Monday, April 09, 2007

"Mid-season Form" Can Apply To Tailgates Too...

Number one lesson I learned on Saturday: no matter what other crap is going on in life, a surefire UGA football win can improve my mood. Even in ricockulously cold temperatures, and hands numbed by coozie-less beers.

But my painful (and currently peeling—no weekday dates for me obviously) windburn with a side of sunburn (or vice-versa…I suppose it doesn’t matter the order) aside, it was a hell of a weekend.

Despite a late, late Friday night (details not to be posted here), I was up a little after nine. I grabbed my cooler, loaded it with the remaining four Stellas from my fridge, and after a shower, and donning my late-season gameday attire or jeans, wool socks, black thermal t-shirt and red cashmere sweater, hit up the liquor store to purchase beer reinforcements.

First mistake made that day: while walking back to the car and loading the cooler, I remarked, "well, it doesn’t seem that cold out today…"

A little after 10:30 I made my way from the parking deck and headed towards the Library for the Bloggerpalooza tailgate. When I arrived to find one lone Sigma Pi drinking and playing fetch with his puppy, Colby, I suspected I was either early, or some ne’er do well had told Kyle and Doug it was going to rain. Then, not 5 minutes later, both showed up, and the tailgate was started.

Like a QB making several warm-up throws before he’s ready for the game, we started slow. Of course part of this was simply not being prepared. We had what we thought were tailgate essentials: liquor, mixers, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, fried chicken, and beer. But sadly, even the Bud Light we had (aluminum can 16 oz. variety) required a bottle opener. And none of us had a bottle opener.

Fortunately by 11:20 or so more tailgaters showed up, with not only a bottle opener but also a table, which was used in a very tricky and difficult game of flip cup (the occasional gusts of wind=an X factor most flip cup players couldn’t handle.)

It wasn’t long before our small tailgate (at its peak I think we had maybe twenty people, in the one corner of the North Campus lawn near the library that had sun. There were no other tailgates that I could tell on North Campus and I think the other brave—or Yankee transplants and thus used to the weather—souls tailgated in the railroad lot or possibly the Reed quad) well the small tailgate was in midseason form. As Doug has already pointed out, at UGA we tailgate harder at our spring game—after a 9-4 season viewed as somewhat disappointing, with horrible home losses to Vandy and The Game I Do Not Recognize As Having Happened plus a road loss to Kentucky, with periodic chilling and flip cup-flipping gusts of wind, and a gametime temp of 43—we tailgate harder for this "meaningless scrimmage" than most schools tailgate for their real games. Unofficially we decided that our spring game held it’s own with several ACC conference FSU games.

We also had a great deal of entertainment provided by a highly intoxicated (and this next part may disturb you or fear for the future, if you’re of the "children are our future" school of thought) man who allegedly works as a teacher for at risk students during the week. But it is not my place to judge. Perhaps getting drunk enough to confuse one’s hat and one’s beer, and an ability to fall from a tree multiple times, as well as amuse everyone by getting in what was termed the "drunk 3-point stance" while getting up from many, many comic falls is a method of teaching kids. Me, I bought into the myth that "Education Majors=MRS Degree seekers" and never dated one (that I’m aware of—if there was a chart showing "# of 1st dates" up to say "# of 5th dates" it’d look like one of those compound interest graphs financial planners are fond of, but in reverse) so I really have no way of knowing if he studied with one of the leading leaders in experimental education. It was also possible that his girlfriend has balls, though she kept changing her statement. Kyle, our resident legal scholar, made no comment on the matter.

Half an hour before kickoff, as the familes began walking past (either there was a huge family tailgate near the arch or a ton of people were downtown prior to the game) and after a scary/funny incident where our inebriated teacher stumbled towards a man and a stroller (you’ve never seen a stroller veer the opposite way faster, believe me) and warping untold young minds with our tailgating prowess we decided to pack it up and go to the game.
The offense was in midseason form as well, perhaps aided by a really stellar (21,000+) turnout of Dawg fans. (Side note: I sadly admit that I need more practice before the season…after picking up some dinner, I decided I was going to "take a nap" before going downtown and didn’t wake back up until a little after midnight. Unofficially, I’m blaming the sun-/windburn.) I did not envy the WRs having to catch bullets from Matt Stafford in that weather.

As far as my take on the spring game, well, by its very definition it’s hard to take away too much solid info that should translate to UGA vs. OSU come September.

Yes, UGA won, but UGA lost too. (Warning: horrible sexual metaphor forthcoming) to put it another way, you can only find out a limited amount of what excites/turns-on/gets you off when you’re playing solo. Throw someone else (or a team) into the equation, and that’s really the only way you’ll know how you or the team will perform (and sometimes you can even get the occasional unpleasant surprise—but I’ll not frighten anyone by drawing a sexual equivalent to losing to Vandy. The Male equivalent might be obvious, but I’m trying to keep a gender-neutral extended metaphor here and, well, back to the game…)

Is UGA’s Offense that amazing, and the offensive line that solid, the running game that stout?
Or is UGA’s D as bad as the AJC headlines (and, before I get accused of pulling a Sunny Perdue, Willie Martinez) claimed?

Until we get another party involved, we won’t really know.

A crisp-looking offense does give me hope that the hideous display that was the UGA offense during the middle of last season should not rear its ugly head in 2007. The WRs are older, more experienced, and guys like Kris Durham are stronger. Knowshown Moreno=potential badass. Coach Searles O-Line: able to get extra mean in the red zone.

But also Matt Stafford still seemed to have that bad habit of holding the ball away from his body when he scrambles. Let’s hope that’s fixed by September.

And the D…well I’m still worried. Willie Martinez stayed the executioner’s hand with strong defensive performances to close out the season, but let’s not forget the two best passing offenses UGA faced (UK and UT) absolutely shredded us. And the secondary is the strongest part of the D, experience-wise. But the secondary’s also the spot where lack of experience or miscues elsewhere can have an impact. If UGA’s undersized DEs can’t muster a similar pass-rush to previous Ds, it doesn’t really matter how good Paul Oliver and Co. are in coverage.

Which I guess is my way of saying is that dating a football pessimist last season has left me with at least a decent urge to be worried and somewhat negative about something.

But it’s a relative thing (spring game and all) because after all, the really negative thing is that after all the fans left, the last TD scored, the clock read 0:00, the last cooler loaded in the last trunk, and a frozen night settled in on Athens, I realized that it was over 100 days before we could get back together and do it again…

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