The Universities of Georgia and Virginia are very similar schools. They're both renowned for academics, are situated in awesome college towns, and are big state schools that draw the best and brightest from their respective regions. The one area where most people would find the biggest difference between UGA and UVA is athletics. I mean, Sanford is rocking with 90,000+ on a Saturday, while Scott Stadium at UVA is lucky to have 40,000. UVA's basketball team is consistently ranked in the top-10, while ours has endured a longstanding drought (ending soon though thank you, Tom).
Dig a little past the surface, however, and you'll be able to draw countless comparisons between Georgia Football and Virginia Basketball. Both teams have had consistent regular season success, with wins in high-level bowl games and the NCAA tournament respectively. However, neither team has been able to come out on top-- until April 8th, 2019. The University of Virginia defeated Texas Tech in the national championship, and in doing so taught teams around the country, but specifically our Dawgs, a couple of lessons.
Losing with grace will pay off.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar once said, "You can't win unless you learn how to lose." Cheesy and cliché, but oh so true. Last year, UVA made history as the first ever one-seed to lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Were they upset? Yes. Were they angry? Yes. Were they embarrassed? Yes. But, the difference between that Virginia team and most, is that they felt all of these emotions with grace. Head Coach Tony Bennett, who many have called the definition of class, simply said "that's life" and sent his congratulations to UMBC and their basketball program following the game. Their maturity through defeat is what allowed their win this week to feel so amazing.
While not quite as history-making as the UVA men's defeat to UMBC, Georgia football has had a tough go of things the last couple of years. From narrowly losing to Alabama in the 2017-18 National Championship, to being (wrongfully?) excluded from the CFP in 2018 then losing to a 9-4 Texas team in the Sugar Bowl, the Dawgs have suffered through their fair share of defeat. The difference, however, is the youthful Georgia Football team (and fans, I myself am guilty) didn't quite handle these crushing defeats as well as Virginia Basketball did. From the time we were excluded from the CFP to the end of the Texas game, we talked trash. We were insulted to even be playing Texas, and we showed it, making our defeat all the more embarrassing.
This UVA team taught us to lose with grace, for it will make your win all the sweeter.
If you were to look up resilience on Google, you would find the definition to be "the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness." If you ask me, being the first number one overall seed to lose to a number sixteen seed in NCAA history, and then returning the next season to win the national championship plays into that definition pretty well. Would it have been easy for them to hang their heads in shame, especially the guys who suffered through that defeat last year? Obviously. But instead, with seasoned, headstrong leadership from Tony Bennett plus Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy, and De'Andre Hunter, they maintained faith in their work and went from rock-bottom to the highest peak. Do I sense a 30 for 30 in the making?
Georgia football is already halfway there. This team isn't coming from rock bottom. After all, getting shut out of the playoff and losing the Sugar Bowl to two talented Big 12 teams isn't the worst possible thing that could've happened. The Dawgs have already shown that they're capable of bouncing back, as they still had an amazing season last year despite the crushing defeat to Alabama just one year prior in the National Championship. What the Dawgs can do now, however, is look to leaders like the UVA men had. Take the defeat in stride, and bounce back better than ever. I think us fans can take a few of those lessons too.