Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Battle of Expectations

Bill Curry has written an excellent article about differences in fans and how they support their team.

The second is more dangerous -- the diehard pessimists. The pessimists weasel in close to the players, talk on the call-in shows and post their blogs wherever possible. They harp on the facts as they see them. And they only see bad, as they moan, "You know, this coach should not be here. We don't like him at all. We have not beaten a real football team, and we never will. All these folks that get excited have not been around here very long. We always lose."

Players digest this garbage and it surfaces on the practice field, in the locker room and even in the games as adversity is greeted by sullenness and loss of concentration.

The internet is one of the most dangerous mediums there is. Someone with complete anonymity can write the most profane, rude, baseless commentary and get away with it. Well, I have the power to be one of those people. I have created a forum that brings thousands of people to read about Georgia Tech sports daily. However, instead of providing a place for venting my frustrations and others, I chose to use the medium to offer perspective and try to keep people focused on the big picture. This site is about PROMOTING Georgia Tech sports, not tearing it down.

Look, here's reality. Every school has a fan base. Typically 10% of that fan base is never happy and won't ever be happy unless you are competiting for championships EVERY year. Curry calls them "diehard pessimists" and I call them the "lunatic fringe". This portion of the fan base does not care about the "student-athlete". They care about only one thing - winning.............These are typically grown men who lose total and utter perspective that we are talking about games played by 19-year old kids. These are the people who freak out on gameday when things don't go well AND cannot let it go 48 hours later. These are the people who call for the coaches head when you lose one game. These are people who would rather root against their own team if it means it could get a coach fired. These are the people who perpetually see the grass as always greener on the other side. These are people who just know that things will be better if we just do what they say with people and personnel. These people love OTHER coaches and always love the back-up QB.

There is another 10% that will blindly support their team no matter what happens and for whom the athletic programs will never have to prove anything to. These people go to games occasionally and rarely read the internet.

The vast majority of people fall within a fairly tight continuim in the remaining 80%. They follow the team, want to see them do well, get sad when we lose, happy when we win, like to see graduation rates good, like to see nice personal success stories with the players, and understand the big picture. As Curry says, they also want reassurrance. This group wants to see a big picture and movement towards something special. But they understand that college athletics are games played by kids.

Now here's my deal with expressing frustrations. For me, it is no problem to question play-calling. It is no problem to question execution. It is no problem to even suggest another guy gets a chance to play. It is no problem to be curious if certain players are hurt and when they might come back. It's no problem to be upset when we lose, no matter how big or small the deficit.

It is a problem to constantly push a dialogue about firing a coach. It is a problem to question the motivation and heart of players. You know why? Because you don't know them. Don't pretend you know their motivation. Don't pretend you understand their heart. You don't. Just because you have Eric Henderson in your class, have seen Philip Wheeler during a practice or have asked a question to Coach Gailey on his call-in show doesn't mean you know them.............. Don't question whether or not Coach Gailey is giving it everything he has. Assume he is. Give him the benefit of the doubt. Now whether his best will meet your expectations of success is another matter. But support the guy when he's here. Support the team. ............

Now, let's talk expectations of Georgia Tech football. What should they be? This is probably the most hotly debated topic around. What is reasonable? Is it reasonable to expect to compete for national championships every season? Go to good bowl games? What is "reasonable" to expect. Here's sort of a continium down the ladder of expectations. Where do you think Tech should fall on the continuim?

Win the National Championship every season
Compete for National Championships every season (BCS top 10)
Win the ACC Championship every season
Go to a major bowl every year
Compete for a National Championship every 5-10 years
Compete for the ACC championship every season
Win the ACC Coastal Division every season
Go to a major bowl every few years, but SOME bowl every season..... and win
Go to any bowl every year and win
Go to any bowl every year, win or lose
Make a bowl game every once in awhile
Just beat UGAg every year - who cares about the other games
A winning season
Just compete and don't get blown out

Where do you fall on the continuim? There are two traps to consider. One is the fallacy of "I just want to see the team get better every year". If we win 6 one year, it needs to be at least 7 the next, then 8 the next. The problem with that of course is that you will eventually be the USC Trojans, and that we will never be. Most teams eventually take that dramatic fall before rising again. Another danger is consistency. Is it more important to you to be consistently good, or occasionaly great? Were the Bill Lewis years worth the glory of the Bobby Ross years if you couldn't have one without the other? In hindsight and now 13 years removed it's easy to say yes. Not so easy to say yes when you're in the middle of the Bill Lewis years.

So where is your head at?
Just have fun - it's not about winning and losing