Game 2: “Frankly, I don't want to talk about it.”
Years ago, in response to a Georgia loss to Georgia Tech, Lewis Grizzard made syndicated newspaper history, publishing a column that was almost empty, save for declaration above.
When South Carolina intercepted a Matt Stafford pass in the final seconds of Saturday's game, I was tempted to honor Grizzard with a similar post. But doing so would be neither original nor genuine of me, just a cop out. So I'll press on.
Losing to South Carolina is a rarity, but it's also a very ugly catharsis for Georgia fans. The game is played early in the season, when the possibilities are still at their most expansive and expectations are at their highest. Twenty-three years ago, my father greeted a South Carolina win over Georgia by sending a loafer through the drywall in our kitchen. It landed right below the wall phone and his "Goddamnit, Georgia!" was met by Mom's rejoinder of "Goddamnit, Len!"
Bulldog historian Dan Magill once said of Georgia Tech words to the effect that, if you don't think Tech is a rival, try losing to them. I think the same can be said of South Carolina or any other foe that you're used to beating. Witness South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier's post-game taunting.
Georgia's record against South Carolina before Saturday night's contest was 44-13-2. That averages to about one Gamecock win every five years. Given that it had been since 2001 since their last win against the Bulldogs, the Chickens were due – overdue by a year, in fact. I take it as an indicator of the series one-sidedness that, following each of the other five Georgia wins, it never occurred to any Georgia coaches to bother taunting South Carolina.
One of the weird things about college football, from the perspective of fandom or gambling, is that a team is rarely as good or as bad as its last game. Last year, Georgia shut out Spurrier for only the second time in his career and then went on to give up game-winning drives to Vanderbilt and Kentucky. In 2004, we shelled the defending national champions, LSU, 45-16 and followed that up with a 19-14 loss to two-time Peach Bowl runner-up Tennessee.
This year, as in 2005, Georgia looked unstoppable against an upstart team widely picked to upset us in our opener. The following week in 2005 and this year, our offense wet the bed against South Carolina.
This time around, South Carolina eeked out a 16-12 win, the result of equal parts stifling defense on SC's part and dropped or poorly thrown passes and questionable play calls by Georgia. Really, the details are not important. Fans can tear themselves up on message boards, call-in shows and sports blogs about whom to blame, but it's best to step away if you feel that's the direction you're being taken.
Losses happen. We spend so much time focusing on champions that we lose sight of the infinitesimally small odds that even an outstanding team has of going undefeated, much less winning a national title. Think about it in terms of probabilities: If you had an 80% chance of winning every game on your schedule (and you couldn't even say that about Georgia's 1980 national championship season), you'd have less than a 7% chance of going undefeated in the regular season: 0.80^12 = 0.068719.
On the subject of fans needing perspective, as Kanu noted, those who booed at Saturday night's game should just stay home from here on out. It's deer season, right? I don't care if they are phoning it in; booing a bunch of 18-22-year-olds is never, ever acceptable. We're already doing a bang-up job scaring off recruits as it is.
Georgia fans love to lecture other rival fans about class. We'll wag our fingers about Florida fans and jean shorts. We'll chide Tennessee fans about their choice of a shade of orange. We'll snort at Auburn fans about their football factory masquerading as a sociology department. Having watched Nebraska fans applaud a rival that just got done beating their team, it occurs to me that we Georgia fans know about as much about class as Paris Hilton does.
So we lost at home to an opponent we perceived to be inferior. So did Auburn. So did Michigan, whom our fans were busy taunting last week (remember the students with "Ha Ha Michigan" painted on their bodies? Yeah, where are those guys right now?).
So let's hug it out, get well against Western Carolina and get ready for what looks to be the beginning stages of a monster being built by Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa.