I saw a cartoon today that made me laugh. Then it made me mad.
It was a picture of Mark Richt walking off the field after Saturday’s loss at Clemson. At his feet laid a Georgia player. The speech bubble above Richt’s head said something to the effect of, “Get up, you idiot, the game’s over.”
Over and over again this week, the topic of flopping to slow down hurry-up no-huddle offenses has risen to the forefront of collegiate athletics. The tactics of Richt’s team are to blame, and he should be ashamed of himself.
Yes, I know winning is important. In fact, I am fully aware that it is the most important thing in athletics. We fail our children when we teach them that winning shouldn’t be the goal of athletic competition.
But that’s another soapbox for another time.
The bottom line is this: Winning matters, at all costs. Except for integrity and dignity. Those are valuable whether you win or lose. You can’t put a price tag on them.
By encouraging his players to engage in so-called “diving” after the whistle has blown, Richt has sacrificed those precious elements of quality character. Once in each quarter, as Clemson’s offense picked up steam during last weekend’s contest, a Bulldog player hit the turf. The crowd at Clemson booed, and who could blame them?
One of the things I hate about soccer is the constant writhing in pain on the field like an emergency response team is needed on the scene ASAP, only to be followed by a full-on sprint back into position when no penalty is called. That stinks, and that’s clearly what happened with Georgia on Saturday.
There were players on Georgia’s team who were legitimately hurt. Todd Gurley and Malcolm Mitchell both went to the locker room to be checked out. Neither spent more than a few seconds onto the field because the goal is to GET OFF as soon as possible so further examination can take place under the supervision of a trained physician.
None of the defensive injuries cost Georgia more than a handful of plays in participation from the guilty parties. Mitchell, who we never saw in pain on the field, is now out for the season, yet we watched as the Tiger offense was ground to a halt by a 250-pound grown man with a boo-boo.
Frankly, this has to stop, but the answer isn’t as simple as saying, “Hey, guys, don’t do that!” How do you gauge whether an injury is legitimate or not? The answer is, you can’t.
It’s obvious the honor system isn’t working. That’s a sad reality, but it’s the absolute truth. Still, something has to be done about this.
From an administrative perspective, the NCAA needs to concern itself with the integrity of the game. It’s one thing to try to equal out competitive advantages by forcing the offense to wait on defensive substitutions. It’s another thing entirely to use the convenience of an “injury” to simulate a timeout, both to rest tired players and to halt momentum.
But the main way this can be stopped is if coaches simply don’t do it. Brian Urlacher said it happened all the time when he was in the NFL—you know, like, last year—so this is a widespread problem. But Richt is now the poster child for flopping, much like Tyler Hansbrough and Shane Battier before him.
Georgia fans are ticked at Richt this week. Chances are doctors are too.
Sooner or later, someone will suffer an injury that requires a stretcher or a Gator and will be attended to as a chorus of boos rings out in Death Valley. We can add Mark Richt to the list of people to blame for fans thinking not all injuries are as serious as they appear to be.