November 8, 2012

Loran Smith: Coaches are people, too


— This past Saturday in Sanford Stadium, there was a poignant scene both before and after Georgia’s 37-10 win against Ole Miss, and it served as a reminder that football coaches have those moments when they appreciate the good things in life.

Coaches live a life in which critical fans don’t have any appreciation for their personal emotions and in many cases don’t care. That is why the insensitive fools pay to have a moving van parked at a struggling coach’s address after a couple of disappointing losses.

As the case so often is, wives and children suffer unnecessary verbal abuse in the stands. Sometimes it is tasteless and classless. It can be profane and insulting.

Last spring, I rode from the Alabama state capitol in Montgomery to Auburn with Mike Hubbard, a Georgia graduate who is speaker of the house in the state of Alabama and works with the Auburn network. He also was returning the twin daughters of Gene Chizik, Landry and Kennedy, to Auburn after they had served as pages in the legislature that day.

Chizik’s charming daughters are very nice and enterprising. I wonder what it is like for them in the stands at Auburn this year with their daddy’s team having an off year? I bet Barbara Dooley wouldn’t go near the fans in the stands for a game in Knoxville.

What brought about my reflection on this topic was seeing Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze before Saturday’s game and Georgia’s Mike Bobo after the contest, each with their young daughters.

When the Ole Miss team arrived at Sanford Stadium, the Rebels coach went into the locker room and then out to the field, where his wife Jill and daughters Jordan, Madison and Ragan stood with him, wishing him good luck. The girls all crowded around their dad, clinging to him.

When it was time for him to start his game-day routine, radio and television announcers were waiting to get a word with Freeze. His girls all kissed him bye — not once but twice. It was a very touching moment as you realized that 90 percent of those who would fill the stadium would be pulling against their father.

Following the victory, there was another touching scene in the Georgia locker room as Bobo walked in with his daughters Olivia and Ava Grace. Bobo has five children, so he has to find time to spend with each of them. It is easiest for the only boy, Drew, who gets to accompany his dad to some practice sessions and the office on Fridays, when the pace slows down.

Bobo sat in a chair, awaiting the media that would want his assessment of Georgia’s win. Ava and Olivia had their arms around him as he went about his postgame routine. While the Bobo girls were happy and smiling, the Freeze daughters went back home to Mississippi, no doubt sorely disappointed that the game did not go their father’s way.

Fans’ emotions can be harsh, often fueled by alcohol and a lack of understanding of the game. There will always be a winner and a loser when games are played. It hurts the coaches and their families more than anybody when a team comes up short. Coaches know that they must win to keep their jobs, but it doesn’t help any that some fans go overboard.

Football is not a scientific game. There are 22 players on the field when a play begins. With all those moving parts, somebody is going to make a misstep. Somebody is going to go the wrong way, and if a critical mistake is made, a touchdown may occur.

From the stands all we see is a scoring moment. If your team scores you find no fault, but when the other team scores, somebody is going to catch unshirted hell.

Coaches understand the way it is. They know fans don’t really understand, but it would be nice if the most passionate fans could at least be civil in the stands.

When you get all bent out of shape about failure on the field, remember that coaches do have families.



Loran Smith is contributing columnist for The Daily Citizen. You can write to him at loransmith@sports.uga.edu.