A Bulldog Nation Divided

One of my least favorite responsibilities on social media is serving as an administrator for a large group of Georgia Bulldog football fans. It’s kind of like trying to herd cats or being a Sunday School teacher for a kindergarten class -- it’s a job not worth what you’re not getting paid to do. It wouldn’t be worth it, no matter how much you aren’t getting paid.

So why do I do it? In short, because my friend needs the help. Even though there aren’t that many rules, you’d be amazed at how many people just can’t seem to follow them. One rule is no “f-bombs” We have filters set that flag specific words before the comment can be seen publicly, and the administrators take violations seriously, but that doesn’t stop at least a few knuckleheads thinking they won’t be applied to them and typing verboten words.  Usually I just mute the offending member for at least three days, but I’m starting to question my own judgment -- why give the idiot a second chance when the rules are so painfully obvious and known to be strictly enforced?  I can understand losing one’s temper in the heat of the moment and blurting out forbidden words but typing the f-bomb takes a conscious effort.

About the only criteria for membership in this group of Georgia Bulldog fans is being an actual fan of Georgia football -- applicants aren’t required to have attended or graduated from UGA, but it’s not a good idea to be showing affection for Clemson, Ohio State, LSU, Auburn, or Alabama on social media if you ever want to join our group.

Usually the Bulldog Nation doesn’t lose our collective mind until we’ve suffered our first loss of the season… but when that happens, we typically go for complete insanity. Players need to be benched and coaches need to be fired -- it can’t ever be that the other team played a better game or had healthier players or just the better team, because our Bulldogs aren’t ever supposed to lose. Please keep in mind that the vast majority of our 18,000-plus members of the Facebook forum never played for the Dawgs and many have never even played football. At best, we might have populated the stands and drunk way too much alcohol while cheering on our favorite football team, but we’ve never shed blood or sweat on the field. It can get pretty disgusting to read an (alleged) adult ripping into a college kid for missing a tackle, dropping a pass, or fumbling the ball, but fans demand nothing less than perfection from their idols.

Last night unexpectedly became chaotic because Herschel Walker, unanimously considered by Dawg fans to be the greatest player in Georgia history and believed by many to have been the greatest running back in the history of college football, spoke about his long friendship with the president at the Republican National Convention in order to defend President Donald Trump against unfair and untrue allegations of racism.  Suddenly my notifications were littered with reported comments and keyword alerts from members complaining about each other because someone posted Walker’s speech in our forum, where politics are expressly forbidden.

It was a tough decision for me because I personally liked the speech even though it triggered a few unpleasant memories -- I was a senior in Athens when Herschel became the first college player to leave school a year early in order to turn professional. For 34 years I’ve blamed Trump for making Herschel an instant millionaire and stealing him away from my beloved Bulldogs. It was no secret that I only decided to support Trump in 2016 after he was one of the only two options left, but I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the job he’s done in office.

When Herschel said, “Some people don’t like his (Trump’s) style, the way he knocks down obstacles that get in the way of his goals. People on the opposing team didn’t like it when I ran over them, either,” I literally laughed out loud. Dawg fans old enough to remember Herschel’s freshman year would have been instantly thought of Bill Bates, the Tennesee safety literally run over by Walker as he scored his first touchdown as a Georgia Bulldog, as this famous call by Bulldog announcer Larry Munson described.

Herschel Walker is the epitome the American dream -- he transformed himself from being overweight as a child into a world-class athlete without ever lifting a single weight. Instead, Walker did thousands of repetitions of situps, pullups, and pushups per day until he was 6’2” and 235 pounds of chiseled muscle with world-class speed. He could run over a linebacker and outrun a cornerback, and never seemed to get tired. While at UGA Walker routinely carried the ball between 30 and 40 times per game but when television reporters asked if his workload was too much, he famously quipped, “The ball ain’t heavy.” From personal experience I can assure the readers that Walker was just as humble and approachable off the field and off camera, always smiling and ready to exchange a friendly “Go Dawgs!” with an awestruck fellow student. In other words, Herschel was a legend.

I could write about Herschel Walker for days without getting tired of the subject, but my point to the forum members was abundantly clear -- we don’t bash the legend even if we might not like his politics. Personally, I thought it was a terrific speech, but I was disappointed to read all the hateful tweets and comments coming from liberals triggered by Walker’s show of support for Donald Trump, especially those directed toward his son on Twitter, even though that particular social media venue is a cesspool and it should not be unexpected that “Uncle Tom” began trending along with his name. Where it should not be expected and will not be tolerated is a Georgia Bulldog fan forum where I’m wielding a ban hammer.

I’ve never seen anything quite like the irrational, unbridled hatred that liberals openly express toward Donald Trump. You’d think the guy ate babies for breakfast, or worse. He’s Mussolini to the anti-fascist movement and Hitler to socialists who don’t even realize that “Nazi” was short for “National Socialism.” If Donald Trump really was an authoritarian dictator, the border wall would have already been built by now. Pelosi and Schumer would be in prison. Comey, Strzok, McCabe, and many other SpyGate co-conspirators would have been executed. Barack Obama would be living in exile, if he was lucky. 

Sports has always been our means to escape the harsh realities of the real world and simply enjoy athletes doing what they do best, where politics, race, religion, and all other issues that cause us to hate each other can just be set aside for a few hours and we can all focus on the same thing, winning a football game, while forgetting about everything else.  But Colin Kaepernick, LeBron James, and other sports figures have decided to inject their politics into their profession. There are no safe spaces anymore.

Except in the Facebook forum I help manage, as long as you’re talking about the Georgia Bulldogs. You can even talk about how much you hate the color orange as much as you want as long as you’re talking about Auburn Tigers or Tennesee Volunteers.

Donald Trump and Herschel Walker are off limits.

John Leonard is a freelance writer of nonfiction and detective novels. Most recently he’s been the lead editor of the Rootstock series of epic fantasy novels. Connect with him on Facebook (he’s even friends with Corn Pop!) or contact him through his website at southernprose.com

Image: UofG Bulldogs

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