There really seemed to be only one appropriate way to close out my life as a Georgia blogger. So, let's open up the mailbag...
George writes: Is is too much to expect some sort of Lost-esque finale from you. I don't know if I can move on in the wake of your departure without some good closure.
David: As long as you're not expecting the ending to provide any real answers or make much sense, then absolutely...
Matt writes: So, who is going to fill in your shoes as the Georgia Football Blogger? If you know David, could you provide us a link?
David: I know, but I can't tell you just yet. I can tell you that his first day will be Aug. 2, and he's someone I've known for a few years now. He's covered the SEC for much of his career, and he'll step in and do a great job.
Athens Homer Dawg writes: Trade that lawn mower in for a snow blower, don't forget the rock salt but hold on to that beginner southern drawl ....you may be back. Good luck with it. Oh was your bride a southern gal?
David: I'm at least going to continue saying "Y'all" since I can't seem to break the habit now. But my wife's from Birmingham, and she's called dibs on using the Southern accent to convince yankees to be nice to her.
Lucid Idiocy writes: Put your prediction cap on for this one on the plane ride home: Will the dogs lead the SEC in rushing this year?
David: I'll say Washaun Ealey rushes for 974 yards and 5 TDs and Caleb King racks up 1,212 yards and 8 TDs. But I'm gonna say the Mark Ingram/Trent Richardson combo will out-rush them by a couple hundred yards on the year.
Ozam writes: I'm all about accepting the consequences of your actions, and the events that have occurred in Athens and Atlanta are what they are....
What mystifies me is how there seems to be an epidemic of off field problems at UGA, yet somehow most other institutions seems to avoid the same.
What gives....are the rules different in Athens? Are we asking these kids to be anything other than 18-20 kids?
I'm not excusing the behavior...I am just asking......
David: I went to college at Delaware and then grad school at Syracuse -- two very different places than UGA. And what I can tell you, with no hesitation, is that there is plenty of drinking going on at both of those schools, too, so Georgia is not unique. Now, why are more of UGA's football players getting arrested for alcohol-related issues than at other schools? That's a bigger question, that perhaps our next emailer touches on...
LawDawg567 writes: I'm wondering where the leadership from the players is at. The players know a lot more about each others social lives than the coaches do and have more power to prevent these kinds of incidents. A coach can point out all day that this type of behavior is selfish and hurts the team, but unless a senior who has shed the same blood, sweat, and tears is enforcing the philosophy, it doesn't work. This is a mistake for the entire team to let this kind of stuff happen, and CMR should punish the entire team. And as for them "just being kids;" BS. They know that they represent the team and the school. I'm not saying that they aren't going to do it, they should just be a lot smarter about it.
David: As I've written in the past, minor alcohol-related crimes, such as underage consumption, are hardly ground-breaking news on a college campus, so I'm not out to criticize Georgia as a program gone awry. I don't think that's the case. But LawDawg's question is a legitimate one because the sheer volume of off-field problems at Georgia has gotten to a point where it can no longer be shrugged off when a player is arrested for something most of us have probably done ourselves.
I'm not inside the locker room, and I don't know how all of this has really played out behind the scenes, but I feel pretty confident in assuming that there is a legitimate culture of acceptance when it comes to alcohol within the program. I'm not preaching, because God knows I did my share of stupid stuff when I was in college, but Georgia's players have to know by this point what the consequences of their actions are, and they've ignored them.
You can blame Richt, but how much more can the guy do? Players have been suspended and booted. Those are about as tough as the consequences can get. These players have all seen their AD's life completely fall apart because of drinking and driving... how much better an example can they find that stupid decisions can have terrible consequences?
At some point, the players have to take responsibility for themselves and their teammates, and at this point, it's hard to make the case that too many guys are taking these arrests all that seriously.
I think back to the Zach Mettenberger arrest and the common refrain from so many players was this: "We're football players and we're in the spotlight, so there is more pressure on us not to mess up." I'm not arguing with the sentiment, but it misses the real point. I think too many players -- and this is not unique to Georgia -- think that getting caught is the problem rather than realizing that getting caught is the result of the bad decisions they've already made.
I think the bottom line here is this: Things have to change in the way the entire team views alcohol, because while we can always expect one individual to mess up from time to time, the problem at Georgia recently seems to be that 85 players have allowed too many of those individuals to make bad choices.
Carter writes: Does Brad Johnson ever come around to help the QBs?
David: Indeed he does. In fact, Aaron Murray worked a bit with Johnson this offseason, and Mark Richt's brother-in-law even passed along some advice to the freshman QB about… well, taking advice.
“He said, ‘People are going to be asking you to do this and this or do this thing or meet these people,'" Murray said of his talk with Johnson. "'It’s whatever Aaron Murray’s comfortable with. In the end, you can’t please everyone. You take advice from people – maybe take a thing from me and a thing from Coach Bobo – but make it into your own thing and really become your own person. You’re going to have to grow up a little bit. You can’t please everyone else. You have to find ways to become a better quarterback and a better person, too.”
Schlagdawg writes: Also, would you like me to come by your new blog and type inane 1,000 word comments about how the Phillies recent World Series titles mean nothing and that all the current players are in decline, despite stats that might prove otherwise? Anything to make you feel more at home...
David: Charlie Manuel's career really hasn't measured up to Wally Butts' in the least.
Sam writes: Do you think that Anonymous sits around in his underwear, in puddle of his own feces in a small cramped, dark, depressing, basement apartment composing these diatribes?
David: I imagine him being like Buffalo Bill in "Silence of the Lambs." It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.
I've Got An Itch writes: you better hope our long-winded anonymous poster doesn't show up to your wedding. When the minister asks if anyone has a problem with the two of you getting married, anon will start a rant for 5 minutes about the many reasons why marrying you would be a grave mistake. Of course, you can keep him out of the ceremony to prevent this. He'll be the guy wearing a bag over his head so that he will remain anonymous.
David: My wife may one day regret Anon's non-attendance.
Woolly Butts writes: how about letting your legions of followers know where you are registered for your wedding so we can get you a nice farewell/wedding gift?
David: Actually, I already got the one gift I really wanted...
The Cuatro writes: You registered for Weekend at Bernie's... Classic.
David: Sadly, the Target Web site wouldn't let me register for "Weekend at Bernie's 2."
Taylor writes: Just curious...I know you've said before that you weren't really a fan of UGA since you were covering them and needed to remain unbiased. (Which is the right thing to do) I was wondering, now that you'll be gone, will you keep up with UGA football (and / or other sports) or will it become just an old job and a memory?
David: I'll definitely be keeping up with UGA still. While I can't promise to be a die-hard Dawgs supporter, I've definitely made enough friends in Athens and gotten to know the players and coaches well enough that it's not hard to want to see them do well. One of the best parts of covering this team for the past few years has been how great the vast majority of the folks associated with the program have been to work with. From the amazing UGA sports information staff who has tolerated my constant inquiries, to the coaching staff that has never once told me I was "a bad guy" for writing something they didn't like, to the many, many players I've interviewed that have never complained about the time they had to spend talking to schmucks like me.
I know that UGA's players have gotten a bit of a bad reputation, particularly after this offseason's trials and tribulations. And I'm certainly not going to make excuses for the actions of some of the players in recent months. But I will say that in the four years I spent covering the team, I could probably count on one hand the number of players I didn't like, and I'd have trouble trying to name all the guys I thought were not only great athletes, but really impressive human beings. If the folks I'm stuck interviewing in the future are half as thoughtful, pleasant and sincere as guys like Jeff Owens, Tre Battle, Nick Williams, Joe Cox, D.J. Shockley, David Greene, Matt Stinchcomb, Kris Durham, Brandon Boykin, Rennie Curran, Corey Butler, Albert Jackson, Trevor Holder… and literally countless other athletes I've worked with at UGA, I'll be a very lucky man.
Anonymous writes: I worry much more about your fiancee after what you did dismantling the Gym Dogs this last year. You need to tell her of the Hale curse in my opinion. The ring should have a disclaimer attached as to your dark cloud on others.
On the bright side, you did stop the drought in Georgia, win us a fishing and Equestrian Natl Championship and stop Hurricanes from hitting Florida the past 2 years.
Forgetting for a moment your hand in the Michael Jackson death and the horrible Lost finale that you wrote, and I'd say you were a mixed blessing!
Let's hope she can say the same in 50 years!
David: I'll settle for 50 days. Although it's less about my wife hating me and more about what my luck is apparently doing to the Phillies. I may get crucified in this town once they realize I'm responsible for the team's collapse. (And by the way, you Braves fans owe me one.)
Story writes: As much as it pains me to ask...any suggestions for a solid Georgia blog to check out? You've been the only blog I've read for he past year. Hate to see you go.
David: Georgia fans are lucky, because there are a ton of folks blogging about the Dawgs, so it shouldn't be too hard to find something you like.
Obviously you can check out Tim Tucker's blog or Marc Weiszer's. I'd certainly direct you over to the Dawg Post, where our pal Fletcher Page is now writing. And speaking of friends of the Bulldogs Blog, you can check out Brandon Spoon's work at Dancing in the End Zone.
As for other great blogs, Georgia Sports Blog is really the grandfather of UGA blogs. I've also been an avid reader of Dawg Sports and Get the Picture and recommend both highly.
When it comes to fan blogs, there are a ton, and many of them are quite good. I'm sure I'll forget a few, but here are a handful that I really like:
Bernie's, Bulldog in Exile, The Grit Tree, Battle Hymn Notes, The Chapel Bell, Dawgs Online, Leather Helmet Blog, This Dawg's View and, of course, Hey Jenny Slater.
And I'm failing to mention at least a dozen others, so what I'd recommend is checking out the blog roll on the side of this blog and peruse the options -- both UGA and college football blogs in general. All offer different slants on the Dawgs, and I'm guessing you'll find at least one or two you like.
And don't forget, just because I'm leaving doesn't mean the end of the Bulldogs Blog. The new writer will be taking over in this same space on Aug. 2.
MenloDawg writes: How could this happen!? We were going to have drinks in ATL when LSU met UGA in the SECCG!
David: Hey, the Phillies won't be playing in December, so I'll still be there. A deal's a deal.
Daniel writes: David I know you are short on time, but if you were working on something to give us dawg fans some hope, please do something on how much FL will miss Charlie Strong and how much we won't. Until proven wrong at Louisville, I have to say he is the reason for our terrible record down there in recent years. Lastly, thanks so much for the articles to read when I come home at night. Fair winds and following seas as we used to say in the Corps.
David: Ask and you shall receive…
Check out the numbers Georgia has posted against Strong's defenses compared to its overall scoring in each year. (Note: In italics = a UGA win.)
So in the past 11 years against Charlie Strong's defenses, Georgia has outperformed its season average in scoring just twice -- and only by about a field goal in that one year. (Not coincidentally, those are two of just three wins UGA has over Strong.) On the whole, Georgia has scored -- on average -- 11.33 points less per game against Strong's defenses since 1999 than it has against all other foes.
So yeah, I'd say Strong's departure to Louisville is a reason for optimism. Right up until the Cardinals come to Athens to open the 2011 season, that is.
Doug writes: Speaking of Aaron Murray's brother, is he still on the team? If so, how likely is he to see the field this year?
David: He's still on the team, but Josh Murray has battled injuries during his first year on campus. He missed much of spring camp this year, too, but should be able to play this fall. As to how much time he''ll get -- I'd be surprised if he saw more than some occasional special teams action. Still, his role as a mentor and support system for Aaron Murray could be huge in 2010.
Big Muddy Dawg writes: Can you ask Justin Houston if he carries a "Bad Mother******" wallet?
David: The path of the righteous Dawg is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil Gators. Blessed is he, who in the name of Todd Grantham and Warren Belin, shepherds defensive linemen through the line of scrimmage, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of scrambling quarterbacks. And Houston will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy his secondary. And you will know he's an All-American when he lays his vengeance upon thee.
Hugh writes: Take a look at the uga combine numbers. Boykin, Smith, Dowtin, Washington, Cuff, Rambo, Houston, and Green are the best Athletes. Notice anything? Green is the only offensive player - and he ranks fourth at best. And the defensive linemen out performed the offensive linemen by a mile. So, isn't it safe to say the defense has much more up side than the offense?
David: I'm not sure how much anyone should read into combine numbers. The past few years, Georgia's strength numbers -- particularly on the offensive line -- were quite good. The product on the field, however, rarely matched that. Pure strength numbers are simply a measure of strength in those particular exercises, but I remain skeptical about how much any of that actually translates into the skills a player needs to be successful on the field.
Having said all of that, I do think there's plenty of upside to this defense, but a lot will be riding on a.) how quickly they can pick up Grantham's scheme, b.) how well the MLBs -- Gamble and Dent in particular -- play this year, and c.) whether the new-look D-line can have anything close to the same success against the run that Jeff Owens, Geno Atkins and Kade Weston did last year.
Anonymous writes: I won't go back to those filthy AJC writers... I won't do it. YOU CAN'T MAKE ME DO IT
David: The bad newspaper punted Baxter! I'm trapped in a glass case of emotion!
JW writes: I have been reading your blog for a long time. I especially enjoy the "Fleeting Thoughts" pieces. You are one talented dude and certainly deserve every opportunity that comes your way. Please post the URL for the Phillies blog. I was born in Philly and moved to Atlanta in 1971 so I still follow Philly sports but GA sports come first especially my Dawgs!
David: Many thanks, JW. I assume most of you won't be excited to read about the Phillies, but I'll see what I can do about throwing in some Braves and UGA references whenever possible if you promise to cruise over to the new blog and say something nice every now and then. In fact, I have a fun with numbers-esque post already planned for later this week that should make Braves fans happy.
You can find my feature stories and game stories HERE .
My Phillies blog will be HERE.
And my new Phillies Twitter account will be HERE.
Oh, and FYI… the old UGA stuff won't be changing addresses, just authors. So no need to update bookmarks.
Coon Dawg writes: Damn, is this a Lane Kiffin type business decision?
David: Mr. Hale will offer a brief statement, and no cameras will be allowed. Also, I think the NCAA is currently investigating my new employer, and I'm already scouting that 8th grader from Delaware committed to USC.
Doug writes: You are so selfish! What about me?!
David: OK, Doug… you can come with me.
Anonymous writes: You will never forget how great fun Bulldogs' Sports are by contrast, here in the Sunbelt. You’ll be back.
David: I can only assume that in about six months I'll have grown a fake-looking beard, be driving around listening to Nirvana's "In Utero" album and muttering to myself, "We have to go baaaaack."
Anonymous writes: You ain't fooling me, David. The reason you are leaving is not to cover the Phillies, but rather to get away from that anonymous whacko that was tying up your comments section.
David: Gee, I'm not sure what you could possibly mean by that...
Anonymous writes: That is a whole lot of crap to have a Bulldogs Sports Blog and have ALL THIS to wade through.
I WILL NOT MISS THESE, nor would I go to FilthaDelphia, and there isn't anyone in FilthaDelphia following the baseball team who will be in the least interested in TV shows you watch, either.
If you want a hint, besides being best known here for your article on the I believe up to 47 arrests / suspensions since February 2007 a span of 3 years - I shall always take it with me
that all you do is WATCH TV shows.
And, leave this city of 6 million in the Sun Belt to go up there to that town of DISGUSTING sports fans.
You will NOT FIT IN. Control freaks hate being sports' writers of that city. And, what are you goint to do for college sports ?
Give up college football, and get to your real love - watching TV shows ?
David: I think I'll miss you most of all, Anon.
Opsomath writes: It figures that you would be leaving right when you stop writing about Lost (which I do not follow) and start writing about Breaking Bad (which I love with all my heart, being a chemist). If you do Breaking Bad-related posts on your new Phillies blog, I might read it despite the fact that it's about the Phillies mostly.
David: I'm wrapping up Season 2 now, and I'll absolutely be inundating unsuspecting Philly fans with numerous "Breaking Bad" references as soon as Season 4 premiers. Hopefully such random diatribes about my TV watching will serve to annoy some anonymous commenter in Philly, too, who feels that it took far too much time to read my eight sentences about TV so he takes the time to write twice as much about how stupid I am.
EBM writes: Reader from the beginning- never intended to post. Feel obligated to show the love. I will miss scanning 4-5 times per day for your blogs. Always been good stuff and written with a tone that is reminiscent of sitting at the corner bar with an excellent friend. As far as you leaving us dry, like most subjects, Omar sums it well: "All in the game yo, all in the game."
David: How come I didn't get the traditional Irish wake, a la McNaulty, at Finnegan's before I left town?
MN Dawg writes: What did MR say when you told him you were leaving...tears?
David: I'm guessing that sometime around Kentucky week, he'll stop short during an answer to a mundane question about a back up safety and ask Claude Felton, "Hey, what ever happened to that guy with the shaggy beard who always asked those annoying questions?"
Bulldog Bry writes: answer me this before you leave. IS there sex in the champagne room?
David: Oddly, there's not even champagne in the champagne room.
Dawg44 writes: thanks for all the hard work you've done. The thing that sticks out to me the most is that you cared enough about us fans to match our level of passion for the Dawgs with your level of passion for your work. That means a lot.
David: When I first got into journalism, it was probably for the same reasons most people get into it. They like sports, they like being able to see their name in the newspaper, and they hope it'll help them meet girls. But after you spend some time really working at a paper, you realize that sports is now your job, and it isn't exactly the same as sitting on your couch drinking a beer and watching the game. You realize that most people who read the newspaper never look at who wrote the articles they're reading. And you realize that you'd meet more women sitting on a street corner holding a guitar and panhandling for nickels than you do as a sports writer.
After a while, what keeps you going, what makes the job fun, is simply having a handful of people occasionally tell you that they enjoyed what you wrote. Of course, in most cases, the negative feedback outweighs the positive because, after all, it's very hard to please a large and diverse group of readers. So eventually you simply take some solace in knowing that people at least read what you wrote (or skimmed the first couple of paragraphs anyway).
I don't say that to garner any pity. Being a sports writer is still the best gig I could ever hope to have. I say it because it helps put into perspective just how much I've appreciated the amazing response I've gotten from all of you during the past two years.
It should go without saying that this was the best job I've ever had -- by a wide margin. Living in Athens was a wonderful experience -- as I'm sure most of you UGA grads will attest to. Working at the Telegraph has been amazing as well. My boss, Daniel Shirley, is as good a person as I'll ever work for, and the folks in Macon never once put limitations on how I did my job. In the beginning, I looked at this as a great experiment to see if we could find a way to marry traditional journalism with the new age of the Internet. Most of it was trial and error, and none of my bosses ever complained about any of the errors along the way.
And while management has been kind to me, I'm even more overwhelmed by how much effort many of my colleagues have put into helping me. People like Tim Tucker, Chip Towers and Marc Weiszer all had far more experience covering big-time athletics than I did when I started, and I learned a ton from all of them along the way. Dean Legge, in particular, provided me with an immeasurable amount of advice, insight and feedback. He's a big reason why my work was, at least on occasion, successful. And of course, there were the immense efforts of folks like Doug Stutsman, Jason Butt, Tyler Estep and, most notably, Brandon Spoon and Fletcher Page -- all of whom chipped in over the past two years to fill in the blanks on this blog and make it so much more than I could have done on my own. Most of the time, they were doing so for little or no money. That kind of passion and dedication gives me a lot of hope for the future of journalism, despite so many reasons for pessimism otherwise.
But at the end of the day, as appreciative as I am of all of that, what has really made this job great has been the readers. Many of you wrote to thank me for providing insight on your favorite team and allowing you to be even more passionate about something you care so much about. I appreciate that immensely, but I think it should be me thanking you.
Over the past two years, I've simply done my job the way I think it should be done, but was you guys who made the blog so successful. You were supportive, you were thoughtful, you provided amazing feedback and insight, and you kept things fun even when it was hard to muster the energy to write another post about a topic that was hardly much fun. But most of all, you allowed me to be a part of your lives and a part of the passion that is Georgia football. I know how special that is, and I'm honored to have been allowed to be a piece of it. It's been a great run, and it's definitely something I won't forget. So for that, I can't thank all of you enough.
I don't know what the future will hold from here. When I left the Albany Herald in 2006, I certainly didn't envision coming back to cover UGA again, but that's exactly what happened. So who knows, maybe I'll be back to wandering the halls of Butts-Mehre again someday, pestering Mark Richt with annoying questions and dutifully reading 12,000-word diatribes from anonymous commenters. Or perhaps you'll find your way up to Philly some day, and I'll be happy to buy you a beer. College football and life are both funny like that -- you never really know what to expect.
So really, there's only one legitimate way to end this final mailbag that stays true to what this blog has been so often about…
See you in another life, brothas.