Wednesday, May 10, 2006

If George Tenet Can Receive a Medal of Freedom, then Anything's Possible, I Suppose

I have a number of fond memories from the 1998 Peach Bowl, from driving my brother Dan and my friend Bob down to the game while they attacked 40s, to Dan terrifying an eight-year old Virginia fan by flexing, to Dan and Bob's looks of utter depression at the Dawgs' 21-7 halftime deficit as they came down off of their buzzes, to the Chik-fil-A dolls flying filling the sky as Georgia rallied, to George Welsh's inexplicable decision to stop his offense at the 28-yard line with a minute to go and a two-point deficit. One of my repressed memories of the day is of listening to Ray Goff on 790 the Zone (or was it 680 the Fan?) on the way over to the game and wondering "what genius decided that Ray Goff would be a good addition to the crew analyzing Georgia football?" Goff, in addition to being a substandard coach who has apparently not received interest from other programs since coming onto the market, was never that good with the English language and 1998 was not the apex of his popularity in the Atlanta market, except possibly among Tech and Auburn fans. Not surprisingly, Goff was not on the radio by the time I moved to Atlanta in the fall of 2000.

We'll always have 1976.

I was reminded of Goff's brief career as radio analyst extraordinaire when I read on Kyle King's blog that 680 the Fan is bringing Jim Donnan into the fold. I suppose I can see the logic in this decision if Donnan is going to have a limited role. Very limited. If he fills air that would otherwise be taken by John Kincade's bad Paul Finebaum act, i.e. alienating the audience so they'll listen to him just to get annoyed, then we haven't really lost anything. If he is in anything more than a cameo role, then this is a huge mistake. Like Goff, he's not exactly noted as being a heady wordsmith. He's not popular with the Georgia fan base for a number of reasons. His teams regressed after 1997, ending in the cataclysmic 2000 season, a Götterdämmerung if there ever was one, ending with a pasting at home by Georgia Tech amid a bevy of rumors of drug use by various members of the team. (I think I should commit to using Götterdämmerung every day to honor Edgar Renteria's hitting streak. We're at two.)

I know it was you, Quincy. You broke my heart. You broke my heart.

There were also two shady off-the-field issues that angered the fan base. First, he skirted the state's anti-nepotism law to employ his son and second, he negotiated a sweetheart deal with Michael Adams unbeknownst to anyone else that made the buy-out more expensive than anyone planned. (That association with Adams is just another scarlet letter for the Georgia fan base, although they conveniently forget that Adams was the one who made the decision to fire Donnan, over Vince Dooley's objection.) Needless to say, he is not very popular among the Georgia fan base, although those feelings might have faded as Georgia fans enjoy the program's current renaissance.

What's most amusing to me about Donnan getting a radio gig is that one of the underrated reasons for his demise was his surliness with the fan base and that was best personified by his conduct on his radio show. Towards the end of his tenure, Donnan was routinely dismissive of callers, doing everything short of calling them "f***ing morons." (Donnan's behavior, combined with Skip Caray's legendary put-downs of callers on the Braves' pre-game show made this a real golden age for sports radio in Atlanta.) You could hear Donnan coming unglued, even by relatively basic questions. His responses reflected one of Donnan's primary shortcomings: he didn't keep an even keel. When he was high, he was too high (hence, the "this is the team I've been waiting all my life to coach" line before the 2000 season) and when he was low, he was Oscar the Grouch. Mark Richt's placid demeanor has been a real tonic for Dawgs fans after five years of Donnan. Winning the SEC twice and the East three times hasn't hurt, either.

Personally, I've always felt a little sympathetic to Donnan. He doesn't deserve the blame for Quincy Carter destroying the 2000 Dawgs, although he should have done more to moderate expectations for that team. He recruited the team that became SEC Champs in 2002 and was clearly a big fan of David Greene in high school, which turned out to be good judgment. He coached at Georgia while Tennessee and Florida were consistently in the top five nationally; if he would have coached against Ron Zook and the decline-phase Phil Fulmer, then he'd probably still be in Athens. He's not quite the coach that Mark Richt is and he certainly lacks Richt's personal touch with the fan base, but he's not the devil. That said, my opinion is clearly the minority view among Georgia fans, which makes the decision to give him a prominent radio role inexplicable.


shliknik said...

Very silly to give him a radio show. Even to this day when I'm watching a UGA on ESPN, my fiance will ask, "What is he doing on TV? What does HE know?" Then she'll throw out a Quincy joke or two. Cracks me up everytime!

Michael said...

I was going to start down the "how does Donnan have a job, given that he was a failure as a coach?" road and then remembered that half the personalities on ESPN (Corso, Gottfried, Davie, etc.) are failed coaches.