Upon initial reflection, I thought The Celebration was a brilliant move on Mark Richt’s part because it got Georgia’s players out of the funk they’d been in for much of the previous three games. As the game went on, I was even more impressed because I saw the effect it had on Florida’s players, too.
But after reading this overwrought letter posted for public consumption by one Franz Beard, who is the managing editor of Gator Country, a Florida online site (h/t Best of the SEC Blogs), my attitude is beginning to border on flat-out awe.
When this guy writes “I shake to think what might have happened”, I don’t doubt it. My bet is that he was still shaking with righteous indignation when he wrote the letter. Listen carefully and you can hear his voice quiver.
… I’ve been at Florida-Georgia games since 1962 and I know the hair-trigger emotions both on the field and in the stands. One ill-timed remark, one bump of a Georgia player into a Florida player and we could have very easily had an on the field incident that would have made Miami-Florida International look like something you see on Sesame Street. It is only by God’s grace and the restraint of the Florida coaches, who prevented the UF team from charging the field by their quick, positive response, that there was no incident on the field.
I’ve got to tell you, I had no idea of the grave danger I was in at that moment.
But skip that – my point here isn’t to mock what Franz Beard wrote (BestofSEC does a fine job of that all on his lonesome). It’s to note that Mark Richt and Georgia football are in their heads. All of that Gator superiority we’ve come to know and love have vanished from this guy’s mindset. It’s all ghosts now. Three out of the last eighteen? Gone. Visor Boy? Gone. Danny the All-American? Gone. At this point, Franz may not even remember that his team won the last MNC, so consumed is he with wrath over Richt’s perfidy.
And this from a guy who runs what I presume to be a popular Gator fan site and shares a conviction about Florida football with a large following. He’s representative, in other words.
This ain’t going away anytime soon, folks. It’s going to eat at the Gator Nation at least until next year’s WLOCP. And with that one little gesture, Mark Richt has managed to destroy the psychological status quo of this series that Spurrier built and had grown over the better part of two decades. Easy, comfortable arrogance has been replaced with a burning desire to even the score.
The worm has turned. What do you think Urban Meyer is going to hear at every Gator Club breakfast, lunch and dinner meeting he attends in the offseason next year? He’s gonna hear the same incessant complaint that every Georgia coach has been forced to suffer through for nigh on about twenty years: Coach, you gotta beat Georgia this year. You just gotta.
And so I ask one more time: just how smart is Mark Richt? Did he actually see this coming? Because if he did, all I can say is, man, I can’t wait to see what he has up his sleeve for next year’s game.
UPDATE: For all my Gator commenters in denial, here’s more of what I’m referring to. Feel free to keep insisting otherwise, though.