By J.M. Comer
My mind swims and wallows in a dank pit, Dearest Reader. It wanders as the darkest day of the year, Dec. 21, the first day of winter approaches. Last night, I sat in my warm library with my two dogs hundreds of miles from the Plains of Auburn. My Edgar Allen Poe collection of short stories and poems was in my lap and my mind drifted to a place between sleep and waking …
The thousand injuries of Optimisme I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon the last insult I vowed revenge.
I spied him from the shadows as he staggered down the street, drunk from enthusiasm, after the Chizik celebration.
His knitted winter hat was forced to the back of his head with a single festive bell, and the beads of a New Orleans festival both orange and blue hung from his neck. His dress shirt was emblazoned with the symbol of my Tigers, his Tigers, our Tigers.
M. Optimisme was an older man of wide girth, a man of privilege. His head shook from laughter as he swayed to and fro along the cobblestone streets.
His hat bell jingled. The holiday celebrations had come early for him. He placed his hand on a lamppost to steady himself and leaned back to take in the night air, bathing in the artificial light. His laughter boomed through the empty streets. It sickened me to hear it.
But I approached him with a cautious creep, my hand coming from the gloom to rest on his wide shoulder.
He started, spun around and exclaimed, “By Dye’s pants! Young Comer! Ha ha! What a fright! Why do you hide in the shadows? Tonight is a rebirth! A celebration!”
His breath reeked of meat, heavy cream and wine. My old friend had filled himself this evening at the celebration.
“Why, I did not see you there at the coronation,” Optimisme said. His large finger poked hard at my chest; his squinted eyes peered at mine.
I coughed. “I did not feel like a celebration was in order, my dear Optimisme. These are times for reflection.”
“Bah,” he cried, swiping his hand in the air, clearing invisible cobwebs of doubt. “You think too much my dear Matthew. You still mourn? Chizik is one of ours. He’s home again!”
I chuckled, falsely, and glanced sideways at this old man. His teeth looked worn and yellowed. Behind them, his fat tongue lolled with the pleasure of his words.
He had a weak point — this Optimisme — although in other regards he was a man to be respected and even feared. He prided himself on his connoisseurship in wine.
“I’ve been searching for you my friend,” I said with false cheer. “I have procured a cask of what passes to be 2004 Spirito Della Tigre, but I have my doubts.”
The man’s eyes rolled lazily behind heavy shut lids, but quickly snapped wide. “You jest! Impossible! 2004? A good year, but I am not a fan of the House of Tuberville’s methods.”
“I have my doubts,” I replied; “and I was silly enough to pay the full price without consulting you in the matter. You were not to be found, and I was fearful of losing a bargain.”
“Spirito Della Tigre!”
“I have my doubts, it is a 2004.”
Again he cried, “Spirito Della Tigre!”
“I fear that such a year will not come again,” I said, placing his arm in mine. “A dear friend of mine, M. Henderson, is a fan of the House of Tuberville’s 2005 Sacco di Croyle Numero 11. He thinks it is superior.”
“He is foolish,” exclaimed old, tired Optimisme. “I frown upon anything after 1988.”
At his last accusation, my teeth clinched behind my lips.
He spat, “I have lived long … I have drank deep. For me, the 2004 had a slight aftertaste … it is bitter to me. But then … I didn’t drink my fill. We must go to your vaults.”
I patted his soft back, saying, “Now is a wonderful time to savor the 2004 again, but I must warn you, dear Optimisme, the cask lies deep within, near the catacombs. I couldn’t possibly ask you to venture there.”
… ah, Dearest Reader … I’m awake and back in Poe’s Baltimore and the year 2008 draws to a close. I’m sure to brick up dear old Optimisme in the dark vault with these words, that hopefully I’ll eat some day. I’ll eat them with glee and you can watch … if they prove to be unfounded.
(To see how the rest of the story turns out, please click here.)
But dear God, the football program of Auburn University: I’ve never been associated and loved anything that can make so many stupid, expensive, embarrassing mistakes in so short a time. And then it repeats them a few years later.
We’ll never know what really goes on behind the scenes. But I’m just sick of the croynism, men looking out for themselves, their money and their friends instead of what is best for Auburn.
But I do know this: Gene Chizik was not the best coach available or the best fit for Auburn; he was the only coach available that made the old, white men comfortable. He said what they wanted to hear and gave them the hope to relive an era that is dead. I can guarantee that the “Society of the Black Book” is about to make a comeback. Big time.
These same cronies pushed, prodded and questioned the best coach I’ll probably ever see at the helm of our university, Coach Tommy Tuberville. He’d had enough and left.
The Auburn football program has been left in a terrible position from a power struggle and ineptitude.
I hope this is the last hurrah of the idiots. The last gasp behind the brick wall.
But it is disheartening that this is all happening once again to Auburn, an institute of learning that never seems to learn.
We’ll make it through this. We always do. War Eagle. We’ll all be there for you Tigers. Give ’em hell in 2009.
But for now, it feels like we’re all hanging in a place between the wreckage and the promise.