Football team's turnaround revives Bulldogs' fans

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ATHENS, Ga. — Dexter Weaver was elbow-deep in chitlins as customers walked through the front door.

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Dexter Weaver, the owner of Weaver D's Delicious Fine Foods in Athens, Ga., says business improved after the University of Georgia football team rallied from an 0-2 start.  File/Morris News Service
File/Morris News Service
Dexter Weaver, the owner of Weaver D's Delicious Fine Foods in Athens, Ga., says business improved after the University of Georgia football team rallied from an 0-2 start.

“We’ve got catfish, whitefish, steak and gravy, and fried chicken,” was his repeated greeting at Weaver D’s Delicious Fine Foods.

The lunch traffic was steady for a rainy Monday, and Weaver said the University of Georgia football team deserves a little bit of thanks for that.

Turns out, “downright depressed” fans lose their appetite and make for depressed business.

“It was down at first, and all of the sudden it kept going up, and each week it’s getting better and better,” Weaver said of the Bulldogs’ rebound from an 0-2 start and his restaurant’s bottom line. “Sales were beginning to reflect it, because when they don’t win they don’t buy a whole lot. When they do win, they return a lot.”

Weaver D’s – made famous by R.E.M.’s use of the soul food restaurant’s slogan “Automatic For The People” on their eighth album – is a regular downtown gathering spot for Bulldogs fans of every shape, color and size. Coach Mark Richt is an occasional customer, but Weaver said he is more frequently a topic of conversation among those who pack the two long tables inside his cinder-block eatery, located at the bottom of Broad Street where it meets the North Oconee River.

“They were just wondering and thinking he might get fired,” Weaver said. “Some of them really like him.”

Few will say a discouraging word these days about Richt, who will lead the Bulldogs against No. 1 and undefeated Louisiana State University on Saturday at the Georgia Dome in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game. Richt and the Bulldogs have turned around a melancholy stretch over two seasons and changed the mood around town entirely.

After 10 consecutive wins, “It’s a great season to be a Bulldog,” said Johnny Maxey, a 51-year-old Athens resident who has been following Georgia football since his uncle took him to games as a kid. “I was pulling for the coach because I didn’t want the coach to lose his job. There were fans who wanted him to go. After things turned around and after they beat Florida, he can get a raise now.”

Thorarinn Bjornsson, who holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from UGA, agrees. The Iceland native attended John S. Davidson Fine Arts School in Augusta from fifth through 10th grade before his family moved to Kentucky in 1991. He said he is proud of what Richt has done with the team.

“We had a bad year last year and everybody was down on Richt, but he’s a good man and he’s good for the program,” Bjornsson said.

Charlie and Charlotte Sacre were decked out in their Georgia attire when they stopped for lunch before heading back home to Bluefield, Va. Charlie Sacre, 77, said “they had cars then,” when his unyielding allegiance to his home-state school started more than 70 years ago.

“We root for Georgia no matter what,” said Charlotte Sacre, though they both admitted this season has been more relaxing and enjoyable to watch than last year’s 6-7 campaign.

The general consensus of everyone talking about the Bulldogs at Weaver D’s is that the 2011 season is already an unqualified success no matter what happens Saturday. While many – including the bookies who installed LSU as a 14-point favorite – don’t give Georgia much of a chance to claim the title, Bulldogs fans aren’t willing to surrender just yet.

“I think they might give LSU a run,” said Bjornsson. “LSU is awfully good, but I don’t think we’re going to get destroyed by them.”

Said Maxey: “My impression is they’ve got a good group of young players and they are trying to learn. That’s working out for them. They have the time to grow with one another. I hope they go out and win. It will be great for the university.”

Weaver said the people’s sentiment has turned 180 degrees since September.

“If it was judging from the beginning, they probably wouldn’t think they’d have a chance,” he said. “They think they do now because they’ve been doing so well lately.”

SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

GEORGIA BULLDOGS VS. LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY TIGERS

WHEN: 4 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Georgia Dome, Atlanta

ON TV: CBS-Ch. 12

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rmwardsr
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rmwardsr 11/30/11 - 08:01 pm
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It's a mind thing. I think

It's a mind thing. I think they will.

Ushouldnthave
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Ushouldnthave 11/30/11 - 09:00 pm
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Well, at least the fans have

Well, at least the fans have confidence. Won't get a W, but got that confidence.

Just My Opinion
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Just My Opinion 11/30/11 - 10:05 pm
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Well, the reason I think LSU

Well, the reason I think LSU won't destroy Georgia is because they will do just enough to win the game and then put in their back-ups so their first stringers can be safe from getting hurt! And you know what, I, of course would prefer that Georgia wins the game, but there is no shame in losing to an undefeated and great LSU team who will most likely play for the national championship. Now, if Georgia gets embarassed as badly as South Carolina did against eventual national champion Auburn last year, well, then, yeah...there's some shame in that. (Sorry, Gamecocks...couldn't help the little dig against y'all!)

faithson
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faithson 11/30/11 - 10:08 pm
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kinda like LSU and Arkansas..

kinda like LSU and Arkansas.. pretty ugly

scoopdedoop64
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scoopdedoop64 11/30/11 - 10:15 pm
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I know that LSU is a better

I know that LSU is a better team and probably will win. However, in the SEC and in college football in general on any given day an underdog can score a win. Miracles do happen sometimes. My bulldog may also be an underdog but he's still my dawg! Hunker Down Hairy Dawgs!!!!

Insider Information
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Insider Information 11/30/11 - 11:16 pm
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I'll spot Georgia 20 points,

I'll spot Georgia 20 points, but even that won't be enough.

This game will be over halfway through the first quarter.

csrareader
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csrareader 11/30/11 - 11:18 pm
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Dawgs make it 11 in a row!

Dawgs make it 11 in a row!

KSL
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KSL 11/30/11 - 11:27 pm
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The great thing about

The great thing about Carolina, the real USC, is that the fans don't jump off the bandwagon when they lose, like the Georgia fans are apt to do. For decades I've witnessed that. The first of the season, I read so much stuff here about needing to get rid of Richt. Now he is the golden boy after 10 in a row. For years Georgia fans have been know as "fair weather fans." Great turn around in the season, both for the team, and for Richt, whose head was earlier on the chopping block. You guys calling for getting rid of him should be ashamed.

justthefacts
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justthefacts 11/30/11 - 11:31 pm
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"For years Georgia fans have

"For years Georgia fans have been know as "fair weather fans." Baloney.

KSL
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KSL 11/30/11 - 11:34 pm
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And the reason they earlier

And the reason they earlier wanted to get rid of a coach whose team lost the first two games of the year was????

KSL
129325
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KSL 11/30/11 - 11:37 pm
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Look, everyone in my family

Look, everyone in my family except me and one nephew went to UGA. All the way back to 1902. OK?

Well my father certainly didn't go there for undergrad school.

justthefacts
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justthefacts 11/30/11 - 11:38 pm
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I love people who state

I love people who state opinion as fact when they have no idea what they are talking about.
"By the time McGarity and Richt met, rumors were flying that the AD had seen enough and was prepared to fire his coach. Said McGarity: “That was not even on the radar. It would not have been fair. I’d just started the Monday of the first game of the season. It wouldn’t have been fair to him or the institution or the players.”

eagle
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eagle 11/30/11 - 11:39 pm
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Not a Georgia fan by any
Unpublished

Not a Georgia fan by any means, so hope LSU wins!! However, I don't think it's going to be a blow-out.

KSL
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KSL 11/30/11 - 11:49 pm
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Geez, jtf, I didn't say that

Geez, jtf, I didn't say that any one at UGA was ready to fire Richt. I meant posters here were calling for his dismissal.

Insider Information
4009
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Insider Information 11/30/11 - 11:50 pm
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My prediction is that the

My prediction is that the Honey Badger will score more points than the Dawgs.

KSL
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KSL 11/30/11 - 11:51 pm
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I heard many UGA fans calling

I heard many UGA fans calling for off with his head. So calm down, already, facts.

justthefacts
21768
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justthefacts 11/30/11 - 11:56 pm
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I heard many supporting him.

I heard many supporting him. Stating, as if it was a fact, that his head was on the chopping block is irresponsible.

KSL
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KSL 12/01/11 - 12:11 am
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Hey, there were many here who

Hey, there were many here who were beside themselves after the loss to USC and calling for him to be fired. I didn't make it up. Heck, even my mother realized there were calls to get rid of him and she kept saying to me she hoped he didn't lose his job. And that was early in the season. JTF, you usually are right on track with everything. To say that there weren't people calling for his job earlier this season is damaging to your credibility.

KSL
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KSL 12/01/11 - 12:14 am
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By the way, did you read the

By the way, did you read the article? "Business down" "fans calling for him to go."

shrimp for breakfast
5456
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shrimp for breakfast 12/01/11 - 02:41 am
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You never know. Get a few

You never know. Get a few turnovers to go Georgia's way. A couple of lucky breaks here and there...Like I said you never know.
I went to USC but I pull for Georgia too. My brother went to Clemson so I like them too. That's even stranger.
Been a die hard Falcon fan since 1966. Their first year. A lot of tough years but lately hasn't been bad at all!

Just My Opinion
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Just My Opinion 12/01/11 - 05:51 am
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ksl, I wanted to comment on

ksl, I wanted to comment on what you said about Carolina fans always being faithful to their Carolina team and not jumping off the bandwagon. Look, let's be honest here, Carolina has NOT had a long history of being successful...recently, yes, but not overall. Okay, so, in that respect, Carolina fans are used to having losing or mediocre seasons. When you are used to something like that, your expectations aren't that high, so you're more content with whatever it is you end up with. Do you see what I'm getting at? Okay, so now we move to present-day Carolina football. Let's say Carolina follows up last year and this year's successful season with another successful one, what will start happening is that Carolina fans will see a change in their expectations..."Why did we lose that game?".."We should've beaten that team by more TDs!".."No way we'll lose to them!". When those expectations aren't being met, THEN you'll see this "jumping off the bandwagon" type of scene....even at Carolina. It's just human nature.

fatboyhog
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fatboyhog 12/01/11 - 07:50 am
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Everyone loves a winner. I

Everyone loves a winner. I agree with KSL. The majority of fans that I know wanted Richt and company OUT! They were yelling after last year's season and absolutely livid after starting with 2 losses this year. Now, those same "fans" are all in love with Richt and company. He, and the Dawgs, can do no wrong.

etlinks
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etlinks 12/01/11 - 07:50 am
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Hope the dawgs win it may

Hope the dawgs win it may help SC get a better bowl bid. No fan of LSU. If GA can control the clock they may have a chance.

mag5
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mag5 12/01/11 - 08:02 am
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Of course there were fans

Of course there were fans calling for his firing. There are fair weather fans at every school so don't assign that to just UGA....and you can't just bring up the 0-2 start and say thats where it started. The program was on a clear downward spiral. Most who saw the trend had alarm bells going off a bit louder when the 0-2 thing happened. Richt and his staff did a good job recovering and a big thanks to Todd Grantham. Good hire there. Sure beats the Willie Martinez years

mag5
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mag5 12/01/11 - 08:03 am
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....and I was not one of

....and I was not one of those calling for his job!

dms10102011
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dms10102011 12/01/11 - 08:53 am
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Keep hoping fair weathered

Keep hoping fair weathered UGA fans. Not a chance, Not a chance.

csrareader
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csrareader 12/01/11 - 09:23 am
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The Gamecocks just had their

The Gamecocks just had their second 10 win season in history... ever. The Dawgs have won 10 games in 7 of Richt's 11 seasons. No, Coach Richt was not under the gun, by any stretch of a Gamecock's imagination.

userone
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userone 12/01/11 - 09:57 am
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There is no way GA is going

There is no way GA is going to beat LSU. I am a LSU fan. I just think LSU has too much talent at every position. I am expcting a blowout. The argument is not if GA can win but how much will they lose by.

justthefacts
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justthefacts 12/01/11 - 10:06 am
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KSL, even your mother!!! I

KSL, even your mother!!! I give up.

Scott Michaux
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Scott Michaux 12/01/11 - 12:29 pm
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Just wanted to weigh in with

Just wanted to weigh in with something here. Of course there were some fans unhappy with Richt after an 0-2 start following a 6-7 season. Just as there were many fans grumbling about Lou Holtz and wanting a change in Columbia not long ago and unhappy with Brad Scott before that. That's what happens in ALL college programs with the most loyal fans.

However, to say "most" of Georgia's fans were calling for Richt's head would be incorrect. Instead of anecdotal evidence, please look back on this poll that was conducted at the peak of the howling after the Boise State loss. 65 percent is a significant chunk of support in any margin of error.

http://chronicle.augusta.com/sports/uga/2011-09-09/georgia-bulldogs-fans...

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