by J. Henderson
From the freaking visitors section, or thereabouts (grown women were barking at our flute players), I closed my eyes and massaged Brandon’s spirit in prayer. His neck was tight and knotted with the boos of the weak (the boos really help, let’s keep it up!); his shoulders sagging under the gaze of expected failure. I told him to call time-out. I took him down to the river and re-baptized him in the name of everything right about Auburn and sport. I got him a towel.
“Burns should have been put in for this last set of downs, I know you know that,” I said. He nodded.
“Yeah, there’s no way they’d stop Future Boy on 4 plays, first and goal? They wanted to give it to me just because it’s me, it’s Brandon.”
“I know, but listen man, you drove us down the field the way you used to to get us here, just like you used to. I mean, we shouldn’t be in this damn position, my Lord, we know that, but here we are, and that was all you, even that dang run! One more play, one more play – you win, God love you, you lose, God love you. There’s probably going to be some shake up after all this, I mean, the kid can run, he can throw, I mean, to be honest, the first couple of plays with him, well it was like my head had been anointed with oil, seriously, it was like air conditioning in August, like clean sheets at Grandmama’s after a shower and a day of playing football out in the yard — just to have that option you know? Just to have the potential of even a botched play turning into 5 or 6 yards.”
“Oh, I know, I know.” He was smiling.
“You were the first one to hug him after that touchdown weren’t you?”
“I don’t know, I guess, I was just happy for him.”
“I know, me too. I saw him praying after it happened with the other guys, on the jumbo-tron. Anyway, real quick, what in the hell do you think is wrong with us? I mean, I know it’s hard to point to one thing – we’re droppin’ balls, we’re fumblin’ – but it’s not all execution and it’s not all coaching, I don’t know, I’ve just never seen us so not gel or whatever. It’s like we’re Samson – and it’s not that the other teams are our Delilahs, it’s like we’re just goin’ bald on our own.”
“Ha, ha! I like that, I like that.. yeah, I don’t know…”
“War Eagle, man, you can do it.”
We hugged. We failed. Brandon rode off into the sunset, a dark, young ninja from the West mounted behind him on his steed, and he will return in a week for what will surely be another war.
He did not win the game for us but he did not give up. There are guts strewn about the Jordan-Hare of our hearts, the field sopped with tears and fluids. The rest of Auburn’s season is wide open, a grand canyon of sheer terror.
I like the odds.
And we will beat Florida.
But we have been humbled, tossed overboard into a whale’s belly of our own making.
Right now I don’t want to talk about the coaching, or injuries, or stats, or even, hallelujah, Future Boy.
I want to ascend Moriah and taste the blood of the red shirt’s sacrifice, I want to throw my arms wide into the tempest, I want to gather God’s people and fear Him.
Our religion has been purified, though numbingly sooner than expected. But the facts nonetheless breathe down our necks and let us from them draw strength, not misery: no BCS distractions, no SEC contingencies, now it is simply… as always…