David Cross once said, “The South has a certain kind of ignorance that is deeper and truer, more unwavering and steadfast in ignorance than the rest of the country has. And just for a lack of a better term, let’s call it Southern Baptist.” While we’d never criticize another man’s religion - if God tells you to do something, y’know, you do it - there’s few places where the Southern Baptists roll thicker than Alabama.
That, then, takes us to Auburn, the scene of much tumult over the last year or so. Before Gene Chizik nearly caused a riot by taking the reins of the program, there was another controversial addition to the coaching staff: offensive coordinator Tony Franklin. Franklin was tasked with bringing the spread to the Auburn offense, a move that failed so spectacularly that he was canned seven games into his Auburn career. Franklin finally talked about his time there to the MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER, and sweet bearded Moses, do they ever like to pray:
Franklin was also troubled by the constant talk about religion within the athletic department. From [former coach Tommy] Tuberville to [athletic director Jay] Jacobs to most of the assistants, the talk of God and prayer never ended.
“That’s all they do is pray — and talk about praying and religion,” Franklin said. “It’s a constant thing with them, and it’s just overwhelming at times. A lot of people use religion as a crutch, and I think that’s the case there. Every word coming out of their mouths is something about religion, and most of it is just a joke.
That’s such a forcefully incendiary statement that the hedging and backpedaling will begin in 3… 2…
“I don’t want to come off as anti-religion or that I’m not a Christian, but the best people in the world — the ones who do truly great things — they just do good things for people. You don’t know most of the time if they’re Muslim or Christian or anything else, because they never talk about it. But it was constant with them, and it was uncomfortable sometimes. When you talk about your religion so much, it comes off as fake or phony. That’s the way I think of several of those people (at Auburn) as fake.”
Again, it’s not our position to call out anybody for practicing a certain religion, and the Deep South is steeped in a culture of very public displays of faith. Criticizing them for that won’t do anything but further entrench them in their faith and further cast the speaker as an outsider, a member of “them.”
Moreover, it’s not like Franklin’s now up in Oregon or Berkeley or somewhere else that tilts so far left that you can safely cast stones at the publicly pious; he’s now the offensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee State. Though the fan base there is substantially smaller, they’re still probably every bit as religiously observant as the Auburn base. The last thing a coach should do is alienate himself over things that have nothing to do with football, a lesson Franklin should be learning by now.