Monday, November 14, 2005

Georgia-Auburn Bitching

I had plans to write a long post about how I get annoyed by Auburn fans (it's really the pom-poms), but after the game Saturday, when I was in "I wish a muthafugga would" mode, I was actually amazingly impressed by the Auburn fans around me walking out. Nobody gloating, conciliatory words, admissions that they got lucky, all without irony or shiteating grins. It kind of made me pissed off that I couldn't unload the bile stored up during the game out onto them. And then I had more bile.

Anyway, the game itself left me with a few complaints, but none of them would have necessarily changed the outcome. The fact is that Auburn took advantage of every opportunity and played very well on the offensive line. That is the only way I can look at the game. Auburn won. But I still have to pick at a few nits. None of this stuff really would've changed the outcome in my mind, though.

Coaching: See Braves and Birds about the last 90 seconds. All the fans around me thought we should've let them score. I know that a lot of the people around me and I think of it like a high school overtime game (under the old system) when the other team has the advantage in penetration and they have the ball. There's not as much shame in laying down coming from that mindset, perhaps. I thought the decision to go for two originally was a close call, and in my mind I probably would've kicked it the first time around (60% chance at 2, 100% chance at 1 point... with the way DJ was moving the ball I'd take the sure thing). That said, the delay penalties after that score were just inexcusable. A coach didn't do his job there.

Referees: Only seen it live, so I don't know how it all looked on tape. But in the stadium it sure seemed like after every close call going Georgia's way they waited a while to set the ball (perhaps waiting for replay), while the big plays going Auburn's way seemed to get set pretty quickly, especially the punt return fumble - when Georgia's defense was barely off the field from the previous series. No conspiracy theory, it just seemed odd. Also, on that same punt fumble, that would've been a perfect time for a timeout. Regroup the defense, give the refs another chance to take a look at the play (again, I haven't seen the replay - it might've been the most obvious fumble ever, but it seemed like a long time after he was down). It really wasn't a surprise to me that Auburn scored on the very next play though. Put that one on the coaches too. Also, the very first play in the game shows the importance of TV time for our wonderful SEC refs. Someone should enter them in the Balboa and Sons Lawn Mowers Prettiest Pretty Princess Pageant for all the attention they demand.

One thing on the players: I really think Georgia needs to improve at outside linbacker. Way too much space once Irons got past the line of scrimmage. Those 3 yard out patterns that Florida, Auburn, Arkansas, and even Louisiana-Monroe ran on us need to get covered by an OLB at least some of the time. Taylor played pretty well, but Miller and Verdun-Wheeler are just not as good in space as I suppose we're accustomed to over the past few years. Injuries and discipline have hurt here. Also, the fact that Greg Blue and the other safeties have to fill that void left by the OLBs I think definitely hurts us later in games. It clearly did at the end of the Arkansas game, where Blue looked exhausted. And there was a blown safety coverage at the end of the Auburn game that may have had something to do with this...

Again, I'm not complaining because we "woulda coulda shoulda", but rather looking to improve in areas where we should - coaching, LB coverage. I actually thought there was a lot to be happy about in this game for a Georgia fan. I thought the no huddle looked great at times (it could've run a little faster though). Thomas Brown looked good as usual (should get more carries than the other backs). Jeff Owens looks like a future star. And Shockley to Pope is pretty much unstoppable. We win next week, and I like our chances against a Les Miles coached team (even though I think they have more talent).

And now, I really want to direct my bile at two groups of people, and I am very serious about this.

1) To the jerkasses in section 325 that sold or gave their tickets to Auburn fans. While the Auburn fans near me didn't necessarily bother me all that much, I think it is just incomprehensible that any season ticket holder in that section would give or sell their tickets to the opposing team - in this game especially. People in that section are approximately 5 or 6 years out of school, most of them anyway. I know this because I'm one of them and I've asked a whole bunch of people who sit there and they all started getting tickets about the same time. Most of the fans are relatively recent alumni, so we're spending a large portion of our discretionary incomes to buy season tickets. And with the recently increased donation required, each season ticket package is around $500. When everyone received their tickets and looked at the home schedule this year, one game stood out: Auburn. If you got season tickets, this was the biggest date on the calendar to circle. So I expected a packed section, filled with noisy Dawg fans. So when Irons took in that first touchdown and literally dozens of Auburn fans stood up, I couldn't believe it. The entire section is season ticket holders, with approximately 5 years of accumulated points. I doubt there are any Auburn fans who have been accumulating points and buying season tickets for Georgia games. These people bought them from supposed Dawg fans. And I think that's just weak. If you can't get fired up for the biggest damn game of the year and actually make it to the stadium, don't get tickets and let some other Georgia fan get a better seat. We've returned season ticket applications. If you don't want to be there, let someone who does be there. And while I can't understand missing this game, I'm sure some people had extenuating circumstances. If that's the case, and you're a real Dawg fan, SELL OR GIVE YOUR TICKETS TO OTHER GEORGIA FANS! If I couldn't go to a game (which hasn't happened since I've gotten season tickets), I would never give or sell to opposing fans, especially for a huge night game with so much on the line. We needed Sanford to be really loud, and it was. But it could've been louder. There were far more opposing fans at this game than any game I've seen for the past 2 years - since the upper north deck was built.

2. To the Athletic Department, specifically the absolute drooling moron who operates the videoscreen. The Athletic Department should have one goal in how they operate the stadium sound and video system: whatever benefits the team on the field the most. Period. Sadly, they just do not get it in this area. Commercialization has gone way too far in the stadium. The wraparound screens are a clear distraction. Advertisements are intrusive. Sound from commercials disrupts the crowd noise and the marching band's songs. This was an annoyance for most of the year, but on Saturday it went beyond that. Saturday, whoever was operating the screen and sound worked against the interests of the team. The crowd forced one timeout early in the game for Auburn. It was probably the noisiest moment of the night. So what does the screen operator do? Kick in that "Noise Meter" and coordinate with the band and cheerleaders to keep the noise up? Nope. They go to an Alfa Insurance commercial with the sound cranked up and a nice but utterly boring insurance official talking slowly and clearly about the merits of life insurance. Way to keep us all fired up. It's as if they had no idea that there was a game going on in between the ads they had to show. On another timeout right before a huge play (and this was even a short timeout, not a 4 minute CBS special), they kicked into the McDonald's "Find UGA VII" shell game, distracting a large portion of the crowd. It's just so strange to me that they don't seem to realize that the crowd at an SEC game doesn't need to be entertained like at a Braves game. The game is the entertainment, WORK WITH IT! The band, screen, soundsystem and PA announcer should be working as one to create a more hostile environment for the opposing team to play in and to fire up the crowd and get them more involved in the game, not distract them from the game.

The intrusive commercials and funtime distractions are just one of the problems. Secondly, the out of town scoreboard should be more than once a quarter. I assure you there are thousands of fans extremely interested in other games' scores. But more importantly, on Saturday there was a specific reason to give the scores. Because of LSU's win, Auburn was virtually eliminated from competition for the SEC title. If there was a single player for Auburn who didn't know that score, it should've been the announcer and the scoreboard operator's jobs to make sure they knew. Had I been operating it, I would've announced that score on every break in the action. I would've had the LSU score up on the screen the entire game. It might've broken the spirits of the players (maybe not... it certainly looked like Auburn was playing with a ton of pride whether they knew the LSU score or not). But it also could've affected the Auburn fans. And that's the point - marginalize their noise, especially when we're having to march to the endzone with their greatest congregation of fans in the 4th quarter. The Florida-USC score should've been announced plenty too - to fire up our fans. I'm sure most Geogia fans knew that score, but crowds take on a life of their own, and I'm sure that's a good way to fire up the fans just to hear that Florida lost. Give the Tech score too! Do whatever you can to excite the home fans and weaken the spirits of the other fans.

And on that note, the final screen operator problem: showing instant replays. There should be a few simple rules, and following them should not be hard. (1) Any time there is a big play for the home team, show the replay as many times as possible. Find the best angle, and replay it. Big catch for a first down, show it. Sack, show it. You cannot believe how many big plays do not get shown as a replay. (2) Anytime there is a terrible, or even close call that goes against the home team, show the replay as many times as possible. It fires up the home crowd. Referees may catch a glimpse of the replay and not make the same mistake again (or subconsciously "correct the call"). There is no downside to this. Yet for some reason, we got a cut off view of the phantom Leonard Pope call and no replay at all of the 53 yard pass to Aromashodu - which looked from the stands like a pretty clear pushoff. (3) If there is a terrible, or even close call against the visiting team, do not show a replay. This happened twice Saturday, and both times the Auburn fans went ballistic, once it seemed they demanded a review (which they got - and I have no problem with the fans acting that way - just don't give them the opportunity). And finally (4) If the referees announce that a play is under review, go ahead and show us in the stands the replay. We can't see perfectly, so if the call goes against us, we'll get mad and fired up. If the call goes for us, we'll get even more fired up. Showing the replay won't have an effect on the refs (ideally), but it will have an effect on the crowd.

Basically, the athletic department did a terrible job at coordinating the stadium with the fans. The Dawg fans were fired up, ready for the game. A full day of lubrication made us ready for blood, but every opportunity to get us fired up was missed. It was as if they were spending the whole game trying to calm the crowd down. LSU doesn't do that. Tennessee doesn't do that. Auburn doesn't do that. Hell, I watched a Kentucky game where they clearly were inciting the crowd with instant replays. If Kentucky (an athletic department that couldn't figure out they need to get rid of Rich Brooks) knows how to do this, the fact that Georgia doesn't is a complete embarassment.

OK. I feel much better. Except for the cold I've picked up.

Anyway, we need to destroy Kentucky and get back our mojo. Win big, so we have some momentum going into what I'm pretty sure will be a tough game in Atlanta, 2 weeks in a row.