"If only, if only," the woodpecker sighs,
"The bark on the tree was as soft as the skies."
While the wolf waits below, hungry and lonely,
Crying to the moo--oo--oon,
"If only, if only."
--Louis Sachar, Holes
If only Dollard hadn't gotten the ax. If only they'd dodged the bullet against Mercer. If only they'd edged Dayton in regulation instead of getting taken to that ill-fated overtime. If only they'd shoot free throws better than your average middle school team. If only they'd shot one shot better than 5-of-27 from beyond the arc against Florida. If only Barber had little bit of help inside. If only Reed had gotten his ass to the Coliseum on time before the Vandy game. If only they'd shown up against Ole Miss. If only Jeff Lebo's Auburn basketball team didn't cling so damned stubbornly to being what we all recognize, with depressing clarity, as a Jeff Lebo Auburn basketball team. If only, if only.
Then maybe this win would seem like more than an isolated great moment in another lost season. Then maybe it would have something to say about Auburn's NCAA Tournament odds besides "maybe this means they're more likely to win four in four days in Tampa." Then maybe we could see more easily how hard this team almost always--if not always always--plays for its coach, how they haven't thrown in his towel for him. Then maybe we could look at what Vot Barber and Rasheem Barrett accomplished Saturday and expect it to be two seniors grabbing this season by the throat and pulling it around rather than two seniors exploding in one of a final few random bursts of brilliance before their careers meet their inevitably unsatisfying end in a month's time. Then maybe we could watch Auburn rush the court and Lucas Hargrove scream from his perch atop a press table and feel like we were watching something special in that sense of it being definitive and landmark and important rather than in the sense of it being as good as it's going to get. Then maybe I could avoid pointing out that they were due to pick off one of the close ones. Then maybe I could have kept myself from wondering how many more wins Lebo had left to enter "It's not worth it to get rid of him" territory, and feeling like as ass afterward, as I feel right now for writing this post instead of the alternate one that's unambiguously happy and gleefully congratulates the Tigers on their best victory of this season, as they deserve to be congratulated.
Then maybe we don't smile, shake our heads, and say "If only, if only."