Sitting in Jordan-Hare Stadium the last two weeks biting my finger nails, screaming myself voiceless, and holding my chest on every play in the final five minutes of the game has just about been too much. The 2010 version of Auburn Tiger Football has been both exciting and dramatic. The intense play on the field, the love affair between the coach and the student section, the thrilling- breathtaking last second wins, and the come from behind victories have almost given this old guy more than one heart attack in the last three games.
While holding my chest at the end of the game Saturday night I wondered, "Can't this team get it done an easier way?" Then I realized what a great exhibition I had just witnessed, what Jay Coulter has called "The Greatest Show on Turf." And boy has it ever been that. Whether it's the Auburn Defense containing two different Mississippi State quarterbacks in a close SEC opener, Wes Byrum's 23 yard field goal in over time against Clemson, Cam Newton's league leading offensive performance, or Demond Washington's interception in the end zone to seal the victory over South Carolina; this team is fun to watch. They give you a good show and provide exhilarating, spine tingling fun.
The current modus oporandi of this team seems to be the second half come from behind win. Adding to the excitement of the second half Tiger barrage, is that when Auburn does come back ... they come back fast and furious. Down 17-3 against Clemson, the Tigers won the second half 24-7 and sealed the victory in overtime.
Ah, the great American comeback. The great story of being down and almost out only to get up off the mat and score a knockout blow. It's the thing that legends are made of. I'm not saying this team will be legendary, but if they keep getting knocked down several times only to get back up and pummel their opponents in to submission, then that label may be fairly attached.
There is something intrinsic in all of us that loves a comeback. Sylvester Stallone made millions off that premise in his five "Rocky" movies. When we witness someone overcome what appears to be unbelievable odds, we are not only intrigued, we are enraptured with the event. The act of overcoming is both captivating and alluring. We connect with the over comer on an almost vicarious level; because witnessing the act of making a comeback gives us hope that we too can overcome the impossible.This past Saturday night it happened again. The Tigers fell behind South Carolina 20-7 in the first half only to come storming back; closing the gap to six points right before the half and winning the second half 21-7, final score 35-27.
Critics say that's not the way they feel a football team should go about taking care of business. However, those who were at Pat Dye Field Saturday had a different feeling. What we felt, what we experienced, what we saw was a bunch of Auburn men who really believe in themselves and in each other; no matter how many points they get behind. This is a trait that has caused many to already feel that this team may be special. And this is a trait that could well give the Tigers an edge in future games.
They have been through the fires of adversity, they have walked the paths of the underdog who finds himself fighting and scratching for his life, they've had their backs to the wall and like a band of brothers have fought "on to victory." They have been "fearless and true" and in so doing have brought honor to the Auburn family.
It has been said that greatness is birthed in trials and raised in adversity. If the true measure of a team is the ability to overcome adversity, then this team is showing early signs of being great.
For now, it's much too early to apply the label of great. Yet this team has at the least, if nothing else, character. As a consequence the true barometer of character is not measured by what we can achieve when things are going our way but by what we can achieve when the obstacles appear insurmountable. By that definition, these Tigers have character ... fighting character.
So Auburn fan if we have more cardiac cliffhanger games to face in the future, keep believing ...
And hang on for the ride.