“It ain't over 'til it's over."
The quote from the baseball sage Yogi Berra is grammatically incorrect. But there’s truth in his statement.
The late basketball coach Jim Valvano, who inspired millions with his courageous fight against cancer, put it another way: “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”
These types of statements are inspirational. They’re on desk calendars and refrigerator magnets. Friends and family members post them on social media. But sometimes, these statements are easy to forget – especially when a person, an organization or even a community faces its own fourth down and long when trailing in the final quarter.
That’s why the Auburn University football team has captivated a community, a region and even a nation. America loves rags to riches stories. And what better story is there than the 2013 Tigers?
They went from worst to first, and from winless to winners of the nation’s best conference.
They stared defeat square in the eyes against Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama, and yet found a way to win in the final minutes.
They did this with a new coaching staff, a new quarterback and mediocre expectations – even from their biggest fans.
Call their turnaround the result of an answered prayer, or the power of positive thinking.
We like what Auburn senior defensive lineman Nosa Eguae said of Auburn’s amazing run.
“It’s when opportunity and preparation meet.”
Preparation and opportunity met on a fourth and 18 against Georgia, when the Tigers were down to one play to keep their championship hopes alive. Ricardo Louis then made one of the most memorable catches in NCAA history.
They met on Alabama’s missed 57-yard field goal attempt with one second on the clock. Approximately 109 yards later, Chris Davis made one of the most memorable kick returns in history.
And Saturday, preparation and opportunity met when Auburn faced top-five Missouri in the SEC Championship. The Tigers won, 59-42, giving students and fans another orange and blue memory for the ages.
It’s not over yet for the Tigers, who will play in a BCS bowl game for the second time in four years.
Actually, Auburn fans hope this year is just the beginning.