Through the first five games, 2009 Auburn was almost feel-good movie perfect. An “Auburn Man” was leading and saying all the right words. The disgraced, rag-armed quarterback had made a triumphant return. The athletic but erratic quarterback contender gracefully handed the reigns to that disgraced, rag-armed quarterback, delivering a “Friday Night Lights”/ “Remember the Titans” speech which ESPN has played almost as many times as Tim Tebow’s circumcision conquistador trips to the New World. The genius coordinator looked every bit like a genius who coordinates. Etc.
There were celebrations in and around Toomer’s Corner. An ecstatic black man waved towels and bumped chests. People started to believe.
But then reality, doing what it does, showed up and peeled back the layers of hope and expectations and there were many tears.
Chris Todd’s arm returned to its pre-Dr. James Andrews state. The defense proved to be paper-thin and not particularly ferocious. The assortment of walk ons and hobos that a drunken Jay Boulware grabbed off Magnolia Street last Cinco de Mayo has not tackled anyone before the 40 on a kickoff all year. Cthulhu is rising from the deep and Shiva the Destroyer is in Opelika.
Things are bad.
The most perplexing part, the part that makes my head hurt and my balls ache, is how and when and, while we’re at it, why.
Flash back two weeks: Auburn is 5-0. It just gained a bunch of yards against Father Time’s defense and Saint Berry.
Heck, before the Tennessee game, Kirk Herbstreit is on the screen telling me Auburn is going to be 7-0 going into Baton Rouge. I nod my head. Yeah they are, Kirk. Smartest thing you’ve ever said. Surely Arkansas and Kentucky cannot stop Auburn. Gustav is a Jedi and Tate ‘n’ Todd are his light sabers.
Then Arkansas happened. And Kentucky followed. And now far-fetched and hopeful words like “New Year’s Day Bowl” and “eight wins” and “SEC Championship Game” have been replaced with “Shreveport” and “Furman” and “Fire Ted Roof.”
We (the royal we) thought Auburn was a great offensive team with an undermanned, under-performing defense and shaky special teams. We could live with that. We missed watching competent offensive football.
But, alas (me lads), we were wrong. Or at least wrong for two weeks.
Who’s to say what next week will bring? Maybe Auburn will beat LSU by 30 and all will be forgiven. Patience.
I hesitate to compare our AU team to the forces of darkness, but there’s another team that’s playing pretty good ball now that went 6-6 under a new coach a couple years ago, lost games it should not have lost, followed up with a banner recruiting class and improved in a hurry.
I am not going to give up hope. I’ve bought into the commercials and the Auburn propaganda. I believe.
I hate to end with “I believe.” That feels so cliché. But I do believe. Auburn is better off now then it was this time last year. To evoke the forces of darkness again, it’s a process. No worries.
(If Auburn is a 13 or more point underdog like Mr. Black, Tiger Transit driver, told me they would be, let it ride. Pride and what not.)