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Complexities of The Sarah Fuller Story

In this episode, we talk about the week in sports and dig a little deeper into two stories: One national and one very local.

The Sarah Fuller story keeps coming, but there has been a fork in the road. The major media outlets continue to laud the history-making, glass shattering event while Twitter and Youtube contain plenty of amateur commentators happy to mock Vandy’s (alleged) publicity stunt.

The YouTubers and Twitter warriors claim that Sarah gave a halftime speech and that multiple Vanderbilt players opted out of playing Georgia due to Sarah’s role on the team.

As I said in last week’s podcast, I hate the story. To me, the beauty of sports is in the honesty of the competition. And my interest in the study of fandom is rooted in the honesty of the debates. Over the last several years, the world has changed, and discussion has been stifled. Debates like paying the players have become loaded issues that students may refuse to debate in class.

The Sarah Fuller event is such a story. Hence the strange coverage of congratulations and celebrations at ESPN and the New York Times versus anonymous or independent Internet commentators' mockery.

Sarah Fuller holds football helmet reading "Play Like A Girl."
Did The Sarah Fuller Story Cause Vanderbilt Opt-Outs?

One detail of the Fuller story caught my analyst’s eye. The reports that she made a halftime speech. I’ve seen lots of mockery of the speech. Why?

What is the point to a halftime speech? It is to inspire or change an outlook.

It is an attempt at persuasion.

So what is wrong with Sarah Fuller making a halftime speech?

Psychologists suggest that there are two paths to persuasion depending on the audience. Let’s say there are two types of individuals. The first type is highly involved. They are experts on the matter at hand. The second type is less involved. Maybe they do not care very much.

Remember, we are talking about the general topic of persuasion rather than football for the moment.

The first group, the involved experts, will only be persuaded by arguments that make sense. In the football context, a coach or team leader most effectively addresses this group by explaining how the team can overcome a bad first half through an improved strategy.

The second group, the non-experts, are persuaded by something other than detailed

arguments. Maybe the credibility of someone talking. Why do they use Tom Selleck to sell reverse mortgages to financial non-experts?

In which of these categories would a kicker that has never played a snap excel?


I don’t know if the speech happened. But if it did, someone at Vanderbilt should have known better. An SEC game isn’t a Disney movie.

We also take time to talk about the Savage Pads podcast. This conversation stems from something that Doug said to me off-air about how the podcast feels different based on how the Georgia Bulldogs are playing.

The key construct for this discussion (at least as I start the interview) is Hope.

Listen to the full podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher.



Mike Lewis 0:17

Okay, welcome, everyone. This is the fan analytics podcast with Mike Lewis of Emory University and Doug Battle also of Emory University. How are you today?

Doug Battle 1:04

I'm doing well. I thought this week's episode of the Mandalorian was the best yet so that helped to compensate for the fact that Georgia football game was cancelled because Vanderbilt had a number of players opt out over the Sarah fuller story.

Mike Lewis 1:04

Okay, I want to get back to that in a second. I am still efforting to catch up with you on the Mandalorian. I am almost done with season one. So you can kind of tell where I'm at. It is a fascinating show for someone that was a child of the 70s. I'll get I'll give you that much.That the episode I last watched has, I mean, it's great. It's all these kind of throwbacks to the the original series of movies. So I'm looking forward to catching up and sort of really digging into that last episode I actually watched had Bill Burr as a trigger man, which I thought was interesting.Which tells you exactly where I'm at in that series.

Doug Battle 1:22

Yeah, yeah. Well, you've got a lot to look forward to. I really, really like what they're doing. They're also the guy that directed this last episode, because there's a different director for almost every episode. And I'm a I'm a movie guy, but the the director when it was rolling the credits at the end was Robert Rodriguez, who I remember because I was a Spy Kids kid, was the director of the Spy Kids franchise that was and when I was a kid, like I thought he was like Steven Spielberg. Like I thought he was the goat with directing movies, because I thought those were the best movies in the world. So I was like, no surprise that he did a great job.

Mike Lewis 2:07

Okay, so I want to do today's episode a little bit different. I want to dig into want to dig into the Sarah fuller story. And I also want to spend some time talking about the savage pads podcast. But I want to say something that and I don't know what this statement really means at this point. But as I was watching ESPN this morning, they were previewing the big 10 ACC challenge. And I think I think this is 22 years of this, which is an interesting number kind of makes me feel my age. So this is a series that's been going on essentially your whole life, but it's something that still kind of seems new to me. And one of the games they previewed and this this statement you know, this is a personal thing, but I think it's important about just the notion of fandom number five, Illinois is playing number six Duke makes me question a lot you know in the past number five, Illinois playing number six Duke would have been my biggest sports story of the month, but somehow with the last few years of Illinois basketball and and I think there's even something more to it than if if I think about what that means if this Illinois team is ranked number five legitimate final for contender, but it does not feel like it's a team at the same level as the flying Illini or the Dee Brown Deron Williams teams.

Doug Battle 3:41

Yeah, well, first off might want to congratulate you on point for a team that's still in the hunt. I guess I technically am in that in that position with the New York Giants as their Super Bowl hopes are still alive. The lead leading the NFC less let's Yeah, let's worry about division championship.But yeah, college basketball to me has been over the years over the more recent years, it's felt like that it's felt like when I like when I was a kid I pulled for you and see. Tyler Haynes bro, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington. And I even went to UNC Tournament game a few years back. And it just it doesn't feel like the basketballs is good. It doesn't feel and I think it's because there's not a continuity. So from a branding sense, like yeah, you don't have the same players every year, which is tough. Because like I felt a connection to Tyler hands bro and Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson, whereas now it's like you got to learn a new group of names every single season just about for some of these elite programs. And then not having that continuity, obviously they don't play as well together. And that's the best teams in basketball. I mean, that's Duke and Kentucky and UNC the teams that they get the best players to be in that position. So, college basketball is a tough one. To me. Another thing about it, that has nothing to do with personnel is the fact that for these elite programs, I always am of the opinion that regular season games don't matter that much due to the nature of the NCAA tournament, because you look at a team like Duke going into a game against Illinois. Like Yeah, it's a it's a top 10 matchup no doubt, and that's exciting. But if, you know, it's, it might end up being the difference in getting a one seat or a two seed. But does it really matter? Like at the end of the day, all that matters for a team that's essentially guaranteed a spot in the tournament. That's just so talented, that they're definitely gonna win enough games to make the tournament. All the matters is those tournament games, they could go undefeated doesn't matter if they go lose round one. Or they could go you know, be a 13 seed, which really isn't possible, and make it to the Final Four. Okay, so I've got to object to something you said in there, you mostly talked about Duke and all that and the ramifications on their quest for a number one scene, maybe you didn't hear me. And number five, Illinois versus number six, I got to Okay, gotcha. I just I have to clarify that I was using Duke as the brand that I felt the audience would come on, you know, you know, and I guess what I'm getting at and all this is can you please help me build my excitement? You know, let me let me get back to this earlier era of living and dying with with with Illinois basketball, please. Thank you. Yeah, yeah, well, first off, they they kind of surprised me like they snuck up on me. I watched some of their first game. And I was like, wow, this this is Mike's team, and they're really good and like, I haven't heard a peep about them in a while. So it's it's one of those things where all you do hear about is teams like Duke and UNC even when on SportsCenter in the show and highlights like they definitely show every game of Duke and UNC highlights. Whereas a team like Illinois, you know, it's not a priority as much.

Mike Lewis 7:09

Well, I'm going to fire up the home theater and put the line I bass you know, been watching it from upstairs, but yeah, five versus six Duke. I'm gonna and unfortunately the game seems to be at Duke but I will fire up the big screen for this one. Okay, the other the other thing that the other event that I sort of love at the moment and it's kind of a guilty pleasure. you texted me and then I saw it also reported pretty widely. Logan, so sorry.

Unknown Speaker 0:01

analytics with Mike Lewis, the podcast where we talk about everything you need to know about sports analytics. here's your host, Mike lewis, marketing professor at Emory University.

Mike Lewis 7:40

Okay, one of the Paul brothers is going to fight Floyd Mayweather. This was February.

Doug Battle 7:50

Yes. 2021.

Mike Lewis 7:52

So we have our first marquee boxing match, our first marquee boxing match of 2021 on the schedule, and it is Floyd Mayweather vs. a YouTube star.

Doug Battle 8:07

Yeah, we talked about this last week like is this gonna be what becomes of boxing as far as is this gonna be what draws ratings and makes money and apparently to an extent Yes, at least for the near future. The interesting thing about it is everybody thinks it's a joke like people are like, Oh, this is this is a joke but most people I know want to watch the thing like they want to see at this point they want to see Logan Paul get knocked out by a real boxer. Well,

Mike Lewis 8:37

let me ask you this just Logan Paul play the villain in all these things.

Doug Battle 8:42

Here's the thing. I don't keep up with youtubers or I think I know I'm young, but I'm not that young. Like I'm not I'm not keeping up with guys that get famous off of you know, making little vlogs and things. Okay,

Mike Lewis 8:57

dealer, but sorry to interrupt you. Do you have a tick tock account?

Doug Battle 9:02

Not at the moment, although I will say

Mike Lewis 9:04


Doug Battle 9:05

I do have a Snapchat. Yes. I okay. Yeah. Yeah, but Logan Paul, I don't know that much amount of I know, there's been controversy. I know there's people that like on people that don't like them, tends to be like the formula for a good celebrity these days. But Mayweather has been the villain. We talked about this last week. Nobody likes Mayweather. So it's like you got Darth Vader versus the Joker in the ring. where it's like, yeah, one's actually powerful. And the other ones like just kind of a nuisance, but at the same time, and I don't want to I don't want to give either one of them. That kind of credit because I don't like I don't like them enough to compare him to Darth Vader. The Joker

Mike Lewis 9:49

guys are awesome. Okay, fair enough. Now, just go back to something you said. You did not have a tick tock account at the moment. Well,

Doug Battle 9:57

yeah, let me clarify there this week. In my girlfriend helped me move some things out of my apartment, where are my house where I've been living, where I've been leasing and it was a huge help because she has a vehicle that will carry more stuff. And so my mother told me, she said, When you're done, you need to do whatever she wants to do, because she's been a trooper. She's been a big help. And so I was like, Oh, awesome. And I mentioned that to her kind of jokingly. Well, next thing, you know, we're making essentially a tic Tock dance.

Mike Lewis 10:36

Okay, okay, so I'm gonna make a request here that when we when we put this

Doug Battle 10:43

when we put the article up for the podcast will include two images. One of it one of which will be a screenshot from the tic toc dance place. Mike, unfortunately, it's on my Instagram story, which disappears after 24 hours and so it is already coming, gone. That's the beauty of stories, the beauty of stories. It's not permanent.

Mike Lewis 11:07

Okay, so, moving ahead to sort of the core of this episode. Paul Mayweather is you know, it's great fun. So, you know, I've no idea given how he has been discussed and the fact that he was on this mike tyson card. I'm gonna guess that Logan Paul has followers in the 10s of millions. So

Doug Battle 11:32

let me correct you here. Logan Paul was not on the mike tyson card. Jake Paul was on the mike tyson card. Logan Paul got knocked out or lost to KSI. You remember this? We touched on this like yeah, months ago. So he's Jake, Paul's undefeated, I believe technically. And Logan Paul is not. He is the lesser younger brother. And he decided it would be a good idea to fight Floyd.

Mike Lewis 12:01

Okay, so let me restate no editing required on this. Paul, is I and I will just say Paul, who's from this moment forward? Probably has. Do you have any sense of the magnitude of his fan base and a million

Doug Battle 12:15

philic? I looked up his Instagram the other day and yeah, that's okay. Maybe? Yeah, I would say that's fair.

Mike Lewis 12:23

So the height machine is it's ready to go on this right you've got Mayweather he's gonna he's gonna generate all sorts of coverage. The the business model just works. You've got Mayweather appealing to the old school fight fans. And he's still probably the biggest name in boxing. He is the you know, he's he knows how to do the hype. He's going to talk trash for months now. Paul has a ready made audience where he can distribute this to a very different demographic. It it's a promotion that has a lot of the right ingredients. Now I think the frustration is that you ask the question of does this destroyed the credibility or the authenticity of boxing is, is this fight going to go nine rounds where Mayweather kind of plays with him for the first aid and then hits him a couple of times after he loses his legs, and the ref stops? It is a Tiki TKO right i mean that probably the likely outcome, something like that. Yeah, the fans are money.

Doug Battle 13:35

I've seen I have seen a few tweets of people saying if Floyd Mayweather gets knocked out by a YouTube sensation, or YouTube star I don't know if sensation is the right word for someone. He's just like, I think girls think He's good looking guys don't like them. That's kind of his thing.

Mike Lewis 13:53

It fully fill up a video of Floyd Mayweather working a heavy bag. He's not going to be not

Doug Battle 13:58

Oh, I know. I know that. And I'm saying like the intrigue to a lot of people. My age is like, oh, what if he got knocked out by this kid? But it's like saying, What if you put me out on the court with with LeBron James and I dumped on them? You know, it's, it's like, Yeah, that'd be awesome. The problem is, yeah, I play basketball, too, or I played in my day. Yeah. You know, but it's, it's just people understand the difference in athletes as far as the elite professionals as opposed to amateurs. I'm not going to dunk on LeBron Logan. Paul's not going to knock out Mayweather. Mayweather is going to do what he wants. So it's like if he wants it to be a eight round fight. Like he can do that. We've talked about it before. He's a defensive boxer. So we might just watched him dodge punches for eight rounds, or however many rounds he wants it to be before he in things it's a you know, it's an exhibition event. So I don't know how seriously he actually takes it. I know though that he will make a show out of it, that he will talk smack that he will stick his nose right next to Logan Paul's when they do their little photo and weigh ins or whatnot. But I also know that if it'll be at his will, it'll be like LeBron James versus me a basketball like if he wants to dunk on me the first point if we're playing a 21, he'll do it. If he wants to make it a game, he'll do that also. So it's kind of in Floyd Mayweather. There's it's kind of up to him in that sense.

Mike Lewis 15:35

Okay, so this word that, like I said, comes to my mind when we think about this fight, and look, subject to the hype to like, I want to see it. I want to see Floyd Mayweather, Floyd Mayweather put Paul down, that this word of authenticity, and this this has been a kind of a key thought in my head for the last week is the Sarah fuller coverage continued last week I went off, or didn't really go off, but sort of talked about how I hate the story. And so the story has evolved in an interesting way. And an interesting kind of 2020 way. In that there is still all sorts of glowing media coverage. I think she was at the Titans game. I've seen New York Times articles, ESPN articles. So there, there is still this narrative that is out there that she has broken a glass ceiling that this is inspirational, etc, etc. In parallel to that looking at things on Twitter or on YouTube, there is a there's a counter narrative going on, which is that this was pure hype. And that it was sort of a bit of a joke. So you've got this kind of, again, the sort of the strangeness of the media environment where kind of the official, the mainstream, the folks with the really big platforms are endlessly praising this, this event. And the other side of it is endlessly trashing the event. Now, the one thing that sort of stuck with me, in all this was the reports that she delivered a halftime speech. Have you seen that?

Doug Battle 17:19

Yes, I am actually like I followed it pretty closely this week, because as a Georgia fan, it felt as though our game was contingent upon enough Vanderbilt players wanting to play. So I needed to kind of know if we were gonna have a game and even for my podcast, it was like, do we make an episode? Or do we assume there won't be a game because of this whole Sarah fuller thing? And what's going on with the players at Vanderbilt?

Mike Lewis 17:42

Okay, so you alluded to it earlier on. So there were reports? I can't find any official reports that players opted out. Yeah, it was due to Sarah Fuller, I've seen a lot that players opted out.

Doug Battle 17:53

Right. The due to Sarah fuller part was Twitter reporting. But it wasn't by fans, it was by reporters on Twitter and even on some of the fan forums, but by the reporters who post those articles, and so it was on the paid sites, it was not in the mainstream media was not a really a public story in that sense. And I don't know. Yeah, it's one of those things. I don't know, I don't know any of the Vanderbilt players. I don't know if that's why I would suspect based on the facts, the nature of the story and the situation of Vanderbilt that there are a number of factors. And that certainly is a contributing factor that that had something to do with it. There's also the fact that variables coach was fired last week. So you got these guys that are recruited to play for this man and the team, you know, the school has no allegiance to him. And so they feel like they have no allegiance to the school. And then you have this whole situation with Sara fooler. where maybe she was brought in like, like Derrick Mason was saying, because students were sent home for Thanksgiving. They had to do someone that had essentially been in the COVID bubble because of the COVID outbreak there. They had to look, you know, there's not a men's soccer team, and I got creative got a girl from the girls soccer team. Again, this is a story. This isn't my opinion on what happened. And so maybe that was what happened and she played and players felt disrespected by I mean, I saw articles along the lines of like, this is what Vanderbilt was missing. Like she gave this halftime speech telling them they needed to be more peppy on the sideline, and players. This is you know, Vanderbilt's football players don't have any leadership and she's the leader that they needed and things like that and I could definitely see guys being like, no, but they're making us look like losers to to hype up this girl. You know, she got sec player, the SEC, special teams Player of the Week and all she did was kick a squib kick, which was obviously kind of a handout of a award. And it's weird that I have to hesitate to say that because it's, it's just obvious. And it is what it is. It's, you know, for if you're saying, Let's be equal here and treat people equally. And then you give one person award, an award just for being out there, and no one else and, and you're kind of demeaning the rest of the team, because of this one player. And the fact that this one player is a different gender than the rest of the team, I think, certainly, I could understand some players on that team feeling like, Hey, this is not a good situation. This isn't what I signed up for, especially without coach being here. And I'm an opt out. So I think we'll find out though, because, like, they rescheduled that game, so the seasons not over for Vanderbilt. So it's like they got to have enough players to play play a game. And we don't know at the moment, if they will, like, even when everyone's back from COVID, if they've had enough people opt out, not to mention they're playing a top 10 team in Georgia, that's gonna whack them almost, undoubtedly.

Mike Lewis 21:15

Well, okay, so the thing that stuck with me in this whole story now in you've kind of, you've kind of alluded to it indirectly, in terms of your description of what happened and I think your description what happened is probably dead on in terms of the feelings of the players. Yeah. I when people study, but this sort of the analysts, my feeling that caught my analytical eye and all this and you know, in for you budding sports analytics folks out there. Sometimes it's, it's helpful to go beyond just the math be more than a statistician know more than Python and the latest machine learning algorithm to actually understand the psychology of what is driving a lot of a lot of what we see in sports. And so in this case, the way you describe that is there seems to almost have been kind of an effort to use her to create a story, an inspirational story for the Vanderbilt football team, right? That you're going to bring her in. She's going to give this speech at halftime, everyone's going to get fired up. And you know, it's like a Disney movie, right? You Yeah, you thought you find this, you find this kicker on a woman's team, you bring her in, everyone's fired up, and now Vanderbilt is gonna run the table. Okay, no, not not so much. And so then the question is, why does this effort at the key word for this? Why does this effort of persuasion fail? persuasion tends to happen along sort of one of two paths. So one path is the idea of, and I'm going to do this kind of briefly, one path is the idea of source credibility. The other path is based on expertise. And it really depends on who the audience is. And so the idea of expertise might be that the person giving the halftime speech is a football expert. And they're going into the details of, you know, we might be down but we've looked at how they are, you know, the zone coverages are playing and we have a plan to, to beat this team. Okay. And that's for the, as you might expect, sort of the the people with a lot of knowledge of the game, kind of the football PhDs, the analytical football players that can understand that and move forward. The other side of it, you know, as I was trying to think of their right example, and I came up with the idea of, well, why do they use Tom Selleck to sell reverse mortgages to older folks? Well, do you know who Tom?

Doug Battle 23:56

It would have? I would, I would be better at answering this question. If I knew Tom Selleck yours.

Mike Lewis 24:01

So Tom Selleck was Magnum and Tom Selleck has been an I don't know, some show about Boston cops called Blue Bloods. So he is someone that has been on the television screen of the people he's selling to for decades. So he's a trusted figure. He has source credibility. And so for, let's say, the the low knowledge or the low involvement kind of audience, the key to persuasion is having someone with credibility. Okay. Does Sara fuller fit either of those paths?

Doug Battle 24:34

Now? She does not. And that's it. That's a huge issue clearly for further Vanderbilt players. Looking at it, I don't see here's my thing. I my personal opinion, is I don't think these players would be quitting the team or opting out of the season. It's the same thing to me. If If Sarah fuller came in kicked your squid kick, did her best helps, you know tried to contribute as best she could for a week until they could fill a position. And that was that it's it's the whole hoopla around it. It's her getting the postgame interview after a 40 plus point loss. And speaking as if something great had been accomplished. It's her giving a halftime speech and people reporting as if, if only the rest of the team had the courage she had and the leadership she had, they would have won the game or something along those lines. It's the way it's being covered and the hoopla surrounding it. And so I think, I think her stepping into that position, I again, I don't really have a criticism of her like trying to be a leader. I personally wouldn't have done it. But I understand that she is a leader in her sport. And she's used to doing that kind of thing. And that's what she felt like, where she could contribute to the team. But again, it's it's the storylines that are being portrayed. And the way the rest of these players are kind of, it's like this team of losers where they brought in a girl to show them how it's done. And that's how, how it's being how the story is being written. And they're like, no, we're not a team of losers. That's not how this works. And like, we're not gonna play along with this.

Mike Lewis 26:21

Can I make a point? I've seen that movie, it was called Little Giants.

Doug Battle 26:26

Yeah, I've seen it, it was called Air Bud. And you have the dog. The dog came in and was the one that got everybody. Okay.

Mike Lewis 26:35

But I think, you know, we're totally in sync on this. And so, you know, part of the issue in this, it's come back to this lack of authenticity in terms of the realness of what the coverage is about. Because it's almost the equivalent of if after the the the fight between Mayweather and Paul was scheduled, if somehow Paul ended up on ESPN or ring magazine, or one of the other pound for pound lists, right that suddenly Paul was ranked in the top 10. In whatever weight class these guys are fighting, you know, and I don't think there's a weight class in something like that, that if suddenly the New York Times and ESPN and sports illustrated in the Washington Post, we're writing glowing articles about Logan Paul and making him out to be a legitimate contender

Doug Battle 27:28

for the 2020 boxer the year. Yeah, after losing this KSI, who's a fellow YouTube star apparently, I don't really know who that is. But I read that name several times.

Mike Lewis 27:39

But yeah, but at the end of the day, the the Sarah fuller story lacks some authenticity in that is kind of a killer for sports moving forward, if you want to be if you want to be taken seriously. Yeah.

Doug Battle 27:54

So my favorite thing about the Sarah fuller story is the fact that it was covered as a hero heroic story, up until she played after she played, it was spun in that way, even though there wasn't that turnaround after the halftime speech, and there wasn't that kick that changed the game, or that field goal that finally put points on the board or even won the game. There was none of that none of those things that storyline needed to be that movie storyline. And it was still covered as if that were the case. Everyone just kind of went along and pretended as if something along those lines had happen. And the reality is, apparently, and again, this is something that has been reported by legitimate reporters on things like Twitter and on paid rival sites and sports forums. But there have not been public articles about at least not many. Apparently, this is something that led to division on the team that ended up costing them a game as far as a game that could have been played by seniors and one of their last games as a team and as a college football player. And so that is not being reported. It's like it was kind of the story was kind of dropped. As soon as the heroic storyline. It's like we kind of, we kind of covered it to that point. And when we realized it might backfire. We weren't going to cover the backfire. That's kind of how I feel it's been treated. And I think it'll continue to be a story because this is a team that's going to return to the field. If she's not on that team. There's the one story where you've got a group of men who refuse to play with a girl and forced her off the team and it's a whole you know, sexism still alive storyline. And on the flip side, if she goes out there and plays and there's enough guys that play then we start to question Okay, were these OPT outs truly due to her or were they due to COVID? You know, guys that have been out with COVID the fact that the coaches and they Things of that nature. And so well, I mean, we'll find out the truth and that sense down the road. It's just it's just interesting to me that it's like it's only going to be covered. If, if it's one way and if it's not like it's it's a no go.

Mike Lewis 30:14

And I think that's a good summary. That's I mean, that's kind of I think both of our that's at least my frustration. I won't speak for anyone on this. Yeah. Is that it seems like there is a there's a train rolling on this narrative. And they're going to keep running with it, regardless of what reality looks like.

Doug Battle 30:31


Mike Lewis 30:32

Okay. The last thing I want to do today is I want to talk to you when I almost switch to interview mode here and talk a little bit about what I want to talk about your podcast in sort of, you know, what it's been like to run a well as a starting point. So what is your podcast? And what exactly do you cover? Yeah, on your.

Doug Battle 30:56

So it's called the savage pads podcast, people that aren't Georgia fans always like what the what the savage pads are the celebratory pads like the Georgia turnover chain, essentially, that the players put on their shoulders after forcing a turnover. The first season they started doing that was the 2017 season, when Georgia made the Rose Bowl. Most Georgia fans favorite season in their lifetimes. As far as fans my age, I was a student, I was a member of the spike squad, we actually we, it's a group of students that paint up and they wear those pads every game, but they actually the team adopted that from the students. And so it was kind of the connection between the students and the players in my mind. And so I named the I named the pocket or between the fans and the players. I named the podcast, the savage pads podcast because this is a podcast where we're connecting the fans and the players, the people who follow the team intensely or have just as much weight as the people who contribute to the team or have contributed to the team. But both are voices. And both are very important. And so every week we'll have on and I say we it's it's just me, every week I'll have on Georgia fans but also have on famous players such as David Pollock from ESPN or some guys in the NFL. mccole Hardman at Thomas Davis, Benjamin Watson, guys of that nature, and we will discuss all things Georgia football with players, we'll discuss their careers. We'll also discuss games coming up. Many of them are fans at this point. And again, it's that connection between fans and players, where the players, when they're not players anymore, become fans. And it's like they're one of us now. And that's something that comes up almost every episode is the fact that they're like, Man watching these games on TV, I now see everyone's as crazy as they are. So that's the podcast. And that's what I've been doing. And obviously in the COVID year, it's been a really interesting situation with lots of ups and downs AS FAR AS numbers and as far as sponsors and all the rest.

Mike Lewis 32:58

Well, let me let me interject something missed for a second. So this is this is one of the reasons why brought you into the Phantom clitics fold, right? In some ways. What I do is it's a very analytical look at sports fandom. And what you do is kind of a more of a real world look at it. You know, in some ways I'm doing I'm studying fandom as a statistician or as a psychologist, you're studying it as an anthropologist or as a journalist in a way in the year, you're living with the tribe of Georgia sports fans. So you've been running the show for how many years now? This

Doug Battle 33:40

is my third season. So I started the year after I graduated, I wanted to I wanted to stay connected to football in some capacity.

Mike Lewis 33:51

Yeah, I'll tell you a living down here in Georgia. Just One of the fascinating things to me is the absolute love and passion Georgia fans have for their institution that it seems like every once in a while you you hear like students almost getting a master's degree because they want another year of football

Doug Battle 34:08

an amazing fan. Yeah, I have quite a few friends that have done that. There's also the victory lap, which is the year five students who maybe should have graduated in four years and spaced out classes a little bit and took maybe just enough hours to be a full time student but not quite enough to graduate in order to get that extra football season in which financially makes no sense. It makes a lot more sense to just buy football tickets, but especially people on scholarships, they they definitely like to stretch it out and be there as long as they can and and go to the football games for free as long as they can.

Mike Lewis 34:46

So just to set context, how is the you know, for for those out there that do not follow the Bulldogs as passionately as yourself. The last three seasons How is Georgia done one of the seasons looked like

Doug Battle 35:00

So, relative to Georgia's history in my lifetime relative to the last 24 years of Georgia football, they've been three of like this three year stretch has probably been among the greatest three year stretches when you look at wins and losses, bowl appearances in the caliber of all games that are being played, the number of top 25 teams that are being beaten in the record against top 25 opponents as well as record against conference opponents and division opponents. So it's been a successful run in that sense. However, when I started the show, we were coming off a national championship appearance and the sentiment among Georgia fans was that Georgia wasn't going anywhere that we were, you know, we lost a game we felt like we should have won a national championship. We had the number one recruiting class coming in, we had Justin fields coming in and it's like, Wow, you look at this same team, you add a guy like Justin fields and a couple years, keep getting they've had number one recruiting class every year after on the podcast.

Mike Lewis 36:07

So So you started the show, in what was supposed to be a relatively down year.

Doug Battle 36:13

Well, I wouldn't say that because you got a team coming off a national championship appearance right got a returning quarterback turning offensive line. They did lose Nick Chubb and Sony Michelle. But again, they had DeAndre swift and Elijah Holyfield, still two NFL running backs, and then defensively is where they lost the most. But that's also where the coaching is strongest. And I certainly think that that defense was fine. And I mean, that team almost made the playoffs, they they lost in a heartbreak and SEC championship where they blew a double digit lead in the fourth quarter. And so it wasn't a down year.

Mike Lewis 36:49

Well, down years relative,

Doug Battle 36:51

right. It was down, it was better than every year, except the year before it and so it felt like a down year. But other than that year, it was a great year.

Mike Lewis 37:02

Well, what was the what's the general expectation versus the actual performance? Maybe

Doug Battle 37:07

we're looking I mean, definitely expectation after 2017. In the 2018, national championship game was, Georgia is going to be back they're going to be a Clemson and Alabama, they're going to be in the playoff every year. And at some point when you're in the playoffs every year at some point, whether you have the reputation of blowing it or not, because Clemson used to have that reputation at some point, especially when you have the talent Georgia has you catch a break, and you win one you get over the hump and college sports success breeds success. And so that 2017 December 2017 season felt like us getting over the hump as far as now we're getting number one classes. Now we're in a position where success breeds success. we're attracting when we lose coaches, you know, we're attracting really good coordinators, we're, you know, we're gonna be at Bama that was kind of the fan bases mindset going into it. And so even that next year is like we made the SEC championship game. And we we blew a game against an Alabama team that went on to make the national championship. And so it felt like we were there. But it's like it's gotten slightly worse every year as far as Georgia's output to the point where there are some fans now and some fans, this is not the majority opinion. There are some fans that think that the current head coach is never going to get it done. But he's never gonna get over that hump.

Mike Lewis 38:28

Okay, so what is the what is the arc look like? So you started the podcast after sort of a I don't want to say historical high or even to me, maybe the historical high for Georgia football is Herschel Walker winning a national championship. But in the recent modern era in the modern in the recent era, what's been the arc of the podcast relative to the Ark? I get what you're saying in terms of how the fan base has evolved from it's very quick it's a very quick process to go from we're up and coming to we are going to be the dominant next Alabama to starting to you know I would guess you got some Yahoo's that want the coach moved on, you know, the want to move on from the most successful Georgia coach since Vince Dooley perhaps. And so what is the arc of the podcast look like compared to the arc of the team?

Doug Battle 39:24

Yeah, it's really like on a weekly basis, so for the season to season like honestly, it's grown because I've grown the show like I started from scratch and you know, my first guest, we're fans were guys that painted up or that were well known for, for their fandom. And kind of slowly started bringing on players and then bigger players and bigger players. And so like, the one sense it's like, the bigger the guests, the bigger the audience and it definitely like that, right? Flex with when I'm reaching out trying to get someone to, you know, support the show, to sponsor in return for me promoting their business, they know that, you know, when Thomas Davis or Benjamin Watson's coming on, like they're gonna get their money's worth, or is if it's someone lesser known and a national scale, they're more hesitant to so it's a lot easier and their senses but the biggest thing is whether Georgia's in a position to win a national championship or when they control their own destiny, the moment they don't control their own destiny. The numbers drastically drop every season, in the unfortunate where Georgia's control their destiny for the majority of the season, all three seasons. But this year, for example, on Georgia last to Florida, they were essentially eliminated from the playoff at that point. And it's like for me, it was kind of a weird Spock's we got four games left. And that's what anyone wants to hear about they I mean, that's kind of what the show's been about is like, Alright, what, what's it going to take? And now it's like we're a year away, at least. And so that's where it's, it's dropped off the most. And again, that's been consistent from year to year. But this year is different, because Georgia is not a position. Last year, everyone knew Georgia wasn't going to do it. But we were still in a position or technically it was like, Well, if we beat LSU, and SEC championship, we're going to the playoffs this year, there is no championship for Georgia.

Mike Lewis 41:24

Let me let me sort of break this into two pieces. Because I definitely want to talk about this this last year. So what I'm hearing, is that the show, okay, so there's probably multiple things going on with the show. And I think these are all important in terms of this underlying lessons about fandom that the show is growing over time, right? As you get more established, the savage pads brand is better known and it grows. Right. That, and then when you have a key guest, a famous guest, someone with a big brand, you also see a spike on that episode. Yeah. But beyond that, it sounds like there's a trend that as long as Georgia's competing when Georgia is on sort of the upswing in terms of the college football power rankings, that the audience almost grows from week to week. And then if somehow you drop out of contention, then you see a step function where interest drops. Yes. Is that a fair way to look at? Yeah,

Doug Battle 42:25

absolutely. I think that's, I think that's very fair, I think with like bringing on guests, and you mentioned their brands, and there's their spikes, but there is some I mean, there's a number of people every time that they're listening to the podcast to listen to Benjamin Watson speak. And then they're like, wow, I really liked this podcast. I'm gonna start listening to this every week, I'm going to subscribe. And so yeah, it's growing every week, in part because of the guests. But like you said, there's that step function drop when Georgia is out of contention. And it's pretty significant. And it it's like, it's no different than, you know, in the office place by the water cooler. At the beginning of the football season. Everyone's talking about their team. Everyone's saying, Yeah, like, we got this quarterback, you know, we got this transfer kid coming in, we got this and as freshmen that's really going to change things for us. And man, we got this new coordinator on this side of the ball, you hear from every fan base, and in the sec at least. And as the season goes on, it gets to where like you hardly hear anything from anybody because they're not excited. And they don't, they're just like, yeah, at this point, it's not worth investing my time and energy into because there's only so far they can go. And it doesn't even match like there as far as they can go doesn't match my preseason expectations for the team, or hopes for the team. So it's already a loss. You know, it's a lost season in the eyes of a lot of fans.

Mike Lewis 43:50

And the word that comes to mind as you go through that is hope and hope is when hope is growing. The audience grows when hope is dashed. Well, some people take a step back.

Doug Battle 44:01

Yeah, no, it's all it's all about hope that is probably the best way to summarize it. Because like I said, even last year, Georgia was not very good. They were a one loss team. And they were technically in control their own destiny going into the latter half of the season. And going into the LSU game where you had Joe burrow and an offense that had historically great output going up against Georgia defense that have been good, but a Georgia offense that couldn't do anything against anybody. It seemed. And Georgia fans felt like, hey, wait, you know, we've got a chance and like, I'm gonna spend $300 to go to this game and I'm gonna listen to every Georgia podcast this week to kind of get in my head all the different ways we could win the game and and kind of foster that hope people love to foster hope. I have learned that as well. As far as speaking on the team. Nobody wants to hear I'll get criticized on social media, if I'm being a realist, as far as like, you know, after like last season, for example, if I had said, Everyone knows this Georgia team isn't going to do it, people would have called me out for not being a real fan. And that happens to a guy like David Pollock all the time, who is truly a fan and who is truly, somewhat biased to Georgia when you hear him speak. But a lot of Georgia fans hate him, because he'll say things like that, because he's a realist, and he understands what's going on. But if you're not fostering hope, you're taking off a chunk of the fan base. And it's like, they want hope, honestly, it's more fun to to have hope and to, to convince yourself that your team can do it, and that this could be the year. And so it's it is a funny situation, when all the sudden hope is is off the table. And you have to face the facts. And people don't like it, and people don't want to hear it.

Mike Lewis 45:57

Well, it's, it is a funny, funny situation, right? Sometimes when you're having that discussion about hope it makes me think about my online eye. And sometimes hope becomes this very kind of perverted situation where you're almost hoping there's a defeat, so you can move on to the next coach. So let me let me ask you one last question on all this. So what's your and I'll make this excessively vague. You know, this last season has been a weird one in terms of fandom. So maybe something from this this past year, but what have you learned in maybe you've already answered this point, the importance of hope, but anything else that you've learned about fandom, and maybe it's nothing you think directly about, but now after doing this show for a while, anything you have learned about fandom and how it works over the course of the last three years, I think

Doug Battle 46:49

doing this show. And also doing my other show has given me a new perspective, as far as like, I view it as a fan of man as a brand and

Mike Lewis 47:02

all the rest. I hope I'm not wrecking it for No, you're not

Doug Battle 47:05

you're not it's just that like I didn't think of the Georgia fan base in a certain way before as I do now. But I mean, like we said that I think the biggest thing is hope. And it's like people want to drink the kool aid in a sense they want, they want to just hear why their team is the best. I mean, it's the same as Fox News and CNN. It's like not everybody wants to hear what they want to believe whether it's true or not, they want to hear what they want to believe. And it's the same with fan bases and sports. So we've we've again, we've drawn that parallel between political followings followings in sports fandoms. And I think this is another case or another, you know, area where that's the case. Something else as far as the Georgia fan base, and tying that into fandom is the I guess, I mean, the financial side of it's super interesting. As far as like, I've seen the businesses like I've seen, you know, the sponsors I work with or try to work with sometimes, who, like, they make a ton of money when Georgia is doing well. And they don't make any money when Georgia is not doing well. And looking, especially during COVID, the number of businesses that have been hit by people that maybe sponsored in the past that are like, Hey, we're in a spot where we like we can't spend any money, like we're trying to stay in business. In when I mean, I get the sense that there's a lot of businesses that are that are not because of COVID, but also because of Georgia not meeting their expectations and things of that nature. So it's definitely like, as much as like, you want to always think our, my fan base is the best fan base and we support our team win or lose. There's definitely that there's always a huge chunk of fans that are super involved when the team is winning, and couldn't care less. And you're not even watching the games or keeping up with it or knowing the players names when the team is is not meeting their expectations. And so I think that's something that just looking at your like fandom studies and seeing the correlation. I will say this, again, I think hope is the biggest thing. We've talked about championships, and how having a winning history is a huge way to have a big brand, you know, team and fan base is a team like Georgia doesn't have the championships. They've got one. They've got one. I mean, they've got less than Georgia Tech down the road. They've got less than quite a few schools. And yet I think Georgia arguably has the the most passionate fan base. I mean, there's certainly a top five top 10 fan base in college football, and it's less about the past and more about what you know the hope for what can be done in the Everyone feels like we should be an Alabama we have all these resources. And it's just a matter of time we're sleeping giant. And like there's this like perennial hope, every season that this is going to be the year or even at this point like on the show people want to talk about, you know, next year and talk about well, we got this quarterback now and you know, what could he do and, and so it's, it's hope is the theme of this episode. But and I'm not just saying this because of that. It's truly what unites the Georgia fan base and what drives some of the craziness that you see from sports fans.

Mike Lewis 50:38

Okay, I think that's a, you know, I'm gonna add one other word to it. This is the hope and authenticity episode. Look, I like what you said because it it's also clear that as you talk about Georgia football that your passion truly comes out and all this so nice. Um, I think not very nice. Very nice summary. Okay, so as we wrap up this week, anything you're looking forward to just want to throw out a go dogs.

Doug Battle 51:06

Yeah, we got a Georgia game that was postponed earlier in the season. Oh, here's another thing that puts me in a weird spot. So I do an episode for Georgia, Missouri and Georgia Vanderbilt, like I do a whole episode like this, where we talk about the game, talking about last week's game, etc. And then the game gets canceled. And then it gets postponed to a later date. And I'm like, Okay, do I do this again? About the same game? Or do I repost the old episode even though there's a little bit of new information since then, as far as players that are available or whatnot. It's It's a weird, weird season to be like covering a team, specifically, and so yeah, there's the Georgia game this week. I think Mandalorians great right now. So those are my two things this week. NBA is sneaking up on us, which is wild, but it's right around the corner. So that's something else that you know me. I'm pretty excited about. So go dogs. Go baby Yoda and go basketball.

Mike Lewis 52:15

And I'll end this by saying you know, if you've ever rooted against Duke hit the subscribe button. Go Illini!


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