Stop! It isn't funny anymore!
I didn't really get into this too much last week because I was trying to go the humble and thankful route -- you know, trying not to tempt bad karma -- but now that both the holiday and the game are over, it's time to get down to business. With apologies to my cousin Duff, a Tech grad who is as outstanding a human being and father as anyone out there, I hate Georgia Tech.
I hate their elitist attitude. I hate their misbegotten idea that it's that much harder to get into Tech than UGA, when in fact the HOPE Scholarship has rendered any such discrepancy negligible at best. I hate the fact that they act like their players, who are all pursuing some sort of nebulous "management" degree, have to meet much higher academic standards than Georgia's. I hate that a bunch of people who stay inside playing "World of Warcraft" on any given Saturday night have the nerve to call Athens a cow town. I hate the fact that they live vicariously through teams like Florida and Auburn who have actually beaten Georgia in the last seven years. I hate their claim to a "share" of the 1998 ACC title, even though the team they supposedly "share" it with brass-knuckled them to the tune of 34-7 that year. I hate the fact that a team that hasn't won a conference title since the first Bush was president habitually criticizes Georgia for "underachieving" when they so much as fail to cover a point spread. I hate their constant whining about the supposed bias of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, as if a) the paper were any less cynical toward Georgia's slipups and b) Mark Bradley threw the ball away on fourth down back in 2004. I hate the twerps who tore up our hedges in 1998 and threw stuff onto the field against Boston College earlier this year, but whine about how "classless" we Dawg fans supposedly are. I hate George Godsey and his "three-and-oh" gesture back in 2000, as if he'd done anything other than hold extra-point tries for the first two. I hate their urine-colored jerseys, the stadium that they can't fill, the "GoldFellas," and George O'Leary, even though he isn't even coaching there anymore. I not only hate the fans who celebrated their fraudulent "victory" back in 1999 like they'd just won the Rose Bowl, I hate their parents, their brothers and sisters, and their children, both those living and those not yet born. God, I hate them good.
With any luck, somebody has outsourced these dillwipes' jobs to Mumbai by now.
Ahh, now I feel better.
So anyway, you'll have to excuse me for taking this year's edition of Clean Old-Fashioned Hate pretty seriously. In the arcane calculus of southeastern college football, with its complex network of intersecting rivalries, you can ask five different Georgia fans who their biggest rival is and potentially get five different answers, but even that group can agree pretty solidly that Tech is the team they can least abide losing to. In fact, sitting around the table at T.G.I. Friday's the night before the game, I told my family that I would rather beat Georgia Tech and have to stay home for the SEC championship game than win the SEC title a week after a loss to the Jackets. Missing a trip to the Dome would not necessarily represent a failure relative to expectations for this season, but a loss to Tech would, and besides, the last thing I'd want is a bunch of Techies strutting around boasting that they beat the SEC champs. (Because you just know they'd do that.)
In other words, I wanted seven in a row, bad -- bad enough to stress about it. Never mind the fact that the margins of victory had been growing progressively closer ever since the 51-7 blowout in 2002; this weekend saw a lengthy parade of ranked teams fall to lesser-ranked (or completely unranked) opponents, and particularly given the playing-for-Chan-Gailey's-job motivations on one sideline and the is-Kentucky-beating-Tennessee distractions on the other, all the intangibles seemed to be piling up against the Dawgs.
I was nervous when Tashard Choice danced 12 yards into the end zone in the second quarter for Tech's first touchdown, more nervous still when Colin Peek caught an improbable pass from Taylor Bennett about 10 minutes later and went in for another score, and close to spontaneously combusting when Morgan Burnett picked up Matt Stafford's botched lateral in the third quarter and appeared destined for six. And when Tech's very next punt was muffed back into the end zone for our second miracle recovery/touchback of the day, I was really starting to think that, after the end-zone celebration in Jacksonville, the black jerseys, and three near-turnovers that were inches away from being turned into 21 Tech points, we were poised to go over the cliff. I didn't care that we were still ahead by two; I thought we had finally bounced a check at the karma bank, that God was going to decide we'd gotten cute one too many times and Tech was finally going to claw their way to a win.
"Oh, yeah, I totally meant to do that."
But it never happened -- instead, Georgia decided to stop getting lucky and start getting good. Stafford, complete to Sean Bailey for 22 yards. Then, Stafford, complete to Bailey for another 55, Brannan Southerland punches it in from the three, and we're off and running. If it looked familiar, it's because we saw nearly the exact same thing a couple weeks ago -- Georgia, suddenly down by three to Auburn, spits and says "Enough of this" and launches a 45-yarder to Bailey; Knowshon Moreno takes care of the rest. In this most recent instance, Tech was able to boot a 44-yard field goal on their next possession, but after that they were done scoring for the day.
So was Georgia lucky on Saturday? Well, sure, and some Tech fans are no doubt attributing Georgia's win to that and that alone as we speak. But Paul Westerdawg has a quote that I think is quite applicable here: "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." Sure, there was a certain amount of luck involved in Georgia managing to cover up those fumbles before they turned into Tech touchdowns. But one could argue that there was an equal amount of Tech luck in those uncharacteristic fumbles occurring to begin with; the difference was that Georgia made the most of their luck and Tech didn't. There will certainly be much wailing and gnashing of teeth as to why that was, but I think Westerdawg, once again, summed it up pretty succinctly:
They essentially came out, saw our team's red helmets and promptly wet themselves. It's a sight that Georgia fans should be familiar with . . . it's the same thing we did in Jacksonville many a time. The weight of a huge streak facilitates choking, alligator arms, fumbled snaps and blown coverages.
So I guess you could say I got what I wished for: a seventh straight win over Tech rather than an SEC title. Believe it or not -- and the Techies and Vol fans out there almost certainly won't -- but I really don't care all that much about the fact that we won't be playing in the Dome this year. Yeah, a title shot would've been nice, and after the last month there's ample reason to believe we would've taken out LSU -- but we're ranked fourth in the nation in both polls and fourth in the BCS, which makes us automatic for an at-large BCS berth, so it's not like we're not getting our props for the way we've finished this season (on a six-game winning streak, the last five against bowl teams, three of them ranked, in case you needed a refresher). At the end of my preseason string of previews, I had Georgia at 10-2 and eyeing a bid to the Outback or possibly the Capital One Bowl, but it's safe to say our sights have been raised a notch higher. Would anyone have thought, back in August, that we'd be awaiting word from the Rose or Orange around this time of year? Hell, would you have thought that as recently as mid-October?
Yeah, about that: I know I was a wee bit hard on Coach Richt after that Tennessee debacle, but at the risk of being redundant, I'm incredibly thankful for him being our coach. Something reminded me of that toward the end of the game Saturday, and it wasn't Mark wearing black (because he wasn't), or the fact that we didn't take advantage of a first-and-10 at the Tech 33 with nearly three minutes left to tack on another fuck-y'all touchdown, or even the fact that we were about to wax Tech for the seventh straight year: Oddly enough, it was a shot of Katharyn Richt, "water girl" extraordinaire, laughing on the sideline with the players to whom she was serving up Gatorade.
Bulldog Nation's First Family.
I thought about the postgame smooch she was sure to receive (or give?) once the clock hit 00:00, I thought about how rare it is to see a coach's family members on the sideline period, and maybe it had to do with Thanksgiving and the fact that I was happy to be surrounded by my own family, but I thought there was something incredibly heartwarming about the whole thing -- the fact that we Dawg fans know Richt and his family so well and that his family has become almost as much a symbol of Dawg Nation as anything else. Think of some of the coaches who will be switching (or losing) jobs this year -- the underhanded Franchiones, the condescending Callahans, the wandering-eye Les Mileses -- and the roiling stomachs and sleepless nights they've caused their fans over the past couple weeks (or longer). Now think about how much fun we've had over the past few weeks and the kind of man we know Mark Richt to be, and consider how fortunate we are. Mark has made mistakes, but he's learned from them; he's lost a couple games he shouldn't have lost, but then he's turned right around and won a few nobody expected him to win. And he's poised to make the next few years a very, very fun time to be wearing the red and black.
You know, maybe the Techies got it right, accidentally: We did get really lucky -- in the coach we ended up with. We lucked out and got a coach who rarely needs to get all that lucky, or when he does, he manages to make some of his own.
So I apologize, Georgia Tech. We did get damn lucky Saturday evening, but it was no different from the luck we've been experiencing ever since December 2000. And while one or two might be "luck" the way you've come to understand it, seven isn't. Here's hoping eight won't be, either. If/when we hit nine or ten, maybe then I'll be satisfied.
Then again, maybe not. Now that Navy has finally knocked off Notre Dame, maybe it's time the competition for that whole "longest active losing streak to a single opponent" thing got a little fiercer.
"You know what I want to hear."
"No, I don't."
"You cranked it for him, you can crank it for me."
"Well, I don't think I can remember -- "
"If Knowshon can stand it, I can. Crank dat!"
And down the stretch they come:
· Should the Dawgs be chosen for the Rose Bowl next week -- which ain't likely, according to LD, but still -- they would probably face a suddenly resurgent Southern Cal team. Anyone who saw the Trojans' dismantling of Arizona State on Thanksgiving night knows that ain't necessarily a good thing. But my most lasting impression of that game wasn't SC's domninance, it was my burning mental daggers of white-hot hate for ASU quarterback Rudy Carpenter. Was it just me or was Carpenter trash-talking after every single freaking play -- not just to Southern Cal players, but occasionally even to the refs? Kid was so animated at some points that even the great Reggie Ball would've been like, "Whoa, dog, that's too much." I can't stand guys who spend that much time jawing at everybody around them, and if I could insert a Bill Maher "New Rule" here, it would be: If you're down by more than one score, you officially have to shut the fuck up.
· No such rule for the fans, of course; naturally, it'd be unenforceable. But it's just as well, because watching my parents (Virginia grads) yak back and forth with my aunt and uncle (Virginia Tech grad/fan by marriage) throughout the Commonwealth Cup game on Saturday was marvelously entertaining. That Tech knows how to hold onto a lead, and they will now be facing Boston College in the ACC title game this weekend. I'd imagine that the Hokies are already just a wee bit amped for that one; either way, it can't be any worse than last year's.
· On the drive back to Birmingham Sunday afternoon, I obviously saw a bajillion cars flying Auburn flags -- strangely, there wasn't an Alabama flag to be found, not while I was driving, anyway. This year's Iron Bowl was a pretty pedestrian affair for the most part, actually, but I did think it was worth posting this.
· As for your former number-one team in the land, LSU . . . jeez, guys. On the one hand, a little part of me wanted to see them dispatch Arkansas just because I wanted to see an SEC team in the national-title game again, but then I remembered that, ideally, Georgia would whup 'em in the SEC title game so it would be academic anyway. But I gotta wonder if the Tigers' collapse against Arkansas -- which was not a sudden, out-of-character incident but rather the culmination of several weeks of half-assedness from the purple and gold -- might have just a little bit to do with the fact that Kirk Ferentz has popped up out of nowhere atop Michigan's new-coach wish list. And by "nowhere" I mean "19-18 over the last three seasons and, oh yeah, he just lost at home to Western Michigan." Maybe Miles really is just too spicy a meatball for Ann Arbor to handle.
· Anyway, with all that in mind, I'm not sure I care that Tennessee got handled by Florida and Alabama, or that they've been squeaking by teams in a manner that makes Virginia look like the Patriots, or that they just took four OTs to finally secure their berth in the SEC title game -- between their seeming un-kill-able-ness and LSU's sudden fallibility, I'd seriously consider betting on a Tennessee shocker in the Georgia Dome this weekend. You really think we're done with the upsets this year?
· And I would be remiss if I didn't give a little tip of the cap to (now former) Ole Miss coach and frequent HJS punching bag Ed Orgeron as he rumbles off into the sunset. I do hope, however, that the last three years in Oxford serve as a cautionary tale to any newly hired athletic directors who get a hard-on for firing a coach after one subpar season just because they want to put their stamp on the program and get "their own guy" in there. Given the way Tennessee has risen from the ashes since David Cutcliffe came back, can even the most Kool-Aid-soaked Rebel fan out there tell me that life wouldn't have been a lot better if Pete Boone had just kept his gun in his holster back in 2004 and given Cutcliffe time to get things sorted out?
Fine, you sons of bitches, I'll go. But I'm keeping the pillows!
· Finally, a little interactivity fo' that ass: Whom, readers, do you rank at #1 on this fine morning?
b) Ohio State
c) West Virginia
d) none of the above
I've got a tentative answer that I'm leaning toward, but no definite decision yet. So give me some suggestions and state your case.
And now that it's after Thanksgiving, I finally feel comfortable saying Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, or whatever else. Seriously, Hey Jenny Slater does not play that "put the Christmas decorations up in mid-November" crap. But anyway, you can expect my Christmas list any day now. You'll need plenty of time to get to work.