It all started with Stewart Mandel getting medieval on college football’s ass. Seriously.
How much can the perception of a program change over a half-decade? I’m not talking about the usual on-field ebbs and flows of going 10-2 one year and 7-5 the next. I’m talking about a real change in the national prestige (or lack thereof) a team established over decades due to its level of play in the past five seasons.
Plenty of you must be wondering, since I’ve been getting regular requests over the past year or so to revisit my “Program Pecking Order” Mailbag from August 2007 that divvied up the nation’s BCS-conference schools into a four-tiered Feudal society. This seems as good a time as any to do it. The genesis of the idea was a reader debate over whether Georgia should be considered a “national power.” My answer in ’07 was no (turning me into a permanent enemy of certain Bulldogs bloggers), and that hasn’t changed in the last five years.
As one of those bloggers, it wasn’t so much that I found his exercise questionable as I did his measuring stick.
… a national power carries “… a certain cachet or aura. It’s the way a program is perceived by the public. Let me put it to you this way. Suppose we went to, say, Montana. And suppose we found 100 ‘average’ college football fans (not necessarily message-board crazies, but not twice-a-year viewers, either) and put them in a room. If I held up a Michigan helmet, my guess is all 100 would know exactly what it was. … But if I held up a Georgia ‘G’ helmet, how many of them do you think would be able to identify it off the top of their heads?”
You can probably guess where this went next.
I wish I could claim full credit for what you’re about to read, but the reality is that I serve merely as the inspiration for Travis Fain, he of lucid idiocy fame, who sent me this e-mail a few days ago:
What if you and I worked to find a Dawg fan living in Montana, shipped him a UGA helmet, sent him to a sports bar and had him ask 100 strangers whether or not they recognized it? Maybe he, or even better, she, could have someone film it.
Is this idea ridiculous … or brilliant?
I think we all know the answer to that question.
Travis has dubbed this the “Montana Project”. That works for me.
Despite some wondering what we were thinking, things took off rather quickly from there. The key was finding a local volunteer who fit the bill for what we were looking for better than we could have hoped.
Hey and Go Dawgs,
The MT Project was made for me. My name is Hoppy and I am and tried and true Dawgs fan. Born in Macon my dad was a UGA grad and raised me to bleed the red and black. Since then, I have live in Great Falls, MT for the past 25 years and have rooted for the Dawgs every year. I have converted and ex girlfriend, my best friend and my wife to be part of the “Dawg Nation”.
My man cave is Dawg-centric and I buy the College-Game Plan package for the soul purpose of watching the University of Georgia Bulldog games!
I will gladly don a Dawg helmet and ask 100 people if they know what I am wearing.
I am a teacher and I share a room with a video production class; filming it won’t be a problem.
Will you really send me a helmet to wear? Lets figure out a game and I will head to the largest sports bar in town (its a legit sports bar, not some hole in the wall, po-dunk MT bar you are envisioning) and make the project happen.
I really think we will be in the high 80′s/low 90′s of people who know the “G”! Like one of the posts says, “Everyone knows that ‘G’”.
On a side note, my wife is from Glasgow MT and their high school has adopted the “G” as their own. It drives me bat-shit crazy. If I went to that town and did this they would all say “Glasgow Scotties”. Maybe 15 would say Georgia.
Hoppy turned out to be a true mensch who lined up locations and help on the video front. The only thing missing was getting one of these babies in Hoppy’s hands:
Fortunately for us, another Montana volunteer, GTP commenter Big Shock, stepped up and provided Hoppy with the helmet. From there, it was just a matter of picking the right time to bar hop and asking the questions.
That’s pretty much what a labor of love looks like.