When Missouri defensive end Michael Sam announced publicly over the weekend that he’s gay, the negative responses predictably broke down into two groups: the proud, unrepentant homophobes who called him an abomination and a faggot, and the folks who insisted they weren’t homophobic but just wondered why Sam had to be all up in their faces about his sexual orientation.
The second group would like you to believe there’s plenty of daylight between themselves and the first. Do not let them get away with this. What these folks call “throwing it in people’s faces,” we straights just call “living normal lives.” Don’t we? I mean, I can post pictures of hot redheads on my blog, read (heh, “read”) the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue on the bus to work, and introduce my fiancée around to everyone I know without any repercussions for these overt displays of heterosexuality. Yet all Michael Sam does is say he’s gay and all of a sudden he’s this flamboyant attention-seeker. Can we really not see the double-standard here?
The alternative to Michael Sam coming out and “throwing it in people’s faces,” of course, would be to stay in the closet, hide the truth about whom he loves … and basically act straight. In other words, do exactly the things that gay people had to do for centuries before we entered a slightly more enlightened time in which gay people aren’t automatically condemned as evil perverts. Is that what the “throwing it in my face” crowd would prefer? Apparently, even having to acknowledge the existence of something they don’t agree with or aren’t comfortable with is too much for some people’s delicate sensibilities to handle. You can call that a lot of things, but you can’t call it “tolerance.”
Keep a very close eye out for these people if you’re a sports fan inclined to participate in comment threads or message boards. You’ll hear a lot of them profess tolerance and declare that they don’t care what someone’s sexual orientation is, but then they’ll take that a step further and wonder “why this is even a story” they have to hear about. The answer is pretty simple: It’s a story because no active pro or college football player has come out before. And the reason none of them have come out before is because they feared the reactions of teammates, sportswriters and fans — i.e. members of the “stop throwing it in my face” crowd. The longer we as a society forced gay football players to live in the closet, the bigger a story we made it when one of them inevitably decided to come out.
If you’re one of those folks who doesn’t like reading all this news coverage of a player’s homosexuality, try this: Instead of complaining to anyone who will listen about how you don’t want to have to hear about it, just pipe down. The less of a fuss we make about the first gay player coming out, the sooner the next player will come out, and the next one, and the next one after that, until openly gay professional athletes are as common and non-newsworthy as the sun rising in the East. That’s what a tolerant, non-homophobic person like yourself really wants … isn’t it?
We can argue all day about whether Georgia’s had the necessary killer instinct on the field, but do we have it off the field as well? And in the end, is that a more pertinent question?
Senator Blutarsky had a very insightful post yesterday pivoting off of Aaron Murray’s complete lack of Heisman buzz to ask whether “this passiveness creeps into other areas” of the Georgia program. Even as someone who follows individual awards about as closely as I follow Canadian politics — from the silly marketing contest of the Heisman on down — I’ll certainly admit to some major pangs of regret that Murray’s spectacular Georgia career hasn’t gotten more publicity than it has. And I, too, have wondered if maybe the Georgia football program as a whole should be willing to stand up for itself more.
Before I launch into too much of a diatribe here, let me say that as someone who is proud to hold a Georgia diploma, I am equally proud of the way our athletic department conducts itself. I’m sure Georgia Tech fans will drop their teeth when they hear me say it, but I think we operate in a pretty classy and ethical way over at Butts-Mehre. I’m proud that the “Mark Richt has lost control of…” meme has faded away as people have seen just how tight a ship Richt runs in terms of discipline. Certainly tighter than what Urban Meyer ran at Florida, as people are beginning to find out. Or to cite another example, it’s been a long time since we had any Jeremy Hills on our team — Richt has cut ties with players for misconduct far less serious than either of the offenses for which Hill has been permitted to skate.
While we’re holding our players accountable when they do wrong, though, are we spending equal effort promoting them when they’ve done right? Or defending them when they haven’t done wrong at all? Here I’m thinking of the way we just meekly accepted A.J. Green’s four-game suspension for selling his own property back in 2010, while other players were missing less time for shadier dealings. Does this passivity filter down to the way our players perform on the field?
And does it affect the way high-school recruits perceive our program and its place in the national hierarchy? Do they perceive Georgia as a place that will stand up for them and market them well for their achievements? With the usual caveat about how the state of Georgia has so much blue-chip talent that Mark Richt literally can’t sign them all, I wonder if our don’t-make-waves attitude has something to do with the ease with which coaches such as Nick Saban, Gus Malzahn and Hugh Freeze can come into this state and grab prospects Georgia desperately wants. (It’s certainly not a matter of program stature — look at the state Auburn and Ole Miss were in when Malzahn and Freeze got there.)
Let me be clear: This is not a call for Georgia to be loosening the reins on discipline (well, except for our draconian marijuana policy, but we can have the drug-legalization debate another time) or to demand any less of our players when it comes to being upstanding citizens. For example: As much as it’s driven me crazy this season to see Nick Marshall, a former Georgia player, leading Auburn to an out-of-nowhere national-championship bid, I wouldn’t change a thing about how Georgia dealt with him back in February 2012. If I’m Mark Richt, I’m not about to stand in front of my team and tell them that they have to continue sharing locker-room space with someone who stole from them. And I certainly don’t want Georgia developing a reputation as a program where QBs can go to rehab their image after they’ve been chased away for malfeasance elsewhere.
But I would like to see Georgia market the many good guys it has more aggressively, both for what they produce on the field and what they achieve off of it. I want more people to know what an amazing human being Aaron Murray is — not just as the SEC’s all-time leader in passing yards and TDs but as someone who does stuff like this. I want people to know how involved Chris Conley is as a student leader (in addition to being a proud Star Wars nerd). I want people to know how smart Arthur Lynch is so that once his NFL career is over, he can slide right into a run for Congress.
And when the NCAA screws over players like A.J. Green — or Ray Drew and Ramik Wilson, victims of the two worst targeting calls I’ve ever seen during this year’s Vanderbilt game — I want us raising holy hell about it. Enough of this “don’t make waves, we’ll handle it through official channels” stuff. So Mark Richt or Greg McGarity might get fined for speaking out too harshly against the officials? Pay the fine and move on. It’s not like we can’t afford it.
Mark Richt is never going to be Nick Saban and our athletic department is never going to be Alabama, or Auburn, or LSU, or [insert longtime rival here]. That’s not what I’m asking for. I’m simply asking for our athletic department to stand up for its players — and itself. Nice guys don’t necessarily finish last, but meek, accepting ones typically do. At times it’s been tough reconciling that fact with our overwhelming emphasis on running a “classy,” “proper” program, but Richt, McGarity and the rest of the folks at the top simply have to be more confident that we can promote, market and defend ourselves more aggressively without selling away our souls.
You deserved better, Aaron Murray.
In 2010, you deserved better than what the NCAA gave you, when they forced you to go without A.J. Green for the first four games of your college career. Who knows how different that first awful month and a half would’ve gone if you’d had a future NFL Hall of Famer to throw to. Maybe those games against South Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi State and Colorado go differently, and instead of the worst season of Mark Richt’s career, we’re looking back on an inspiring 10-win campaign led by a redshirt freshman.
In 2011, you deserved better than what the fans gave you, when we were rolling our eyes and grumbling about how you “couldn’t win the big one,” completely ignoring the fact that you’d led us from a losing season to 10 wins, an SEC East title and Georgia’s first season sweep of the Tennessee-Florida-Auburn-Georgia Tech rivalry quadrifecta in decades.
In 2012, you deserved better than what fate gave you, when you went up against Nick Saban’s Alabama juggernaut in the biggest game of the season and didn’t blink even once — and nearly led the Dawgs to what would’ve been a comeback victory for the ages, only to fall five yards short. Fifteen feet short of a massive upset, an SEC title and what almost certainly would’ve been a savaging of Notre Dame for the national championship.
And in 2013, you deserved better than … well, everything. You deserved better than a painfully green defense that forced you to pile the team on your back and win shootouts on practically a weekly basis. You deserved better than to have an all-world safety valve like Todd Gurley taken away from you, followed by nearly every one of your top receivers. You deserved better than to have yet another thrilling comeback win stolen away from you, this time by that fluke play at Auburn. And you deserved better than to have your Georgia career end with an ACL tear on Senior Night, for Christ’s sake, turning what should’ve been a wonderful send-off (and our most dominating victory of the season) into a glorified memorial service.
And dammit, you deserve better than what I’m giving you right now, because you deserve to be remembered as something other than the unluckiest quarterback in Georgia history.
Here’s hoping something finally goes your way and you’re remembered for being a different kind of Georgia quarterback — the best one.
You always have been, are now and always will be a DGD, No. 11. Get well soon, and wherever you go next, good luck.
Is to get a QB who was kicked out of another SEC school for stealing shit.
After a one-week hiatus for the entirely expected (but much appreciated) blowout win over Appalachian State, the Manic-Depressive Preview returns for what we thought back in July and August was going to be another cruise-control win at Auburn. To the entire nation’s shock, however, the Tigers are currently 9-1 and ranked No. 7 by the AP — damn you, Gus Malzahn, you brilliant fiend — so it looks like we might have an actual game on our hands. As for our individual previewers, they’re approaching this unexpected development pretty much how you’d expect. Let’s sit back and see whether they can keep from coming to blows as they hash out the 117th meeting of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.
Manic Doug: Hooo, boy, that win over Florida was really something, huh?
Depressive Doug: Yeah, something that probably took 10 or 15 years off my life. I’d really appreciate it if we didn’t have any more games like that this season.
MD: Hey, it was totally worth it. Beating the Gators, whether they’re good or bad, has always been the cure for what ails us. If we can carry the momentum from that game through the rest of the season, we’ll end up 9-3 and in perfect shape for a decent bowl game.
DD: Already predicting us to run the table, huh. Great.
MD: Why not? Under Richt we’re 14-1 in regular-season games after we’ve beaten Florida. Fifteen and one if you count last week’s win.
DD: Sure, you focus on the 15. I’ll focus on the 1 — the 2004 game at Auburn, where we got steamrolled by a Tiger team that ended up going undefeated. A team that bears a lot of similarities to this year’s Auburn squad, I might add.
MD: How you figure? That team had an incredible defense and a QB who could throw. This year’s Auburn squad, good as they are, has neither of those things.
DD: But they have a ground attack that’s averaging 320 yards a game. That’s good for third in the nation — even Georgia Tech is staring up at them in the rushing rankings right now.
MD: So what? Our defense has improved dramatically over the past few weeks — since that week we got lit up by LSU, we’ve decreased the number of yards we’ve allowed every single game. And even though our secondary is still struggling a bit, our front seven is only allowing 3.4 yards per carry, which means our defensive strength matches up perfectly with their big strength on offense.
DD: So Auburn rushing for more than 300 yards a game merits a “so what” from you, but Georgia’s defense looking good against the likes of Vanderbilt, Florida and App State is significant. OK then. Glad you’ve got your priorities straight.
MD: So here’s a question, is it “significant” that Auburn’s pass defense is ranked 81st in the country? And other than Texas A&M and LSU, it’s not like they’ve faced a bunch of juggernaut passing attacks, either.
DD: When you’ve been blowing people out the way Auburn has been the last few weeks, they’re going to pass a lot more to try and keep up, so no, I don’t think that’s such a big deal.
MD: Fine. We’ll see what your reaction is when Aaron Murray is lacing that defense for more than 400 yards this weekend.
DD: Murray hasn’t had even a 300-yard passing game since our receiving corps was wiped out against Tennessee, but sure, have fun believing that.
MD: He also didn’t have Todd Gurley for most of that stretch, either. But with Gurley back to give the Auburn defense something to think about, we’ve got a real shot at putting some points on the board. Against ranked opponents — LSU, Ole Miss and A&M, all of whom have balanced, productive offenses — Auburn’s allowing more than 500 yards a game.
DD: OK, so best-case scenario, we have to win a shootout like we were doing the first few weeks of the season, only without Keith Marshall and the top tier of our receiving corps. You really think we can manage that, particularly with the kind of ball-control offense Auburn’s capable of playing?
MD: I absolutely do, ‘cause I don’t know if you caught the tail end of the Florida game, but we’re capable of playing a little ball control ourselves, and against a much better defense than the one we’ll see this weekend, I might add. Here’s the X-factor, though: While Georgia is relatively healthy and confident for the first time in more than a month, Auburn is looking ahead to the Iron Bowl. To read their blogs and message boards, they’re already counting the Georgia game as a win and just biding their time until Saban comes to town. Well, fuck that. I’m thinking they’re gonna come out a little flat and Georgia’s gonna be on fire, and we’re gonna punch them in the mouth with a few quick scoring drives just like we did against Florida. Auburn’s too good to stay down for too long, and they’ll eventually get their heads screwed on straight and start moving the ball, but that’s when we start giving it to Gurley, Green and Douglas to grind out the clock and keep the ball out of the hands of the Auburn running backs. We’ll salt it away with another one of those long, late-game drives and win by a score of 37-27.
DD: Are you kidding me? A double-digit win over a top-10 opponent on the road? When was the last time we did that?
MD: Hold on, lemme look it up.
DD: Well, trust me, it’s gonna take a while, so while you’re doing that, let me school everyone with the unfortunate truth: All this “motivation” and “looking ahead” talk you’re putting out there is the kind of contrived mumbo-jumbo even Kirk Herbstreit wouldn’t fall for. Yes, Georgia typically gets a boost from a win in Jacksonville, but not enough of one to win when the opponent is markedly superior. And no, I don’t think you can just count on Auburn to be looking ahead, not after we’ve pasted them by 38 points each of the last two years. They’re too well-coached to treat this game as an afterthought, so I think it’s they who will be punching us in the mouth early on thanks to Nick Marshall, who’s a much more efficient passer than you or anyone else seems to want to give him credit for. Our defense may be improving, and good for them, but I still don’t like our chances against a mobile QB. So it’s Georgia, not Auburn, who will be playing a futile game of catch-up in the second half against an opponent that’s extremely good at handing the ball off, moving the chains and grinding out clock. Final score, Auburn 45, Georgia 30.
MD: For your information, we beat a ranked opponent on the road just two years ago. Georgia Tech was ranked 23rd when we played them and we won by two touchdowns.
DD: Seriously? That’s it? Georgia Tech?
MD: You asked a question, I answered it. Now who feels stupid?
DD: Not you, clearly, since you lack both the self-awareness to know when you’re wrong and the ability to feel shame.
MD: I have no idea what any of that means, so since you’re such a smart guy, why don’t you average up our score predictions so I can get over to the liquor store and get on with my day.
DD: Our predictions average out to an Auburn win by a score of 36-34.
MD: They do? Wait, I want to change my prediction.
DD: No, I’m not sitting through another round of this. Nor do I have any desire to have my math checked by someone who cheated his way through trigonometry in 11th grade.
MD: OK, you know that stuff is bullshit. When am I ever gonna need to know any of that?
DD: If the only education you ever received in your life was knowledge you thought you’d “need,” the only classes you would’ve ever taken would be mixology, hairstyling and female sexuality.
MD: That sounds like a pretty awesome slate, actually. You think there are any places where I could actually set up a schedule like that?
DD: Coincidentally enough, I think your best shot would be at Auburn. You could even take a class on fingerpainting while you were at it.
MD: Owwww! Look at you! You may be a total defeatist, but you still manage to keep it frosty!
DD: Hey, I have to figure out some way to have fun this weekend.
MD: Huh. I always thought fun was a foreign concept to you.
I’ve flirted with this decision for years, but I think I’m finally done with being a Washington Redskins fan.
It was bad enough when being a Redskins fan just meant an incompetent garden gnome of an owner, a mausoleum of a stadium, and an unrelentingly shitty product on the field. Now, though, being a Redskins fan means you have to share oxygen with the likes of Rick Reilly and this asshole. Look, I’m no stranger to guilt by association — as a Southerner, a practicing Catholic and, hell, as a Georgia Bulldogs fan, I realize that some of the groups I belong to count some truly disgusting people among their members. But at least with those three, I get something out of it, be it Southern cooking, a feeling of inner peace, or the occasional SEC title. Other than that brief frisson of hope when RGIII was drafted, I haven’t gotten anything out of my Redskins fandom in more than 20 years.
Seriously, go read the Twitter flame war at that second link: That idiot really thinks that if you want the Redskins’ name changed to something less racist, you’re not a “true fan.” There was another dude on Twitter the other day who said if the ‘Skins changed their name, he’d stop being a fan. This is basically saying the name is more important than the team itself. As personal indignation goes, that’s right there on a stupidity level with “I love the taste of Starbucks coffee and have enjoyed making it a part of my daily routine for decades, but if they change their name to Seattle Brewing Company, they are DEAD to me, you hear me? DEAD!”
Not to turn this into the kind of first-world-problem pathos-fest that the New York Times would write a 5,000-word thinkpiece about, but this was a difficult decision to arrive at. I mean, I was a Redskins fan long before I was a Georgia fan, or cared about college football at all. My dad grew up in Fairfax County just across the river from D.C. and comes from an entire family of rabid ‘Skins fans; he had me in a little tiny Art Monk jersey when I was just three or four years old. I remember Doug Williams and Timmy Smith stunning the Broncos in Super Bowl XXII and Mark Rypien blowing the Bills off the map in Super Bowl XXVI; I stuck with the team through Norv Turner, Jim Zorn and Steve fuckin’ Spurrier. I’ve seen some great things from this franchise and I’ve eaten a lot of shit on its behalf, too.
And for the record, my continued fandom was not and is not contingent on the team changing its name. I mean, we’ve all known for a while now that the Redskins name is kinda racist; if that alone were my breaking point, I would’ve leapt off this sinking ship years ago. I figured that, like most symbols of racism in this country, the Redskins name would get killed off eventually, so instead of just dumping the team wholesale I could remain a fan, advocate for that change from the inside, and celebrate when the day finally came.
Unfortunately, this is actually looking less plausible as the days wear on. And now, if you try to advocate for that change as a Redskins fan, you get people saying you’re not a true fan and should get the hell out. Meanwhile, people outside the fan base think I’m tacitly condoning racism by staying in. I’m subjecting myself to this why, exactly? So I can root for a team owned by an obnoxious bridge troll and that’s only notched six winning seasons in the past two decades? No thanks, man. I got plenty of other things I can spend my Sundays doing.
For a long time now I’ve lamented Redskins fandom as the death of hope — the franchise has not performed well of late, and there’s really no hope of things getting consistently better until the team can be wrested from Dan Snyder’s kung fu grip. Sadly, the same appears to be true of the mentality of the fan base. I’ve been stuck among the NFL equivalent of the people who fought to keep the stars and bars on the Georgia state flag — people who not only display a symbol of racism but revel in it and attempt to justify it — and so long as Snyder is setting the example for them to follow, they’re not going to stop being dicks about this, either.
With that, I’m done. It feels bad, but it’s felt pretty shitty since Dan Snyder bought the team to begin with. So while I may be quitting while I’m behind, that seems like a perfectly sane act when your only other option is falling even further back. I’ve got a #24 Champ Bailey jersey (sniff), a very nice fitted with the old-school “R” logo and a really cool vintage-look sweatshirt with the old-old-school “R” logo on it, and if you’re a Washington fan made of sterner stuff than I am, you’re welcome to give them a loving home.
In the meantime, I guess it’s time for me to start casting about for a new rooting interest. The Falcons would be the logical choice given my geographical location and peer group, but honestly, all options are on the table at this point.
Except the fucking Cowboys. I may be a broken man right now, but I’ve still got standards.
I was in the first class of Georgia high-schoolers to get a full ride to UGA thanks to the HOPE Scholarship. HOPE didn’t pay for my dorm room or the meal plan, but my parents took care of that and threw me a couple hundred bucks a month for incidentals. (“Incidentals” usually turned out to be “a six-pack I got one of my 21-year-old friends to buy for me,” but I bet that was a case for a lot of the kids in Athens.) Eventually I started augmenting that (minimally) by working at The Red & Black, which was as close to a real job as I had the entire time I was in college.
A high-school football player who signs with the Georgia Bulldogs gets the same free tuition I got, and (I believe) free accommodations and meals, but beyond that, nothing — nothing that translates into liquid walking-around money he can use for new clothes or a tank of gas, at least. Between classes, football practice and studying — in the library as well as the film room — he probably doesn’t have enough hours in the day to work even a part-time job. And his parents may or may not have enough money to throw him some extra every month like mine did. If he’s anything like former Alabama tackle D.J. Fluker, who was living out of a car after Hurricane Katrina, they almost certainly don’t.
Yet I could earn as much extra cash as I wanted however I wanted without anyone saying anything about it — while Fluker, who worked and sweated harder than I ever did in college, allegedly takes some money from an agent and it’s a major scandal.
It occurred to me the other day just how big a disconnect there is between how we view football players on Saturdays and Sundays and how we treat them the rest of the week. On weekends, they’re gods; we pack the population of a small city into stadiums to cheer them on, live vicariously through them via fantasy teams and message boards. The other five days of the week, though, fuck those guys. Someone suggests college players should get paid, we levitate with outrage — those guys are already getting a free education, you want to give them MORE?!? NFL players sue because the league didn’t level with them about the true health implications of the concussions they subject themselves to every Sunday, they get rewarded with knobs like Pete Prisco basically calling them pussies in a public forum. Look, players, we might ask you to sacrifice your bodies on a weekly basis so that we can bank our dollars and our very sense of self-worth on you, but don’t go thinking that means we care about you as, you know, actual people.
It’s not just football players, though. At every level in this country, every walk of life, you find people and professions we publicly claim to respect while steadfastly refusing to turn that respect into something concrete. Sure, teachers, we’ll talk all day long about how important your work is and how you’re shaping the minds of our future leaders and visionaries, but don’t think we won’t try to bust up your unions and cut your benefits. Same with you, autoworkers and manufacturing employees of all types: We’ll bemoan the loss of a manufacturing base in this country and decry the fact that all those jobs have gone overseas to Third Worlders who will work for almost nothing, but that doesn’t mean we want to pay your asses any more than we absolutely have to, and God forbid you try to organize. Hell, our soldiers don’t even get a reprieve. “Support the Troops” has practically become a Pavlovian response anytime someone dares disagree with American foreign policy or defense spending, but when the ax finally does have to fall on the military budget, it falls on benefits and pensions — we wouldn’t dare touch all those expensive Joint Strike Fighters, even if they’re not actually any good.
From teachers and grunt soldiers all the way on up to football players, we’ll claim to respect you, right up until the point when you suggest you deserve to get paid more — then we’ll rail away at you until you’re properly shamed into submission. Meanwhile, disgraced CEOs take home golden parachutes worth tens of millions of dollars after flying their companies straight into the ground. (And if you suggest executives shouldn’t get paid that much, we’ll call you a communist, a 47-percenter who just wants the federal government’s sanction to mooch off the people who are actually “creating wealth” in this country. Whatever that means.)
Look: You cannot claim to respect work in this country if you disdain and trivialize the workers. And you certainly can’t expect future generations to value gainful employment if you show them they’ll only be denigrated, underpaid and cast aside once they achieve it. We have to respect workers, and that respect includes not automatically blowing them off or insulting them the minute they have the temerity to suggest they should get paid more.
No, nobody put a gun to D.J. Fluker’s head and forced him to take the unlevel playing field Alabama and the NCAA offered him. Nobody put guns to the heads of the autoworkers in Detroit or the soldiers out on the battlefield. But that doesn’t mean their situations were just brimming with choices. The “nobody put a gun” argument is a cop-out, an easy sidestep employed most frequently by people who did have options and haven’t experienced true need. Sure, Fluker could’ve augmented his income with a job flipping patties at McDonald’s — but so could you, and I don’t see you rushing out to throw on a hairnet.
It’s a nice system the NCAA has worked out: Lure high-schoolers in with the promise of a free education and the glamour of big-time college athletics, but then ensure that the liquid assets resulting from their blood, sweat and tears are reserved solely for higher-ups at their universities and, of course, the NCAA itself. In a perverse way, it’s a relief to see that so-called “scandals” such as the ones swirling around Johnny Manziel and D.J. Fluker are finally opening people’s eyes to what a rigged system this is. I just hope it also opens their eyes to how many other people in this country are stuck in a system rigged the exact same way.
Well, that didn’t go so hot. Neither Manic Doug’s in-your-face braggadocio nor Depressive Doug’s uncharacteristically (and unnervingly) Zenlike nonchalance could lift the Dawgs to a victory last week, and now they head into this weekend 0-1 and in danger of being swept by the state of South Carolina, which is basically Ohio with nicer accents and a beach. How will this pressure affect their psyches? Let’s preview this weekend’s game and find out. IT’S TIME TO PLAY THE FEUD!
Depressive Doug: Oh, good, you’re here. Quick question.
Manic Doug: Yeah, shoot.
DD: What do you think sounds better as a closer for a letter: “Thinking of you” or “With sincerest condolences”?
MD: Oh, you’re writing a letter to the girl you went out with the other night? Most people just e-mail these days, dude.
DD: Ha-ha, shut up. This is serious.
MD: Who the hell are you writing to? Someone die?
DD: No, but someone’s about to. And I just want Aaron Murray’s mom to know how deeply I —
MD: Oh, fuck you. Fuck you. Are you fucking kidding me? We haven’t even walked into the stadium and you’re already —
DD: I’m just trying to be prepared, man. Look, we were both there. We saw how the offensive line left Murray unblocked like he owed them money in Clemson the other night. Now we’re putting them all out there against Jadeveon Clowney and the rest of the South Carolina defense. What are the chances he even finishes the game, much less walks off the field under his own power?
MD: Stop it. You’re embarrassing yourself and me. None of that’s gonna happen.
DD: Why not?
MD: Because — because —
DD: Because why?
MD: Because fuck you again, it’s just not! I got a good feeling about this game.
DD: Oh, well shoot, why don’t I just put my entire 401(k) on Georgia and the points, then, if you’ve got a good feeling about it? If it’s the same “good feeling” you had about Alabama in the SEC Championship Game last season, and LSU the year before that, how can I lose?
MD: You know, they say a team’s biggest improvement happens between its first game and its second one.
DD: Well, we damn well better hope so. We couldn’t even celebrate a touchdown last week without our top receiver blowing out his knee.
MD: Look, we had full contact drills this past week so the young’uns on defense could get better at tackling. The offensive line has been put on notice. Josh Harvey-Clemons will be back in the starting lineup. We’re not gonna see the same team we saw last week.
DD: God, I hope not. Because that team would be lucky to get blown off the field 35-7 the way last year’s team did against South Carolina.
MD: Um, did you not notice that even with Malcolm Mitchell out, even with Todd Gurley on the sideline for a big part of the game, and even with Aaron Murray getting knocked around every other play, we still managed to hang 500-something yards and 35 points on Clemson in front of a loud, hostile crowd? You don’t think that bodes well for us this weekend?
DD: I would, if Clemson’s defense was anywhere near as tough as Carolina’s. But you and I both know they’re not.
MD: But it’s not like Clemson’s a bunch of scrubs, though. They brought back nearly everyone in their front seven and blitzed like crazy from about midway through the second quarter on. Meanwhile, let’s not go acting like the Gamecocks have this lockdown secondary. They were only fifth in the SEC in pass defense last year and lost arguably their best player, D.J. Swearinger.
DD: Well, that sounds great. If Aaron Murray can stay upright for more than a couple plays at a time, I’ll be sure to remember you said that.
MD: But look, there’s something else we can do to keep the heat off Murray, and that’s run the ball. Specifically run it away from Clowney. They didn’t face a running threat like Todd Gurley last week from the Tarheels — hell, they probably didn’t see a running threat like Keith Marshall, either. Those two guys will give us an edge —
DD: Again, that’s assuming our offensive line can open up holes for them. Which they sure as hell didn’t do last week.
MD: Dude, were we even watching the same game? We rushed for more than 200 yards!
DD: Yeah, but you take out the long runs by Gurley and Quayvon Hicks and we only had 110 yards at less than three per carry.
MD: And you take out the supernatural athletic ability and Herschel Walker was just some random dude from Wrightsville who did a shitload of pushups. Trust me. We’ll be fine. We started out favored by five points, people bet like crazy on South Carolina and still only managed to bring the line down to three, and the favorite has won 11 out of the last 12 in this series —
DD: Yes, I’m sure Jadeveon Clowney is paying close attention to the Wynn Las Vegas so he knows exactly how hard he’s supposed to play this weekend. Do you have anything other than random trends or “I got a feeling” to point to a Bulldog win this weekend? ‘Cause if not, just give your score prediction now so I can finish this condolence letter.
MD: I think we’re gonna come out looking a lot more settled on the offensive line, which means we keep the Carolina defense on its toes by alternating between the run and the pass. We’ll pound ‘em with Gurshall in the beginning, run them away from Clowney and wear his ass out having to chase them, and then once they’ve gotten the idea that we’re afraid to sit Murray back in the pocket, that’s when we launch a few downfield to Chris Conley or Justin Scott-Wesley. On the other side of the ball, we find that the Gamecock offense isn’t quite as shifty without Marcus Lattimore in the lineup, and that our defense isn’t quite as helpless with some tackling practice under their belts and with Harvey-Clemons roaming the backfield. It’ll be a close game, but we’ll pull ahead in the second half and stop Carolina on one last desperate drive to win 28-24.
DD: That would be nice, but I don’t see how anyone who watched last year’s game in Columbia could come to that rosy a conclusion. Given how green our defense is — even with Harvey-Clemons on the field — there’s no reason whatsoever to think Connor Shaw won’t light us on fire with the play-action exactly the same way he did last season. The Gamecocks may not have Marcus Lattimore this season, but they do have Mike Davis, and he averaged nearly 10 yards a carry last week, so that’s another thing our defense is gonna have to account for. South Carolina starts pulling away early, and the only reason they don’t beat us worse than they did last year is because they’re playing away from home. Final score, Carolina 34-14. And Aaron Murray gets sacked seven times.
MD: Ugh, that’s terrible. That’s basically torture porn. I can’t believe you’d even say something like that.
DD: Oh, I’m not saying it’s not terrible. But at this point, there is absolutely no reason to believe it won’t happen.
MD: No reason other than faith in a loving God Who doesn’t want to see the innocent punished unnecessarily.
DD: If we had one of those, Alabama wouldn’t have tipped that last pass in the SEC title game and Malcolm Mitchell would’ve caught it instead of Chris Conley.
MD: Well, I can see that “I’m just happy to be alive” bullshit from last week is well and truly out the window. And your ridiculous pessimism means that our predictions average out to a 29-21 loss for the Dawgs.
DD: God. I’d be thrilled if we only lost by that much.
MD: And started the season 0-2, with LSU still on deck before we even get out of September? To hell with that, man. You go on hating life and cowering in fear of Clowney. I’m gonna be out there screaming for his head until the very last second ticks off the clock.
DD: Well, good luck with that. If he wasn’t afraid of last year’s offensive line, I doubt he’d going to be too concerned with the likes of you.
MD: We’ll see. Anyway, here’s a closing for your letter to Mrs. Murray: “Terribly sorry … “
DD: Uh-huh, OK …
MD: ” … I ever doubted your son, and with sincere regret for the fact that I am a complete assface … “
DD: You know very well I’m not writing that.
If you’ve just joined our live WHJS 7 On Your Side coverage: SBN Atlanta, the former home of the Manic-Depressive Preview and a whole bunch of other garbage I wrote, no longer has its own dedicated writers; it’s strictly an aggregator for content from local SBN team sites. Which would’ve left the Manic-Depressive Preview without a home, but by popular demand — and I’m talking TWO REAL LIVE ACTUAL PEOPLE here, folks — I’m bringing it back here on Tumblr. Give thanks, you lucky fucks!
For those unfamiliar with how the MDP works, there are basically two diametrically opposed personalities fighting for control of Yours Truly in the week leading up to any given Georgia football game. Manic Doug believes that we are going to romp over every opponent, from the lowliest FCS scrub to the mightiest BCS-conference powerhouse, and that every woman within earshot will be charmed by his increasingly drunken antics, from the plainest library-bound nerd to Kate frickin’ Upton. Depressive Doug, by contrast, believes none of those things; he is convinced that we’ll scrape half-assedly by the gimme teams on our schedule and get humiliated by any opponent awake and motivated enough to fog a mirror. The Manic-Depressive Preview is where these two disparate personalities hash out their differences and come to some sort of agreement (but not really) about how the Dawgs are gonna do that week. Join them today as they chat about the Clemson game this weekend, and probably a bunch of other topics that mainly just involve them insulting each other’s intelligence and/or manhood. Fun for the whole family!
MANIC DOUG: ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOOOTBAAAAALLLLL
DEPRESSIVE DOUG: Even though that’s an NFL-specific catch phrase as opposed to college, yes. Yes, I am ready for some football. I’m actually kind of getting excited about this season.
MD: Wait, what? You’re actually excited? As opposed to dreading every last snap and convincing yourself we’re going to lose every last game?
DD: I think that’s overstating the case a little bit, but you know, I think I’ve mellowed out some. I think I’ve learned to enjoy football a little. Like, Georgia’s at a pretty good point now — two straight 10-win seasons, two straight SEC East titles, recruiting is humming right along — I think we’ve pulled out of that nosedive from 2009 and 2010, so hey, why not revel in it a little bit?
MD: Yeah! That’s the spirit!
DD: And if we don’t win every game — so what? I mean, who does?
MD: Well — OK, I mean, I guess I can understand that —
DD: We’re obviously a strong program. We drop one game, maybe two in a season, why worry about that?
MD: Well, I mean —
DD: Or three? Anyone who’d get hung up on that just doesn’t know what kind of a program we are.
MD: Wait, now all of a sudden you’re talking about us taking three losses this year?
DD: Or four? I mean, it happens, but that doesn’t mean we’re —
MD: OK, stop. You’ve gone from enjoying Georgia football to predicting that we could end up with four losses at the end of the season. You can’t even be positive the right way!
DD: Well, look at the first month of our schedule. There’s three potential losses in those first four games alone. And you don’t seriously expect us to go into Clemson, with Gameday in town, against one of the most potent offenses in the country, and come out of there with a win, do you?
MD: Dude, that’s exactly what I expect us to do.
DD: Oh. Well. Agree to disagree, then!
MD: No no no, fuck that, we’re not “agreeing to disagree” here. That ain’t how this works. At the very least — the very least — you’re gonna have to explain yourself.
DD: Well, look. First of all, we’ve only got, what, three starters coming back on defense? Going up against an offense that averaged more than 500 yards a game last season. Second, one of the new starters who did well last year and who we were counting on to make a big impact this year, Josh Harvey-Clemons, is suspended for this game. Finally, Clemson runs a fast-paced offense that had LSU’s notoriously athletic players gasping for air by the fourth quarter of the Peach Bowl last year, and that was in an air-conditioned dome. I shudder to think what’s going to happen with the temperatures in the 80s and 75-percent humidity on Saturday.
MD: Well, I can see all of your points — except the heat and humidity, dude, I mean, it’s gonna be a fucking night game. But as to the others: Who’s to say we can’t just outscore the Tigers?
DD: Well, in theory, nobody. But how are we supposed to keep up with them if they’re running 80-something plays a game on offense?
MD: Simple: We keep ‘em off the field. We may not run as many plays as Clemson does per game, but we’re more efficient with the ones we do run — we had the highest yards-per-play average of any team in the country last year. And we’re a lot more balanced to boot. We’ve got a Heisman-caliber quarterback, a thousand-yard rusher in Todd Gurley, and a change-of-pace back, Keith Marshall, who’d be starting at all but a handful of schools in the country right now. All operating behind the deepest and most experienced line we’ve had in years. As for Clemson, yes, they’ve got Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins, but could you pick their starting tailback out of a lineup?
DD: Now that you mention it, no …
MD: Then let me help you here: His name is Roderick McDowell, and he had all of 450 rushing yards last season, more than half of which came against Ball State, Duke, Maryland and N.C. State. For all the talk about how many weapons Clemson has, I still think we’ve got more than they do. And every second that Gurley and Marshall are out there grinding out yardage is a second they’re not getting to deploy their weapons on the field.
DD: In this day and age, I don’t know if “slow the game down” is really a workable strategy. Particularly against this kind of offense.
MD: Well, you were just stewing about how our conditioning would hold up, right? Go on some long drives, grind out the clock, keep their offense off the field, give our defense a chance to catch its breath … and wear out theirs, which is just as big a question mark as ours is, quite frankly.
DD: How can you say that, though? They’ve got nearly their entire front seven back —
MD: A front seven that allowed more than 150 yards per game rushing last year, and more yards per carry than the Georgia defense that everybody considered such a disappointment. And their own coach has admitted numerous times over the summer that their secondary is a mess. Not good when they have to go up against the guy who was the second most efficient QB in the country in 2012, and who will have a full arsenal of receivers — including Malcolm Mitchell and Michael Bennett — for the first time in months.
DD: Look, I know our offense is going to score some points. Given the choice between our defense and theirs, though? At this point? I think I’d honestly rather have theirs. They’re not coming off a season that was considered a disappointment from a defensive standpoint, and they’re not having to replace guys like Jarvis Jones and John Jenkins. I mean, say whatever you want about last year’s D, but those guys were one-of-a-kind players who were out there wreaking havoc on nearly every single snap. I think that by the end of the season, this year’s unit will be great, but I’m just not prepared to believe it yet.
MD: Is it possible that we relied too heavily on Jarvis and Big John last year, though? And is it also possible that what we’ve got this year is a younger, hungrier, more motivated unit that might actually play better in the clutch?
DD: Man, you know, we had this nice, good-faith debate going on, and then you had to bust out with a suggestion that our defense might actually be better without Jarvis Jones, thereby abandoning all pretense at logic or reality.
MD: Hey, I didn’t exactly say that. I mean, you ask me would I like to wave my magic wand and bring Jarvis and John Jenkins back, yes or no, and obviously I’m gonna answer “yes” a hundred times out of a hundred. But don’t discount the talent we managed to recruit onto this team behind them. People are already talking about Jordan Jenkins as a guy who could be as good as Jones eventually. Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson have already proven themselves at the linebacker spot. Mark Richt has already gone on record as saying Tray Matthews, even as a freshman, might be the best safety prospect we’ve had in his entire tenure in Athens. I mean, consider two years ago when we’d recruited the first “dream team” and were putting some of those guys out on the field for the first time — they were untested too, but all things considered, that worked out pretty well, didn’t it?
DD: Yeah, but not right away — we gave up 80 points in our first two games and lost both. You saying that’s what’s gonna happen again this year?
MD: No. What I’m saying is this: Slower pace or no, we keep up with Clemson on the scoreboard in the first half. Then in the second half — get ready, I hope you’re sitting down — we actually start pulling away based on our ability to run the ball and wear out their defense, while we put two defensive backs on Sammy Watkins and disrupt the most potent weapon in Tajh Boyd’s arsenal. We goad him into a big mistake in the third or fourth quarter that puts the Tigers on the heels, and then we ride Gurshall to the finish, winning 44-34.
DD: Well, I’ll grant you that we manage to keep up with them score for score in the first half, but in the second I think the exact opposite happens — our defense is the one that starts to get tired and Clemson capitalizes. We’re further demoralized by a blown special teams play — maybe it’s allowing a big kick or punt return, which we’ve certainly been known to do, or maybe it’s a missed field goal since our kicking situation is still up in the air. But I think Clemson pulls ahead late and we can’t hit paydirt on our last drive, and the Tigers win 35-28.
MD: Well, it’s certainly nice to see your optimism for this season lasted 15 whole minutes. That’s an improvement, I guess.
DD: Hey. I’m optimistic! Who knows, maybe we pull a win out of our rear end and build some momentum for what turns out to be a national-title campaign. But I’m not counting on it. Whatever happens happens.
MD: Man, I think I liked you better before. You were annoying as all hell, but at least you acted like you cared about this stuff. What are you on, Prozac or something?
DD: Yeah, 20 milligrams a day, actually —
MD: Well, stop taking that shit and self-medicate the right way — with Bulleit bourbon, like I do.
DD: Yeah, it’s certainly turned you into a rational, well-adjusted person.
MD: Hey, fuck you, man, I’m perfectly rational and well-adjusted. And thanks to my optimism, our predictions average out to a 36-35 squeaker victory for the Dawgs, one I think I’ll be in a much better position to enjoy than your ass will be.
DD: By “much better position,” I assume you mean “hollering drunkenly from the stands in Memorial Stadium and practically daring security to throw you out on your rear end”?
MD: Man, we do know each other really well, don’t we?
DD: Yeah. I missed this.