Something really ticked me off Sunday.
No, it wasn’t the Buccaneers losing 24-23 to Atlanta, can’t fault a team with a first-year head coach playing their butts off to lose by a single point to the best team in the NFL currently. You just let it slide it off your back and hope your favorite team can get back on track the next week. That didn’t bother me at all.
It was the news that Auburn University fired Gene Chizik, who took the Tigers to a national championship 22 short months ago, beating Oregon in the 2011 BCS championship game in the Phoenix area to conclude that season undefated.
I’m not an Auburn fan as much as I am a Gene Chizik fan. See, his father was my first principal at Largo High School in Florida my freshman year, from the fall of 1985 to the late spring of 1986. His father was a good and fair man, and if you hated Principal Chizik, there was something wrong with you, not him.
Let me tell you all a little story about Gene Chizik’s dad, Gene Chizik Sr. The week before Thanksgiving of 1985, our Largo Packers were playing the arch-rival Clearwater High School Tornadoes at our high school stadium. Back then, only the team with the best district record made the state playoffs, and whoever won the Largo-Clearwater game would be the district titleholder. Largo wound up winning a very competitive game 29-21 to win the district championship, their last until 1991.
When we returned to school on Monday, I remember Principal Chizik not being too happy with us, and told us so during the school-wide announcements we’d receive daily. Why? Because many of us booed when Clearwater emerged from the locker room to take the field. He thought it was terrible sportsmanship on our part. I remember thinking what the big deal was. The Celtics fans boo the Lakers, Richard Petty fans boo Dale Earnhardt, Bucs fans boo the Chicago Bears.
But as I look back at this 27 years later, Principal Chizik was ahead of us all. We were poor sports. Why not just support your team and when the other team does better than your team does, why not just accept it? They have an equal chance to win a game, just as we did.
The Friday after Thanksgiving, I went to the playoff game between Largo and Manatee High School out of Bradenton, which Largo lost 39-22. And the same fans who booed Clearwater booed the Manatee Hurricanes as they took the field. From where I was sitting, I could see Principal Chizik looking around, scanning the faces of those doing the booing. Nothing he can do about it, but I could tell he was ticked.
As for Auburn, I wonder if I’ll ever be a fan of their school again. The greed of winning football games in the fall seems to have surpassed the need to treat the people they hire fairly. Gene Chizik Jr. will find a new place to coach in future football seasons. And whoever hires him will be happy to have him, unlike Auburn who kicked him to the curb when they were tested with a tough season.