Countdown to Football

44 Days

A haze of smoke still lingers in the air.  Faint screams paint the background with a fearful atmosphere.  The pattering of footsteps of those who want to live.

In the center, one man celebrates.  His wild hair blithely dances with the breeze.  His arms alternately punch the sky.

He stops.  The smoke clears.

Glass breaks in the distance.  Pieces of the building fall to the ground adding to the din of the scene.

He doesn’t notice.

He slowly walks forward.  His feet slightly scrape the pavement.  They knock a piece of metal out of the way.

He thinks about his back.  He is battered and bruised.  He was awfully close to the explosion.  It nearly knocked him unconscious.  But it was worth the pain.  Worth the injury.  He would heal.  He would not.

He stops and stares trying to cut his vision through the remaining fog.  There’s nothing there.  He saw him land right in this spot.  He can see how the debris fell all around this spot, but this spot is empty and clean.

The ticking of a pocket watch begins to echo.  He pulls an oversized, colorful watch out of his pocket and loudly giggles at the sight of the familiar clown painted on the back.  He checks the time.  Just past midnight.

He begins scouring the scene.  Overturning sheetrock.  Tossing away glass.

He is no where to be found.

He pauses in pain.  He can barely move his back.  And that’s when he senses it.  And he turns around.

In shock, he sees him standing upright.  Tall, strong, and confident.  Victorious even.  Perhaps an expression of elation but one couldn’t tell.  There was no mirth behind the black mask.

“Give up, Joker.  You’ve caused enough damage to yourself.  To others.  To our city,” he said.

The Joker started to turn around.  He stumbled, but he knew a gun was around here somewhere.  He found it on top of an overturned car.

When he spun around, Batman was gone, and the Joker knew he had failed once more in taking out his foe.

Two and a half years ago, a man named Gene Chizik moved from the state of Iowa to the state of Alabama amidst criticism and derision.

He was a 5-19 failure.  A glorified coordinator that had benefitted from experienced head coaches and a roster full of talent.

He was taking over a hopeless program.  One that just had an embarrassing turn of events with a slovenly offensive coordinator.  One that just lost to Vanderbilt.  One that was embarrassed and shut out by their arch-rival.  One that was drowning in recruiting.  One that had nothing to stand high on.

He was met with uncertainty.  More so, he was met with a disdain for his hiring.  Sincere acrimony was directed at the athletic director responsible for this debacle.

Worse, a simpleton drove to an airport amongst other unhappy Auburn fans and vocally booed the person who hired him.  It was caught on video.  Broadcasted nationally were the words, “We want a leader not a loser!”

Still, Chizik stood tall.  He sternly stated in his press conference that he loved Auburn.  That he’s always wanted to coach at Auburn.  He handled the situation beautifully.

But the negative attacks still came.  Dire predictions were headed his way.

He hired a staff of unappreciated assistant coaches.  His offensive coordinator was deemed no better than a high school coach.  His defensive coordinator was painted as a failure.  His two coaches in charge of recruiting were thugs and crooks.

No one would be fooled by Auburn, they said.

Maybe they weren’t.  But Chizik’s first recruiting class just a few months after his hire managed to salvage what was once thought to be a complete mess.

His first season was treated just as harshly.

No hope.  We would all see just how bad he was.  How Tuberville would have saved the day somehow.  How Chizik would be unable to handle the firestorm of the SEC, the media, and the fans.

But he did.  He stood confidently and won his first 5 games as a head coach.  He would go on to win 8 games and show inspiring leadership as the team won a thrilling bowl game against Northwestern.

Yet, everyone still laughed.  Northwestern was a doormat.  Chizik had lost too many SEC games.  Recruiting would falter, and Chizik would fade away into the dungeon of losing coaches.

To everyone’s surprise, Chizik emerged on top again.  A top 3 recruiting class including the number one player from numerous states.  The top JUCO prospect.  The #1 running back according to Rivals.

Things were looking up for Gene Chizik.

But not if the Joker had anything to say about it.

The top JUCO prospect wasn’t a top prospect at all.  He was a thief.  He was Brent Schaeffer.  The #1 running back was too old.  He would never grow into a mature football player because he was already 20.  None of the depth chart would matter because of the ineptitude of the head coach.

Chizik was still a nobody and would trap himself.  It was almost too easy for the villain to get the victory.

By October of 2010, Gene Chizik and Auburn had solidified themselves as a national contender.  After an impressive victory against an extremely talented LSU team, the college football world would have to take Gene Chizik seriously.

He was no longer a loser.  He was a true leader.  And he had many weapons of sophistication he could use to retake the city.  To place Auburn at the top.

That’s when the Joker started playing unfair.  Sophisticated weapons were no longer used.  A dirty bomb was dropped, and everyone snickered and grinned as surely Gene Chizik would return to his cave as a nobody in the college football world.

But he still stood tall.  He didn’t play their game.  He played his own.  And he came out on top with the spoils of the victor.

The Joker wasn’t done.

The Joker still had other dirty bombs.  Dirtier bombs.  Bombs that would kill the Batman and remove him from the scene.

No way Chizik could recruit well after such a tumultuous season.  The NCAA would slam Auburn.  The media would report the smoking gun.  Recruits would run for other schools.

Once again, however, Chizik was unshaken.  Auburn finished with another top recruiting class.

The Joker began to get desperate.  He began threatening with unimaginable weapons.  Dirty bombs weren’t enough.

Suicide bombs were called in.

Aspiring professionals claimed to have tapes.  Claimed to have evidence that would destroy Auburn.  Threatened to use them when the time was right.

No way Chizik could survive an attack when the attacker has wrapped his arms around Chizik’s waist.

But when the bombs blew, Chizik stood tall.  The attackers had disappeared.

The Joker sensed that this man was unstoppable.  He would have to do it himself, and he would have to use something big.

So the Joker lured Chizik into a building littered with explosives.  He would bring the entire building down in order to stop Chizik.  It was no longer about the competition.  It was about ruining Chizik’s victory.  Ruining the joy one gets from success.  Destroying the past by eliminating the future.

Again, when the bombs blew and the building came down, Chizik stood tall.  This time the Joker had hurt himself.

Batman never kills.  He worries about protecting its city, ensuring its prosperity, and warding off the enemies.

I have no reason to believe that Chizik is any different.

As silly as it may sound, I respect Gene Chizik for resembling a famous comic book hero.  He never tries to destroy the enemy.  He worries about promoting the goodness of Auburn, and he is always successful at warding off the unwarranted attacks against Auburn’s football program, Auburn’s university, and Auburn’s fans.

Unfortunately, comic books never seem to have an ending.

In the next issue, we see Gene Chizik handle The Joker without his weapons of old.  He’ll need new weapons to use.  New tactics.  New ways to escape the traps set by The Joker.

That is, until The Joker finds himself locked up in Arkham.

44 Days

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