I’m all but certain that 2016 is the year the world ends. Let’s look at recent events: the Chicago Cubs won the World Series despite being cursed by a billy goat, Donald Trump will be our next president despite, well, *gestures wildly*, and I no longer hate Lane Kiffin despite my better judgment. Expect the downpour of frogs and locusts any day now.
I am thoroughly disturbed by at least two of those events, but since this isn’t a political article, I’ll focus on my Lane Kiffin-inspired identity crisis. Who am I if I don’t find him odious?
Let me back up for a second and explain how I grew to loathe Kiffin in the first place, as if such a thing needs to be explained. Depending on your allegiance, there are several possibilities for why you might dislike him too.
Maybe you’re an Oakland Raiders fan, who abhors Kiffin for being effectively useless as a coach while simultaneously annoying Al Davis.
Maybe you’re a Tennessee Volunteers fan who was burned by Kiffin’s one-year stint in Knoxville, which culminated in him unexpectedly scarpering to USC less than a month before National Signing Day.
Maybe you’re a USC Trojans fan who blames Kiffin for USC’s downturn following the Pete Carroll era.
Or maybe you’re like me: filled with contempt for his stupid visor, smug face, and the fact that no matter how he behaves or performs, good things continue to happen to him. Failing Up: A Memoir by Lane M. Kiffin would sell well. In fact, in the spirit of failing up, it would probably win a Pulitzer prize.
I’m a big proponent of the just-world hypothesis, the belief that one’s “actions are inherently inclined to bring morally fair and fitting consequences”. In other words, that people will eventually get what they deserve. For Kiffin though, it just never seemed to happen. The worse his behavior, the more he was rewarded, and that didn’t sit well with me. As a Stanford fan, I had a front row seat to his spoiled and immature antics, and the longer he was at USC, the more my hatred grew. Until one day in September 2013.
Have you ever experienced a moment you knew you’d remember for the rest of your life? Even years later, the memory of the event evokes a response so visceral that you feel transported back to that moment, remembering every sight, sound, and smell. I have several of those. I’ll never forget where I was when I learned the World Trade Center had been attacked on 9/11 and the day I found out my parents had separated. Following those, I’ll never forget the day Lane Kiffin was fired from USC after a 62-41 loss to Arizona State. My husband woke me up from a deep sleep, a highly dangerous act, might I add:
Me: “I will murder y…”
Husband: “KIFFIN GOT FIRED!!”
Kiffin finally got what he deserved. Schadenfreude, people; it’s a real thing even though I can’t correctly spell or pronounce it. The funny thing is, after his humiliating dismissal, my hatred began to dissipate.
I’ll admit that I felt a twinge of anger when Alabama hired him in 2014. How he managed to parlay being fired by USC into becoming the offensive coordinator for the most successful program in college football I’ll never know. But to my surprise, Nick Saban has created a just world for Kiffin. One where Kiffin’s arrogance and childish antics aren’t tolerated. One where it is made abundantly clear that he isn’t the boss. Saban has Kiffin on a short leash, and he knows it.
It seems like every other week Saban has found a new way to keep Kiffin under his thumb, constantly exerting his authority. Initially, Saban wouldn’t allow him to talk to the media. After the National Championship game, the team buses left him behind after their big win. Earlier this season, Saban publicly chewed him out on the sideline during the Western Kentucky game. For the most part, Kiffin stays on his best behavior these days. He knows he has to because hell hath no fury like Nick Saban even when he’s in a good mood, which has only happened twice. I’m now entertained by Kiffin and occasionally feel sorry for him, and that’s a much healthier place to be.
The best part is, at some point in the very near future, another football program will overlook Kiffin’s past transgressions and hire him as their head coach. And that’s ok; it’s not the end of the world. Perhaps the time spent under Saban’s tutelage has taught Kiffin some humility and he will enjoy a fruitful head coaching career. Alternatively, if Kiffin returns to his old ways, he will continue to scorch the football landscape. Either outcome is fine with me, because this is a just world, and ultimately we all get what we deserve.