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Sunday, October 04, 2009

Thoughts on LSU vs. UGA

The game yesterday could only have been more fun if we (UGA) had won the game. The picture-postcard perfect weather in Athens, the beautiful co-eds decked out in their red and black, the pitch was perfect, the crowd was electric and we even took the first kickoff.

Then the first half dragged on with thee and outs and an under-performing Joe Cox continually throwing behind his receivers and no one able or willing to run the ball.

The defense played better than you could have expected for the first half holding LSU to tow field goals.

The fourth quarter saw a lot of scoring for two main reasons: both defenses, especially Georgia's, were tired, and the referees made sure that LSU would stay in the game.

There were three glaring plays that the referees used to alter, in my opinion, the outcome of the game. The first came when Bass (I believe) caught a ball down the middle during the third quarter on a third and forever play. He caught the ball on the ten yard line or so and after pumping his fist at UGA fans afterwards was awarded a fifteen yard unsportsmanlike conduct foul. The next play the Dawgs had a false start and by the time it's all said and done Blair Walsh is trying and missing a 32 yard field goal.

Why penalize a player for pumping his fist after an obviously big and important play? This no-celebration, no-fun approach to college football is nonsense.

The second call was a missed facemask against AJ Green (I believe). There were two referees standing right in front of the infraction, which happened immediately in front of us sitting on the Southeast side of the stadium.

The final blow, of course, was the celebration penalty after the go-ahead touchdown with 1:09 to go. The team dog-piled on AJ Green after the touchdown pass and evidently he pointed to himself. Hence the fifteen yard penalty on the kickoff, a procedure penalty during the kick (twenty yards) and a busted coverage put LSU in field goal position to likely win the game, regardless of whether they get their touchdown.

As my brother asks, why do the referees penalize the extraordinary (which AJ's catch for a go-ahead touchdown clearly was) but do not penalize the linebacker who struts all over the field after making a routine play? Is this a reflection of our society that we don't want the extraordinary to enjoy a more exalted position than the normal daily grind?

Is sport not a celebration of the extraordinary, by fans who live vicariously through the actions of their favorite players, by team-mates who strive to provide every opportunity for their fellow team-mates to do the extraordinary, the coaches who work as hard as they can before and during the game to provide the opportunity for their players to do the extraordinary? Sport is not always the celebration of the extraordinary but that is what we remember most about sport no?

My brother brings up the point that the players are the only ones involved with a #4 vs. #18 NCAA football game who are not able to respond to the hype. However, fans, coaches, broadcasters, television networks, the NCAA, vendors, students, airlines, hotels, bars, restaurants, and numerous other types, are invited to, encouraged, and incented to not only participate in they hype but to increase the hype as much as possible. How can the referees expect 19 year old men to NOT celebrate after a go-ahead touchdown with 1:09 left against the #4 team in the country?

This is twice (against Oklahoma State as well) that the referees have invoked a judgment rule to put the Dawgs at a material disadvantage which ultimately led to a loss of the game. Now, it is entirely possible that without those calls the Dawgs lose one or both of those games. However, if the referees are materially altering the game not only does it hurt the Dawgs it is now starting to impact the bottom line of the SEC. For instance, if UGA were undefeated it is probable (if not likely) that the SEC would have four teams in the top 10. If this persisted it is likely that the SEC would be guaranteed two BCS bowl berths worth 17 million each.

Now, with UGA facing a three or four loss season, rather than a one or two loss season, the Dawgs are looking at the Chick Fila bowl or perhaps worse where the payout will be much lower than it would have been otherwise. I wonder if we are going to see the commissioner of the SEC start to ask the question about how these judgment calls are impacting the outcomes of the games.

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