When Hubby and I went to the Meet the Team Dinner a couple of weeks ago, Georgia's head coach came over to us and thanked us for being there. Hubby felt compelled to tell the coach, "She'll be there with y'all in Tuscaloosa."
I kind of expected some coachy reply like:
"Thanks for supporting us."
"You must be a true fan to drive 4 hours to a meet."
"Why don't you come down on the floor and help with the team?"
Not really on that last one.
What he ACTUALLY said to me, though, was: "Boy, you're brave."
It's not that gymnastics fan are especially hostile. We don't boo the other team when they march into the arena. We don't cheer when an opponent falls on an apparatus. We wait for the girl to remount the apparatus, and then we applaud her for continuing. (Even if inside we are SILENTLY saying, "Yes!")
Alabama's gymnastics team is the reigning national champion. And they're just darn good. And this was their home opener. And they have a tremendous fan following. That was what prompted Jay to tell me I was brave for venturing into that arena.
When I called to get tickets, I did request that they be with the (small number of) other Georgia fans. About halfway through the meet, Katydid and I finally spotted them - all the way across the Coliseum, in the OTHER dark corner. What part of WITH the other fans did the guy think I meant? He was very nice, but I guess he snickered when he hung up the phone. So not only were we in enemy territory, we were right there behind enemy lines. We didn't even cheer very loudly for OUR girls.
College gymnastics is a weird sport. (I'm considering writing a "College Gymnastics 101" blog post, if it won't send most of you screaming and tearing your hair out.) It's weird in that there is no defense. And while a winner is announced, wins and losses are irrelevant. Average scores are all that matter (and Regional Qualifying Scores when they start mid-season, but I won't get into THAT) when it comes time to rank teams. Teams don't compete against the same number of other teams. Heck, the other team doesn't even really have to BE there. You could compete in two different places and email the scores in. But I guess judges would be much more expensive that way.
The other thing I think is weird about college gymnastics, at least for the women, is that it's the only sport I can think of in which the athletes compete in full make-up and elaborate (for some) hair-dos.....and bare feet.
We didn't win Friday night, but we only lost by .15. And in the gymnastics world that is not noted as "fifteen hundredths of a point"; it's "a tenth and a half." The weirdities are adding up here.
I don't think anyone voiced it outright, but Georgia wasn't expected to compete that closely with the defending national champions. Our coach is in his third year (although he served as assistant for a legend for seventeen years, so he must know a thing or two), and we haven't replaced the superstars we graduated a few years ago. We still have some awesome talent, but expectations for the program aren't great. Personally, I LIKE it when popular opinion ignores us. I prefer flying under the radar. The pre-season coaches' poll had us listed at #9 (exactly where we finished last season), and following this weekend's competition we should move up to #6. Last weekend we posted the highest score in the country, but not everyone (including Alabama) had competed yet, so rankings don't start until this week. That's fine with me. If you're #1, there's only one way to go. And folks are gunning for you. I prefer they overlook us.
Not only did we keep it close Friday night (and we had a pretty darn good lead after two rotations, but floor exercise proved to be our nemesis again), but we posted a good road score. That's another thing about team calculations - three of your scores MUST be from away meets, so you want some of those to be high scores. I know, it's confusing.
Anyway, I'm glad we went to the meet in Tuscaloosa, but I'm not sure we will go back. It was uncomfortable sitting there in the middle of the other team's fans, and we could have watched it online. It will be two years before we compete there again, though, due to the every-other-year nature of the schedule, and I'm sure by then I will have forgotten how awkward it was. Because I'm a butthead that way.
Here are some Georgia highlights from Friday night:
We had a 9.9 on vault from Cat Hires, a sophomore who has been a powerful vaulter for two years but never could stick the landing. She's now had two sticks in a row. Good for her!
We had a 9.875 on vault from Kat Ding. She also had a 9.875 on bars, which is low for her. She's the reigning national champion on bars and had a 9.975 last week. She's had a 10 coming for two years, and this is her last year to get it.
We had a 9.95 on beam from Shayla Worley, who has found it impossible to live up to the enormous expectations laid out for her. One judge gave her a 10, and the other a 9.9. Still, we will take a 9.95 on the apparatus that is hardest (in my opinion) to get a 10 on.
We didn't have any stellar performances on floor exercise.
Alabama had a 10 and a 9.975 on vault. I told you they were good. If those two vaults hadn't been up there in the stratosphere, we might have held on for the win.
Now before you go accusing me of being the "fanatic" kind of fan who