Friday, September 28, 2007

Open letter to Brandon Cox he will not read


Hi there. My name's Jerry Hinnen. I'm a big Auburn football fan, and this is my blog, the Joe Cribbs Car Wash.

So we're clear: I speak for no one but myself. Some Auburn fans will support the offer I'm making you here. Many will not, and that's fine. More than understandable.

Because whatever happens Saturday in Gainesville, Brandon, in this space you are forgiven. A close Auburn loss; a spread-covering two-TD Gator win; a 70-3 humiliation. I will hold none of these results against you.

After what happened two Saturdays back, you know there are many, many Auburn fans who won't be nearly so charitable. I don't just mean the boo-birds, either. You know as well as any of us--better, probably, when you're alone and honest--that you stunk Jordan-Hare Stadium out those first three weeks. You simply didn't play well enough as Auburn's starting senior quarterback for our team to win those games. Even those of us who would never dare boo an Auburn player giving his best effort (and no one sane doubts your commitment or toughness, I think it's fair to say) have more than sufficient reason to have burned through the last of our stores of understanding, compassion, etc. It's not like I've been a wellspring of kindness myself. (Also: this offer does not hold for the Vandy game, or several of the games thereafter. Auburn should not lose to Vandy.)

But this week? You have nothing here to lose, no criticism available here to earn. You have played, Brandon, like a quarterback who knows the entire elephantine weight of the Auburn offense is on your shoulders and ready to crash to the cold earth of a 19-14 loss to Mississippi St. at any time. It makes sense you would feel like that: your best receiver is a walk-on, your running backs a sophomore and a redshirt freshman, your offensive line riddled with inexperience and incompetence even where it is experienced. Who in your situation wouldn't feel like they had been handed a sackful of cannonballs and asked to drag it the miles and miles it needed to go? Who can blame you, really, for bailing the pocket an instant too quickly when you feel in your guts you must be on the field for your team to have even the thinnest chance at victory? I'm sure you would tell all of us an injury isn't a luxury your team can even get a credit line established for, much less afford.

But dragging and pulling and playing in desperation doesn't work. Just ask Brett Favre, who's thrown countless interceptions of the "I'd better make a spectacular play because spectacular plays are our only hope, and I am the only one capable of making them" variety over the last few seasons, interceptions that from a decision-making standpoint look an awfully lot like your hopeful lobs into double-coverage.

So I ask you to put that weight down. I ask you, Brandon, to play Saturday night like there are no burdens, that there are no boo-birds and no message boards and nothing but handshakes and slaps-on-the-back waiting for you when you return to the Plains. You have played that way before. I have little doubt you can play that way again. So that is all you will find here: applause for your effort, a "thumbs-up" for the attempt, win or lose. I, at least, will watch expecting nothing. Not failure. Not success. No expectations. Just hope.

Do not, however, underestimate that hope. Have you ever seen the movie Flight of the Navigator? Probably, right? (You're not that much younger than I am.) Our teacher showed it to us one lazy Friday when I was in fourth grade. For all the cool special effects, the awesome spaceship, the freakish little alien housepets on board, the laff-a-minute on-board robot, the Sarah Jessica Parker, what stuck with me most was the montage of dogs catching frisbees in a Florida park over the opening credits. They were filmed from ground level, sometimes against the sky, in close-up and slo-mo, every ruffle of fur as they poised, sprang into the air, and locked their jaws against their target the ruffles of the divine. Truly, these were the dogs of gods. (Truly, also, I was 10.)

The minute I got home, I grabbed a frisbee and took the labrador retriever my family had raised from puppyhood out in the backyard. I don't think I ever really expected her to jump for the frisbee. Part of me, even then, knew that a dog had to be trained to do something like what the dogs in the movie had done. But I stayed out there for hours, tossing the disc, watching her wait patiently until it hit the ground, then pulling it away as she excitably tried to pick it up off the ground. Toss, watch, recover, toss. Lather, rinse, repeat. Every time, imagining that it will be different this time, that this time she will eye, and leap, and snare, and I will run screaming with joy into the house to tell my Mom the miraculous movie-camera thing that has happened with my own dog.

Brandon, this is the burning, unending hope I will carry with me into Saturday night. I don't expect a win. The team you are facing has more weapons, more fans in attendance, and though they do not have much experience they have more of that than our side does, too. The rational part of me--that knew my dog wasn't about to snare that frisbee--knows that victory is terribly, terribly unlikely.

But there is hope. And it starts with you. It is a hope impossible to fulfill without you playing as you did two seasons ago, with confidence, surety, and abandon. The game in Gainesville is like that frisbee: it will do no good to wait for it to gently come to you. The game is there, hovering, spinning, ready. You must go get it.

We know you have the ability. Pretend there is no weight on your shoulders. Remember that some, even many, of us will forgive you if you miss. Make this leap, Brandon. Let nothing hold you to the ground. Leap! And bring victory back to us.

War Eagle.



Pat said...

As a retired Army officer, I have trained many young men to step up and acheive more than they ever thought possible. I must say that Brandon Cox has impressed me far more than many of the great Auburn players of the past. Few have had to overcome as many obstacles or difficulties in their career, including his own highly publicized mistakes. Yet I have never heard or read of a single complaint from that young man, nor ever seen him hang or shake his head on the sidelines. He has been alert, focused and ever ready to try his damnest to improvise, adapt and overcome at the earliest possible opportunity. Say what you like about him, but he never quits, is never publically discouraged, and never loses his poise and character. From every player and coach, we hear he is the established leader of this team. He is one of the winningest quarterbacks in Auburn history and our best hope for victory in this or any other game.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Theodore Rooseveldt

Good luck Brandon, and War Eagle!

Patrick Sullivan
MAJ, US Army (Ret).

John Rogers said...



That was BEAUTIFUL, man!

Jerry Hinnen said...

Pat: thanks for your thoughts!

John: Thanks ... we're all about beauty at the JCCW.

Anonymous said...

you called it! What a great AU