This post began as an explainer for why Ole Miss is playing Louisiana-Lafayette in Week 10 of the 2017 college football season, but the simple answer is that early season losses to lesser teams mean less in the context of the College Football Playoff than late season losses. This game sits on the books to offer the Rebs something of a repose before launching off into Texas A&M and Mississippi State to close out the year.
This post then after began as a hardline look at ULL’s running game, but I’m bringing on two new writers this week (you’ll meet them later), and one of them is going to handle the rushing attack angle. I’ve written enough about numbers, and I hate numbers. As you might imagine.
There’s a terrible moment in the middle of Lucan’s Bellum Civile that he wishes for his mind to entirely forget what happened at the battle of Pharsalus. The final climactic meeting between Caesar and Pompey that essentially established the fate of Roman political history for the rest of time. Caesar won, became dictator per perpetuum and the principate was born. It would last well into the middle ages and Renaissance.
And it was all born from a fucking civil war. Romans killing Romans. Brothers killing brothers, fathers killing sons, sons killing fathers. A major world-power state inflicting unspeakable atrocity upon itself.
Republican, representative government was gone from Rome in 48 BCE. “Caesar was everything,” says Lucan. It was now one man in charge, calling all the shots. The Roman senate was a puppet senate, totally neutered and silenced and pointless. Because they, the senate, lost a civil war. Civilians murdering civilians. Freedom dies by means of freedom.
This terrible moment in the middle of the Bellum Civile sees Lucan’s narrator — Lucan himself, maybe? — wish to forget. I wish I could excise this event from human history and memory ... would that it had never happened, and would that I never had to write about it.
The un-knowledge. The un-memory. The total forgetting of one of the most important events in the history of western civilization. Would that it could all just go away. It’s pure violence against one’s brethren, and it changed the course of human events. But Lucan’s there, living under Nero — we’re here living in this great, grand capitalist world — and we’re all complicit, because we survived. We survived — won, even — the civil war, where Romans killed Romans in the name of this or that man’s definition of freedom.
We’re enjoying the fruits of that labor. As it were.
The wishing to forget. That’s what really touches me about this poor kid. He was a kid. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but Lucan was forced to commit suicide at the age of 25. He knew that this poem would kill him. The wish to forget, the wish to completely disengage from this human experiment, argues for some kind of prescience on the part of our poet, who hated everything about the world around him and loved the hell out of his wife, Polla. “Chicken woman.”
There’s an interesting sidelight here. Lucan and Polla were reportedly exceptionally devoted to one another. This is remarkable among elite Roman marriages, which were traditionally political and economic alliances between high society families in the empire. Lucan and Polla, though, they were genuinely into one another, and that, for me, is one of my favorite facts about this man and this wonderful woman. That this poor, poor boy could be so devoted to the singular woman in his life while writing the worst document in the history of the world.
The agreement between poet-activist and emperor was that “you either be executed as a political criminal — with your property and family totally forfeit — or you kill yourself and all that remains untouched.” That’s an easy choice. Lucan knew this would happen. He was 25, after all, and he wrote the poem that killed him. He offed himself to save Polla and the children they never had. He died for her, a hopeless, beautiful, brilliant, terrible romantic. A marvelous boy. A Wunderkind.
I’m sorry, Polla.
Lucan hopes for a complete black hole in Roman and human memory in the middle of the climactic chapter of his poem on the annihilation of the world. The moment that Caesar, an unstoppable force, meets Pompey, an immovable object, and all hell breaks lose. The moment that hundreds of thousands of future Romans are wiped off the map because their fathers died on this one day. At Pharsalus. Where Caesar’s men slaughtered their countrymen for the sake of Caesar under the thin veil of Libertas — Freedom. But whose freedom, exactly?
That’s the point, here. That words and meaning become completely disrupted in a civil war. Caesar fights for freedom, but so does Pompey. If everyone is fighting for freedom, is anyone really fighting for freedom? Huh.
This poor black hole of a season. This poor kid who can’t define words properly. Who can’t find meaning in the world. What does one do?
Shea Patterson gets injured and in comes Jordan Ta’amu to sparkle us with his own wonderful stuff. The forgotten season. The one that will fall into the sewer never to be remembered but always to be memorialized for just what the hell Matt Luke did to inspire these poor boys to just play, dammit. You’ve been condemned to nothingness, here, but there’s still reason to go on and fight for it. Fight for us. Fight for them. Fight for me.
There’s nothing more in this world that Lucan wants than to be read. Just please read me, give me one shot and walk away if you have to, he says. He begs that of us. Just watch this team once. Watch them scream through a two-minute drill ending with a game-winning touchdown pass to D.K. Metcalf and try not to get behind these guys. They fucking care, man. This isn’t a black hole. There’s no wish to forget in A.J. Brown’s mind. He wants to be here and now, just like Lucan, until he couldn’t and he was just 25.
But this season isn’t total suicide. This season is learning. This season is a bridge. This season will be forgotten, but it will never be really forgotten.