I understand your pain — more than you know. Saturday night, I sat in shock and denial like most fans in the stands during the second half of that game. My excitement to see this team’s potential drained right out of me. But unlike most, my first thought was not to throw in the towel and write off the season. This team stands at a fork in the road, and the team must choose which road to take for this 2016 season.
Of course social media was in rare form Saturday night and most of Sunday. Fans signed into their accounts and expressed their views of this team. While I am two years removed from wearing that blue jersey and running out of that tunnel to represent the state I call home, the words expressed still hurt — especially from fans that have not invested the same as this team. Everyone’s hopes and dreams for this 2016 team were shaken, but imagine how the players feel.
After the game, I wrote a simple message on Twitter: “This team needs BBN now more than ever. There are still eleven more games. The season is not over.” One fan’s response to this post was: “Followed UK FB for over 50 yrs. Will never give up on my TEAM…” The next response read: “BBN needs this team to not embarrass us too.”
When have we, the fans, become the emperor watching gladiators and people beneath us compete only for our entitled amusement? Can we remember these are eighteen to twenty-three year olds? Are we truly going to let something that happens on a painted, plastic field dictate our happiness and joy in life? I love winning more than anyone, but we need to look at the heart. It’s a game played by college students. The sun still rises, and life goes on.
I understand there is an economic investment in tickets, gear, tailgating and travel. Please, know my heart as I write this letter. I know there is an emotional connection as well, but it has always made me flinch to hear fans tell me how invested they are into this football program. They tell me how they are “All In.” BBN, if you are truly invested in this football program and want to see the team compete and win, you would not be writing the things that you are writing. You would not be saying the words that you are saying at work. If you are truly invested in this team, you will not abandon them.
Fans will never be able to imagine going through 5am workouts. While the rest of the state is asleep, we are doing heavy squats with bars and chains on our backs. In the heat of summer, we are running sprints and explosive workouts on turf so hot it begins to melt our cleats. While the rest of the state works their day jobs, we practice for hours in camp, two a days, rehab and countless meetings and film sessions. Players invest everything into the twelve guaranteed chances to play in a season. The price to play college football is extremely high.
One of my most memorable teams I ever had the honor of being a part of was the 2012 UK team–yes the one that went 2-10. The season started with great fan support and a sea of blue at Commonwealth Stadium. By November against Vandy, there were less than 15,000 fans in the stands. That takes a toll on a player, mentally, physically and emotionally. I remember how that was the first year I saw a group of players stop playing for a fan base and play for each other and their coaching staff. We only had one another to lean on through that season. While we lost games, we never quit. We fought to the very bloody end. After the season, a fan approached me while I ate breakfast at a local spot. He began to tell me how he was a proud season ticket holder. I asked him a simple question: “Were you at the Vanderbilt game?” He grew pale almost instantaneously. He began to stutter and explain. “That game was a protest of the coaching staff, not you guys.” I sat in disbelief at his response. I paused and simply said, “We sure weren’t feeling the support either.” This was one of a very few negative experiences I ever encountered with a fan.
Please know my heart, BBN. This is not a “shame on you” letter. This is not a letter saying we, as a fan base, cannot take an honest assessment of what happened on Saturday. All I ask is that you watch what you are saying and be consistent. If last Saturday morning, you said that you are excited for this season and couldn’t wait to go to the games, I pray you still go. If you were singing the high praises of a player to your friends, don’t hide behind a computer or phone and talk down about him.
I understand your frustration. The good Lord knows I am frustrated. Before you write or say anything, think about Courtney Love (MLB), who played his heart out, who represents everything you would want in a student athlete. Think about Jon Toth, who worked his tail off to become one of the best centers in the SEC and is an unbelievable leader for this team. Think about Jacob Hyde, who loves this state and its people probably even more than I do, and he goes well beyond the call of duty to put the team before himself. Think of the young guys, Tavin Richardson, Landon Young, Kash Daniels and Drake Jackson. Would you say the same things if you were looking them in the eyes?
We want this team to improve, but BBN, we can play a role. If we decide to put Southern Miss behind us and still show our unrelenting passion, this team will respond. If we choose to call it quits and write off the season, then the team that we claim to love and follow will notice, and it won’t make the situation any better. I know my family and I will be sitting in our same seats September 16th. I can’t wait to see you all there, too.
– Max Godby, Kentucky Offensive Line 2010-2014