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All things Georgia. All things Southern.
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My dog Catfish, the black Lab, died Thanksgiving night. The vet said his heart gave out.
Down in the country, they would have said, “Lewis’ dog up and died.” He would have been 12 had he lived ’til January.
Catfish had a good life. He slept indoors. Mostly he ate what I ate. We shared our last meal Tuesday evening in our living room in front of the television. We had a Wendy’s double cheeseburger and some chili.
Catfish was a gift from my friends Barbara and Vince Dooley. Vince, of course, is the athletic director at the University of Georgia. Barbara is a noted speaker and author. I named him driving back to Atlanta from Athens where I had picked him up at the Dooley’s home. I don’t know why I named him what I named him. He was all curled up in a blanket on my back seat. And I looked at him and it just came out. I called him, “Catfish.” I swear he raised up from the blanket and acknowledged. Then he severely fouled the blanket and my back seat.
He was a most destructive animal the first three years of his life. He chewed things. He chewed books. He chewed shoes. “I said to Catfish, ‘Heel,'” I used to offer from behind the dais, “and he went to my closet and chewed up my best pair of Guccis.” Catfish chewed TV remote-control devices. Batteries and all. He chewed my glasses. Five pairs of them.
One day, when he was still a puppy, he got out of the house without my knowledge. The doorbell rang. It was a young man who said, “I hit your dog, but I think he’s OK.” He was. He had a small cut on his head and he was frightened, but he was otherwise unhurt. “I came around the corner,” the young man explained, “and he was in the road chewing on something. I hit my brakes the second I saw him.” “Could you tell what he was chewing on?” I asked. “I know this sounds crazy,” the young man answered, “but I think it was a beer bottle.”
Catfish stopped chewing while I still had a house. Barely.
He was a celebrity, Catfish. I spoke recently in Michigan. Afterwards a lady came up to me and said, “I was real disappointed with your speech. You didn’t mention Catfish.”
He got his own mail. Just the other day the manufacturer of a new brand of dog food called “Country Gold,” with none other than George Jones’ picture on the package, sent Catfish a sample of its new product. For the record, he still preferred cheeseburgers and chili.
Catfish was once grand marshal of the Scottsboro, Ala., “Annual Catfish Festival.” He was on television and got to ride in the front seat of a police car with its siren on.
He was a patient, good-natured dog, too. Jordan, who is five, has been pulling his ears since she was two. She even tried to ride him at times. He abided with nary a growl.
Oh, that face and those eyes. What he could do to me with that face and those eyes. He would perch himself next to me on the sofa in the living room and look at me. And love and loyalty would pour out with that look, and as long as I had that, there was very little the human race could do to harm my self-esteem.
Good dogs don’t love bad people.
He was smart. He was fun. And he loved to ride in cars. There were times he was all that I had. And now he has up and died. My own heart, or what is left of it, is breaking.
I’m a big fan of winning. It’s better than losing.
Of course, the UGA Athletic Board has the same line of thinking by and large – that’s why Mark Richt is in Coral Gables and Kirby Smart was called to come home to Athens.
In a perfect world, the Smart regime would surpass anything Richt has ever done. But there’s an old saying I once heard – that you cannot make chicken salad without the chicken.
The steal a phrase from Smart’s old boss, ‘it’s a process.’
Georgia may not appear in the mold of how Kirby wants it in September. But will it be toward what he’s envisioning in a three-year plan by the time Auburn comes to town? I’d say odds are good.
There are depth issues at places like running back and inside linebacker. Yes, there’s young talent, but even when you’re in the fire of competition, it’s a learning curve, regardless of the ability.
And make no mistake – if Georgia has a similar record to the end of the Richt era (when Georgia was blessed with an easier schedule than it will face this year), the fans of The University of Mark Richt will be loud boisterous.
But there’s a reason why Georgia pulled the trigger to bring Kirby to Athens.
My prediction is this: It may not show with the record – but Smart will have this program headed in the right direction by November.
A few months ago, Kensington and I took a big risk. We were on an adventure down off US 1 to meet up with some Cubans who deal in various items labelled as contraband by some (all) people, and meet up with some wild Colombian women.
Anyway, back on point.
We got near Gainesville, and having been on the road for several hours, we were hungry. We figured we had rode far enough through the wiregrass of north central Florida, plus we figured all the truck stop women we had seen would make the Florida Co-Eds pretty (come to find out the Co-Eds were the truck stop women…). Kensington had done his homework, and thought this Adam’s was the place.
One thing of note- Adam’s has two locations, both on 13th St, which can lead to confusion. We chose the one near the UF campus, deep behind enemy lines.
The inside of the joint is about as close to the pits of hell as I hope to ever get. For example, scenes from all of the games of the 1984 gata schedule are painted on the ceiling. Typical jean-short wearing clientele, not dignified enough to walk on sawdust. We noticed we were getting funny looks, I looked at my shirt and noticed a proud bulldog on my left chest and power G’s on my belt. Suck it Florida.
We each ordered the combo plate. Kensington chose ribs and pork, and I took the ribs and chicken.
Despite these peoples poor life choices, hair gel, and double-first-cousin spouses, the rascals can cook some ribs. Not too sweet, meaty, and with a nice char. The flavor was great, and definitely does not need sauce, mostly because the sauce is God awful – it’s called vinegar…look it up. I was so blown away that everything I ate for the next two days was sub par.
Next time you are stuck behind enemy lines, give Adam’s Ribs a try. It’ll give you the strength to get back to Georgia.
I’m always impressed with Florida alums.
Life is all about expectations. Our judgement or critique on something is based on our expectation of how it should be. Last week when I talked about Sprayberry’s Barbecue, I was disappointed because my expectations where so high.
The Georgia men’s basketball team this season has done something it has never done in its history: finish .500 or better in four consecutive seasons. But going into SEC play, we expected so much more from Coach Fox and his team. It has been a terribly disappointing season.
On the surface, outsiders may wonder why Coach Richt was fired. As I’ve said, it was not being great enough often enough. There were great moments. But there wasn’t the consistent greatness that was expected.
I think the separation of Coach Richt and UGA has turned out to be the best possible outcome for all parties involved, as far as the coaches go. The transition from the previous regime to the current one was as seamless as it could have been.
Mike Ekeler, who seemed negative after the ordeal, wound up as defensive coordinator. McClendon and Thomas Brown, who weren’t to blame for the offense’s struggles, got great opportunities elsewhere. Even John Lilly wound up in the NFL, and being a tireless recruiter, this should prove a better job for his family. Jeremy Pruitt became DC at Alabama. Brian Schottenhiemer even landed on his feet.
Of course, Mark Richt got a great job. He goes to a place where he will be welcomed in with excitement, and the expectations in Miami aren’t as high as they were in Athens. Plus, he gets to trade Auburn, Tennessee, Florida and South Carolina every year for Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Duke and N.C. State. Not a bad trade. I predict much success for Coach Richt at Miami.
Managing our expectations is something that is difficult for Georgia fans. Every year, we say, “this could be the year.” Then, something happens where it is clear this isn’t the year. Then, something else happens that gives us hope. The hope is then shattered in epic fashion.
Sitting here about a month away from the GDay game, and a week or so before spring practice I ask myself: what are reasonable expectations for Kirby Smart?
Long term expectations are pretty clear: win championships. Do we expect Alabama-level of national championships? That isn’t reasonable. But we all should expect SEC Championships, and should expect being relevant in the national conversation beyond September.
Short term, Year 1 expectations are a little fuzzier. If Nick Chubb is healthy and is able to come back, this team could be a contender for the SEC East in Year 1.
But breaking in a new coach, potentially a new quarterback, and potentially not having a healthy Nick Chubb could lead to down season in Coach Smart’s first year.
Games against North Carolina, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Florida could be troublesome. Auburn could get theirs, and the first time a defensive coach sees Georgia Tech’s offense it causes problems.
I long said that if we fired Richt, one reason to be wary of making a change would be the gamble of trading in the consistency for the unknown, and there are many cautionary tales across the college football world that supports that.
But if Miami has a good season and Georgia struggles to something in the 7-5 neighborhood, it is too early to scream “We shouldn’t have parted ways.” You can only fairly say that several years from now, not after one or two seasons. It will be maddening to hear folks that sort of thing after the Coah Smart’s first, or second, season. Especially if Coach Richt is successful in Miami.
My expectations for Kirby Smart’s Georgia Bulldogs in 2016 are these: I want to see consistency. I want to see the players play hard. I want to see the coaches make decisions that put the players in the best position to succeed. I don’t want to see us struggle to put away inferior opponents. I don’t want to see the team come out flat. I want to see Georgia play well against good teams, and even in defeat, I want to feel like Georgia did all it could do to win. I don’t want to see the same mistakes made game after game, season after season.
If these things are achieved, 7-5 would be worth it, because it would also show that the program is heading back where it needs to go, win/loss record be damned.
So, what are your expectations for Kirby Smart’s first year?
About 14 months ago, my family and I moved. With the move brought a long commute to work each day.
It isn’t that bad. There are days when it is maddening, but there are some days when it is borderline enjoyable. I listen to a lot of podcasts. And during football season, there was no shortage of podcasts for me to enjoy on a daily basis.
Y’all, it got so bad I listened to a Mountain West podcast. And it had nothing to do with Mike Bobo. I have a real good understanding of the run-oriented offense Bob Davie ran at New Mexico.
The only thing sadder than people taking the time to dissect Mountain West football is people who actually take time and listen to people dissecting Mountain West football
One podcast I found and quickly grew to enjoy was the Solid Verbal, with Dan Rubenstein and Ty Hildenbrandt. It is my favorite, and the two days a week it was on were definitely my two favorite days driving.
I strongly encourage you to subscribe to it on iTunes, or whatever podcast tool you have.
One bit they do is the Verbies, their version end of the season awards. In their typical snarky humor, the awards aren’t taken very seriously.
Fans are encouraged to vote in the Verbies. In the spirt of awards season, here is the 2016 Verbie ballot, with my selections underlined. Make sure and check out the ballot, and vote for yourself, by clicking here.
And remember the Solid Verbal Podcast this football season!
2016 Verbie Awards Ballot
Alternate Uniform of the Year
-Boston College 1980’s throwback
–Navy’s “Naval Fleet”
-NC State “Iron Wolf”
-Oregon’s “Oregon Pioneer”
Bust of the Year
Crime of the Year
–Carly Fiorina tweeting her support for Iowa in the Rose Bowl
-Faulty officiating in Miami-Duke
-Robert Nkemdiche falling out of a window
-Will Grier suspended for PED use
Half Team of the Year
–Boston College’s defense
-Penn State defense
-Texas Tech’s offense
Losing Effort of the Year
–Baylor’s rushing attack vs. Texas (395 rushing yards)
–Brandon Allen vs. Mississippi State (406 passing yards, 7 TD)
-Dalvin Cook vs. Clemson (194 rushing yards, 1 TD)
-Deshaun Watson vs. Alabama (478 total yards, 4 TD)
-Patrick Mahomes vs. Oklahoma State (480 passing yards, 4 TD)
-Royce Freeman vs. Washington State (264 rushing yards, 2 TD)
Meme of the Year
–Talking to your kids about an undefeated Iowa
-The retiring of “Clemsoning”
-“Novembert” sound drop
-Yocco’s Home Dog of the Week
Name of the Year
-Corn Elder (Miami)
–Cory “Poop” Johnson (Kentucky)
-Jake Butt (Michigan)
-Lynx Hawthorne (Baylor)
-Weston Steelhammer (Air Force)
Not Coach of the Year
-Al Golden (Miami)
–George O’Leary (UCF)
-Randy Edsall (Maryland)
-Tim Beckman (Illinois)
Random Factoid…of the Year
-Baker Mayfield’s girlfriend goes to Oklahoma State
-Josh Dobbs majors in Aerospace Engineering
-Josh Rosen was a highly ranked junior tennis player
–Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh were born at same hospital six months apart
Social Media Thirst of the Year
-Dabo Swinney (Clemson)
–Jim Harbaugh (Michigan)
-Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M)
-Rich Rodriguez (Arizona)
Tire Fire of the Year
-Illinois football program
–LSU’s near firing of Les Miles
-Penn State’s offensive line
-Texas A&M’s Quarterback exodus
-UCF’s winless season
Worst Year Back