Football fans can’t hide anger

sports@macon.comOctober 22, 2013 

Georgia Vanderbilt Football

Georgia head coach Mark Richt has words with head linesman Gary Jayroe, left, on Oct. 19 at Vanderbilt.

MARK HUMPHREY — AP

There’s just something about losing that makes a person lose themselves. They feel things they don’t like to feel, and in turn say things they usually don’t like to say.

It sits with them, dark into the night. They lose sleep and can’t carry on their daily life because it’s just not easy to get over.

We’re talking about football, of course. The passion with which a football fan, especially a college football fan, lives his daily life is unparalleled in sports. If they love it, they love it every day of the calendar year.

A week ago, Georgia Tech fans were wondering if Paul Johnson was the right head coach. The Yellow Jackets had lost three in a row, and the offense, Johnson’s baby, was the main problem. But Saturday’s 56-0 beating of Syracuse cured all ills, at least for now.

Falcons fans wondered about Mike Smith, the head coach, and Thomas Dimitroff, the general manager, but then the team snapped its three-game losing streak Sunday. Atlanta beat Tampa Bay, one of the worst teams in the NFL. But if there’s another losing streak later this season, look for the wolves to come out again, wanting blood.

But no group is in peril like the fans of the Georgia Bulldogs. They know this team is beat up, with unparalleled injuries to significant offensive skill players. But yet they can’t wrap their heads around losing to Missouri and Vanderbilt in back-to-back weeks, after they barely survived in Knoxville against Tennessee.

A quick trip to a Bulldogs online message board will find passion, anger and uncontrollable emotion. They want to support the team, but in the 13th season of head coach Mark Richt’s tenure, many just can’t fathom the team is going through this once again.

They don’t like being out of the national championship conversation in mid-October. They’ll point out that Georgia is 10-18 since 2008 against ranked opponents. They’ll talk about how it has been eight years since Georgia has won a conference championship. And they’ll throw out names of realistic and unrealistic candidates they’d like to be considered if Richt was no longer the head coach.

Then there are Richt’s supporters, called “Disney Dogs” on the Internet. They see everything like they’re in “The Wonderful World of Disney,” through rose-colored glasses. They love Richt and the man he is and can put up with any mediocrity as long as he’s the head coach.

It’s comical in the days after a loss to see the different posts. And the reaction is even more personal with calls to a certain sports talk radio show. You can hear the agony in the voices as they try to figure out why the team is facing .500 if the Bulldogs lose next week in Jacksonville.

I had someone walk up to me Monday night at the Macon Touchdown Club and hand me an empty envelope. Typed out on the front of the envelope was “Mark Richt Moving Fund.” Obviously, it was a fan who wanted to have a telethon to help usher the veteran coach out of Athens.

No comment on whether I included some cash into the envelope, but let’s just say he wasn’t the only one that wanted to contribute. The line was longer than you might expect.

Most of the fans that are skeptical about Richt have already made up their minds. They just don’t believe he’ll be able to get Georgia a national championship, and as much as many want to tell Georgia fans to “not think you’re Alabama,” they think, “Why can’t we be like Alabama?”

And the fans who love Richt no matter what are praying a few wins will quiet the detractors.

So the next few weeks will be interesting. Richt’s not going anywhere, unless he makes the decision himself, and why would he walk away from all of that money? But if Georgia loses a few more games, his fan base will shrink even more, making his seat one of the hottest in college football.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill at www.twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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