FanSided Sports Oscars: Kirby Smart wins Best Director

Kirby Smart, Georgia Bulldogs. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Kirby Smart, Georgia Bulldogs. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Georgia football head coach Kirby Smart wins the FanSided Sports Oscar for Best Director in You’re Either Elite or You’re Not.

A story some 41 years in the making, Georgia football head coach Kirby Smart wins the FanSided Sports Oscar for Best Director in how he brought “You’re Either Elite or You’re Not” to life.

The script had everything a Hollywood executive would want in a potential blockbuster. A big college football brand financed up by a long-suffering, rabid fanbase. Stars galore from Stetson Bennett IV as “The Mailman” to Jordan Davis as “The Swedish Fish Connoisseur”. A more than worthy adversary in Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide in this SEC hammer vs. nail rivalry.

While some would argue the script wrote itself, it required a Dawg like Smart to tee this one up Between the Hedges, Hunker Down in the face of adversity and let everyone know who was coming down that track in the final act: His Mean Machine in Red and Black.

FanSided Sports Oscars: Kirby Smart wins Best Director for You’re Either Elite or You’re Not

“You’re Either Elite or You’re Not” had its roots six years ago when Smart left Tuscaloosa Productions for an opportunity to return to Athens Studios. He had been there briefly in the early days of the popular Mark Richt sitcom “Commit to the G”. It rated well on one of the four major networks, but the rise of Tuscaloosa Productions under Saban had Richt’s show canceled in 2016.

While earlier Smart pictures in Athens Studios such as “Attack the Day” and “Keep Choppin'” were met with mixed reviews, Red and Black Productions kept the faith that his masterpiece would soon be upon them. Being able to sign one A-lister after another provided the necessary speed for quicker turnarounds. He learned greatly after being up for Best Director back in 2017.

Though many of Smart’s films have looked good on a poster, critics of his grew tired of the same underperforming script, especially with his inability to finish the film on a high note. While the taste of Sugar was as sweet as the smell of the Roses was downright Peachy, Orange you glad he finally struck oil in Indianapolis for all the world to see? He drank his mentor Saban’s milkshake!

No doubt about it. The hype for this film was barking off the chain. Though it went into production under the working title of “If Not Now, When?”, that quickly changed when “You’re Either Elite or You’re Not” went from the tag line on the movie poster to the title of the movie. Sure, it had some bumpy moments in the first third of the film, but it began to pick up steam coming down the track.

It took some time for the plot to develop, but Smart wisely used special effects in scenes featuring Vanderbilt, Arkansas and Kentucky. The montage was fantastic, kicking things into high gear in the scenes with Florida, Missouri and Tennessee. He allowed his actors to develop their characters’ arcs so by the time they met Alabama for their first scene together, they were ready for action.

Or so we thought…

For as captivating as the film was in its first 12 scenes, Smart semi-intentionally held his actors back in the first one with Alabama. People were especially critical of this because they believed “You’re Either Elite or You’re Not” was going to play out like every other Smart film from Athens Studios. The team took it on the chin for a month before unleashing Agent Orange on Michigan.

As sweet as that scene was in Miami, especially with James “The Other Cook” Cook playing so well in his hometown, everybody had a feeling there would be blood up in Indianapolis a week later.

While it looked like Daniel Plainview was going to drink Eli Sunday’s milkshake once again, it was Smart who had the bowling pin and not Saban this time. Despite having Best Actor nominee Bryce Young under center, his supporting cast was no match for “The Swedish Fish Connoisseur”, “The Mechanic” played by Nakobe Dean, and the young up-and-comer known as Kelee Ringo “Starr”.

With the help of “The Other Cook”, Zamir “Zeus” White and noted Oscar snub Brock “Big Wine Country” Bowers, “The Mailman” delivered in Smart’s finest moment. The final act was so well-received that it has green lit another feature film starring Bennett in “33:18 to The Mailman”. Cook, Dean, Davis and White may have left Athens Studios, but have emerged as A-listers in Hollywood.

Smart may never be able to top “You’re Either Elite or You’re Not”, but we would like to see him try.

FanSided Sports Oscars. All nominees and winners. light

Check out who else was nominated for Best Director and who else won in all the major categories in the 2022 FanSided Sports Oscars.