Athletics can bring out the best and the worst in human beings. It can produce euphoric elation as well as utter madness.
How many discussions have been had amongst fans about the “unfair” outcome of a sporting event over the years? Thousands? Millions?
Believe it or not, I actually make a concerted effort to be levelheaded and try not to dwell on the injustices (legitimate or perceived) that have affected Auburn. In other words, I really don’t want to be a whiner. I find them particularly annoying (as do most) and have no desire to be classified as such.
Side note: Don’t you hate it when someone makes a compelling argument then says “having said all that,” because you know they’re about to contradict themselves?
Well, having said all that, I’m asking your permission to whine for just a little bit today.
Injuries are a part of sports and they always will be. A lot of times athletes get hurt and still play through the pain. On many other occasions, it goes beyond pain and becomes something that sidelines the athlete for a few games. Then there are the more serious injuries that can wipe out a season and even be career threatening.
These things happen to every team at every level during every season. I’m well aware of that.
However, Auburn has endured some of the most critical injuries over the last few years to the most important players that may very well have cost the Tigers multiple championships. Since playing for championships (in certain major sports) on the Plains isn’t as common as I’d like for it to be, witnessing these opportunities slip through our fingers is extremely painful.
Again, I realize all teams have some bad luck from time to time, but let’s examine the evidence before you condemn my lamentation.
In 2017, the Tigers came out of the gate a little slow but were one of the most dominant teams in the country by season’s end. They crushed No. 1 Georgia, 40-17, and rolled No. 1 Alabama, 26-14. A win in the SEC title game would have guaranteed a spot in the playoff and possibly set up a rematch against Alabama. However, an inexplicable injury to Kerryon Johnson late in the fourth quarter of the Iron Bowl rendered him ineffective the next week. Auburn lost to Georgia, 28-7.
Should one player make that much difference? A running back accounting for 1,391 yards and 18 touchdowns certainly did for the Tigers.
In 2019, Auburn makes an unprecedented run to the Final Four. However, the Tigers lose Chuma Okeke (one of the best players in the country) to a devastating ACL injury. Yes, the team rose up and beat Kentucky without Okeke, but his presence would have completely changed the matchups against Virginia and either Texas Tech or Michigan State.
Butch Thompson’s pitching staff has been a mash unit this year with Davis Daniel missing the entire season, Jack Owen missing most of the season and Tanner Burns missing multiple starts. Those injuries undoubtedly cost the Tigers an opportunity to host a regional.
The same goes for the softball program missing ace starter Makayla Martin for most of the season and probably a chance to host a regional.
It’s impossible to rewrite history and there is no guarantee things would’ve worked out anyway. I guess I just felt like whining a little.
With my apologies to Chris LeDoux, I’ll be glad to pay the $5 fine.