Sunday, November 19, 2006

AU 2006: Happy to be sad

I’ve never been so delighted at feeling disappointed.

Let me make it clear: I’m not delighted at Auburn’s 2006 season, or the end to said season. The unquestionable worst loss of the past three seasons, followed by a victory that proved little else beyond the frightfully, laughably mediocre depths to which the team we just beat for a fifth consecutive year sank this season? No, I’m not doing cartwheels, or a jig, or the Hustle, any other celebratory shimmy over how Auburn closed things out this year. I doubt any but the absolute most cheerful and sunshiny of Auburn fans are, barring those few wonderful souls that hate the Tide with a fury that borders on psychosis and really would be happy after an 0-11 turned 1-11 season.

But here’s the thing: What does it say about what Tubby and Gorgeous Al have accomplished at Auburn that a 10-2 season is considered a disappointment? That winning every game save for (1) an ambush from what later turned out to be one of the SEC’s best teams and (2) the overdue return to form of a proud and talented team and coach isn’t enough?

What it says is that Auburn has arrived. Over the course of our program’s history, it hasn’t typically been Tiger fans who have been disappointed with 10-2 seasons—it’s been Gator fans in the Spurrier years, or Seminole fans in the mid-to-late ‘90s, Nebraska fans, Miami fans, Ohio St. fans, or if you want to go back a bit, of course, fans of the team Auburn just beat for the fifth consecutive year.

The usual Auburn response to that “go back a bit” bit is to say “Oh, but Tide fans still aren’t happy with 10-2 seasons, they still expect the national title every year, ran Bill Curry off, never got over the Bear, etc.” No question there’s some truth to that, but the colder truth for Alabama fans is this: by and large they were jubilant about going 10-2 last year, even when one of those two was (Honk Honk!) a complete immolation at the hands of their most bitter rival. The Auburner essentially pointed this out midweek, but all you need to know about where Auburn and Alabama currently stand in relation to each other is to look at how these two 10-2 years have been perceived. However Alabama votes, it’s an Orange-and-Blue state now, and shows no signs of changing anytime soon.

And that is more than enough to get delighted about. Our team is so damn good these days, we have a right to be upset about winning 10 out of 12 games, including (I don’t recollect if I mentioned this) the fifth in a row over the Tide. War Damn Eagle.

I don’t want to imply that Auburn fans should be happier with the 2006 effort in itself. I consider myself a pretty doggone rational fan as fans go, and after the UGa game, No, I’m not all that happy even with the Iron Bowl win. The team failed to improve as the year progressed, playing two of its best three games of the season in Weeks 1 and 3 and the other in Week 7. Both losses came at home, the second to a reeling rival with a freshman QB that had previously lost to both Vandy and Kentucky. Most depressing of all is the sense of lost opportunity—this was the kind of schedule, the kind of SEC, and the kind of national disarray that could have erased the sting of 2004 if Auburn had simply played up to their level of talent, maybe even if they’d just done so against the Hogs. I can be a very, very happy fan without a national title. But I cannot be happy at all when a team with as much talent as this one has gets embarrassed the way it did two Saturdays ago and follows up with a win—-however sweet—-that, let's be honest, had as much to do with the opponent’s incompetence than Auburn’s resolve. The bottom line is that we all hoped 2004 meant Tubby had learned his lesson after 2003 and that the Capital One Bowl fiasco was an aberration. Nope. Same old Tubbs.

Which, of course, for the reasons described above, I will gladly take over the alternative. I do feel like I ought to give Tubby more slack for his occasional egg-layings, seeing as how I expected two before the season even began. (Though I hoped one would wait until bowl season.) We know he’s not going to have a championship season when his team is the favorite to win said championship, and we should probably quit forgetting that just because Auburn gets past LSU. In that sense, maybe Tiger fans really should be happier about having gone 10-2.

But that’s not us anymore. We’re not Alabama. We’re Auburn, and 10-2 isn’t always going to be good enough. Honestly, why would we want it any other way?


Rod said...

Good stuff, J.

Jason said...

Slow down a little with the talk about how "talented" this team is and how they underachieved.

Go back and look at the recruiting classes from after Jetgate. Those are the guys that we are playing with now. Then compare those classes to the next 2 years and this year's class. I believe that Auburn fans will look back and be amazed that this team won 10 games, especially considering the injuries.

I think the only group that truly underachieved was the offensive line and you could chalk that up to injuries as well. I believe that this was one of Tuberville's best coaching performances - considering the lack of leadership displayed by this team.

I think the future is extremely bright for this team. They will be better next year - especially on defense - unfortunately the schedule snaps back with a vengeance. However, the 2008 team could be special assuming they find a quarterback.

I am really enjoying your writing, keep up the good work.

War Eagle!

Jerry Hinnen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jerry Hinnen said...

jason, I may be overstating it, but I don't see any real reason why the 2006 team should have been worse than the 2005 team, do you? The loss of McNeill stings, but to the point that the whole operation falls apart? And look at how the two teams finished the season: 2005 beat a better UGa and crushed a better Bama than the teams 2006 fell apart against and squeezed past, respectively.

But thanks for reading and War Eagle!