Deacon Board for the Church of Tailgate
March 11, 2020

The Athletic's Seth Emerson: The Storyteller of Georgia Football

The Athletic's Seth Emerson: The Storyteller of Georgia Football

The Athletic's Seth Emerson joins Herschel and Boss to bark about:

- His journey to becoming a sportswriter, from D.C. and the University of Maryland to the Deep South
- What a typical gameday looks like for him
- His thoughts on the differences between the program under Mark Richt and the program under Kirby Smart
- His thoughts on Athens compared with other SEC towns
- His memories from the 2017 season, notably the Dawgvasions at Notre Dame and the Rose Bowl
- His candid answers to The Smart 16

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Seth Emerson Interview


Welcome to the blog, the dogs podcast. I'm Herschel Gurley here as always with my co host boss, dog. bosshard two people.



Welcome back, everyone. Hope you all are just as excited about the Scott Cochran news as we are. But we have something really special for y'all today. We had a chance to interview Seth Emerson of the athletic Seth was gracious enough to take some time to speak with us about all things dogs, so we hope you all enjoy the interview.



Yeah, Seth was great. He took some time to spend with us. And if you're a dogs fan, and you are not starting your day, reading his articles and consuming his podcast, please make sure and do that his work is fantastic. It has been fantastic for over a decade. He provided some of the great insights with us during the interview that he that he does, and all of his articles. So we are excited for y'all to hear it. And without further ado, Seth Emerson from the athletic. We are excited today to have the athletics Seth Emerson with us if you follow Georgia at all, follow the program all in you are obviously familiar with Seth work, we will take this moment to to plug if you are not a member of the athletic, I don't know what you're doing. It's the first thing that we read in the morning, and Seth has the best stuff. So please get on there. subscribe, follow him follow all that he does. Seth has covered the dogs for over a decade currently with the athletic with previous stops with the Atlanta Journal Constitution and dog nation. The Macon Telegraph and the Albany Herald. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland, and prior to that has also worked for the state and also at the Washington Post. So Seth, welcome the program. Pleasure to be here. Well, Seth, we wanted to have you on today, because you essentially are the the storyteller for Georgia football. For a lot of people, you're the person in inside the gates that give everybody the stories of the team, the background of certain players, all these type things. So we just kind of want to give you an opportunity to tell your story. So if you could just tell us a little bit about your background, how you came to sports journalism and your path Athens, that'd be great. Yeah,



I mean, it's, I've been in this too long, so I have to condense it down. But I'm one of those people who knew what he wanted to do. Starting back in high school, wanted to be a sports writer. So I went to college for journalism, and kind of just went from there. Like you said, my first kind of sort of real job was at the Washington Post. I was there for four years, basically, covering high schools, small colleges, stuff like that, and then moved to the deep south in Albany, Georgia 2002. And kind of thought I would be there for a little bit and then work my way back to DC instead, I've been in the deep south since then, and become a college football reporter, which I didn't ever see for myself back then. But it's worked out pretty well.



Now set to I know, you spoken in the past in the podcast about your family's background, I believe, you know, family background in public service, and I'm pretty sure you originate from the DC area. How What led you to that to the sports field? And and do you get new ribbon from your family at Thanksgiving dinners and things of that nature?



Not ribbing? Like they still people don't really know what it is I do. They're they especially don't really know much about sec football, college football in general, because the DC Baltimore area isn't really known for it. And, you know, even my wife's family, you know, I'm married to a non sports fan. So, and I don't even go back home for for Thanksgiving or Christmas very much anymore, kind of, you know, lodged down here during football season. So it makes it interesting. It actually it's a it's good humility, because I kind of think that I'm a big deal down here. And then I go back home and nobody knows who the hell I am.



That's great. So now if I did the math, right, you graduated from Maryland when 9798 9898 so you, you were there, Joe Smith years, right?



That is correct. And good reference. Joe Smith's sophomore year, was my freshman year at Maryland.



How was that? I mean, he was I so Boston. I both grew up in Virginia and I grew up watching ACC basketball. And at the time UVA had Harold Dean Curtis staples Jr. burrow. And you know, the ACC was just so packed them But Joe Smith was a revelation even amongst all that talent, so I have to imagine it was awesome at Caulfield house.



Yeah, that was those were glory years. It was there's a relationship from pointing this out from Maryland basketball to Georgia football where they could never break through. They started this Joe Smith years, they went to the sweet 16 a lot but couldn't ever get to the Final Four. And then once they got to the Final Four they they wanted the next year. So yeah, you kind of got used to covering a program that people said wasn't fulfilling its potential.



Yeah. So you've been covering the dogs for a little over a decade now. So could you speak a little bit about how things have changed just over that time frame? And if you don't mind just a little bit of how the cultures change between the rector's and the Kirby errs?



Well, I mean, how long do we have? You know, when when you got here, I mean, you know, Rick and Kirby have more in common than people think. But from my standpoint, covering the program from a reporter standpoint is totally different. You get to talk to less players, you pretty much only get to talk to one coach that being the head coach, there's just an overall feeling around the program of and this is kind of the stabilization to where I don't want to say they like demonize reporters, but it's definitely more insular. It's different, but you still find things to write about. It's a challenge. I think it makes you better as a reporter and makes you better as a writer to find different things off the beaten path rather than just kind of being served the same thing and doing the kind of pack journalism thing. I'd still rather have more access more players to talk to more coaches to talk to, but you know, we make do with with what we can and the culture around the program overall, is just it's changed a lot. And there was this sense under Richt. He did want to win a national championship. He did want to do what he needed to take, but but he didn't want to do everything. You know, he thought there. Look, there are limits, you know, relationships were so important to him, the well being of his players and everything. And I'm not saying that that's not important to Kirby either. There are different ways to do it. I mean, there's an argument to be said that Dabo Swinney is doing at Clemson what Mark Richt wanted to do at Georgia, but Dabo is doing it with finances and resources that Margaret was never given. So that's one way to look at it. But definitely the feeling and the culture around the program change diametrically once Kirby got here. Do you



feel like to that, from an administrative perspective? Obviously, there was a shift in administration from Coach Rick's time there. And now Coach smartstart I mean, I think that kind of gets undersold with how much that has to do with things do you think part of it's kind of been a symbiosis between Kirby smart arriving and also the athletic department being at the right place environmentally, to make the changes in the growth that it's made? Yeah,



it's a couple things like one thing. Michael Adams left in 2013, Jere Morehead came in, and there's some people who disagree with this, but there's some people who say, look, the financial coffers were loosened. Once Morehead came in, I'm not sure I buy that completely. But you did start to see some things change. Starting after that. It may have just been coincidence. That's also when Jeremy Pruitt arrived and Jeremy Pruitt starts pushing, Rick to go public a little bit with stuff like Jeremy Pruitt's infamous indoor facility, press calm not press conference, but press session, which I was a part of. But I think the most important thing is when Kirby was hired, you've got an administration that is invested in him having success and we'll listen to him more. And so Kirby says I need this and so they say okay, let's let's move towards that. Now. They still don't move as quickly as they probably did it Alabama for Saban when he first got there, what they do it most of the SEC West schools, but they definitely move a lot more than they did when Rick was here.



So I think from the outside looking in fans probably generally see, you know, covering sports as a journalist is is a sexy profession, right? They get to see all the games be at the practices, they essentially get to do all the things fans dream of doing. But we're all pretty aware that it's more than that. It's a grind for you guys, and you have long hours and all these type things. Could you tell us what game day generally looks like for you?



Let's say the game's at 330, just the mid number, I will get to the press box around noon, or 1230. And before in my former job with the AJC in the making telegraph where it was all about, like write everything, I would immediately throw up a pregame blog. Now it's just a matter of tweeting, but you get to the press box. In large part you get there early because you want to make sure you're leaving yourself enough time that traffic is bad. I'm having covered this program for 10 years. I know the back way I can get in there. I never have a problem knock on wood. But you know, the you go down to the field, you talk to people, you get a press box cover the you know you watch the game, but kind of the way we look at it is alright, everyone's watching the game. You're not going to sit there and write a story just regurgitating what everyone saw. You gotta have details and stuff in there. But when the game ends, realistically, that's when your work begins. You go down to the locker room, do the press conference, you do the player interviews, you try to find out what happened. Try them from the standpoint The people that were part of it gets a book good anecdotes and go upstairs and write. And it ends up being about a 12 hour day. And it takes a lot out of you. But it's, it's all for. It's all for the fans.



I know you've covered tons and tons of Georgia football and hate to pigeonhole you to one season in a couple games within that season. But we'd be remiss if we didn't ask you about the magical 2017 season, seemingly, I mean, in a lot of ways, it just kind of came out of nowhere. And then mixed in to that run, are the opportunities to go to historic venues like Notre Dame Stadium and the Rose Bowl, Could you just tell the fans a little bit about what that was like, as an experience covering those and then as you pivot off the Rose Bowl, talk about how that led to where you currently are in your professional life? Well,



I wish I'd been able to appreciate that as much as I should have. Because when I was covering that team, you're covering it every day, and you're having to write two or three stories a day, for my old job, because I didn't go to the athletic until the following spring. And it was hard a lot of times to really just kind of sit back and appreciate everything that was happening. And you also you didn't know it was going to happen. I mean, the team was coming off an eight and five season. So there wasn't the sense that something was going to happen. I mean, I think there were one or two point favorites at Notre Dame. And then when they beat Notre Dame, I think we were appreciating like being at the stadium, that was a really cool thing. But you were also appreciating Georgia kind of taking over the stadium to Georgia win that game. But Notre Dame was coming off a foreign eight years. So it was just kind of like, okay, you know, good for Georgia. But we didn't see it as it was, it was a really gradual lead up to wait a minute, they're not losing. And wait a minute Notre Dame looks like they're pretty good that when looks better and better. And everyone knows what happened as the season went on. And I tried to savor some things from that rosebowl trip. I remember going to Disneyland that first day and I took an afternoon to go to Hollywood and go see like Harrison Ford's star and things like that. But you know, you're working, we're in the middle of it. And I think you kind of get that response from players and coaches and staff members too. It's, it's, it's hard to enjoy and savor the experience when you're kind of in the middle of it. And I was in the middle of it in a different way from players and coaches and everything, but you're still a part of it. I do think that I've been able to sit back before writing since I went to the athletic, you don't have to write X amount of stories per day per week and get X amount of pageviews. So who knows maybe this is the year Georgia goes back and has another great run like that. And I can truly savor the season.



Well, obviously that was a magical night for Georgia fans in Georgia fan base. I was in Pasadena that night with my brother magical evening, made my way quickly after the game to lax. And my understanding is is that you had a fortuitous meetup at LAX with an individual right in your field that led to where you currently are. Do you want to speak on that really quickly?



Yeah, I talked to him earlier today. Stuart Mendell about something else. But yeah, I ran into him at the date, le x just talked to him for a little bit, the athletic was still just kind of in its nascent stages at that point. I mean, it was online, but they didn't have any team writers, and talk to Stuart. And then he put me in touch with Dan newsmen, who's kind of the managing editor of the power guy behind the scenes and things went from there. I was very happy to the movement. It's been everything I hoped it would be. And more frankly,



thank you for that. We are not only huge dogs fans, but we are also huge fans of Athens and really just great college towns. So could you speak a little bit about maybe some of your favorite haunts in Athens, and what is your favorite road town to go to?



The thing about Athens is that I don't get out the way I did in the old days because of family and kids. So I can't really think of haunts and I got here in 2010. And then the next less than a year later, I meet my wife. And then less than a year after that we're having family, probably too quickly. But Athens is just a great town. And the first day I moved here I was in Columbia, South Carolina, which has its pluses and it's minuses. But the first day I moved here, and I've been to Athens before, but I remember just sitting at a place on Broad Street and kind of looking out and going home. This is nice. This is just more laid back. This is more my scene. And it's been that way. I'm sorry about all the restaurants that keep closing for all the Mama's boys around which you have trouble getting a reservation, there's some time you have your places like the farm cart, or there were so many good places that have closed down but you know, we went to mama SIDS the other night and that's still around, so that's good. But yeah, I mean, there's there's a lot of great places around Athens. It's just a great town. It's a great place to raise Family I remember you try to put up the professional wall but a coach was interviewing here at one point. And I was talking to him one of those off the record conversations because he doesn't want people to know that he's talking to a reporter before his interview, whatever. But he was asking me and I've got kids what would be like in Athens I was like, you know, this is a great place to have a family to raise a family and, and the guy got the job and took the job. So I'd like to take credit for him, but I can't because I can't publicly say who that was. Actually, now that I think about it. That's not the only one that I've had that kind of a conversation but it consistently ranks when I talk to other sec writers it consistently is one of everybody's favorite. Everyone in here. anyone say Athens is overrated. You know, you might have someone say well, I like such and such better. I like Knoxville, better Knoxville. I know Georgia fans love to knock Tennessee and Knoxville. Knoxville is pretty, it's on a river there. It's got some good stuff going for it. If you like a big city, a lot of people like Nashville because it's the biggest one. Really. I haven't been to college station. It's just a rumor to me at this point. Gainesville is nice, especially the weather. But Athens is seems to be in everybody's like top three if not the number one.



So we want to close with you how we close with all our interview guests. And in honor of coach smart, we do the smart 16 to close it just some rapid fire questions. Okay. So we're just going to hit them with you real quick. All right. So first one is what's your middle name?



Whitney family name, Eli Whitney, related to him. Okay, believe it or not? Normally this would be what's your favorite dog. But since you have your profession, we're gonna go with best quote of like ever or whittle it down best quote, say the smart era. Can



I say it?



It was the one from after the Auburn game?



Oh, yeah.



I had a lot of joy in tweeting that out because I work at a place that tolerates that because it was the quote, it's what he said.



We were both very appreciative that you gave it in full in the tweet that was fantastic.



Go with go with that one. That's my What is your favorite game you've ever covered? I'll keep it to Georgia. Because if I had to say my favorite game, I go way back to and I've said this before the small small conference Basketball Championships are the most intense event because the winner is going to the NCAA tournament, which is everybody's dream, the loser is going home and going into obscurity. And so I've covered a few of those and I covered a game that was 3530. Wow, believe it or not as a finalist for George Mason before their final okay. But favorite game at Georgia. I mean, Notre Dame is up there. rosebowl. Like I said, I kind of wish I'd been able to appreciate those. It's hard to be one of those. And I guess I'd lean towards Notre Dame favorite rivalry. Georgia has so many that it's hard to whittle that down. North Carolina Duke was the first one that popped into my head because I watched that one from afar for years.



We're okay with that. Yeah,



that's perfect. I was rooted for both teams to somehow like just implode when they played.



We know how that feels.



I get that. Where the say was your favorite away stadium to visit in the Southeastern Conference.



I've always liked Tennessee with the Coliseum effect. It's a really cool thing to look at as far as just a way stadium inside the stadium covering the game have always liked that.



What is the loudest Georgia home game you've ever attended? A Notre



Dame this year? I mean, that's the one I've written about the real attendance figures and that when you know they haven't actually filled up the stadium or come close to filling out the stadium like ever. It's usually like in the low 80s at the most that are inside the stadium. But this year's Notre Dame game is going to be the one that is going to come the closest to like the high 80s there were so many people there and that coincided with them really getting the the sound system and the pyrotechnics going.



We know you're usually covering the game, so this probably doesn't apply. But if you were to attend to tailgate, what would be your go to tailgate food?



I love buffalo wings. Jamaican jerk. All right.



This question kind of follows along the same lines but will be your cocktail that you're mixing for the world's largest outdoor cocktail party.



Try to stay away from girly drinks. I feel like I moved on from that in my 20s I would mix a gin and tonic for my wife for her sake. And then ask for a good old German beer. For myself.



One of our favorite things on the mailbag that you do is when you get your food question so we want to know what's your favorite place the only could go one place the rest of the time you their favorite place to eat in Athens.



I can't say Zach's piece because that's ridiculous. favorite place? There is a Argentinian restaurant called Viva, which is now in normal town. That was when I lived on the east side. It was first on the east side and they make a great shepherd's pie there.



I would go there any game day superstitions.



No, I mean, they're more like typical sports writers superstitions of don't say hey, this game is going pretty quickly because that's when something bad happens and all of a sudden every play is being reviewed. Something like that. That's a typical. That's the one that if you've ever say that in a press box, everyone will give you a very dirty glare because the truth is like we don't care who wins or loses the game. We just want a good story and we want a quick game so that we can get to work



of all the pregame traditions that take place at Sanford stadium whether it's the the trumpet or spelling Georgia on the field, calling the dog What is your favorite of those as a non biased observer?



I like the trumpet. It's such a hard thing, but I like the trumpet. But I always even as a hard bitten journalist who sees it every game. Larry Munson narrating the pregame thing does give me chills. It always has going back to the first time I did, you know, came down here in 2002 and was covering Georgia games then I that's a pretty cool thing.



Yeah, that one is really tough to beat.



I seriously hate to ask this question, because I see it in your mailbag so often. Black jerseys, yes or no? Oh, God.



That's just yeah.



I don't care. I really, yeah. I'm very glad that I don't have to care I yeah, do it once a year. It's cool, but I really don't care.



What's the most compelling loss you've ever covered?



I mean, how do you avoid saying the national championship game? And it's one thing to kind of watch it know about it as a fan but as a reporter, going in that locker room afterwards and how just a feeling in there was something you'll never forget like the total silence, not total silence but silence in some quarters. The frustration like some people like flacking, their lockers still like, you know, knocking their helmet against the locker only a few people hanging around to talk understandably like Dominick Sanders and Malcolm parish. were among the players that went to the showers and never came out. But then guys like Devin Bellamy, he sat at his locker and answered all questions because he was kind of taking one for the team so that other guys didn't have to. Jake Fromm did the same thing. I'll never forget that



seem pretty sure I know the answer to this question, but there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing noon kickoffs, yes or no, no,



this is another area where admittedly fans and reporters diverge. But reporters love noon kickoffs, I told you about the 330 kickoff and what our schedule is normally at 330 game ruins are holding because you have to get there like by noon and you're there till late at night. Night game. You at least get there. Get there at 330. So you have your day up until 330 noon kickoff your you got to go early in the morning, but you can get home by seven and then you can watch some really good games yourself late at night. So we love the noon kickoffs. I hate to say it I know the fans don't. So that's why they do not leave this up to sports writers.



What is your order at the varsity?



been to the varsity in four or five years? But when I went I got I think I got a chili dog. I'm not opposed to greasy food and whatever. But I'm not I try to keep it to a minimum.



And lastly, college football playoffs expand to eight teams or is it fine how it is?



I think I like a I would have automatic bids for the power five conferences to at large spots and one spot for a group of five team. And I don't know about whether I would do the quarterfinal games on campus sites. I don't think 16 at this point, I think 16 would be a bit much. But four or eight seems like the right number it could not have stated to there were too many years where there were way more than are there. There were more than two teams at least that had a rightful claim, much like George's national championship year. If there had been no playoff what would have happened there. There were three one last teams. And well I mean for counting Alabama. But there were three one last conference champions Georgia get left out that year. They were the three see if they keep it at four. I don't think it's a calamity. I'm fine with that. But I would pick eight. If it were up to me.



Well, you have survived the smart 16 Thank you for indulging us with that. And so thank you so much for joining us guys. Like I said at the beginning of the podcast if you are not subscribed to the athletic eat is worth the description just to get stuff also please listen to his podcast the damn good podcast. It's fantastic. follow him on Twitter, anywhere else we can follow the set and where else we can plug.



No we're not doing the Facebook thing. I get Facebook requests from fans. I meant to say this on my, the regular podcast one point I keep forgetting to and so if anybody's listening to this now I get Facebook requests from Georgia fans all the time and I don't mean to be a jerk. But you're not going to get anything on there. Like it's me pictures with my kids. I'm not going to put any Georgia exclusive thoughts on here's what I really think about purpose Mart blah, blah, blah. And I'm not going to talk about politics either because that's not a winner. So yeah, don't worry about my Facebook page. It's just worthless at this Just what Yeah, Twitter and the athletic. Let's keep it to their



Alright guys, we'll make sure and give Seth a follow everywhere you can say thank you so much for your time. We appreciate everything you do and appreciate you spending some time with us today. Thank you.



All right, thanks, guys enjoy it.



Well, that concludes our interview with with Seth Emerson from the athletic again, thank you to Seth for being so gracious with his time boss, what were your thoughts and takeaways from from everything Seth had to say?



It's just a very interesting perspective from someone who covers the team. I mean, you and I are fans. So we're obviously coming from a fan's perspective. You know, we're very emotionally attached to the team. Whereas someone like Seth, he covers the team for a living, that's his job. So he comes at it more from an objective point of view. So hearing his answers to the questions that when we talk to people who are an alum, or people who are fans coming from more of a non objective, they're very passionate about it. He comes from, from objective standpoint, just very interesting, dynamic and listening to his answers to all the questions that we asked. Also, just hearing the way that the culture has changed from Rick to Kirby, and hearing some of his answers to the questions that we asked was just really interesting. And really how the dynamic has changed since Kirby has taken over. It's just really fascinating, not that we didn't expect those answers, or really kind of noticed the changes just from everything we've read. And you listen to other people talk about how the media has lot less access and stuff like that. But it's just also interesting to hear someone actually say that directly to us. It's just very fascinating.



Yeah, I thought a couple of things were really interesting. The first thing was I thought it was notable that he discussed the administration's role in the shift, you know, obviously, there had to be an administration opened up a hiring someone like Kirby and be opening the purse strings up a little bit to allow him to do the things that they've done from a development perspective, a branding perspective, a facilities perspective, all those type things. So I thought that was very interesting from a how things actually work type perspective. And then the other thing, we did a modified smart 16 for Seth, obviously, since he's a journalist, so not asking him questions, you know, like, Who's your favorite player and all those things, but I thought maybe the most compelling answer that he gave was when he asked him, we asked him what was the most compelling last that he ever covered? And he described what the scene in the locker room was like, after the national title game against Alabama. I thought those things were very interesting. I know he wrote about it after it happened, but but it was just interesting to hear it from his perspective, how Stark it sounded. And you know, him saying you can't imagine how quiet it was absent guys either hitting lockers or, you know, just almost in disbelief at what had happened. So I thought that was a really insightful answer and a really honest answer. So we certainly appreciate Seth spending time with us. We love his work and we encourage everyone to subscribe to the athletic to follow him as much as possible just because he is the storyteller of Georgia football in my mind. So thank you so much this after spending time with the senco dog sick go dogs.

Seth EmersonProfile Photo

Seth Emerson

Writer, The Athletic