Will Leitch has written 5,000 words — five thousand! I can go days without writing five thousand words — about Georgia’s 2019 season. While I could criticize some of it as a mite unfair, particularly trying to compare the ebb and flow of this season with that of that wonderful 2017 one, I’ve got to admit this bit resonates with me:
What this has set up is a high-stakes gamble, one in which a fanbase—one that is not necessarily known for its cold, rational behavior—is asked to be happy with winning, and winning only. In which much of what we think of when we think of cheering for a sports team (exciting play, inspirational individual story, an underdog “we can do this, guys!” aesthetic) is shelved for an implicit understanding that the people in charge have no one and nothing to answer to other than the scoreboard. You have seen it in the reaction to the crowd’s boos at the Kentucky game, the idea that fans somehow were booing the players rather than the millionaire coaches, something the staff surely knew wasn’t true but promoted anyway. You have seen it in the stubbornness and resistance to acknowledge basic truths that might be inconvenient, like when Smart continued to deny that he changed defenses with a lead late against Auburn even though the formation switch was obvious to everyone watching. You have seen it in the insistence that the offense is fine, that Jake Fromm is fine, that critics are mere haters, or gripers who just don’t understand what football really is.
The bet is that if they win, they do not need to be cheerful or inspirational.
Or fan friendly… but I digress.
Don’t take this too far. I certainly haven’t. But years and years of close, but no seegar eventually got Mark Richt unceremoniously canned. Kirby’s a better organized, ‘crootin-machine coach than Richt was, but when his raison d’être being sold to a fanbase expected to shell out its devotion and money in ever-increasing levels is winning is all the entertainment we need and should expect and he can’t quite make it to the summit, where do you go from there?
I don’t say that to be critical of Smart — I’m happy as hell with what he’s done these last three seasons — but only to ask the same question Leitch is getting at: how soulless do we want Georgia football to be? (No, I’m not going to ask the question that question begs, because the answer to that one is more depressing than I want to contemplate this morning.)