration but continuously supporting their team. When Georgia made a play (that didn’t threaten the consciousness of their quarterback), they were complimentary. After the game, as we left the stadium, they literally could not have been nicer. They were unhappy, of course, but I literally heard a number of Hawaii fans acknowledging that “SEC Speed” was a real thing and congratulating Georgia fans on the victory (myself included). All in all, it was the kind of fanbase interaction that one can only dream about and the kind I’d like to think I’d extend in similar circumstances. I’ve never forgotten those Hawaii fans.
I heard many of the same things about the Notre Dame faithful following 2017’s game. Obviously, that game was much closer, which only makes the reports of the Irish as a charitable and benevolent host that much more impressive. Following that game, there were comments in articles and around the blogosphere about how wonderful the Notre Dame fans were in welcoming a literal siege of Georgia fans showing up on their doorstep. I haven’t forgotten that either.
Well, folks... now it’s our turn.
You’ve likely heard tale of UGA fans spitting on Auburn fans (which is almost certainly a fabrication) or cursing the fans of an opposing team after a loss (which is certainly not). As a freshman at UGA in 2000, I remember walking through downtown where some poor Tennessee fan had parked their decked-out RV just up the street from Topper’s and seeing it just covered in eggs. During the 2011 Boise State game at the Dome (to which, for reasons surpassing all understanding, I took my young son... you’ll forgive me, I was a first time father and didn’t know better), I listened as fans around us cussed our coaching staff and our players. I watched (idly by, I’m ashamed to admit) as one of fraternity row’s finest got all up in the face of a Mizzou fan following the 2015 game. Now that’s really absurd if you think about it. Trash talking after a 9-6 victory? Anyway, I did go up and apologize for the belligerent young man afterward... which was, frankly, the absolute least I could do. I’ve never forgotten these Georgia fans, either.
Point is, there is a portion of our fanbase without proper home training. It isn’t a huge percentage, but it’s there. And I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit worried about that contingent not extending the same courtesy to the Fighting Irish fans that Hawaii did to me and that Notre Dame did to our fans in 2017.
As many of you know, I’m a middle school teacher. I teach earth science and social studies and a bit of literature and some math, but mostly what I want to teach my students more than anything is how to function in polite society. You see, many of them don’t have proper home training either. They have literally never been told what is and is not okay to do in their interactions with other actual human beings. And this is what brings us here today...
While I’m sure I’m not speaking to the community here at Dawg Sports (as we’ve carefully cultivated a group that knows better), I’m asking, nay begging, the fans at Saturday’s game... please don’t be a jackass. Maybe that will fall on deaf ears. But I hope it doesn’t. Magnanimous in victory, gracious in defeat is a famous line for a reason. That reason is because that’s how you’re supposed to act.
One of the things I tell my students is that, often, the first impression is not only important, it’s also the only one you get. For many Notre Dame fans this will be their first and only visit to UGA and Athens. For others, it will be their first and only trip to Georgia or even the South. Like it or not, when you enter the hallowed campus of the University of Georgia on Saturday, you represent those things. I don’t care if you went to UGA or dropped out of high school. If you are wearing red and black, you are representing the University of Georgia. You are representing the state of Georgia. You are representing the South. And as a proud alumnus, a proud Georgian, and a proud Southerner, I must demand that you act accordingly. I can only hope other alums, Georgians, and Southerners would expect the same.
So what does that mean for you, the average fan? First off, if you don’t hold your alcohol so well, maybe don’t pre-game quite so much and definitely don’t double fist those tasty cocktails right before you head into the stadium (thankfully, God blessed me with a liver that just won’t quit, so I’m good in that regard). Next, just be nice to folks. It’s really easy. Courtesy just isn’t difficult. The one stereotype about Southerners that’s true is the manners bit, and I won’t have anyone screwing that up. Finally, if you see a fellow Dawg acting the fool, handle it. Now, I’m not asking you to confront anyone and find yourself in the Clarke County Jail instead of the downtown bars over it. But if you feel comfortable doing so, gently ask them to knock it off. If you don’t, find the subject of their ire and apologize on behalf of the 99% of fans that know how to act right.
I don’t know how the game will turn out on Saturday. Obviously, I hope the good guys win. Regardless, we need to show our friends from Notre Dame a good time in the Classic City. The outcome of the game notwithstanding, give them an experience they’ll never forget.
Whether or not the Dawgs emerge victorious, you’re likely to have a lot of pent up emotions you want to release. Heck, you may have a lot of hate stored up that really needs to go somewhere. I get it. I do, too. Take that hate and coil it up inside and save it to be unleashed on Florida. Or Auburn. Or Georgia Tech. But mostly Florida. Also, there is a time and place for you to gloat unrepentantly. That time is not immediately after the game and that place is not inside or around Sanford Stadium. That time is 3 a.m. Sunday and that place is on Twitter, Facebook, and message boards. I mean, I’d prefer that you didn’t do that either, but It’s honestly what social media was created for so who am I to deny you that.
In closing, it’s my hope that this hasn’t come off as too preachy. I have my flaws... we all do. One of mine is an incessant need to correct those that need correcting... like I said, middle school teacher. But I hope it’s clear that my plea is grounded in my adoration for the University of Georgia and what it represents. I love UGA. You love UGA. We should spend Saturday showing those visiting us why exactly that is. The University of Georgia, it’s football team, and it’s fanbase has much to be proud of. Let’s keep it that way.