Urban Dictionary, your definitive source for all things Internet-related, defines "trolling" as the following:
Being a prick on the Internet because you can. Typically unleashing one or more cynical or sarcastic remarks on an innocent bystander, because it's the Internet and, hey, you can.
This is what the word has become, an identity-less buzz term that has lost all meaning.
Trolling—the authentic variety involving well-supported conviction in an unpopular position, requiring the keyboard navigation skills of a surgeon—was thought to be extinct. It is not, although it's on the endangered list.
Quality trolling still exists, nestled deep in message boards of college football teams around the country. And with recruiting season set to engulf message-board servers everywhere, these trolls will rule the day once more.
That's where Will comes in.
Will, whose last name will remain absent to keep his identity secret, is a"professional" message-board troll. Operating with the message-board name CummingDawg22, Will trolls the way it was meant to be done.
You will disagree with him, perhaps to the point of destroying your keyboard or heaving your computer through your window, but he'll anger you—no, troll you—with just the right amount of football knowledge and sarcasm that you'll be lost in a troll trance.
If he's done that, his job is done. He accomplished this goal recently while starting a thread dedicated to the stupidity of the board he operates on. After all, quality trolling isn't about making friends.
“People get pretty mad at me and a lot of people have ignored me,” Will said. “But I’m not just posting stupidity to get responses. The problem is most of my opinions are in the minority.”
Will isn’t tucked away in his mother’s basement, laughing at the rises he gets while ringing a bell he installed to celebrate every completed troll. It’s natural to him.
A 26-year-old Georgia alum who now works in logistics and will soon be headed to law school, Will balances his job and his fandom extraordinarily well. He grinds away in the nine-to-five life while dropping by his online hangouts when he finds time.
“I usually check out all the Georgia boards, and I post a lot,” Will said. “But I don’t post as much as some of the people on it.”
A normal day includes somewhere around 10 posts for the Cumming, Ga. native—hence his screen name, the one he uses at the popular Scout site DawgPost.com. This is his home base.
He’ll visit elsewhere, of course, sometimes checking in on rival Georgia Tech, but he won’t stray too far. He lives and breathes Georgia football, and he has dedicated a good chunk of his free time over the past four years to discussing just that.
For him, however, the message-board life wasn’t always one he adopted. Before becoming an active poster—and in turn, a troll—he was a lurker. Via Urban Dictionary:
A lurker is someone that follows the forum but doesn’t post.
“At first I had no desire to post on these,” Will said. “I thought the whole thing was stupid and the people who actually posted were losers. Then I finally started doing it and it became kind of fun.”
Will has been a fixture of the Georgia message-board scene for roughly four years. He’s been through the ups and downs of Georgia football, like the endless “Fire Mark Richt” threads that still surface from time to time. He also endured the tipped pass in last year’s SEC Championship Game against Alabama, prompting the ultimate trip down Sadness and Overreaction Lane.
Through it all, recruiting has proven to be the soul of his message-board experience and really all college message-board experiences. No longer a niche topic for diehards, recruiting—whether you're focusing in on your school or not—is what drives interest.
“I think on the Georgia board we talk about Alabama [recruiting] more than Georgia,” Will said. “‘Bama obviously oversigns, and you’ll have Alabama fans come over to defend that. But there’s nothing to defend.”
Even while answering a simple question about recruiting, he can't help but troll. You can't teach this. It's natural at this point, as is his propensity to relate everything back to football.
“If Lorenzo Carter doesn’t commit to Georgia, it’ll be a [expletive] fit on our boards,” he said, transitioning back to Georgia football. “It’s more complaining about other schools getting recruits than your own recruits. And that will certainly happen with him if it gets to that point.”
Carter is one of the top defensive ends in the country, a Georgia native and a Georgia target. Consider this your implosion thread warning if he ends up committing to Alabama, which—for the record—Will doesn't believe will happen.
The obsession with players like Carter and other top targets will be a focal part of the board, but it's not the only part. One consistent football truth that has withstood the test of time still surfaces with regularity.
“It’s always the coordinator’s fault,” Will said.
Behold the message-board gospel, a message that has lived on through generations.
“Mike Bobo won the offensive coordinator of the year, but we’ve wanted him fired for about eight years,” he said, reverting back to familiar football conversation again. “And then it was Todd Grantham, the defensive coordinator. He got most of the topics this year, and folks were thrilled to see him leave.”
Grantham, of course, recently accepted the defensive coordinator position at Louisville. He will now be paid $1 million a year in his new location. If you're wondering what most Georgia fans think about this salary, you'll have to ask them after they get done with their departure parade.
But not Will. He defended Grantham when he had the chance, serving up youth, injuries and other factors to make a logical case to keep his team’s DC around. He didn't mind Grantham in the least bit, even if it put him in the overwhelming minority on the board. Now he doesn't have to.
And therein lies the origins of his trolling: intelligent football knowledge—and he is a bank of quality football information—mixed with a natural contrarian opinion that he offers up without hesitation.
He’s not afraid to defend his opinion or take other users to task. Like when he compared Georgia football to Duke football in a recent post—yes, football. This started a fire that could be seen for miles.
“There are different types of trolling,” Will said. “There are people who just make up usernames and try and post controversies to start. I’d like to think I’m pretty realistic about things.”
Those who show up simply to cause chaos, these “hijackers,” are the new-aged trolls. They are what’s wrong with the craft. From Urban Dictionary again:
Forum speak, is when a thread is taken from one direction of discussion to another completely off-course topic or many different topics in a short period of time.
Even for someone who often takes the contrarian side—albeit naturally, or at least somewhat naturally—there’s a certain trollian code of conduct to follow. Will follows it, choosing not to dive into the popular troll discussions—like the possibility of Georgia upgrading its facilities—or going overboard with recruiting.
“I’m not the troll who posts about someone starting over Todd Gurley next year,” Will said while squeezing in more football talk. “Like the guys who say ‘Nick Chubb looks really good.’”
Chubb is a Georgia verbal commit and one of the best running backs in the class of 2014. Gurley, a sophomore, will enter the fall as the best back in the country.
These kinds of conversations are both unreasonable and regular on boards around the country, yet another sign of how much recruiting moves the needle. And if it isn't future players or coordinator talk generating the most posts, it's the moment immediately following a Georgia loss.
“The biggest message-board season is right before national signing day,” Will said. “And as soon as you lose, there are always a lot of posts. Recruiting attracts the most interest, but losses are definitely the most volatile time on Georgia message boards.”
As a troll—not a label he necessarily agrees with in its current form—Will's posts typically garner the predicted and animated responses of others. Or perhaps his response to someone else’s response will be what sets a bomb off.
Think of it as Inception, only with trolling.
“It will get to the point where it’s me and three or four people going at it,” Will said. “And there are a couple of people who always comment on what I say. I have a good idea who will respond and what they will respond to.”
But is this calculated response the end game? Or more specifically, is this igniter offering up controversial replies simply to create controversy within the message-board walls?
This is where his art form reaches a crossroads of sorts, one caught between natural contrarian and professional aggravator. In many ways, this is peak trolling.
“Am I doing it purposely? Yeah, I am,” said CummingDawg22, searching for the appropriate way to describe his craft. “I know what it’s going to do. But I’m also not just starting ridiculous topics to start them. When you do that, people will stop responding to you.”
It’s a balance that he has acquired over time, the ability to feel a certain way—yes, you’ll probably feel the exact opposite—and express these arguments intelligently over the Internet with complete confidence to complete strangers.
That’s what’s most striking about Will. Not his consistent, disagreeable approach that is often taken to task, but his ability to relate every question and answer back to Georgia football or recruiting. He loves Georgia football, loves talking Georgia football and knows Georgia football. And yes, he knows how to engage others who love and know Georgia football in unique ways.
This is trolling at its very origin, the way it was meant to be. CummingDawg22 isn’t a nuisance to Georgia fans; he is a pioneer operating in a different time, showing off a trade that was seemingly forgotten.
Trolling still exists, just not in plain sight. You simply need to search for the Wills of the world to find it.