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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Go-To Guys

I have a buddy named Ken, whom I've known for a long time now. I think most groups of friends have a guy like Ken. He's the guy who makes things happen.

I met Ken in high school when he was on a movie date with a girl I was friends with. Across the street from the movie theater was a McDonalds. It was December, and the McDonalds was advertising a visit from Santa on one of those signs with the plastic letter cards you can change out whenever you want to advertise something new. Ken ran over to the sign in broad daylight and changed the notice from "Santa is Coming!" to "Satan is Coming!" It was the type of high-school delinquency that I found hilarious at the time.

Anyway, from that point on, Ken's primary goal when hanging out with us has been to make sure we're all having fun. He's the guy who makes things happen. If you don't want to wait in line at a crowded bar, he greases the bouncer with a bill larger than any of us have in our wallets. If you need a wing man to go talk to a girl, he'll be buying drinks for her less attractive friend before you've even thought of a good opening line. If you complain there's nothing to do, there's a good chance someone will need bail money by the end of the night. He's a good guy to have around.

I tell you all of this because Ken came to mind as I was reading through the responses to my post on Monday about Georgia's reliance on its stars last season. There have been a good number of people here and over at the Senator's blog both in favor and pretty stridently against the impact of Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno last year. Some think the pair was the best thing the team had going. Some people think they didn't get the job done. Ken reminds me that, perhaps, both theories are correct.

A bunch of us took a limo to go out in Philly for my birthday a few years back. Birthdays out on the town were a problem for me because people tended to buy me a lot of drinks and I have trouble turning down anything that's free. Needless to say, I was not at 100 percent.

When the limo dropped us off at my apartment late that night, we ran into a problem. In my diminished capacity, I had misplaced my keys. My roommate, who could have let us in, was nowhere to be found. He had either been distracted by a girl or stopped at Pat's for a cheesesteak. In any case, we were locked out.

So there we were, in the middle of January in chilly Delaware, a half-dozen guys, standing outside my apartment with no way in. As was usually the case, we put Ken in charge, and he remedied the problem. He broke down the door.

Twenty minutes later, we were sitting in my living room watching TV and enjoying some Hot Pockets when my roommate finally returned. He turned the handle on the front door and pushed in, and the door promptly fell onto the hardwood floor. He was less than thrilled.

Rather than yell at Ken though, my roommate was furious with me. At the time, I didn't get it. Ken broke down the door, after all. I had nothing to do with it. But it has since become clear to me what my roommate understood at the time: If we were always going to rely on Ken to make things happen, sometimes we had to shoulder the responsibility for the consequences of his actions.

Seems to me that's pretty much the same situation Georgia had last year. It wasn't about Stafford or Moreno failing to come through. It was about expecting a bit too much of both of them. It was about the other players on the team -- many of whom had the best of intentions -- simply assuming that, when the chips were down, they knew who they could count on. Most of the time, they were right. Sometimes though, their doors got kicked in.

I'm not sure this year will be different in terms of wins and losses, and I'm not inclined to think losing two players as talented as Stafford and Moreno helps a team, but I do think there's an advantage to having 11 guys on offense and 11 guys on defense who each realize that success depends as much on them as anyone else on the team.

Anyway, a few other thoughts on some of the comments I've read following that post...

-- Yes, the defense was suspect last season, but the offense simply did not show up throughout most of the Alabama game and all of the Florida game. Scoring was a problem against South Carolina, too, and the defense bailed Georgia out. So yes, the D needs some big improvements this season, but they weren't the ONLY problem.

-- Turd Ferguson and Richt Flair are both great commenter names.

-- I can't help but wonder what the opinion of Willie Martinez would be if he had followed someone who had a personality closer to his own rather than the fiery, ill-tempered Brian Van Gorder.

-- The "we're coming together as a team" talk is starting to get a little old, but it's the offseason, and that's about all we've got. Just be happy that you've gotten a lot of "teamwork" stories rather than stories about arrests and suspensions.

-- I'm glad a few people pointed out Mark Richt's minor jabs at the media's coverage. His quote in my post is no less than the third time I've heard or read something similar. Honestly, yes, if he's talking about ESPN, they did focus on Moreno and Stafford. But around here? I really don't think that was the case. In fact, I'd say I talked to Moreno and Stafford less than almost any other starters on the team because, quite frankly, they were two of the worst quotes. Then again, I doubt too many of the coaches or players are reading the Macon Telegraph.

-- I'd be willing to wager there isn't a player in recent history Georgia fans are more split on that Stafford. It's amazing... I never hear anyone say, "Yeah, he was a pretty solid QB, but just didn't put it all together for that Heisman-type season while he was here." People either love him or hate him. In truth, I think that comes from the fact that Stafford was pretty inconsistent throughout much of his career and fans tend to cherry pick the moments from his career that best prove their point.

--The coda to the story of Ken breaking down my door came the next day. After a greasy Sunday morning breakfast, we went to Home Depot buy a new door. I figured this was going to be a hassle because... well, who breaks down a door? As it turned out, apparently quite a few people. The door aisle was mobbed, and not with a bunch of 40-somethings finishing a honey-do list. There was at least a half-dozen college-aged guys there buying new doors. None of us said a word to each other, but there was a subtle, unspoken understanding of what had transpired.

Oh, and one final note: Ken is a South Carolina graduate, so really, we should have known better all along.


Universal Remonster said...

Really, really, really awesome post David. Quite funny as well. I think I'm considered the "Ken" of my group of friends... I suppose Ben at least rhymes.

Anyways, it's a good comparison. Just to let you know, I am actually one of those few who is completely split with Stafford. I think he was a good QB who had the potential to be legendary and couldn't quite put it all together. While I'm not really happy he's gone, I'm not totally upset about it either.

The Watch Dawg said...

David, did you mean to put a link to something in that bit about Mark Richt making comments about the media coverage?

the anonymous suckup said...

I'm with UR. That was a hilarious post, and I suppose I am one of the few UGA fans who neither loves nor hates Stafford. I think he could've done more with more help, but that happens sometimes. Speaking of help...I don't think there will be a lot of help streaming forth from his new team mates in the NFL. Sheesh...that's scary...

Bernie said...

Just as your group of delinquent cronies count on Ken, we can count on you to provide an analogy that makes perfect sense.

I wish Stafford well, but say good riddance. I liked his talent, but quite frankly it didn't quite transform into what I envisioned late '06. As for Moreno, the thought of him not in the backfield is scary. But like you said, there's something to be said for 11 guys on the field with an understanding that it is as much on their shoulders as the guy behind Chapas with the red cape.

I'm extremely excited about this season. As UR said, this was an awesome post. (PS - don't get arrested this weekend)