In my defense, when you're constantly hit from all directions with inaccurate and often woefully misinformed opinion on the subjects ranging from Ian Johnsons NFL future (not one) to Kellen Moores Heisman chances (a thought that still makes me chuckle), to just how tradition rich the Bronco program is; it can all slowly eat at you until you finally snap. Imagine a day with interactions with only Bronco fans; from the teachers at your kids school, to the Fedex guy delivering your new Nike sideline shirt, to the policeman who pulls you over because you refuse to remove your G licence plate from the front of your car for that "famous potato" plate they want you to put on there. With so few other Georgia fans here to take some of the heat, It all falls on me.
Now imagine if these were people whose opinions about their program were based only in a era in which they were winning literally almost every time they took the field. This same fan who has no idea what it means to be from the south where football is a religion; where we grow up loving one team, win or lose, with so much emotional investment in that team that it becomes a part of who we are. A fan who has never seen the Georgia arch or even know what it is. A fan who has only a handful of times in the last decade had to fret about the outcome of a game, never had to rock in their chair agonizing over precious seconds on the clock running out, or a flag that should have been thrown. A fan who never had to face Spurriers insults, never walked into Death Valley to the shouts of "Tiger Bait" or scaled the lofty heights of Neyland Stadium. A fan who has not had a trial by fire, whose team has simply waltzed over their WAC counterparts for the better part of 10 years.
On top of that let me ask you this: if your childs Kindergarten Teacher was a Gator fan, and she KNEW you were a Georgia fan, do you think that even she would paint your daughters finger nails orange and blue? Wouldn't even a Gator fan have the decency and respect to not cross that line? There is absolutely nothing funny about seeing my little girl come home with orange and blue fingernails, but its something that was done without thought or hesitation. So couple all this with my twitter feed blowing up with bluturfs shenanigans and it was all just too much to take . So you'll just have to excuse me for going negative. Perhaps I could have done so a little more politically, but the past is the past. Also people, it was tongue in cheek, I don't really think BSU fandom is like Nazism, but that was lost on lots of angry e mailers.
This week was a new week, and despite what became a costly drive through the mountains to clear my head, my head was indeed cleared and I decided to take a different approach with the natives for the next few days. "Kill em with kindness my mom always said", "You catch more flys with honey than vinegar" I could hear my Grandma telling me.
So with that I set out with a simple sociology experiment. When approached by a native, no matter his level of aggression, no matter the level of the misinformed, I would not respond in kind, but rather be kind with my response:
Native one: " Bulldog fan uh? you got a lot of nerve wearing that shirt here"
My Old response "Like the nerve it takes to play your FCS schedule each year?"
My New response: "Yep, gotta stay faithful, I love my team, but you guys are gonna give us one heck of game, sure hope we can keep it close"
Native One (utterly stunned and quietly thinking..actually smiled at me, then something really, really strange happened. Native one actually said) "well, should be a good game, good luck but not too much I guess right?"
Had I suddenly found a (shutter) nice BSU fan? or had my humility defused him? Confused him? I had to continue the experiment to make sure this wasn't just a regular nice guy. Or a once in a half a million encounter
Native Two: (upon finding out that I was going the game but before he found out I was a Georgia fan)"Man I wish I was going to the game too, I just don't know what is going to happen, I mean for the first time in a long time I think we could really lose this game!"
My Old response, "Dude I'm a Georgia fan and I'm here to tell you you better get used to the idea that you're going to lose this game, because you are going to lose this game"
My New response, "Yes, I hope its going to be close, I hope its a fun game and no one gets hurt. Should be a really fun time down in Atlanta too, oh by the way I'm actually a Georgia fan"
Native Two: (Blankly thinking for a moment about if he should take back his initial statement. He momentarily assumed I was a BSU fan, thus the admission of a hint of doubt.. he finally continued )" Cool, Georgia fan huh, how do you like it up here?..."
Now I was on to something! But I had to take it a step further. To borrow another SNL skit idea, I decided to conduct my own "white like me " undercover study of the natives and set out to continue with the experiment that I like to call "blue like me"
This interaction was inside a car dealership ordering a new damn lugbolt key (don't ask).
Upon finding out that the key would take 7 days to arrive I calmly said...
"ah, no worries I'm leaving for the Georgia game tomorrow and I wont be back until next week"Incredibly they were not only admitting weaknesses but openly doubting the outcome of the game. I saw genuine concern coupled with a look of joyful anticipation of being able to play against an SEC team. I saw in them the recognition of what this game means to their program, and to their season. I was on the inside and seeing something real finally.
Native 3 " You're leaving already? Man we don't leave until Friday. Can't wait for this game"
Me "Yeah well I thought I'd go down and see what Atlanta is all about and hang out with some alumni at the galleria (btw, in my background work I discovered that the bronco alumni event is being held at Jocks and Jills at Galleria if you want to crash it)
Native 3, (now really opening up to me) "So what do you think? I keep getting flashbacks of Zabransky in 05, I think Moores obviously more talented, but he hasn't faced an SEC defense before. I keep reading that Georgia players are starting to get that 3-4 and that could give him some fits Last year against Nevada he was on the run more than he was used to and you noticed it. Plus those guys are BIG too, did you see that Juco Josh Jenkins"
ME (not correcting him on the name) Well yeah he is big, but he's not just gonna step on the field from day one and be a superstar right? Besides that Jumpy Geathers guy is starting and Coach Pete will account for him (see how I used that "coach Pete" stuff and used a wrong name.. Now I was IN.)
Native 4: (walking up) I'll tell you what I'm worried about, without Pettis and Young, what do we have in Moore? Somebody has to step up.
Me: "Coach Pete will get them to step up, he always does. I think you guys are worried over nothing, this is going to be easier than last year, I mean they had a LOSING record last season for gods sake!" (now trying to bate them in even.....where was the cockiness, the attitude??)
Native 3: "Man this is different, this probably the hardest game we'll have all year (noticed he still used the word "probably") and we have to beat an SEC team to get respect. Even the mediocre (ouch that hurt) SEC guys are damn fast and talented. If our guys think they can just walk in and win this one they could be in trouble. But if we win this one I bet Moore is Heisman front runner (had to look away at this one)
And so it went. I was one of them and they opened up to me. I found out that these guys have their doubts and their fears. They visions of grandeur ( don't we all) They may not know the names of our players and may not be able to name all the members of their own conference, but they are fans and they are caught up in something that, no matter the level of competition it was accomplished, is pretty special.
SO, have I forgiven the kindergarten teacher? No not entirely but I'll give her a pass for not knowing any better. You shouldn't expect freshman to contribute right away on the field, and you shouldn't expect a relatively new fan base to know everything about what's out there in that great big world of college football right away either. Perspective in everything takes time. So I'll stop being so hard on Bronco fans; well... damn-it, I'll sure try. Understand there are a few of them that no matter how hard I try to be patient with, are like little puppies that just need a good spankin with a rolled up newspaper from time to time. But I think this way is better for my blood pressure and maybe, just maybe I'll be seeing less of this:
Finally the time is here. I am on the first plane out of Smurfville tomorrow. This is my last pregame post (unless the mood hits me) so I will see you all again on the other side. Ill be tailgating by Gate A (Northside drive) at 7am, so come have a drink with me. Bronco fans (if you're still here) this means you too!
I'm thinking we'll see a close game into the 3rd quarter when a mistake by a "tired and never before used to being hurried" K Moore makes a costly error by throwing a pick 6. It'll be back and forth for a while until we pick up 3 on a long field goal. Final score Dawgs 34-Broncs 21.
And if this doesn't happen, then god help me when I get back here....IF i even get on that plane!