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Jimbo Fisher, Jay Gatsby, and the hauntingly elusive green light

Spoiler alert: You should have read The Great Gatsby by now.

North Carolina v Florida State Photo by Jeff Gammons/Getty Images

The other week, Florida State Head Coach Jimbo Fisher offered what may have seemed a rather innocuous explanation when he spoke about looking forward to how sophomore running back Amir Rasul would play a big part of the Seminoles’ rushing attack— one day.

This is nothing new for Fisher. We’ve seen it with promising, highly recruited prospects at other positions. Long, athletic wide receivers. Stout, talented linebackers. Fisher gives off the feeling of having his visions trained perpetually on a horizon that seems continually receding from his grasp.

His comment about Rasul was far from momentous, but for whatever reason, it stuck with me. And now I think I know why.

We’ve read this book before, and it’s been authored by someone well ahead of Fisher, too. Fisher strikes me as reminiscient of Jay Gatsby, the enigmatic titular character of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, arguably the great American Novel. How so? Pull up a chair, Old Sport.

Gatsby spends countless nights staring across the bay at the green light. He does so amid his impressive wealth, yet still pensively. He yearns for something he cannot quite attain, something that he feels should be within his grasp. As does Fisher. He looks around at an embarrassment of recruiting riches and impressive facilities, but seems set on something out of reach, something consistently just beyond him.

Or is it behind him? Recall that for Gatsby, the green light eminates from the dock of Daisy Buchanan. And for as much as Gatsby wants Daisy to be his future, he’s vexed by the reality that she is, in fact, a revenant, an irrecoverable remnant of his past to which he cannot return. She’s the personification of a simpler time gone by, before the spotlit celebrity that he treats with a blend of indifference and contempt. Sound familiar yet?

Our Bud Elliott spoke to this recently, when he discussed how Fisher may be coaching to a bygone era. And we’ve heard Fisher himself decry what college football has become, be it with regard to style of play or even social media. But those changes are here, and they’re not going anywhere. You can either adapt and move on, or continue pining for the past.

Later in the same Nolecast, our Ingram Smith correctly brought up how FSU’s ridiculously slow pace of play has been hurting the ’Nole offense. Why? Because Fisher is continuously searching for not just an effective play, but the perfect play. This is a great example of how striving for the green light can actually function as a brake on an already immensely talented group and serve as a de facto red light, a cessation that hinders forward mobility and progress.

Last year, we had some fun around this time of year, issuing a Halloween-themed installment of the Kman’s Crow’s Nest that included a send-up of Edgar Allan Poe’s lamentation The Raven, one starring Fisher. But the Gatsby allusion seems more appropriate, as Fisher seems perpetually frustrated by what cannot happen now, specifically based on the fact that he knows it has happened in the past. But here’s the real rub: as much as we may want to go back at times, as hard as we may yearn for a return, a revisiting, it’s simply infeasible.

The only option is to move ahead with what we have, as attractive as the past may have been and as daunting as the future may appear. Daisy was great— and so was Jameis. And even though they appear so close, they’re gone.

It’s easier said than done, both for Gatsby and for Fisher. As Fitzgerald wrote in one of the most beautiful closing lines in American literary history: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” Fisher may think he can scheme his way back to that green light, to what was, to 2013. But this backward vision never worked for Gatsby, and if it continues for Fisher, it may just result in a return farther back than he wished— all the way to the lost decade.