The world just took two big gallops toward a golden day, a watershed day, a long-dreamed day when a coach or manager will win a major title one day and an owner or athletic director will fire him on merit the next.
It might take 50 more years or even 100 to reach this crescendo of impatience, but we have fresh reason to hope for it, even if I don't really know anyone else who has dreamt of it other than myself, a connoisseur of absurdity. Auburn just fired Gene Chizik only 685 days after he won Auburn's only national title of the last 54 years, and that followed the news out of London, the capital of Planet Earth, where Chelsea fired Roberto Di Matteo only 186 days after he won its only European Champions League title, like, ever.
Whenever you can work Auburn and Chelsea into the same paragraph, you certainly must try.
Many prudent people agree Auburn acted prudently in firing Chizik, but that doesn't change the remarkableness of the story arc, from a national title on Jan. 10, 2011, to a cratered thud by Nov. 25, 2012. At 14-0 in 2010-11, Auburn had quarterback Cam Newton, clearly the greatest player in the history of college football, a player whose very departure leaves behind a virtual sinkhole.
At 3-9 this year, Auburn did manage this very month to beat Alabama, but the Alabama it beat came adorned with the modifier "A&M."
That was such an inconvenient turn of bookkeeping.
Meanwhile, Chelsea sits a contending fourth out of 20 in the English Premier League, but here we must explain to the uninitiated. Unlike NFL clubs who aspire to one trophy each season, Chelsea joins English clubs in seeking any or all of four different cups in a given season. That's because their society pretty much got an 800-year head start on ours, so their brains are larger and can incorporate more story threads.
Now, for years, all we heard, blah-blah-blah-blah-blah, was how much the Russian oil billionaire and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich craved a European Champions League title, the annual continent-wide fracas that doubles as one of the most annually dramatic events on Earth. He and Chelsea had three Premier League titles. They had four titles in the ancient national tournament for the FA Cup. They just hadn't snared the big, glamorous European prize.
They did nibble agonizingly: one final, four semifinals, one quarterfinal. Liverpool made them uncommonly sad twice, Barcelona once, John Terry's missed penalty kick at the verge of the title in 2008. Finally, exultation came last May under manager Roberto Di Matteo, who had only taken over in March. Chelsea slid past Barcelona in as rock-ribbed a semifinal effort as you'll ever see. It slid past Bayern Munich in the final when Didier Drogba's tying goal and winning penalty ended his glittering eight-year Chelsea stint.
The great victory on May 19 got Di Matteo some serious job security. Instead of one day, or one week, or 50 days, or 100 days, he got 186 whole days before he hit a bad patch that has lasted three unbearable weeks. Now Abramovich has his ninth manager in nine years, and in an apparent and commendable witticism from the front office, the new manager has the title "interim."
Claudio Ranieri, Jose Mourinho, Avram Grant, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Guus Hiddink, Carlo Ancelotti, Andre Villas-Boas, Di Matteo, Rafael Benitez . . . What's funny about that list is that up until September 2007, we had only the first two. The next five years have brought the next seven, as if Abramovich sort of enjoyed firing managers and then found that he really, really enjoyed it, the way one delves cautiously and then voraciously into a box of Oreos.
The list reads like a quorum for the list of the greatest managers of our time, so that it almost seems that, if you're a great manager and you have not stopped by and managed Chelsea for a spell, you're missing out. (What's wrong with you, Sir Alex?) Now they get Benitez, the manager who may have said a few rude things about Chelsea while managing Liverpool in those melodramatic defeats of Chelsea in two Champions Leagues, among other tussles. For his debut on Sunday, Chelsea fans bristled and chanted mean things and held up mean signs.
But I have faith in Abramovich. I think that if he keeps going, he can be my guy. He can stand up there the very day after the next Champions League title, and he can epitomize our impatient times, and he can sack the manager, and he can say he did not like the work ethic over the previous 12-24 hours, that there had been too much drinking of champagne and lounging around on laurels.
He can do it. I know he can. Next to him, the Auburn honchos gorging on Chizik's buyout are just a bunch of indigent amateurs, even given their credible run at the dream.