Roughly translated, the New Year is a time for remembering friends old and new, celebrating new experiences, and giving thanks for everything you have seen and done over the previous twelve months.
As I sit here writing this column,
it is pushing 1:30 a.m. on January 2 and I am sitting in the foyer of a Hampton
LSU's last-second defeat at the hands of Iowa is already becoming a distant memory, every keystroke turning the agonized screams of the Tiger fans into a muted hum that is already beginning to blend in with the Billy Joel being piped in through the sound system – or maybe that's just the caffeine in me talking.
The dejected looks on the faces of the battered and bruised LSU players as they filed past on their way into the locker room at the end of the game will fade – pain, as many of them will find out soon enough, is a ready motivator when spring practice rolls around in a few months.
My cell phone has long since stopped ringing with people asking for news about Nick Saban's potential new employer (revealed seven days ago as the Miami Dolphins) or potential replacement (as of 1:32 a.m. January 2, no replacement has been named, but Oklahoma State's Les Miles appears to be waiting in the wings).
And instead of being frustrated at spending 11 hours in a cramped van driving from Baton Rouge to Orlando two days ago just to pull an all-nighter writing about a team that suffered a gut-wrenching last-second defeat nine hours ago, instead of complaining about Nick Saban ‘ruining' Christmas by announcing he was heading to the NFL on December 25, I am smiling – I still have an 11 hour drive back to Baton Rouge ahead of me tomorrow with eight disappointed Tiger fans, but I have a lot to be thankful for.
For starters, I am thankful for five years of Nick Saban.
A lot of LSU fans have spent the last two weeks complaining loudly that ‘their' beloved coach would dare entertain the thought of leaving them, but at the end of the day Saban made the decision that was best for him and his family, and I am genuinely happy for them. Five years ago, when Gerry DiNardo was fired and the search for a replacement began, if LSU fans had been offered a coach that would lead them to four straight New Year's Day bowl games, two SEC Championships, and one national championship – with the caveat that he would leave after five years – do you think they would have taken it?
Coach Saban, I wish you all the
I am thankful for the job I currently hold and the opportunities it has afforded me – I get to watch all the football I want to watch, I hit the road every other weekend driving to some far-flung corner of America to watch friends and acquaintances represent LSU, while delicately balancing the twin personalities of consummate media professional and wide-eyed tourist, little more than a "stranger in a strange land," as Paul Simon sang in "You Can Call Me Al," oh, about twenty minutes ago on the stereo here in the lobby.
And last but not least, in a moment of unabashed sappiness, I am thankful for my friends – both those at home in New Zealand, at ‘home' in Baton Rouge, and lastly here with me in Orlando, although most of the latter are currently fast asleep preparing for the drive back to Louisiana tomorrow.
To Brennan, Kimmy, Jason, Eric, Travis, Erica, Beau, Liz, and Leslie, Laurie, Al and Pat (The Iowa Thomases), thanks for an unforgettable New Year, even if I wasn't always able to spend as much time with you as I would have liked. Four of you get to head home happy tomorrow while eight are driving north dejected, but at the end of the day we're all football fans just worshipping a different deity – be it a striped Bengal tiger or a black and yellow hawk, it's the game that brings us together, and the passion that makes Tiger fans ‘Tiger Fans' – or, alternatively (and begrudgingly) Hawkeye fans.
And for anyone that may have lost sight of the soul of the game, for anyone still wringing their hands at the LSU loss, take a look around you and realize it was only a game in the end, and as long as you have your health, your family, and friends who bleed a little purple and gold from time to time, then you are doing just fine.
And if that isn't enough, you can always "drink a cup of kindness yet, in the days of auld lang syne."