An Exercise in Patience

Houston Nutt may or may not realize Bobby Coxian achievement at Ole Miss. It's far too early to tell. What would do all some good is more than two and a half seasons of patience.

Those who know me (and by now, most of you do, if only from my work at the Spirit), know my fanatical tendencies with the Atlanta Braves.

I grew up in the era of Bobby Cox, Skip Caray and John Schuerholz. I faintly remember Sid's slide. I've developed great admiration for Dale Murphy, though most of my knowledge of the all-time great came from the back of his bubblegum card. Chipper Jones, whose No. 10 jersey is sure to join other Braves legends in enshrinement along the left-field façade of Turner Field, will always be my favorite player, a symbol of my childhood and a primary reason why I love baseball the way I do.

When I was a kid, be it rain, sleet or snow, my father would load me and my two brothers into his car for the 30-minute trek to Oxford for game day. We'd grill out in front of the Turner Center, where fellow New Albanians congregated. One of my greatest memories was having my picture taken with Eli Anding, a former Rebel, and arguably the greatest football player to ever don a New Albany uniform.

These days, I spend more time around the team and our diminutive media contingent than I do with my family.

Houston Nutt

My fanhood isn't gone, but I no longer long for the Grove or mid-afternoon kickoffs. Give me a game in the morning. Work gets done faster, just in time for supper.

The Braves are my avenue for release. When they're in season, I build my day around first pitch. I fire up the grill when the occasion calls for it, like earlier this month, when Cox and his boys met the Giants for the best-of-five National League Divisional Series.

I won't go into detail about how the series turned out. Most know by now what happened. The Braves lost in four, including back-to-back losses at home, one of which I attended.

(Quick note: I was sitting a row behind the first-base dugout when Brooks Conrad earned his third error of the Sunday, 3-2 loss. Suffice to say, I went from pure adulation of Eric Hinske, who smashed a go-ahead, two-run homerun in the bottom of the eighth, to utter disbelief and disappointment. The only comparable feeling, I think, is when a girlfriend breaks up with you. You don't want to believe it's over. You can't comprehend the reality. Then, almost by choice, you accept it, though you can't get the bitter taste out of your mouth from what the heartless floozy did to you.)

As I watched at home the final out of Bobby's farewell season, a Melky Cabrera groundout to third, a wealth of emotions rushed over me. There was the legendary manager atop the dugout steps, fans calling his name and the Giants halting their celebration to honor him.

It was truly a remarkable scene, one of those moments where you wish Earth would pause on its axis so you can savor the sights and sounds. You don't want it to end, a decade of loyalty between one organization and its most iconic figure.

In this age of what-have-you-done-for-me-lately standards, there are far fewer cases of such loyalty.

Bobby Cox

Fans and media alike can rush to their respective message boards and blogs to dissect each and every move of a manager or head coach. If only we were judged under a similar microscope.

Cox's critics cite his inability to win big games, including only one World Series with a pitching rotation featuring John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. Those same critics conveniently leave out where the organization was before he arrived – the laughing stock of Major League Baseball.

I think back to Ole Miss' first loss of the season to Jacksonville State. Some fans wanted Nutt's job immediately. Forget his postgame comments; just ride a coach fresh off back-to-back nine-win seasons out on a rail. Some had already begun to formulate a list of possible successors during the first quarter of Saturday's 38-24 loss to Arkansas.

Because it's easy to forget where this program was under Ed Orgeron: The embarrassment of an 0-8 conference record, a loss to Wyoming and even a near-loss to Northwestern State.

Bobby Cox was actually fired by Ted Turner in his first stint with the Braves, only to be rehired and reel off 14 divisional titles. Now Cox stands as one of the greatest managers of all time, worthy of the Hall of Fame.

Ole Miss' standing midway through the 2010 season has drawn the ire of some fans. The team is 3-4 overall and 1-3 in SEC play. Criticism, disappointment and frustration are expected and certainly understandable with a season teetering on the brink.

But calling for a change? Houston Nutt may or may not realize Bobby Coxian achievement at Ole Miss. It's far too early to tell. But what would do all some good is more than two and a half seasons of patience.

It's the mindset of the way things used to be, allowing a given coach his time.

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