***Normally, I use this weekly segment to provide you with some kind of ridiculous list to talk about Auburn's competition for that week, obliterating pop culture references and ruining many good TV shows/pop icons for you forever in the process. This week, because of my deep-seated hate for our next opponent, and because Saturday's loss against A&M figuratively took the very life-force from my soul, I've chosen to tone things down and tell you a story instead. Then, maybe you might understand my hate for who we're about to play. While parts of this story are a bit embellished, about 95% of it is absolutely true.***
My family moved to a new neighborhood when I was about ten years old, and I was a weird little kid.
I saw a red-tailed hawk for the first time in my front yard, so I put on my Atlanta Falcons helmet and went "bird-watching."*
The other neighborhood kids and I would ride our bikes down our street while holding hockey sticks with pine cones on the end of them, and we'd shoot 'em into the storm drains at the bottom of the hill. We called it street jousting.
Sometimes I wore jean shorts.
But none of these things were weirder than the first time I ever met a Georgia fan, and wouldn't you know it--he was my next-door neighbor. My old house was on a cul-de-sac off a busy main road, so we only had the six neighbors around us. Trick-or-treating was bleak, to say the least. But on my new street--which was still a cul-de-sac, but actually part of a regular subdivision with more than six houses in it--we had the luxury of more neighbors, which from a probability standpoint meant more kids my age.
This kid was cool the first time I met him--before I knew he was a Georgia fan. I remember him telling me about this dude named Herschel Walker, and being the weird little ten-year-old that I was, I assumed this Walker character was this kid's uncle or math teacher or wrestling coach or something.** He invited me to his house one time, where we watched an old compilation video of Georgia football games, and this one game where they executed a perfect flea-flicker, and his facial expression was what I imagined the facial expression of a nation was when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in the 60's. He would proceed to tell me on an every-other-day basis how much Tennessee sucked,*** and I thought this was heresy.
But none of this mattered to me until we began playing football in the backyard on a regular occasion. Sometimes we would knock on each other's doors and initiate a game, and other times, one of us would just be out in the yard anyway and we'd end up playing. Sometimes, on the rarest of occasions, both of us would have a friend over, and we'd have enough for two-on-two.
This kid had a bigger front yard than I, so it didn't matter which of us was the home team or the away team--we were playing football in his yard.
It was straight-up tackle, because two-hand-touch is what Poland was doing when Germany invaded in 1939. Look how that turned out.
The problem with playing one-on-one tackle football is exactly what you just read--it's one-on-one tackle football. You know how you win that game? Both of you go for it on every fourth down, and it comes down to who lasts longer on defense to bring you down before you reach the first down marker--aka that tree over there. No, not that one--the one next to the one by the porch. Yeah, but you have to cross it. No, you just have to reach it! Fine! Fine! Hike it!
I remember one time it was 4th down, and he wasn't anywhere near the magical first-down tree. His yard got narrower as it ascended to our cul-de-sac, and he happened to be on this side of the field, so I basically just had to line up right in front of him and stand there. He couldn't go right--he'd run out of bounds into the street. Left? Nope. Shrubs and pine straw and probably a fire ant hill. I had this down wrapped up.
Except I didn't. This kid did that thing where you say, "shotgun," and you get to step back a yard (no problem--perfectly legal in this league). He yelled "hike," ran towards me, and did the craziest thing I've ever seen**** in a game of football, no matter what*****. He turned his body away from mine at a slight angle, threw the football up over my head, thundered around me to catch it, and ran to the driveway/end zone.
He passed the ball to himself.
The worst part was how little I called him on this. Or maybe I did call him on it, and he somehow convinced me that this was a "perfectly legal rule...it's my backyard...etc. etc. etc." I mean, I've heard of new rules being introduced at the beginning of a season, but I'm ten, and I'm a fairly bright kid (albeit a little weird), so I know this is fishy. I let it go.
We play for about 15 more minutes, he comes back from two touchdowns to tie the score. His mom calls him inside for dinner--the final whistle. I hand him the ball.
"So, we tied, right?"
"Well, I scored last, so..."
"So I won. See you later."
"Wait, what? How did you win? We tied?"
"Because I scored last. See you tomorrow, dude."
/kid runs inside and shuts the door before I can come up with a coherent defense.
I was in such shock. First, I'd let this kid pass the ball to himself, then I'd let him walk all over me about the score. And it's not even dinner time at my house yet, so I'm left to go back to my yard and figure out what to do until the sun gets lower and my dad gets home from work.
And in that afternoon, that's when everything changed for me. That's when, at ten years old, I figured it out. As I walked back to my yard, taking a right as the grass turned to concrete and my shadow was lost in the silhouette of my basketball goal cast by the low autumn sun, it all made sense to me.
"Man, I hate Georgia."
And that's my point. That's the moral of this story, and the reason why, no matter if we win or lose this weekend in Athens, we will still kind of lose. We'll end up wondering what we've just witnessed, and we'll tread back to our house for dinner and have only questions before we eat and go upstairs to start our math homework.
I hate Georgia, and you know why? Because Georgia combines two characteristics that don't make any sense being together: entitlement, and pure mediocrity. For as much as I hate Alabama, and believe me, it's only a molecular speck above Georgia, at least Alabama has won a few titles here and there to back up their smack talk. When was the last time Georgia did anything close to that? A better question would be when was Journey's last good album? When were synth's the coolest, and when did Bo Jackson fling his body over a stout defensive line to win a football game? Yeah, the 80's.
Every Georgia fan I've ever met has to remind you how mediocre they are. They have to remind you about the 80's, and how if you squint, Mark Richt is a championship-winning football coach. He's a good, Christian man who just happens to watch his boys end up in jail, who happens to fall off a high-dive every year and claim it's for the team's morale (aka losing to Clemson or South Carolina or Boise State in any given year), and who just happens to get way too much room to hang out on the playing field miles away from his own sideline. But it's okay, because even though he hasn't won championships, he's a good guy, and my mom and every mom in a 5-mile radius of Mountain Brook Village might still have a crush on him.
Georgia fans are a different breed. Alabama might be the worst fans in the world, but Georgia fans live to ursurp that throne on a daily basis. Auburn might have an inferiority complex, but the only way Georgia's inferiority complex survives is by making fun of our inferiority complex. Georgia and all of its people****** have the luxury of hating Auburn without looking biased--Bama fans wish they had that.
You see, Georgia fans make up their own reality. Alabama fans live in a delusional reality daily, but Georgia creates their own reality. It's the same reason why my neighbor threw the ball over my head and caught it for a touchdown, and I couldn't even argue it because I was in such shock at what I'd just seen--I couldn't even process it. It's the reason why their fans paint up and wear those spikey shoulder pad things at games, because normal, functioning shoulders aren't enough--they need spikes. It's the reason they do black-outs, because they have some black somewhere in their uniforms. It's why most of their fans are 27-to-31-year-old bald guys named Keith and Derek and Branden and Drew and Maxston******* and Braxton and Vaughn, who go to the same church you attend, but on Saturday they're drunk, and they bark at you. Grown-ass bald men. Barking at you.
BARKING. AT. YOU.
And should we even start with the Herschel vs. Bo debate? If Herschel is so good, how come he hasn't taken out ISIS yet, or how come he doesn't have his own cartoon show? And don't even get me started on the MMA thing. Look, when's the last time ANY of you went to a buddy's house on a Thursday night to pound leftover Busch copper-tops mixed with the blue Monster energy drinks your drug dealer brought over last week and actually watch MMA on TV? And at least 33.33% of the bro's I just named above are gonna be there, and they've already claimed the recliner, so you're gonna have to stand in the doorway of the kitchen, and could you keep an eye on those brownies? I don't want my ex-girlfriend coming over and stealing them again.
I had this revelation when I was ten years old. Or maybe eleven or twelve, who knows. We might win Saturday night, we might not. We might blow these guys away, we might win a close game in the 4th quarter. We might lose. But no matter what happens, no matter who actually wins, we will get barked at until next year's game, about a year after Georgia losing yet another SEC Championship, not going to the national title game, and figuring, Eh, Mark Richt is terrible, but who else we got? And he's a good guy and we need that.
Georgia fans will play tackle when you're content playing two-hand-touch, but only to prove that they're not Nancies and that they can hang. They'll claim victories where there seem to be none. They may not be Alabama, but they're so damn far the opposite of Alabama, they might as well be pretty close coming around the other side of the spectrum--almost an arm's length away from the kind of delusion that the 85% enjoy every day in this great state of ours.
I hate Georgia, and I hope we beat them by 100 points, because that'll still be good enough for them to hold on to Mark Richt, which means more inferiority, more laughing, and more ridiculous high-dives and off-season Star Wars spoof videos.
You can only toss the ball up to yourself so often until the other team catches it in on a deflection for the game-winning score.********
*purely sharing this to beat one of my future groomsmen to the punch
**really wouldn't be surprised with any of these outcomes for Herschel Walker
***kinda grew up pulling for Tennessee I told you I was weird
****or will ever see
*****was in the stands for both "Prayer at Jordan-Hare" and "Kick Six"
******Georgia was at one time a penal colony and voted "Most likely colony to suck" in high school
*******just made this name up on the spot, and to my knowledge, no set of parents in their right minds cursed their child with this name that isn't even a real name, but if they did, this kid would most certainly own a pet iguana