I haven't been a diehard Georgia fan as long as some people have, but I've been one long enough to have experienced the full range of losses, from the hard-fought and bittersweet to the irredeemably soul-crushing. And I think I've decided that they can best be categorized by the typical and/or appropriate fan reaction, which to some extent fall into a continuum that I will describe thusly:
1 - The Bitch-About-It-With-Friends-At-A-Bar Loss. Either the kind of loss that you saw coming for weeks or a close-fought, respectable loss to a very strong opponent. The bitching is not of a this-team's-crap-let's-fire-the-coach intensity, it mainly just comes from a) regret at the one or two big plays that, had they gone differently, would've changed the outcome for the better and b) jealousy of how good the other program appears to be. Example: Georgia's loss to Florida last year. Closer than anyone probably expected, could've won or at least tied it late, but I think we knew by that time that even a one-touchdown loss to the eventual national champions was playing over our heads.
2 - The Crawl-Into-A-Bottle Loss. Or, The One That Got Away. You should've won, you didn't, and while the loss doesn't necessarily ruin your season all by itself, it definitely takes away some opportunities, prompting you to alter your consciousness until you can once again conjure appropriately fanciful visions of what might have been. Example: Florida, 2002, in which three brain farts (Shockley's pick, George Foster getting an unsportsmanlike for dry-humping a defender, Terrence Edwards letting the tying TD sail between his fingertips) was all it took to chuck a national-title shot.
(There's a 2.5 that I'll call the Get-Drunk-And-Be-As-Obnoxious-As-You-Possibly-Can Loss, in which the loss came on a play or series of events so bizarre that you can't get angry at anything other than Fate, but you've still got to take it out on someone, so you just try to ruin someone else's night. Textbook example is Auburn 2005, which we lost on a late busted coverage that allowed a 62-yard pass completion to set up the winning FG. I'm sure there are Auburn and Georgia coeds alike who still curl their lips at the thought of that lecherous asshole in the #4 jersey who hit on them that night.)
Wowee-wow-wow! Shall we discuss the failures of the soft zone over some fine champagna?
3 - The Fightin' Loss. You feel you got screwed in a critical game, or you got shown up by a bitter rival, but not so badly that you don't have the energy to want to kick someone's ass afterward. The obvious example is Georgia vs. Georgia Tech 1999 game, the one with Jasper Sanks's phantom phumble, but the 2001 Auburn game is probably a good example of the second subtype.
4 - The Find-A-Razor-Blade-And-A-Major-Vein Loss. Your season's over, and people will be clowning your ass for a long time; better to just end it all now than to have to deal with that kind of humiliation. Even though Georgia's 2006 season improved markedly down the stretch, the Vanderbilt game would be the prime example here.
But last night's puzzling loss to South Carolina didn't really fit into any of those; I guess it comes closest to a 3, but by the end of it I lacked the physical and emotional strength necessary to challenge someone to fisticuffs, not that there are that many Gamecock fans around here to take on in the first place. Instead, I'm having to come up with a whole new classification, one that would sit at a 2.75 or so if I had to give it a number but really needs to sit a ways above the continuum on its own little stratum.
This was a Get-Laid Loss. You don't want to fight, you don't really want to drink that much, you don't even want to try and sit around and hash it out with your fellow fans. You just want to find a beautiful woman who knows enough about your team and your fandom to be able to console you but not enough to really want to have a conversation about it; you want to treat her to an hour or so of passionate, staring-deep-into-each-other's-eyes lovemaking and fall asleep in her arms. Sorry if that's got a cheesily Bridges of Madison County ring to it, but it is what it is.
That was amazing -- much better than your run defense, at any rate.
The hallmark of the Get-Laid Loss is that it's a big game, big enough to be quite emotionally invested in it, but it's not played well enough that you get your usual orgasmic joy over once again being immersed in college football, so you have to go seeking that orgasmic joy in another, perhaps more obvious, place. Your team didn't get blown out, but neither did they do any one thing well enough that you can speak hopefully about it the next day; it comes at a point in the year where it doesn't necessarily ruin the season, yet it also exposes some reasons for you to be a little wary about the team from there on out. It's not fun, but it's not agonizing enough that you feel the need to pour your heart out about it to others. You just want to forget about it, get some sexual healing, and move on.
The South Carolina game, needless to say by now, wasn't a whole lot of fun for me to watch, nor is it a lot of fun for me to rehash, even now. I don't like the fact that all those knob jobs on the Gamecock Central message boards are going to assume that their first win over Georgia in six tries somehow means they "own" us now; I especially don't like the fact that all the news reportage of the game seems to be hewing to the old "Spurrier punks the Dawgs once again" storyline, even though it took him three years in Columbia and a fruity tipped-ball INT at the goal line to accomplish that. I can't bitch about a total team implosion like the one that gave Tennessee the win in 2004, but at the same time I can't pick out anything about our play that makes me say, "Well, at least we managed to . . . " I just want to chuck the game tape in the trash compactor and move on to the next game.
Since we didn't do anything consistently enough to be able to draw any overarching Xs-and-Os conclusions, I can merely say that we looked . . . hesitant. There were two or three play calls that looked a little questionable, but looking back it doesn't seem like anything we were destined not to execute if we could've just played with more confidence. The most representative play, I think, was the one, I think it was toward the end of the second quarter, where Stafford tossed what basically amounted to a long handoff to Sean Bailey on third and only about two, and even though Bailey had two defenders zeroing in on him, he had enough momentum that he could've gotten the first if he'd just kept going; instead, for some reason Bailey hitched up just long enough to get whacked by Brandon Isaac for a one-yard loss. That kind of "Mmmm, I'm not sure I can do this" attitude infected pretty much the entire team, save for Knowshon Moreno and perhaps Tripp Chandler, all evening long. Our defensive line didn't blow anybody off the ball the way they seemed to against Oklahoma State; our passing game just never looked in sync. Either Stafford didn't look like he was 100-percent sure where the ball was supposed to go, or the receivers were running routes with the meek tentativeness of a Democratic congressman, almost as if they were looking back toward the QB murmuring, "Is this where I'm supposed to be? Is this OK? Are you sure? . . . "
Not sure that this is how that play was meant to go, chief.
There's not a lot of tangible, execution-related information you can take away from a game like this, so all we can do is gather ourselves and say we've got two weeks of practice and one cupcake game to shape up. I don't think we're as bad as we looked against South Carolina, but we're obviously not as good as we looked against Oklahoma State -- who, in retrospect, fielded a defense that was nowhere near as lockdown as what we're going to see once we dig into the heart of conference play. So with that in mind, we're sitting at zero once again. We've obviously got some real talent, but not enough so that we can win meaningful games by loafing around. The good news is, the season's not over in the sense that we have nothing left to play for; the bad news is, the season's not over in that we're as good as we need to be just yet.
As frustrating as the game was to watch, I'm confident that nothing about our play was so godawful we can't make it good. But I'm still a little dejected at being deprived of what could've been a far more enjoyable weekend of football. And no, before anyone asks, I didn't manage to make up for the loss in the getting-laid department, though it's not too late to redress that; I'm taking inquiries, ladies, and you should know that when morning comes around I make some fricking awesome French toast.
"Music to my ears, mon chere."
But at least I can take solace in the fact that I'm not . . .
· Michigan, whose season-opening implosion is making Wolverine fans look wistfully at Tennessee's 2005 season and think, "If only . . . " My friend Stanley, at whose house I watched the Georgia-SC game, surmised that the Oregon shellacking might be enough to tip the balance and get Carr fired midseason, but the problem is that there's nobody on that coaching staff the administration could possibly want to promote to the interim position. I could, however, see defensive coordinator Ron English being told to hit the bricks tomorrow morning. Over the Wolverines' past five games, they've allowed an average of 36.8 points and close to 500 yards; English's recent résumé points include getting shredded by the states of Ball and Appalachian, which means either 1) we've got to add two more stars to the American flag or 2) someone's never going to be able to get a meal in Ann Arbor ever again. I'm going with the second one.
Quack, quack, hee-haw . . . that means duck, jackass.
· Or Virginia Tech, who embarrassed me and my ill-advised upset prediction by getting nearly half-a-hundred hung on them in Death Valley last night. I seriously thought VT's defense would be enough to take them to the brink of a national-title shot this year; if you had told me before the season started that the Hokies would give up 48 points, my only question would've been which three opponents they gave them up to. But not only did they give up those points to a single group of pissed-off Tigers, they didn't give them up via a lot of turnovers or cheap short-yardage situations; LSU just crammed the ball consistently and repeatedly down their throats to the tune of 598 yards. Whether it has anything to do with the April shootings or not, it looks like neither VT nor, by extension, the ACC is going to come within 100 miles of national-title consideration this year.
· But there was one team that was surprisingly impressive Saturday, and because I obviously couldn't wear my Georgia hat as I took Jenna out this morning for a stroll through the Southside neighborhood of which I am king, I had no problem donning a Washington Huskies cap instead. Yes, it's purple and clashes with pretty much every shirt I've ever thought about owning, but so what? These guys are turning out to be pretty good, and I wonder if Notre Dame fans are scratching their heads over the fact that Ty Willingham now has two convincing wins under his belt while their own squad has nothing but a coach with a frontbutt, a quarterback with questionable bloodlines, and a pair of multiple-touchdown losses. In the words of flying ace Ted Stryker, irony can be pretty ironic sometimes.
· Finally, I will honor our new Gamecock overlords by invoking a moral victory: For thirty-three minutes and forty-four seconds on Saturday, UAB led Florida State in Tallahassee. The pride is back, baby!
Those devil horns can only mean one thing -- we're going for a full 45 minutes against Alcorn State next week, bitches.