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A front row seat to Bulldog disappointment

The Jones County News of Gray, Georgia

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I've been trying. I really have. It is apparently a bad time to dive in head first to being a fan of Georgia football.

Being a fan is about more than winning. No team can be on top every year, and the true test of your dedication to something is when it's not easy. So I won't give up.

There are two types of downplaying your hopes on an upcoming game. You can say you expect to lose so you set your own hopes low and don't get terribly disappointed when the prophecy is fulfilled.

In times of true hopelessness, however, those statements of an expected loss are just an honest assessment of the situation.

With the Georgia-Florida game, it ended up being the latter.

At breakfast Friday morning at a restaurant on Amelia Island, I made the comment to a waitress that she must not be working for tips that day. She was covered in orange and blue and seemed pretty proud of it.

When she understood she had a table of Bulldog fans, she jumped right into the rivalry but had an unexpected outlook.

She didn't seem even cautiously optimistic. Maybe it was because of what I said about tips, but she said she was genuinely concerned that Georgia might have gotten a game plan together over the bye week and could pose a threat to the Gators.

Fans gave the struggling season the benefit of the doubt. Everyone had red shakers waiting on them at their seats, and most of us spent the first quarter on our feet, holding out hope that this would be the morale-boosting turnaround fans, players and coaches needed.

But, as we watched a fumbled return turn into a Gator touchdown, the reality of watching another game without a touchdown set in. Most of us took to our seats.

When the defense had Florida at third down, we'd get back up and get excited. But knowing that changing possession would do nothing to help the Bulldogs, it was really just an exercise to break up the boredom.

Being at the game can still be fun, though. The energy that comes from being in the middle of tens of thousands of people cheering for a common cause is worth the trip. Despite what I've heard, most Florida fans were just excited about their team and didn't hate on the Bulldogs.

As I read one opinion after another about why Mark Richt should be fired, I've noticed there are far fewer who defend him this season. In any case, it's hard for me to imagine him wanting to stay. He's a nice guy who has to be one of the most disliked coaches, not for his character but his effectiveness.

Elsewhere in the NCAA, there are plenty of coaches who are not such nice guys but will keep their jobs by being good at what they do. How much criticism will he take before he wants to part ways?

Of course, for $4 million, I could listen to a lot of criticism, too.

I am far from a football prognosticator and just observe as I enjoy the games and atmosphere, but it would seem that a lot rests on next Saturday's performance against Kentucky.

Being from the Bluegrass state, cheering against them will not come easily, but it sure would be nice to see a Bulldog win, maybe at least one touchdown, and see if the rhetoric about the nice guy (but terrible coach) dies down.

It's doubtful.

Kentucky is a game that should be an easy win. I can already hear it now.

"It's a good thing they won. The Richt era would've been over."

Yeah, right. Complaining about UGA's coaching staff has become a favorite pastime, and before this year, Mike Bobo caught a lot of the flack for failures at Georgia.

Boy, things sure have gotten better since he left, right?

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Original Publication Date: November 4, 2015

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