Webster defines the word “fanatic” as a “person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal, especially for an extreme religious or political cause.”
Let’s add sports to that. The word “fan” is short for fanatic. Some might argue you can be a fan without being fanatical, but not when it comes to college football. While some might be labeled as casual fans, most of us are somewhat fanatical about our favorite teams.
That might result in some irrational behavior from time to time. We might become somewhat militaristic when our teams lose and even threaten to never speak to our friends again if they pull for an enemy.
It was fairly easy to believe that when the Georgia Bulldogs first lost this season, the fanatics would go crazy. What would have been even worse would be if that first loss was a blowout.
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Georgia was blown out Saturday by Mississippi in Oxford. Ole Miss embarrassed new head coach Kirby Smart and his team. Forget about the wakeup call Georgia fans thought they had two weeks earlier against Nicholls. This was as cruel a kick in the gut as a fan can get.
The Bulldogs were not really prepared. They were overmatched in practically every area on the field. Ole Miss might have been a bit desperate, as a loss would have given the Rebels three losses before October. And if Ole Miss played like it was desperate for a win, Georgia played like it was desperate to get out of town.
The fanatics were quick to start the crazy, irrational comments. Some were from the Mark Richt camp — people still amazed Georgia fired a coach who averaged just less than 10 wins the past five years. Some were those who simply believed Smart was never the right man for the job to begin with, and others might have been so upset they just didn’t care anymore.
Georgia fans have a reputation for being nuts. Come on now, Georgia fans. You know it’s true. There is a level of unrealistic expectations, and a “we’re supposed to be great just because we’re Georgia” that makes others cringe. It should make you cringe sometimes, too.
Sure enough, the crazies came out Saturday night. Smart was called so many names you might have thought he was running for president. Reading the message boards was as productive as watching the news channels for objective analysis on who might or who should end up in the White House. It was a hot mess that was a headache waiting to happen.
It’s OK for us to say the Atlanta Braves are rebuilding. That’s easier to convey in baseball, but when it’s happening in college football, it’s just not a politically correct thing to do. Fans don’t want to hear a college football team is rebuilding, even if it is true.
Smart is, no pun intended, smart enough to not say that word. But make no mistake about it, he is rebuilding this program. Smart is trying to change the culture of the entire program and increase the talent level to perhaps avoid future embarrassments like Saturday in Oxford.
This was never going to be a perfect team. A true freshman quarterback was certain to create issues. The lines of scrimmage, as Smart predicted and warned us about, are simply not very good. There are severe talent issues at wide receiver, and the secondary, thought to perhaps be a strength, has been awful.
The offensive line is the worst situation. There are basically six players who can play, and to realize that the starting left tackle came in as a transfer from Rhode Island and won the job is all you need to know.
Some argue that after all the years of great recruiting classes for Georgia, this shouldn’t be happening. Well, does this roster look like a bunch of five-stars or even a bunch of four-stars?
This is going to take time. Sure, the loss at Ole Miss was embarrassing. This week against Tennessee, a team that now thinks it can win, might not be easy either. And there might be a few more cringe-worthy losses.
But realism needs to set in with the Bulldogs’ fan base. There was a reason the coach who averaged 9.8 wins the past five years was fired. The program had hit a brick wall, and no coach was going to snap his fingers and walk in and fix it in the first season.
Relax. Take a deep breath. The process is in place to make it better. But to think Smart or anyone else was going to fix this overnight is just not realistic.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.