Auburn just won a football game in expected fashion, and its' about to lose a football game in expected fashion. I spent the weekend in Savannah, Georgia, and I'm going to begin this week by offering some anecdotes about that trip, because these tales are less predictable than the outcomes of Auburn's final two games. I'll write some things about Auburn and football and predictability later in this post, so if you're not willing to indulge me something more interesting for a moment, feel free to scroll down.
Running on Empty. Eastern Georgia is sprawling. It's like West Texas with hills. It's like Oklahoma with barbecue pork. It's like South Alabama with...well, it's exactly like South Alabama.
So having left Birmingham for Savannah at 7 p.m. on Friday, we hit a stretch beyond Macon and well before Savannah in a Hybrid with what I imagined was plenty of gas. It's a hybrid; these things are fueled by unicorn farts and hopes and dreams, right?
Suddenly, that second bar of available gas dropped to one, and I knew that the situation was dire. It was beyond midnight Eastern now. I stopped at what I assumed would be an open gas station; surely the only Exxon off the interstate in a 100 mile radius would be open, right? Wrong. So I got back on the interstate, eastbound, and hoped for the best. Meanwhile, my girlfriend began searching for a 24-hour gas station on the World Wide Web - the information box that we carry in our pockets or purses, her phone.
"There's a 24-hour Exxon 13 miles away in the other direction," she eventually interjected.
Neat. So I can gamble on what might be ahead here in the correct direction (I have had no reason to believe that there will be a gas station within 13 miles in the correct direction) or I can go to what I am assured will be a 24-hour gas station the way from which I came. The latter decision sets me back a solid 45 minutes; we're 90 minutes from Savannah and it's already after midnight.
"Okay, we'll turn around," I say aloud, and as soon as I make the decision, the hybrid rests on one bar of gas. I'm gripping that steering wheel like I'm rounding the tri-oval at Talladega - we're going to be on the side of this interstate, waving frantically, I'm sure of it.
As we begin to close in on what is going to be the exit for this 24-hour Exxon, it begins to feel familiar. "This is going to be the same damn gas station we just went to that was closed," I say. "I know it. I know it. I know it." And with each of those final three miles, I got angrier and angrier. But how could I be sure? Eastern Georgia is just miles upon miles upon miles of hilly darkness. I think this was somewhere near Georgia Southern? They had a Georgia Southern neon beer sign in their window, so I assume Georgia Southern was near. Auburn had just beaten them, badly, in basketball. I listened to the entire thing, uninterrupted. The Internet is really cool.
Yep. Same gas station. And as I exited, the final bar of gas vanished. I coasted into the parking lot, but we had no gas, we were a thousand miles from nowhere and AAA couldn't even pinpoint our locale. As such, she asked me to go to the door and see if it had an address on it that she could provide the kind AAA folks on the phone. It did not. I walked away from it and had the idea that it may be on the gas pump. It was not.
But the light was on. The light on the gas pump was on. With like $39.97 displayed on it.
"Hey, umm...this rural Georgia gas station that is closed may have left its' pump on," I said. "Let's try this."
I scanned my card to pay at the pump. Success. Sweet, sweet success. We had avoided being stranded in Deliverance Georgia and after a reservation snafu, we'd end up in our first hotel of the weekend by 3 a.m. Eastern. Exactly as everything had been planned.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Savannah is something, man. It's New Orleans without industry. It's Athens without a college. It's Charleston without as much food. It's got a really cool touristy riverwalk and it has really nice parks and greenspaces. But what do people do? How do people there live and work?
I went to Savannah a decade or so ago and I drank and drank and drank and drank. So I recalled it being...awesome. But that's all there is to do in Savannah. It's really gorgeous - the architecture, the weeping willows. It has, like, eight really, really great places to eat, but five of those are closed more hours of the day than they are open. And it has Savannah College of Art and Design, which has a museum, which was also closed, despite saying that it was open.
Basically, that's Savannah, unless you just want to drink and drink and drink and drink; 80% of it is closed and will open when it damn well pleases. This place drinks so much the hotel tells you when you arrive, "Checkout is at 11 but it's no big deal. You can checkout at 1 p.m."
And we really didn't drink that much. So, yeah, Hugh Acheson's place was delicious, and the Foxy Loxy was good and b. matthew's was just fine and the Isbell show at the Lucas was great and the park was pretty and Flannery O'Connor's childhood home was really, really cool, but if you're not drinking...a lot...meh.
The Tuckering. Tucker Tuberville played on Saturday. I don't have anything to add to that. But I've often mentioned how that kid would come into Hastings with Tommy for Pokemon card tournaments and such, and as such, however little that may be, I've always felt a little invested in Tucker. I love the Tubervilles and I was happy...NAY...tickled to see it happen.
Stay calm and prepare for pain. This week, Auburn will be Alabama's biggest rival. They've beaten Tennessee again and they've beaten LSU again and Ole Miss doesn't count as a rival because they can't beat Ole Miss. When they soundly defeat Auburn this weekend, Alabama fans will again concede Auburn as its biggest rival. Until Alabama plays Florida. Then you'll hear about how great the days were when Alabama played Florida in the SEC Championship Game every year and how that game is really nostalgic and how Alabama fans have always looked at that classic showdown as their biggest rival.
Auburn isn't going to win this game. You can keep the record books inside - there's no need to toss them out. Pull one off the shelf. Open it up. Sit in your oversized leather library chair and get comfortable. Reflect on it. Absorb it. If a team is expected to lose this game soundly, it usually does. Auburn pulled off a bit of an upset in 2002 to begin the six-game streak. But otherwise, I'm not sure I can remember one in my life. And before my life, Alabama was amid a nine-game streak, thoroughly displaying to Doug Barfield who was boss.
Auburn isn't going to win this game. But I can still be satisfied with my degree and my education. Alabama fans are going to have car flags out this week - one per window. Alabama fans are going to wear their fanciest, ironed Alabama polo-style shirt to church on Sunday, tucked into jeans. And those things are going to make your dad mad as hell. He's going to call you and talk about how the preacher just wouldn't shut up about it in his sermon and he "dang near had to walk out he got so fed up with it."
But Alabama is going to win this game. By a lot. It won't be close, and if it is, it's just fine to count that as a moral victory.
Nick Saban is ruining college football: Guys, LSU is talking about firing Les Miles. Some among you are suggesting that Gus Malzahn should be on the hot seat. And it validates something I have said often, something that Cole Cubelic said loudly on a larger platform this week and that is becoming gospel: Nick Saban is ruining college football.
The weird thing about this is how damn defensive Alabama fans get about it. "What you trying to say, Barbara? We aren't sposed to win?! That's bout the dumbest damn thing I ever heard. I want my team to WIN, Barner! ROLL DAMN TIDE."
Right. You do. And you should. And that's awesome. And congrats that your team is superior in every way. No one is knocking you because you root for a superior football team. You root for a robotic, joyless football kill factory and that's just awesome because your joy is derived from everyone else hating you and being "MAD." You're winning at the game you want to win at. No one can take that away from you.
But guys, LSU is talking about firing Les Miles. Georgia is talking about firing Mark Richt (and I agree with this one, but still) and there are Auburn fans that want to fire Gus Malzahn. Expectations are out of control in a conference where everyone has a $5 million coach and not everyone can win all the time.
Someone has to lose. Someone has to finish last.
But Nick Saban changed all of that. Being okay isn't okay anymore. "Next year" isn't good enough anymore. Music City Bowl is a failure. And as such, it's not fun for the rest of us.
I'll say again - Auburn managed to make it to TWO....TWO....TWO BCS National Championship Games in the middle of this Alabama dynasty. How unbelievable is that? It's absolutely stunning.
I don't know where I'll be watching, but I'll be watching. I have a lot of options and most don't involve me being inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. I'll be watching because when I was a kid, this was the most important thing. It was legit 365 days a year. For some, it still is. I find mustering that much anger over football difficult now, but I still love it, and I'll be watching. I'll be watching because my dad loves it and he taught me to love it. I'll be watching because it was a huge part of my career for a long time. I'll be watching because I love Auburn. Here's hoping that your passion for it is positive and you enjoy the ass-kicking that awaits you with friends and family and wings and dips and spirits. It's a special day in this state, even when the outcome is this predictable. War Damn Eagle.