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An Almost Unbearable Loss

How are you feeling this morning? If you’re like me, yesterday hurt even more than Saturday night. Maybe today will be better, but I doubt it. Where do you place Saturday’s controversial loss to Virginia? For this writer, it’s the most painful ever.

Losing to Florida State in the BCS Championship hurt. Watching Van Tiffin hit that 52-yard field goal in 1985 was a punch to the throat. Watching what was supposedly the best officials in the country take Saturday’s game into its own hands is almost unbearable. Florida State made the plays in Pasadena. Van Tiffin made the kick at Legion Field. You don’t like it, but you can live with it.

In Minneapolis, a couple of middle-aged guys took something from a special group of players and coaches. It’s going to take a minute to get over this one.

Give the Auburn players credit. They handled it with class—way more class than most of us would have shown. Of course, these aren’t average people. These young men are as special as they come. I’ve been watching Auburn athletics for 50 years and I’ve never seen a more unique and talented group of kids.

We’ve all been raised on football, but I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of an Auburn team than I am these guys. I loved that 1983 SEC Championship Team. The Undefeated Season of 1993 was magical. The national championship year of 2010 was something I never thought I’d see. And 2013 speaks for itself.

This year’s Final Four Team will go down as my all-time favorite—in any sport. Watching this team has been nothing but pure joy—one of the great surprises of my life. You love Auburn because of seasons like this one. What is it about Auburn teams that come out of nowhere to shock the world?

We can choose to look at the glass as half-full or half-empty. Right now, it seems the glass is shattered. In time, we’ll all get past it. We’ll look back and smile at the sweep over Alabama and Tennessee, the SEC Championship in Nashville and the historic run through the tournament.

Until I take my last breath, I’ll always smile when I hear the names Bryce Brown and Jared Harper. When I think of the kid smile of Chuma Okeke, I’ll remember why I love Auburn.

Bruce Pearl is special. We knew that before this historic run. Like Shug Jordan and Pat Dye in football, he’s a transformational coach that will be remembered in these parts long after we all are gone. We must remind ourselves that this is not the end but only the start.

While today still hurts, tomorrow offers the hope of more to come. That should put a smile on all of our faces.

22 Comments

  1. Tigerpharm says:

    What a great article. Completely encapsulates what I think most of us are feeling about this team and this special season. Thanks for posting Jay. Makes me know how much I’ve missed reading your column.

  2. AUFan1 AUFan1 says:

    I was so mad when these guys were robbed but at the same time, I’m still proud of this team. What a special group of Auburn men!

  3. wpleagle wpleagle says:

    I just can’t rise to Jay’s level of despair. For me, this team wasn’t expected to do anything, and to have gotten as far as it did was joy in itself. All the examples given by Jay were of teams that were expected to go all the way, and my despair at their losses was as great as Jay’s. With the UVA loss, it’s just not there. I’m sad for a superb team and a great coach, but it just doesn’t get to the deep despair level.

  4. neonbets says:

    These guys just kept fighting! Their last two opponents were such unfavorable matchups, but they still found a way forward. Just so outstanding!

    The refs…To be fair, if Brown was putting up that last shot and a UVA player leaned in–I would have wanted a foul called. BUT, if ‘a foul is a foul’, then a double dribble is a double damn dribble.

    I know I’m in a minority, but I think ‘Instant’ Replay stinks. It ruins the flow of the game, and in the end there are still the same number of controversies and disgruntled fans. Before Replay, I don’t remember any team that did not rally deserve to win a championship based on ref incompetence. I know there have been awful calls, but in the end it all seemed to work out.

    Now, we get impotent refs huddling over the TV monitor, obsessing over the nuances of Flagrant Foul Theory and Hook-Holds. We get ridiculous interruptions over whether 4 seconds should be put back on the clock when there’s still 10 minutes left in the game. We get excruciating slow motion reruns that are inconclusive– so they just end up going with the original call on the floor.

    What we don’t get a billion dollar production engaging in a simple replay analysis of a missed call on the most basic rule for the game of basketball—The No Double Dribble.

    I’ve seen that call made in pee-wee games where the hoops are lowered to 8 feet, where the ball looks as if it’s larger than the participants, where there’s one ref who’s reffing his first game. I’ve played in pickup games where that call is made. I’ve played in 3-on-3 games on one of those side hoops while waiting to play in the full-court pickup game where that call is made. Hell, I’ve made that damn call on myself when I was alone and I was just practicing my jump shot!

    [Shoot–I think I just broke part of my keyboard. I gotta go now. I hope I’ve managed to convey my opinion that perhaps the refs missed this call.]

  5. audad says:

    Jay, terrific column. And it's unfortunate that the NCAA has to have no accountability for it's crew chosen for the highest stakes games of the season. They can make statements justifying why the foul was called (and they did), but when it comes to missing calls like the double dribble their only statement is that they don't issue statements on what could be interpreted as blown or missed calls.

    But as the pain of all that gradually subsides, the other things you wrote about will be and should be the prevailing remembrances of this season. A team that was close to being written off and one that was in danger of even slipping on to the dreaded bubble at one point, turned it completely around and came within a couple of seconds of playing for the big trophy. After losing one of their best players and possibly best all around player in the 3rd game of the tournament.

    Auburn basketball can only be the huge beneficiary of all this. Pearl re-established himself as one of the best coaches in the country, and to your point, the classiness that both he and his players showed in the aftermath can only help the recruiting cause.

    Some writers like to still hang on his past indiscretions (i.e., the article in USA Today by Nancy Armour last week with the headline that Bruce Pearl is an example of why college basketball stinks), but I believe that a lot of that will be pushed even further into the rear view mirror after all of this.

    And who knows, perhaps Okeke will have second thoughts about declaring for the NBA draft and come back for his senior year. Sometimes it's emotional runs like this and falling just short that makes a young kid have a change of heart and come back for the "unfinished business". We'll know soon.

    War eagle.

  6. friedca friedca says:

    This team and the 2013 football team are going to be my favorite stories for a long time. Both teams written off, this team mid season/2013 team from the beginning. Both had magical runs that ended in devastating fashion. The difference between the two is 2013 I was just sad after the lose. Saturday’s lose made me nothing but angry. We didn’t lose that in so much as it was taken.

    I’ve seen so many folks say “well Auburn didn’t play hot until the last 5 minutes” or “Auburn should have not been in that situation.” That is crap. Good teams have close games. Those close games should be decided by the players, not the refs. However, no going back now and you are right, these guys handled the lose with massive class and really left an impression on the NCAA basketball world. Not sure if anyone watched the welcoming home yesterday but the guys started out down trodden but started smiling a bit once they heard the Auburn crowd. Happy they got that welcome home.

    Anyone else see the tragic injury to Auburn gymnast Samantha Cerio? She announced her retirement from the sport on Sunday. Very sad.

  7. WDE7385 WDE7385 says:

    Virginia’s Ty Jerome admits double-dribble occurred

    https://www.al.com/auburnbasketball/2019/04/virginias-ty-jerome-admits-double-dribble-occurred.html

    A real heart breaker of a loss.
    This basketball team set out to make history and they did.
    WAR DAMN EAGLE!!!!

  8. maryland tiger says:

    To the members of the media that are saying that the double dribble no-call was unfortunate, but there are missed calls throughout games – then the same could be said for the pass interference no-call in the Saints-Rams NFC championship game.

    My biggest hate is for Jay Bilas who has been anti Auburn the entire tournament. Another is Jay Williams (another Dukie) who kept saying that Ty Jerome was fouled and that's the reason for the double dribble. But, if you look at the video, Bryce was trying to grab the jersey but barely touched it – there was no foul! IMO, the attempted foul by Bryce did cause the double dribble.

    Surprisingly, Dick Vitale was the most outraged about the no call. So maybe he redeemed himself in the eyes of Auburn fans after his (over the top) outrage at Auburn making the tournament in 2003. Of course, he had to eat some crow when that Auburn team made it to the Sweet Sixteen barely losing to eventual champion Syracuse while playing basically a road game in Albany, NY.

  9. WarSamEagle WarSamEagle says:

    Anybody that is honest will tell you that the refs screwed up big time. The picture with this article from the New York Post proves it was not just Auburn people upset with the way the game was handled at the end.

    I know the refs are not perfect but come on, calling that “ticky tacky” foul with advancing to the national championship game on the line was just pure garbage. The NCAA is not and can not reverse mistakes but the guy who did it should be kept from reffing big games in the future.

  10. BirminghamEagle says:

    Great article Jay. You have a unique gift for writing. It’s a shame that the refs got strict at the end. Because for the most part, it looked like to me they were letting them play a physical game and that’s why calling the close one with one second to go baffles the mind. They should have called the game tight all evening or not have got strict with one second left. But, your so right, we will always remember this team forever on the Plains.

  11. Im4Auburn says:

    Great article. I’m so proud of these guys. They played hard and represented Auburn so very well!

  12. Jason Wright says:

    I haven't gotten over it and don't know that I ever will. But this fine post helps – a little.

  13. Pine Mt Tiger Pine Mt Tiger says:

    Beautifully written piece. I truly think you speak the sentiments of the majority of the Auburn family Jay.
    War Eagle!

  14. Jay Coulter Jay Coulter says:

    Thank you all for the kind words. These men gave us a special ride indeed!

  15. […] Nevertheless, none of it can take away what this team has accomplished. They won the regular season SEC Championship in 2018 and were SEC Tournament Champions this year. Their 30 wins are the most in the history of the program. Against all odds they sliced their way through the NCAA Tournament to their first ever Final Four and proved they can compete with the elites of college basketball. And all the credit goes to Bruce Pearl who deserves to be National Coach of the Year. […]

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