If you asked the people closest to me what I love the most (after the requisite God, family, friends, and country), it would be spaghetti, Auburn Basketball, and Chris Davis.
Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
I survived college on a steady rotation of spaghetti (angel hair with sauce from a jar), spaghetti (ramen with sauce from a jar), and my mom’s spaghetti (spaghetti with sauce from a jar mixed with freshly cooked ground beef). When I started my first job out of college, I was on the road four days a week. My mentor gave me two pieces of advice. One, trust yourself, even when you probably shouldn’t. I took that to mean if I wanted to eat spaghetti every day, I should. Two, figure out something you can always eat from a fast food joint because you will spend an inordinate amount of time in craphole towns and airports. I took that as an endorsement to eat spaghetti whenever it presented itself.
Auburn Basketball. My precious. Oh how I have loved you from the moment I set foot in Beard-Eaves as an Auburn freshman. If you read College and Mag, you know where I stand on this matter and how much of me lives and dies by it. Which is why this post has been so hard and yet so important for me to write. I still haven’t really processed that Bruce Pearl is the head coach at Auburn. I have sat in front of my laptop for hours at a time but had nothing to write that hadn’t already been written. I am happy - obviously - but it just doesn’t seem real. Maybe I had almost gotten complacent in thinking that Auburn hoops was destined to forever be this.
Are you able to even contemplate how absurd it is to be a hoops fanatic for an SEC school not named Kentucky or even Florida? Don’t get me wrong, I love Auburn football. I always have, I always will. But I don’t know a lot about football - the mechanics, the nuances, the strategy. Every season, I memorize the roster in order to guesstimate what might happen based on the players on the field at any given moment. I can rattle off any number of stats but I have never written about football on this site for fear of being deemed "the girl that doesn't know football". When we started this blog, I could confidently tell you only two things about football - I was more interested in the defense, particularly the secondary and there was this kid from Woodlawn named Chris Davis that could be something really special.
That kid started making plays in 2010. A true freshman, a slightly undersized freshman, was holding his own against seasoned SEC starters. We started our tailgate in 2011 and the first shot of the day was always kicked off with a boisterous "War Damn Chris Davis" toast. It is one of the few things that remains from the early days. I’ve streamlined our tailgate as much as I can in order to make it easier for Murphy (@murphtl), Jared (@wardamnjared), and me to manage but that was the one thing I could never let go of. Not even when he was injured and didn’t play. I trusted my gut. I was ride or die when it came to Chris Davis.
I have worked as an independent contractor since 2004 and in 2012, for the first time ever, I went six months without a contract. For lack of more colorful language, times were very tough. I asked Murphy to teach me how to cook so I didn’t go bonkers without work. I knew how to use a knife but other than that, I could barely boil water. I fretted that I might not be able to follow instructions from Murphy (ha!). If this turned out to be my one-time shot at learning to cook, I had to choose our first project wisely. So we made marinara. It turned out better than anything I had ever had from a jar. But it still wasn’t good enough. Murphy told me to be patient.
At the very least, it was good enough to serve as comfort food for the 2012 football season and the 2012-13 basketball campaign. I tried making it a few other ways but was never really satisfied. I could make decent, but not perfect, marinara. Our tailgate continued to trudge through the War Damn Chris Davis shots but I think more than a few people started to question my sanity. I didn’t question anything. I just trusted my gut. I ate a lot of marinara. I was ride or die when it came to Chris Davis.
Things started to shift a little in 2013. I had steady work again and I had tweaked the marinara to the point that I had stopped ordering it in restaurants because I could make it better at home. Chris Davis was having a solid season, despite missing a few games due to injury, but I worried it wasn’t enough to make NFL scouts take notice. I told Murphy that he needed a breakout game, maybe even just one big play. Every game offered a glimmer of hope - tackles, sacks, forced fumbles, pass break ups; the 70 yard punt return against Florida Atlantic, the 85 yard punt return for a TD against Tennessee. But it still wasn’t good enough. Murphy told me to be patient.
Then the Miracle at Jordan-Hare happened. As excited as I was, I admit to being a bit crestfallen. How could Chris Davis top that? I told Murphy that we were running out of time for a Chris Davis magical moment. I made more marinara. I was eating it all the time at this point because I was frantic. We did the usual War Damn Chris Davis shot the day of the Iron Bowl. I remember walking into that game not realizing that my long unanswered prayer would be answered in such a way that it would finally make sense to me why it took so long to be answered. There. Goes. Davis. It was finally good enough. One dot.
My borderline obsession with Auburn basketball almost consumed me in the final season under Tony Barbee. The anger in my basketball posts grew exponentially from one to the next. Marinara no longer comforted me; I stopped making it. I had all but given up - I would never see a Final Four with my guys on the floor. I tried to reason with myself that Auburn wasn’t a basketball school anyway. When I thought it couldn’t get any worse, my contract ended unexpectedly and I was - again - out of work. It was so much worse than it had been before. So I started making marinara again. Two friends and I decided to start a company. We struggled. Mightily. We signed our first client in March around the same time Auburn hired Bruce Pearl. But it still wasn’t good enough. Murphy told me to be patient.
On October 1, 2014, I made what Murphy deemed a "perfect marinara". It took roughly three years to figure out the recipe. I had to learn how all the ingredients should and could work together. I had to put a little more time and and a lot more effort into the prep. I had to let it simmer for at least two hours. I had to learn to wait. Then it happened. It was finally good enough. Two dots.
Auburn Basketball faces six non-conference opponents that danced last year (maybe only five; it depends on how the Thanksgiving tournament shakes out). Milwaukee, Colorado, Louisiana-Lafayette, Tulsa, Oklahoma State, Coastal Carolina. Auburn plays six of nine games against the SEC East on the road. Vanderbilt, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri. I will have to make a lot of marinara to get through the season. They might win more games than they did last year. But it still won’t be good enough. Murphy will tell me to be patient. You have to trust that somehow the dots will connect in your future. It’s cool. I know how to wait. Third dot, I see you. War Damn.