The Bane of Heightened Expectations II
Greetings, O football-starved compatriots of the Orange and Blue! It’s been quite a while since I have darkened the door of our corner lot (or express drive-thru, if you prefer) on the information superhighway. As someone who readily admits to a lack of technical knowledge of football, I thought I would let that annual orgy of anticipation and prognostication known as National Signing Day come and go, and get out of the way of those on our staff with more ability to comment upon those happenings.
In addition, I am just now getting over our defeat from early January. Not angry, bitter, nor even disappointed–just a really, really sad feeling when I think of Auburn. Feeling this way is of course ridiculous, when compared to the real-world things I and many people close to me have been experiencing—births, deaths, illnesses, all those things much more significant than football—not to mention the fact that we exceeded our wildest dreams for last year. Nonetheless, this loss hit me harder than any other loss since I started caring about sports in general and AU in particular. Sand Mountain Tiger wrote a good piece here some time ago, capturing most of what I felt.
However, I can now finally put those feelings aside (yeah, the same way I can our rooking in 1983) and start looking ahead. This brings me back to something I wrote here following the aTm game: Although we exceeded anything we could have expected in the last campaign, that only raises our expectations even more for next year.
Even with the notable player losses to both graduation and early draft exit, AU is looking like a monster for next year. Our coaching staff is intact. The installed offense will not be derailed (despite certain crimson-clad coaches’ efforts to the contrary), and our remaining and incoming personnel appear to have reloaded the Gus Blunderbuss for another loud series of BOOMS. Furthermore, I do not think we will ever have to worry about these young men fighting till the end in any game. With all of this going for us, we have set a high standard to measure the success of next year’s campaign.
My definition of success doesn’t rest on a particular win-loss total; rather, I see it as a function of two factors….
First, it is a matter of WHO we have to beat. I honestly feel that any season that doesn’t include a beatdown of LSU (to get us off that one-out-of-the-last-seven schneid) and a win against either or both Bama or the Dawgs (so all that “lucky” talk stops RIGHT NOW) will not be a success. One other defeat to a worthy team in a worthy battle would be acceptable, along with maybe a loss in an epic-level SEC Championship Game. A win and a loss in the new playoffs would be still be a beautiful thing for AU, as would a bowl victory if we somehow end up Number Five in the eyes of the selection committee (and if that happens, then damn their eyes).
If you factor in all those things, I don’t think many of us will be very happy without squeezing out an 11-2, 11-3, or 13-2 season next year, including at least a split in the post-season. Still, I think calling next season a good season hinges on our performances against our Big Three (LSU, UGA, and Bama).
But there is one more factor involved in a successful season for me. 2010 and 2013 cannot appear as flukes. For Auburn to assume its rightful place among the powers of the football earth, next season must include stuffing a metaphorical sock in the pie-holes of ANYONE who thinks AU is a second- or third-rate program. Of course, some pie-holes are larger than others, and require a larger sock to muffle; some pie-holes may be too large for anything to quiet them down, being directly proportional to the orifice at the other end (looking at you, Finebaum).
I take great pride in the point Coach Chizik made several times during his tenure: Auburn was great before any of us walked the campus, and Auburn will be great long after we are spread onto the playing field (either literally or figuratively). WE know that. WE also know that AU is more than eleven teenagers chasing a leather spheroid across a patch of grass. But let’s face it—we also want to be on top. We want to be able to say “WE’RE NUMBER ONE!” But even more so, we want to be in a position to say that the object of our fandom is LEGIT—not lucky, not a fluke, not winning due to “dirty play” or improper activity.
I find it comforting that, in our minds, we don’t have to win championships (or even make them up) to feel that sense of validation. But I really, really, REALLY am tired of hearing all the baloney from certain other fanbases, either through the internet or face-to-face. I want a season next year that, if it can’t keep those folks quiet, at least makes them look like patent idiots for trying to question AU’s legitimacy.
I have pondered and pondered what would make me happy with Auburn football, and I think I finally hit upon it. I just hope that we can finally succeed in this endeavor. After that, of course, the expectations will go even higher….
(who was playing with house money last year, and is going ALL IN again next year!)