It was the first I’d actually watch watched with my Dad in a long time and it was in the lobby of the Shreveport Holiday Inn Express. I didn’t make it in time for the first quarter. Dad went Jim Fyffe for me on the phone. The opening drive, it was glorious. And fun. And powerfully Auburn. Dad was having fun, I was having fun letting him have fun, I was playing Stan White, color-commentating off Dad’s reports, I do good impressions. My wife rolled her eyes, but she was having fun. The glorious kid was having fun. I stepped on the gas. We were back in the technically south, just crossed into Louisiana, humidity, pine trees, hallelujah. Let’s get some food and enjoy this last night together, War Eagle, baby. Then my ear went wet with bile – they stopped us on the one. Wetter still when Foot Lauderdale broke up with me after the Fannin TD. Ominous. Gloominous. We stopped them on the one on their last drive in ’93? They stopped us on the one on our first drive 15 years later? 13 to nothing? Friends, I knew we were in trouble.
You will never find a more optimistic Auburn fan than the me that I am. The glass is half-full when there is no damn glass. The glass has been shattered by my Jericholoosa-tuned trumpet. On my faith alone, the Auburn Guard marcheth into the orgasm of hail-mary immortality.
And so it was with fear that I diagrammed the new feeling that logged into me as Vandy’s final punt was downed on the whatever. And it was with loathing that I named it “doubt.”
I mean, I pushed. I strained. I wanted it. I wanted to believe. But I looked into my Dad’s eyes and they said no. They said ‘are you kidding?’ They said, ‘backed up on our goal line? This team? It’s over.’
He was right. And it seemed, please Lord, help me understand, fated. The mugshot of their backup? He looked like a decent person – the perfect anti-example to Hattiesburg Macaulay, who I knew we’d beat – and I hate playing against decent people.
Before the game, I tried hard to ignore the potential irony of watching it in Shreveport. Knock on wood. Afterward, I was overwhelmed by the irony of my thinking that watching it in Shreveport was ever ironic. Because not even the Petro-Sun would want a team so tragic.
Given the context, the loss – the disease – we saw Saturday night was possibly the most debilitating in recent Auburn history. It was shockingly upsetting. Even in our palsied unsubstantiality, we, Auburn, the eternal Davids of the echoing green, were cast by ESPN as a greedy, corporate Goliath coming to rape and pollute the recovery of poor, populist, once-comatose Vandy. And per Bristol talking points, the Commodores went green on our ass – to the tune of a single extra-point off the uprights. Everyone clapped and signed the petition and felt good about themselves at our expense.
My post-loss habits typically involve a deep breath, a shake of the head, another deep breath, a stretch, and a moving on. Upon the interception, it was head to hands, face down, glasses off. I didn’t feel a lump in my throat but I thought, for the splittest second, I might. It wasn’t because it was a loss. It wasn’t because it was to a lesser team. It wasn’t because it was to Vandy, Saturday night’s bizarro-Auburn… (I mean they threw, they ran, the black quarterback takes himself out of the game for the white hero hurdler to come in and save the day. Freaky)…
It was because, like you, I’d never seen us look so bad.
You can tell I’m struggling here. It’s taken till Wednesday to get around to this. And it’s not very good. I think I could have taken the entire week off, actually. There’s the pain, but there’s also the endless maze of theories and attitudes to process, to approve, and I just don’t have the time. (Chris Shelling Jr.’s is drugs – drugs and Franklin. “He’s just disheveled. Have you seen that hair?” No, I said, he’s just laid back, such a nice guy, I mean, that one time I met him in practice, he so took his time with me, you know? He would have gone to Mellow Mushroom with me or something, you know? Spent the whole day with me. “Yeah, and that day probably would have ended in Meth.”)
Personally, I think that for whatever sad, unintended reasons, it has something very much to do with the scenario divined by the refreshingly unpretentious brain trust behind Smart Football, one already linked into orbit by better and more diligent bloggers than me … (superb, Jerry…)
At least the fallout has dampened the kindling of our quarterback fire – noticeably absent in The Wake, at least to me, at least in the blAUgosphere, is the premature apotheosis of Burns and the Todd-aimed bitching – but our coaches seem to be tapping dysfunction straight from the vein.
Despite Tuberville’s makes-sense insistence that the spread could beat back the pimps of Sabanism come signing day, the offensive woes of 2008 seem almost karmic, a seek-ye-first punishment for what we all (not so) secretly feared to be a season-too-soon bailing on Borges. Meanwhile, nice guy Al roams our nostalgia in Auburn pajamas, probably just as crushed as we are.
My one comfort since the drive back through the martian crags of West Texas has been to isolate and objectiy the pain, philosophic like, for what it is. Doing so brings visions: six points to LSU, one point to Vandy. A touchdown… we’re a touchdown away from 6-0… a touchdown away from 6-0 playing like this. And yet we’re in a new strain of apocalypse… it’s fascinating… it’s 2004.
I’ve got to wind things down.
The Arkansas game promises to be epic in the narrative of the Auburn Oh-Thousands. I hope we destroy them, leave none alive.
May the ravens that feed us in this time of crisis unveil a 7th bloated corpse on the 29th of Novemeber.
God be with you. War Eagle. Believe.