Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Benediction

This is from an old column by Geoffery Norman, who also wrote Alabama Showdown back in the '80's. It's one of my favorite pieces. I usually bring it out this time of year, and I wish I'd written it. Norman is recalling meeting with an old writer friend in Montgomery, many years back:
We were supposed to be talking politics but we couldn't help ourselves. It was hot. It is always hot in the black belt of Alabama in the middle of August, and it feels like it will be hot for all eternity. So we talked about sports for some relief.

"You know," the man said wearily, "I just can't wait until they kick it off again. I mean, I feel like if I can just make it for another two or three weeks, then they'll be playing football again and then everything will be okay."
Hallelujah, amen.

Monday, November 26, 2012

New at Rivals: Time Loves A Hero

Here's my last Monday-morning column for the 2012 season, just posted at Rivals' AuburnSports.com. Long-time FTB readers will recognize the opening theme; I really didn't figure on returning to it this soon, but it still applies. Here's a preview, the rest is on the subscription side this week.
Coaching is a very odd profession that, like politics or entertainment, tends to attract personalities who tend to do things that are inexplicable to, well, normal people.

Success is rewarded with big money and, more insidiously, adulation wildly out of proportion to the actual importance of a coach's place in the real world. Only a few can handle it. Many can't. Gene Chizik wasn't the first coach to decide, wrongly, that his own brilliance was the primary reason for his early success only to wind up alienating both the people who helped get him there and fans who briefly (and foolishly) viewed him as infallible.

He also won't be the last, although many would do well to learn from his example.

His last game was pretty much what everyone expected. Auburn played reasonably tough, if not particularly well, for about a quarter and a half before reverting to 2012 form. The rest was what tends to happen when really bad teams play really good teams.

Monday, November 19, 2012

New at Rivals: A Win Is Good, But Cronyism Isn't

My Monday-morning column for the Alabama A&M game (at least partly; most of the column looks at Auburn's near-future personnel decisions) is up at Rivals' AuburnSports.com. This one is also on the free side, and you can read the whole thing here. A preview:
The number of people associated with Auburn who still support [athletic director Jay] Jacobs is vanishingly small, and those who support Gene Chizik smaller still. If anyone actually supports Tim Jackson, those individuals are doing a remarkable job of hiding from public view. All you need to do to get a rise out of pretty much any Auburn season ticket holder or donor is to mention Jackson's name in passing.

Chizik's support at this point consists of Jacobs and Jackson, but hardly anyone else. The mere suggestion that he might return in 2013 at this point is enough to generate genuine rage among Auburn fans of all ages and backgrounds. I don't even care to think about the real-world reaction (forget what the internet would look like) if Chizik were inexplicably retained for more than a few days beyond this coming weekend.

Support for Jacobs comes mostly from his former teammates and other personal friends. Fortunately for Jacobs, those friends have the ear of Jay Gogue, and their influence far outweighs their numbers. While it's hard to fault anybody for sticking up for a friend, Jacobs' defenders ought to be asking themselves some tough questions as they consider whether or not they're doing the right thing in backing his continued tenure.

Monday, November 12, 2012

New at Rivals: Dismal and Dysfunctional

My column on the Georgia game and what Auburn ought to be doing to rectify the current sorry situation is up at Rivals' AuburnSports.com. This one is on the free side, you can read the whole thing here. A preview:
It's not worth arguing any longer if Gene Chizik's tenure will end this year. No Auburn coach could -- or should -- survive going winless in the SEC, mostly by blowouts, young players or not, change in coordinators or not.

To put it bluntly, Chizik has been forgotten but not gone for over a month now. The last two epic SEC debacles only served to display just what a terrible job he's done during the past two years.

But Auburn will fail badly if head coach is the only position that gets a new occupant. Plenty has to change off the field before anything substantial is going to change on it.

Auburn is suffering from a failure of leadership at every level. President Jay Gogue continues to dither, offering only an anodyne press release and acting as if he'd rather just muddle through until his own retirement with as little actual effort as possible. Gogue's well-known dislike for firing subordinates and unwillingness to make difficult decisions is harming both the athletic department and the university as a whole.

Gogue and his predecessors failed to reform the athletic department when they had the opportunity. Too many people in power at Auburn still wish the department could be what it was in the 1970's: A sleepy office that prints tickets, books travel and provides cushy sinecures for old buddies and former teammates.

A prime example is Jay Jacobs, who never had any business being athletic director.
Last week's column on the Homecoming game (sorry for not posting an update, but I was on business travel all last week) can be found here, on the pay side. Rivals is offering a free first month to new subscribers coming over from FTB.

Monday, October 29, 2012

New (and Not-So-New) At Rivals: The Walking Dead

My post-game column for the Texas A&M game is up at Rivals' AuburnSports.com.  I neglected to post a notice here for the previous week's column about the Vanderbilt game... but let's face it, they really aren't all that different at this point.

Anyway, here's a preview of the A&M column:

I didn't think I'd ever say this again after surviving the 1970's, but this is probably the worst Auburn team I've ever seen. They can't tackle. They can't block. They can't cover. They can't line up properly, and they don't follow their assignments. Of the three quarterbacks, the only one who's shown any fire or consistency is Jonathan Wallace, an unheralded true freshman, and he only did so against Texas A&M's backups.

This is a team that has a knack for penalties and turnovers at the worst possible moments. There is no fire on this team, very little toughness, and to cap it all off, its coaches are seemingly determined to put the players in bad situations as often as possible. The one and only bright spot is the kicking game, which is, a few shanked punts excepted, as good as anybody's.

Remember when we used to solemnly note that Vanderbilt always has a great kicking game?
The rest is on the subscription side, but Rivals is offering a free first month to new subscribers coming over from FTB.

Monday, October 15, 2012

New at Rivals: Column for Ole Miss

My postgame column for this season's most recent disaster, at Ole Miss, is up at Rivals' AuburnSports.com. A preview:

Everything that hasn't worked for weeks popped right back up: short-side sweeps, predictable formations, poor pass protection, "Wildcat" runs from Jonathan Wallace at inexplicable times (here's a hint, Scot: everybody knows what you're doing there), and of course, no Jay Prosch leading the way for Tre Mason. Both backs virtually disappeared from the field in the second half, after running roughshod over the Rebels in the first.

The defense hardly did any better, giving up over 450 yards and 34 points to Ole Miss.

Let me simply repeat that: Auburn's defense gave up over 450 yards and 34 points to Ole Miss, a team that hadn't won an SEC game in over two years. It was a pitiful display.

After slumping to a 1-5 start and a six-game SEC losing streak, there's no point in pretending that the job security of the current coaching staff isn't in question. While nobody expects Gene Chizik to up and quit this Thursday (or to fire Loeffler tomorrow), this season is resembling the shambling disasters of 1998 and 2008 more and more every week.

For those still arguing that a coach two years removed from winning the BCS can't be in danger of losing his job, I'll remind you that a similar lopsided loss in Oxford in 1992 marked the beginning of the end for Pat Dye. Dye was a living legend by then, with four SEC championships and over a decade's tenure.
The rest is on the subscription side, but Rivals is offering a free first month to new subscribers coming over from FTB.

Monday, October 08, 2012

New at Rivals: TURRIBLE

My Monday morning column for the disaster against Arkansas is up at Rivals' AuburnSports.com.  A preview:

Workaday adjectives like "bad" or "awful" or even "terrible" aren't sufficient today. It's time to call on the Living Legend From Leeds and pronounce this result nothing short of TURRIBLE.

How TURRIBLE was Saturday? This TURRIBLE:

- The offensive line was demolished, owned, dominated by the 120th-ranked defense in the country. Both quarterbacks had bad interceptions and Kiehl Frazier once again held on to the ball for too long, but the sad fact is that neither QB had a chance most of the game. Auburn just didn't block anybody when it mattered, and rarely blocked anybody even when it didn't. At least we know now the answer to what happens when a movable object (Arkansas' pre-Auburn defense) is met by a resistible force (Auburn's 2012 offense).

...

This was a debacle. This was a disgrace.

This was TURRIBLE.

And with six more teams on the schedule whose defenses are ranked higher than #120, I see no reason to believe things are going to get any better.
The rest is on the subscription side, but Rivals is offering a free first month to new subscribers coming over from FTB.