And so it goes.
Believe it or not, Kurt Vonnegut was a football fan. He liked it because it was fun. He died in April of 2007, so he missed out on the majority of the Les Miles era, but I’d like to think he would have been a fan. All persons, living and dead, are purely coincidental, but Miles was more coincidental than most. Les Miles embraced the absurdity of football and life, and probably would have felt just at home in one of Vonnegut’s novels.
Any time a character dies in Slaughter-House Five, those words are uttered. So it goes. It’s an unflinching and maybe unsentimental look at mortality, but Vonnegut had no patience with dishonesty. He faced hard truths, even if it meant wielding humor like a sword. Many people need desperately to receive this message: 'I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.’
Les Miles coached for twelve beautiful, insane seasons at LSU. He won 114 games, 3 divisional titles, 2 SEC titles, and 1 national championship. He won 77% of his games, and even over his final four seasons when the calls for his job became loudest, he still had the best SEC record in the West outside of Alabama. He won 10 games in two of his final four seasons, and fell short in a third because an FCS game got cancelled.
He bent time, faked field goals and punts, and believed in a running game that eats your soul. His teams also frequently looked disorganized, lost track of the game situation, and never found an offensive rhythm over his decade plus in Baton Rouge. His career began on a miracle touchdown confirmed on replay as time expired. His career ended on a miracle touchdown called back on replay as time expired. He was a fool, and so am I, and so is anyone who thinks he sees what God is doing. He brought joy, frustration, and exhilaration as he took years off of my life from stress. It all came to an end this weekend.
So it goes.
Within 24 hours of getting fired, Les Miles was on a national radio show, complimenting the very people who fired him. He expressed his love of the sport, his job, and for LSU. He claimed he didn’t stand in the way of the decision, and was thankful for the opportunity to address his players before he left the football operations building forever.
That was Les. Not just a great football coach, and make no mistake, even this decline in the past four years is still the mark of a great coach and excellent program, but a great human being. Not just former players, but former reporters and employees have taken to social media to proclaim their love for the Mad Hatter.
In a profession that is often dominated by bullies, tyrants, and let’s face it, sociopaths, Les Miles was one of the good guys. That is my principal objection to football, I think: It's too easy, when alive, to make perfectly horrible mistakes. Other fanbases wished they had a guy like Miles in charge of their program. He didn’t just win, he won while showing you didn’t have to mortgage your principles or even your personality. It’s a near necessity that every public figure now focus tests and manages their public profile. You have to control the narrative, stay on message, and promote the brand. Miles instead released a video in which he dunked on his kids.
Les Miles simply got it. This is a game, and games are supposed to be fun. However, winning is fun, too. And towards the end, the fanbase started to turn on itself. Message boards and call-in shows became shouting matches. There are plenty of good reasons for fighting, but no good reason ever to hate without reservation. It seemed we all got a little angrier. People stopped going to games in the same numbers, and leaving earlier and earlier. It just wasn’t as much fun anymore.
And so it goes.
Now we turn to the coaching search, and the names are already flying. Honestly, that’s the fun of a coaching search: the baseless speculation and all of those glorious rumors. Let’s indulge in them together. However, let’s also look seriously not just at the quality of the candidate’s football record, but the quality of their character.
LSU should not go from one of the genuinely good guys in sports to one of those aforementioned tyrants and sociopaths. I know we all want to win. I want to win, too. But hearing names like Art Briles being associated with this job makes me sick. We should not put winning above all else. That is not who we are or who we wish to be. The content of character still counts.
Les Miles brought back 18 starters, more preseason all-SEC players than any team other than Alabama, and the best player in college football. 2-2 is an abject failure of a season, and at the end of the day, football coaches get judged on their win-loss record. Miles earned a pink slip, but the timing has nothing to do with Miles. That is throwing red meat to a frenzied fanbase to tear apart. It was mean, petty, and vindictive. We must be careful about what we pretend to be. Miles survived the ax last year, and it merely angered Alleva and the moneyed boosters.
Miles deserved to play out the year, or at least announce his retirement. It is a credit to his character that he is walking away with such class and dignity, even in a nightmare of a start to the season. He should have been afforded this not because of him, but because of us. What do we stand for? Are we putting wins ahead of all else? Are we corrupting our own souls? There were ways to end the Miles era with class, and this was not it. LSU has suffered a blow to its reputation for its ham-fisted handling of this situation, and rightly so.
So it goes.
However, that’s all water under the bridge. It doesn’t matter now; it matters that the act is done and now we prepare to take our next step into the future. The future is uncertain and uncharted. It could bring about decline or it could bring about heights not yet dreamt. Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.
Under Miles, it seemed that anything was possible at any time. Now, we are confronted with what true uncertainty is. It’s both exciting and terrifying, and there’s no roadmap on what will come next.
There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind.