When I first started writing columns for print publications I had a goal – briefly – of becoming Lewis Grizzard.
There were a few problems with this goal, the first and most important of which was that
Lewis was an original, and there will never be another one of him. That, and I would never pretend to have his talent.
Another is that my writing began and has been mostly trapped in a political lane. Lewis occasionally touched on the subject of politics but was first and foremost a humorist. When you write more specifically about politics, your laughs often come at the expense of your subjects. Lewis was beloved because he laughed with us, not at us.
It’s also important to understand that times have changed. Lewis was pre-internet.
The internet democratized who had a voice. I’m a direct result of that process, having begun my public writing on blogs before moving into more traditional publications.
Blogs with curated and moderated content have since mostly given way to wider social media platforms. Now, anyone with a keyboard can share their opinions with a post on Facebook, a tweet, a TikTok video, a snap, or … I have no idea what the kids use these days.
With the good, such as access for everyone to voice their own opinions, has come the bad. There’s an awful lot of noise out there now to break through. We’ve learned to talk without listening, and we voice opinion after opinion without regard to audience nor consequence.
A weird byproduct of this seems to be that, by self-selecting our audiences on social media, we’ve created our own feedback loops. It reinforces our own opinions, and too many of us – emboldened by “everyone” in our own chosen circles agreeing with us – believe we are correct, virtuous and, thus, entitled to what we desire. After all, “everyone” agrees that it is the right and just outcome.
I have to wonder what Lewis would be thinking this week as Georgia prepares to play in one of the biggest games in decades. It’s a chance to go 13-0, and secure a top seed in the National Championship playoffs. He’d first likely question why we needed a playoff if it was clear by current unanimous votes that UGA is number one.
But, presuming he understood the times we are in today as well as he did those when he mastered his keyboard, he would likely have a few words for Nick Saban. And after last week, I think they would be … positive.
UGA fans loved Lewis because they could relate to him living and dying by UGA’s weekly performances. They really, really wish he could have had a son and named him Kevin. They knew no other words needed to be said when frankly, he didn’t want to talk about it.
But he also knew the game wasn’t about us. We appreciated every Georgia win because we knew they were hard-fought efforts, and never easy to come by.
Saban, last week, reminded his own fan base that when he arrived, Alabama was just happy to win a game. He, obviously irritated, noted that now too many fans look at the season as a failure if there are one or more losses.
Too many “fans” just like associating themselves with winning. Like too much in life, they believe they’re entitled to victory. And if they are deprived of this victory that they didn’t work for and did not earn, someone somewhere must be fired. This can be repeated as necessary.
Entitled fans are killing college sports as fast as big money is killing its traditions. Saban’s warning may temporarily slow it down, but the train has likely left the station. Some coaches this week received nine-figure compensation packages to, presumably, bring their schools national championships.
With big paydays come big expectations. Most of them will fail to be met.
While most of you will know the outcome of the matchup with Coach Saban by the time this is published, it was written before Saturday’s big game. I certainly hope UGA wins. I want us to be the best, and to do so, we need to beat the best.
But the game isn’t about me or any other fans. It’s not even about Nick Saban or Kirby Smart.
It’s about Stetson, JT and Jordan. It’s about Zamir, Brock and George. The role of Kevin has been turned over to Jack. Not that I’m planning on having a son either, but Jack would be a fine name.
May this game be about them — Saturday, and all fall Saturdays. I think that’s what Lewis would want about now.
Charlie Harper, a Fayette County native, is the publisher of GeorgiaPol.com and the executive director of PolicyBEST, an Atlanta-based pro-business advocacy group.