I had no idea what I was supposed to write here. I actually texted Chris and told him that my intent was to simply write:
Because what else is there to say? You know it. I know it. This team won zero conference games last season. At best, the hope was maybe the Capital One Bowl, return almost everyone and really gear up for 2014. But Gus Malzahn was having none of that.
And I never wanted it all. I mean, sure, I did, but after losing to LSU, I never actually had any kind of expectation that all of it was possible. "A Sugar Bowl would be p cool," I thought. We actually had a room booked in New Orleans until my friend canceled it Sunday.
Early Sunday morning, my friend and noted Alabama fan, Hunter L. Johnson, tweeted:
"People talk about how hiring Saban was the best thing to ever happen to Bama. Might have been the best thing to ever happen to Auburn too."
And that's everything new that I can bring to the table, right? He's right. And that's one of those things you're going to pile on me for saying, but he's right.
If Alabama doesn't begin to again demand excellence, Auburn doesn't demand it either. If Alabama doesn't hand it to Tommy Tuberville in Saban's second season, does Tommy Tuberville ever "resign?" Does Auburn seek out a man with a great initial plan to replace him and see its first national championship in 53 years? When that man slips up just two years later, is he really fired that quickly? Like, let's say Alabama isn't good: Does Auburn care? And when they show Gene Chizik the door, do they go find the one man, unproven, but the complete opposite of Nick Saban? A man who coaches football the only way that Nick Saban fear it be coached?
Since Shug Jordan's departure at Auburn, Auburn has thrived off of Alabama at its best. Auburn hired Pat Dye because Pat Dye was the closest thing available to Bear Bryant. And then, Auburn found itself hiring the guy that was most opposite of the Alabama coach for the next 20 or so years.
For all of the misery that Nick Saban's hiring at Alabama has brought upon Auburn, his demand for excellence has made Auburn demand the same. I'm not sure that can be said in any other state right now. Sure, Mack Brown was great, but he's been passed by his non-conference state rival. And was Will Muschamp ever great? There aren't really any other states that house two teams that are close.
I'll say it. You'll hate it. But I'm correct.
Alabama is never going to "go away." Alabama is always going to be one of the best programs in college football. So when Alabama fans say, "We don't care about beating Auburn, we care about championships," they aren't entirely crazy. For Auburn, beating Alabama is job one. Because if you are beating Alabama, there's a good chance you are going to be playing for championships. 2010 and 2013 are proof. Sorry 'bout it.
At the 2010 BCS National Championship Game, I got in on a fake ticket and I got drunk beyond repair. I barely had a job, and I partied like I had never been there before. My phone died. It was an experience that I'll both never remember and never forget. And in 2010 (2011), I don't think it could have gone any other way.
But in 2013 (2014), I'm ready to go more prepared. I talked to my dad on Saturday evening about the last decade, and I recalled a conversation that I had with him from a stall at Buffalo's American Grill (Zazu, for you 18-year-olds) on my Motorola Crazr (a tiny flip phone that had a cool game called "Snake," for you 18-year-olds). Through tears, I wailed, "I'm just glad you lived to see this, man!"
Neither of us ever imagined 2010 would happen. And that 2013 happened? That's just insane.
2013 happened in the final year of the BCS. 2013 happened at the end of a run in which Alabama was the most dominant dynasty in the history of college football, and somehow, in the midst of that, Auburn managed to make it to the BCS National Championship Game twice. Auburn managed to win as many SEC Championships. Auburn managed to produce as many Heisman winners. All while having one complete "throwaway" season in that arms race. Granted, I suppose this Heisman campaign isn't yet finished.
We fight and we bitch and we gripe and we subtweet and we yell and we moan. But good Lord this is great, right? Sure, I'm saying that on the cusp of a trip to Pasadena. But what Auburn did this season solidifies all of it. On both sides. We (the great State of Alabama, the "Heart of Dixie," the "Yellowhammer State") are better than everyone else. At this, anyway. And at smoking pork. And at creating beautiful girls. And while we piss each other off on game days because of our passion, that passion is the thing we have. What else would you be doing if not fighting with your neighbor? Keeping up with politics? Enjoying art? Pfffftttt.
While I could boast of this season and while I'm damn proud of it, I'm more proud of the fact that most of us, even when we're angry, get that. Somewhere within. There was an Auburn University ad campaign several years ago that rings true:
"Where would Alabama be without Auburn?"
War Damn Eagle. I'll see y'all in Pasadena.