It's a mad, mad, mad Southeastern Conference, and a few are glad, glad, glad. Here is my quick look at some maddening things I was glad to write about for this week's column.
Georgia fans are glad Florida coach Urban Meyer is still mad about Georgia's celebration after scoring the first touchdown last year in the Georgia-Florida game last season. (Note: This mention of the celebration may be the one-millionth in a sports story, which, if so, means I win a free Big Mac). The reason Dawg fans are glad is because the more the Gators talk about payback, the more pressure they are heaping upon themselves.
Similarly, Dawg fans are glad that Auburn defensive end Sen'Derrick Marks is still mad about the Blackout. In a story by the Athens Banner-Herald, Marks had some colorful quotes about the lack of color in Sanford Stadium last November that served as the backdrop to Georgia's 45-20 thumping of the Tigers in Athens. Georgia visits Auburn on November 15. In their last trip to the Plains, the unranked Bulldogs, who had lost four of five heading into the contest, dashed the conference and national title hopes of the one loss and No. 5 ranked Tigers 37-15.
New Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt has to be glad that new Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino found out right away that the Razorbacks have a way of ending up in controversial copy. At times over the last two years of his tenure in Hawg Heaven, Nutt's program seemed to be in the paper constantly with some soap-opera situation. Petrino's abrupt move from the Falcons to Fayetteville is still a hot topic among media types, but it is not something he wishes to discuss. Of course, that means he will be asked about it a lot and there will be stories written and the rest of us in SEC land will get our daily dose of dysfunction from the Ozarks while Nutt is whistling Dixie in Mississippi.
Crimson Tide fans have to be glad that Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer finally has been subpoenaed in connection to a lawsuit between the NCAA and an Alabama booster who paid a prospect to sign with the Crimson Tide some years back. Without going into it, you may recall that Fulmer was involved in turning Alabama in for the Albert Means mess early in this decade, and has since been the target of much hatred in the Heart of Dixie. He skipped media days a couple of years ago to avoid being subpoenaed, but this year was caught off guard.
Tim Tebow is probably glad that the answer he gave to a question that has made some Tennessee fans mad was taken out of context. Here is the quote: "We're definitely looking forward to Georgia. But I don't think we're going to like blow off LSU or Miami. I think we're going to focus on them as well. Those are pretty big games for us." While, at first glance, it appears that Tebow only mentioned Georgia, LSU, and Miami as the big games on the schedule and failed to include the Tennessee game, the truth of the matter is that the question was in regards to the hype of the Georgia game. Here is the last part of the question: "How do you stay focused with all the hype on that game, slip up to LSU or Miami, whoever comes ahead of that?" One could say that since, "whoever comes ahead of that," was in the question, that perhaps Tebow could have mentioned the Vols, but because he was being asked a barrage of questions all day long, it was probably a wise move to answer only what was specifically asked.
Alabama coach Nick Saban is glad for all the attention the writers gave Fulmer's being served something he didn't order, Meyer's kvetch at his party piñata status, Petrino's weariness with NFL questions, and all the other media mentions of meltdowns that overshadowed the Crimson Tide's .500 record in the SEC last season following all the hoopla that surrounded his hiring. Saban even flashed Mark Richt a peace sign when they passed each other in the hall at media days. One has to wonder if that was a way of saying, "Hey, not making waves. Y'all go out there and get the media fired up while I get ready to win the SEC West. I'll swing by your place in September to even the score, and then we can have a tie breaker in December."
UGA's Sports Communications office has to be glad that Jeff Owens' comments that suggested the Athens-Clarke County Police Department was targeting Georgia football players blew over without attracting too much attention. Asked by a reporter if he thought this was the case, Owens replied, "I would say we're targeted. You don't agree?" He was then asked if players head into the season expecting to have their teammates arrested. To that he replied: "I don't want to say that. You never know when a person is going to get in trouble." The UGASports reporter that witnessed this said that Owens had a joking demeanor when answering these odd questions, but in the end, he should have stuck with what he said in closing, "You never know when a person is going to get in trouble." Lastly, who was that reporter, and should we expect some out-of-left-field story at some time in the coming months?
Mark Richt has to be glad that the reporter who asked him at Media Days if the celebration has intensified the series after Georgia's being dominated by the Gators in recent times had not done his homework. Richt's reply: "…people want to talk about streaks in that game. The way I see it, we won last year. We won two out of the last four. And if you want to start going back in history, you might as well go back to the beginning of the history of the series and see where Georgia is there." The Dawgs hold a 46-37 series record advantage over the Gators.
I am glad that more South Carolina fans are not mad at me following my "Vehicles to Success" story last week. As I clearly pointed out at the beginning of the piece, it was meant to be humor and lighten the mood of the fans as summer tensions were getting high. I even received an email from one saying he thought my likening Gamecock football to the Millennium Falcon was perfect and he thought it was hilarious. However, I received another email that was originally a message board post in which the writer said something about being amazed that Georgia would talk such smack in the wake of Carolina defeating the Dawgs the past two seasons. First off, Georgia did not talk that smack, and I do not speak for Georgia. However, I would like to let Mr. Mark Richt speak for me at this moment and say, "If you want to start going back in history, you might as well go back to the beginning of the history of the series and see where Georgia is there." The Dawgs hold a 44-14 series record advantage over the Cocks, including the game in 2006.
I am glad Richt once again explained how the celebration came to pass for those out there who are still struggling with understanding. I am even more thrilled for ESPN's Florida fan site subscribers as their writers are getting plenty of opportunities at writing as they slowly move onto the big stage. However, unlike the typos and small usage problems most Internet sites that lack a copy editor regularly feature, these folks are still struggling with finding the right words to use to get their point across and instead feel the need to capitalize common terms. I blame Chevrolet for this practice, and someone needs to explain to the good folks writing for that site that, while the IROC was a great car, it is an acronym and not a model of conveying power in print.
Some Georgia fans are mad that the SEC Media voted Florida as the favorite to win the SEC Eastern Division after hearing and reading reports for months that the Bulldogs are a pre-season favorite to play for the national championship. However, just like all the miffed Gators at the celebration and the Tigers who have smoldered since the Blackout, those lofty expectations would put the same kind of pressure on the Bulldogs. Perhaps flying under the radar, but just barely under the radar, is the best way to get to your objective with the least amount of absorbed pressure.
Lastly, I am glad that Mark Richt got a little bit sassy in his reply to the reporter who asked about Florida's dominance. It shows that he is still the "New Mark Richt" that emerged last year. Nobody knows why this is the case, and nobody can really say where it is going to go, but for my own selfish reasons, the biggest of which is it being a lot more fun to cover, I am glad he is continuing to let this evolution take him where it will. That is not to say that the "Old Mark Richt," the stoic, humble, ice water in his veins, coach is gone. Furthermore, I do not believe that the new or the old sums up the man and that he can just be one or the other. I would like to think that Richt has seen the top of the mountain, as they say, with the way his team performed in the wake of this "New Mark Richt" emergence last October, and that he now knows the way back. Still, I do not care what it is; it is just a lot more exciting. I recently mentioned a favorite saying of my departed father-in-law, and I am glad to see that Richt is likewise open-minded: "A wise man changes his mind while a fool never does."