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If you believe Kevin Scarbinsky of the Birmingham News everyone in and around the Alabama program, including bloggers, are responsible for the lowly state of Alabama football. Scarbinsky notes that no Alabama players taken in the NFL Draft this past weekend marks the low point of the program instead of  the loss this past season to Louisiana Monroe. You can read the article here.

So I decided that the best thing I could do is fess up and take my knocks for the lowly state of the program. I appreciate him bringing to light how tragic this weekend’s events really were. Here I was busy lamenting the Braves lack of middle relief and working on my golf game when all the time I should have been kicking small dogs and children like I did this past November when Alabama got shut out by the state of Louisiana. I’m going to go ahead and call the wife and let her know just how miserable it’s going to be around the house tonight. Might as well go ahead and let the folks at the office know that I’m going on a three-day bender to drown my sorrows as well. Maybe I’ll even take a whole week since it is my fault. Whose going to erect the billboard for this monumental defeat?

First off, this isn’t even news. Everyone should have known that the talent level was way down and didn’t compare to that in the rest of the conference, hence the dismal win-loss record. Didn’t someone mention that there were some telling statistics coming out of the combines? Yeah, that was me. But then again I am just a blogger.

Secondly, who gives a big red crap about draft day. College football isn’t about creating NFL talent. At least it isn’t the primary goal- if your school puts a lot of talent into the league it might be a small feather in your cap at best. Scarbinsky claimed that Mt. Union beat Alabama by virtue of its single draftee. Where is Mt. Union? That claim is tantamount to saying that Kevin Scarbinsky had more rush yards than the Notre Dame offense through the first three games last year. They’re both true and meaningless statements.

Let’s get this straight; the Alabama program has been in decline over the past decade. The bad moments have been in abundance more than the good moments. If you need to look to draft day as an indicator of that then you’re an idiot. I’m looking to things like the SEC record, the losing streak against Auburn, the records against LSU and Tennessee. The bowl games Alabama has been to. The losses to teams like Northern Illinois, ULM, and UCF. That’s what tells me the program is down.

But you know what else? In the same stretch Auburn has won just as many SEC championships and been to just as many BSC games. Why not do an article about how Auburn hasn’t capitalized on their opportunities? But hey, they won six in a row and that’s all that matters. I guess when you don’t have “history and passion” that’s acceptable.

The difference is no one associated with this program finds the last several years acceptable. There is a desire to win – every game. There is a desire to win championships – not just share SEC West crowns. There is an expectation to be the best, tempered by the knowledge that things are lean (at least by the majority of fans) and what is wrong with that? If you are satisfied with mediocrity then you will always be mediocre. If you expect and demand to be the best, you will be disappointed on occasion, but it sure beats an existence defined by mediocrity.

I know I’ve had too many posts that begin with the words “Nick Saban” lately, but I couldn’t pass this up. While the rest of the college football world has been either laughing about the so called “Saban” rule – that keeps head coaches in the football building instead of the recruiting trail during the spring – or celebrating the victory of Saban not being able to out recruit them, Nick Saban has been figuring out a way to keep up the face time with high school recruits. Video conferencing.

The NCAA allows for prospects to call, or in this instance, video conference with head coaches recruiting them. All they have to do is go to the distance learning lab, which is in most high schools now. Saban has a web cam in his office and can talk face-to-face with them even though he can’t step foot in their high school. In a rare instance Kevin Scarbinsky brings something other than lame-ass Dennis Miller wannabe metaphors to the table and actually does some reporting.

As we speak Urban Myer is having the web cam installed in his office, as is Ron Zook. Phil Fulmer on the other hand is still figuring out how to get his glaze encrusted finger unstuck from the rotary dial. Just when he though he had this telephone thing beat too.

(HT: Ian Rapoport)

In the build up to the NFL, which starts tomorrow, there was an article earlier this week in USA Today  stating that most NFL talent comes from California, Florida, and Texas. I’ll take “Shit I already knew” for $500 Alex. That makes sense right, I mean they are three of the four largest states, population wise. The article also points this out and increases the boast by stating that theses three states, “outperform their population.” Still not earth shattering news.

Well, my man Gerry Dorsey wasn’t satisfied with that and goes out and does some actual research (had their been the internet and Google when I was in high school and early in my college career I would have been a damn Rhodes Scholar). Gerry came up with some interesting facts that shed a little light on the states that produce the most talent. I’ll let you read it for yourself, here.

Speaking of Rhodes Scholars, I’m on my way to the Talladega Superspeedway this Sunday to witness the grand festival that is NASCAR. There was a time that I didn’t miss a race in Talladega but that was several years ago. My dad still attends the spring race as he has done for about the last decade and a half and I’m going this time as much for him as I am myself but in reality it’s not as fun as it used to be.

Instead of sleeping-in a little on Sunday, I’ll be up at some ridicuolus hour so that we can be in Birmingham by the time the sun in visible and in our parking spot by 8:00. Then we’ll tailgate for four hours, which is actually the best part of it, and be in the track with 100,000 plus of our closest friends for four hours plus of baking in the sun, sweating, drinking cheap beer, listening to half the rednecks call Jeff Gordon a “faggot” while the other half defend him before cramming our sweaty, stinky, beer seeping form out pores, bodies into the car, racing thirty feet to the line of traffic and sitting in the parking lot three hours before making about thirty-five miles per hour for the ninety mile back to Tuscaloosa, hopefully making it home by 10:00 so I can get eight hours of alcohol processing sleep and struggle to work Monday morning feeling like shit. So I got that going for me; which is nice.

I actually used to follow the sport quite a bit and have respect for the drivers. I also understand the appeal of it. The best thing I have ever heard said about it was from a guy I used to work for who said, “I don’t care who you are or what you do; when they crank all forty-three of those cars and accelerate for that first lap, everybody in that place is a little bit redneck.”

I just don’t follow it anymore. All the drivers I used to like are dead or retired and in that specail way that they have, Fox has beaten any fun out of the coverage and the sport by over-analyzing everything and making the event about an hour and a half too long. You watch, given enough time they’ll ruin college football if they let them show enough games.

Just let DW and that other redneck guy announce the race and start coverage as they fire the engines. There is plenty of time with the endless green flag lap racing to develop any story you need to. And no, I don’t want to see Kelly Clarkson or ZZ Top sing before the race. I’m going to a race not a concert. If I wanted to see Brooks and Dunn, I’d blow my fucking head off. I’m hear to see a race – which is long enough as it is. Every tune that whatever artist they have up there singing is five minutes taken off my sleep time Sunday night. I’ve got an iPod, I’ll be alright.

It’s about like starting the NBA season in December so that they can tell us about LeBron and Kobe for a month, mixed in with Beyonce (not that theres anything wrong with that) and Flo-Rida concerts. Entertainment is good. Sports are good. Live music is good. Put them together and it’s just fucking stupid and a waste of my time. Plus it’s not like I’m not paying extra to see Miss Independent shake her ass.

Gentlemen, start you engines.

I wasn’t quite sure where I was going with whole thing when I got started, or maybe, I did not intend to end up where I am when this began would be a better way of saying it.

At first, I was angered by what I considered negative press, from both the Wizard of Odds and the World Wide Leader, but then I became a little more understanding after I saw the video of Nick Saban and Ian Rapoport’s exchange. I did and still believe that situation – the answer to “the question”- could have been handled with more tact. There was the belief that Ian could shed more light on it. He did that, but also during this process- I’m starting to love that word- he did much more, or rather his answers to my question and his subsequent thoughts and anecdotes, whether intended or not, made me really dig deeper into this stew – which has many flavors and cooks very slowly – and think out a lot of things. I’m going to try to organize all that in the post and place it out there for your consumption.

First things first; I have really appreciated all the comments, which have been mostly positive, for the latest posts. I also appreciate the new readers that have stopped by for this. I hope you’ll return. I also would like to think those that added this site to their links. I’ve got a much busier day checking the blogs that linked me and catching up on my blog roll. I owe thanks to Orson and Holly at EDSBS – their links always generate a lot of traffic. Also thanks to the guys at RollBamaRoll and Gerry Dorsey at Uncle Rico’s Time Machine, who has been with me for a while now. To shorten this up, basically look at my blog roll and check those folks out if you haven’t. Finally, very special thanks to Ian Rapoport, who took a chance and placed his trust in someone he knew only as Picture Me Rollin.

Here is what I learned, in no certain order:

There is no such thing as good or bad news. There is only news and all of it is worth reporting. The news itself has no character or temperament. We, the consumer, add the connotation to it. A completely hypothetical situation would be Nick Saban yelling at a recruit’s mother. This would be horrible news to Alabama fans, whether they admitted it or not. Tommy Tuberville on the other hand would probably dance a jig if that happened, especially if it was the mother of a recruit he wanted. You could also be certain Auburn fans would rejoice inwardly and outwardly – after calling Finebaum and condemning Saban. Granted, Alabama fans and Saban would not want this publicized because of the reflection on the school but rest assured that it is news and would be reported. Just because we as don’t like something does not mean it isn’t newsworthy.

Some things are not news, or at least shouldn’t be. Jeremy Elder’s mother was upset about his arrest. That is certain and quoting her saying as much did nothing for anybody. If she said she didn’t care that he had been arrested that might be news.

I once knew someone (cough-cough) who did Jager shots with a former, high-profile, student-athlete who may or may not have been of legal drinking age. There are certain people who would call this news and would give it a negative connotation, but to me, it isn’t news. It was a college kid doing the same thing I did as a college kid. Would he have been better served being at home watching a movie? Probably, but then again, I would have been better off doing that as well.

The internet age is vastly different, as far as information dispersal, than any other time before. With the free flow of information and the ease with which it can be accessed there are bound to be changes in what we, the public, find out about. This certainly has not always been the case. I have heard stories about Joe Namath’s time on our campus that would make Jenna Jameson and Hunter S. Thompson blush. Those were not put out there for mass public consumption and none of us are the any worse for it, in spite of the fact that if any one of those instances happened to a college athlete today, his dismissal would be eminent (unless he played quarterback at LSU). I believe that some things, in regards to player’s personal lives specifically, should not be reported. Most of the time they are not, and brushes with the law should be fair game, but I do worry about the future. In the absence of real news there is tendency to “create” news out of things that are not.

Reporters are not fans. They view things completely different than we do. Despite my recent flirtations with what some consider journalism and no matter how my tongue-in-cheek paragraphs about firing Saban were perceived, I am a huge Alabama fan, and in that light is the way, I hope, that I always view things. I take pride in the accomplishments of the University of Alabama and it pains me when bad things happen to it, its reputation, and the people associated with it. When I consume news that concerns the program, whether I witness it in person or read or hear a report about it, my perspective is how it affects the program and ultimately me.

I’ll give a few examples: Alabama hired Nick Saban as a coach…they got a great recruiting class… depth was developed in the defensive lines… blue chip recruits are leaning towards Alabama; all these things increase the probability that Alabama will win on the football field in the future, and that makes me happy. It also makes it less likely that the rival fans of my favorite team will have real ammunition to tease me about – Trey Blackmon’s troubles with the law are good news to me (see above) but if I’m an Auburn fan, it is much more easily dismissed as taunting because of the win streak.

Conversely when Alabama has players arrested, or a recruit chooses UT or AU over Alabama, or Saban announces a decision to leave, the probability of wins on the field is diminished and that is not good in my mind.

Alabama has a large fan base and rabid support because it has a history of winning on the field and it has the potential to do that again. Vanderbilt (sorry – no offense) has support but there is a reason that Alabama puts more fans in their stadium when they play in Nashville; Vanderbilt, while a fine institution – perhaps better than Alabama in many regards – does not win football games. Fans want to see wins. End of story.

My desire is to see Alabama victorious on Fall Saturdays. To that end, I process all information concerning Alabama with its effect on that outcome. Ian, as a beat reporter, disseminates information to the masses about Alabama football regardless of its effect on game outcomes. If it’s news he’s going to report it because that is his job. I believe that the tough part for him is putting that information out there in truthful a manner as possible. I say that because his only request before he talked to me was that I represent him truthfully and that was harder than I thought it would be – in fact, I am still a little worried that I put my on spin on some of it. See, I heard what he said and I tried to write it as verbatim as I could but in the recall it was hard to be absolutely sure I was quoting him accurately. He said this but he did he mean it like this or maybe this way… those were thoughts as I wrote out the post.

The bottom line is that it is unfair to be angry or to even judge a reporter because he or she prints a story that you don’t agree with. As long as it is accurate the desired task was accomplished. Their job is to report. My job is to follow the team and support it.

Columns are a different matter. A column is by nature a matter of opinion. The personal spin of the columnist is put on it and there is a big responsibility in that. I stand by what I said about Ray Melcik (and Finebaum); their opinion is of no more value than mine or yours, as long as it based on the same information. To his credit I do believe that Melick does try to be somewhat objective (I don’t believe that about Finebaum). The difference between Melick’s opinion and mine are this: he has a bigger platform from which to speak (for now) and is heard by more people. Opinions are neither right nor wrong but they can be ill-informed and clouded by bias. Maybe as a fan I take criticism to much to heart and ultimately that is why I choose not to read Melick or listen to Finebaum. I know that I certainly don’t mind listening when Alabama is being praised and that may be a little hypocritical but I think it is just part of the human condition; you get farther with praise than you do criticism any day. You can ask my wife if you don’t believe me.

In conclusion, I now believe that I understand the role of a reporter better. Some of us get so emotional and passionate about the football team we are following that a message we perceive as negative sets us off. That should be expected but that should not make us angry at the message bearer.

I also believe that very few of us know Nick Saban. I’ll leave it at that. The history of his time in Tuscaloosa will determine what kind of coach he really is. I’m not sure that I will ever be able to tell you what type of man he is, and so I’ll leave that to the people that know him.

Oh, the joys of the off-season. This is the time of year where there is very little news about football and what little news does come across the wire is blown completely out of proportion. Such was the case last week when a video clip of Nick Saban becoming agitated with a reporter when questioned about the math involved in athletes currently on scholarship, incoming recruits promised scholarships and the NCAA limit of 85 total scholarships. The video ran on ESPN and a flurry of talk radio and blog pundits sprang into action to cover every possible angle of the event; what it means to the Alabama Program, college football at large, the sagging national economy, and the recent rise in gas prices.

At the center of the Saban “Press Conference Rant” storm last week was Birmingham News, Alabama Beat Reporter Ian Rapoport. He was the reporter that asked the question that made the news and I could think of no one better to ask about the event (and Saban refused to take my calls). Ian was gracious enough to spend about thirty minutes on the phone with me and answer a few questions about himself, Nick Saban and the actual event. His answers, specifically about Saban, were well thought out, thought provoking, and in some instances surprising.

Ian told me that he was from Westchester County, New York, “about thirty minutes from New York City.” Ian went to Columbia and has worked as a beat reporter for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, covering Mississippi State. He is in his second year covering Alabama and seems to have embraced the South by adopting our passion for college football as his own. He claimed to love baseball but also stated that growing up, he never really pulled for a college football team because nobody else around him did. He also indicated that he would never have realized how great our favorite sport is unless he had come to the region and assured me football was now his favorite sport to cover, “without question.” He has grown to love it so much that on Fall Saturdays when his work is completed one of his favorite things to do is sit and watch college football on television.

I wanted to know how his experience as a reporter differed from my experience as a fan. Ian told me that he attends every game, practice, and any other opportunity for any nugget of news about Alabama. Say what you want to about him, but he gets paid to do what a large portion of fans would love to do but he certainly has a different perspective on things related to Alabama than I do, but that’s for another day.

When I asked Ian about the perception of Alabama fans as conspiracy theorist he replied, “all sports fans are conspiracy theorists.”

Now that we had talked a little bit I thought that it might be time to get to some of the real meat and I wanted to grill him about the obvious media agenda and bias. I tried to stage my question, “As someone who covers Alabama exclusively, you have been called everything from “homer” to an idiot. Do you have an agenda?”

His quick reply shocked me.

“Yes”

I have him now, I thought, this is where we find out how bad he wants to paint Saban as a maniacal tyrant.

“My agenda is to supply readers, accurately and fairly – regardless of loyalty – with the facts, content, and stories about Alabama athletics. Basically let the readers know everything there is to know.”

Well, that wasn’t what I expected but if he wasn’t putting an angle on it, surely someone was.

“What about other reporters?” I asked him.

“I try to focus on what I do,” he replied.

“So there is a bias out there.” Now I’ve got him.

“I don’t think so. Let me clarify. I focus on what I do and don’t try to worry with what others do but I don’t think there is anyone who is doing this with a bias.”

When we discussed the mass media outlets, he made the, what he called “the obvious statement”, that the big outlets focused on the bigger names and more successful teams. He did say that he thought Alabama was receiving much more attention now that Saban was here.

The focus of our conversation then shifted to Nick Saban. When I asked Ian if he thought Saban was rude to reporters or him specifically, he had this to say.

“I don’t really focus on his personality. Sometimes he sounds loud because he is being loud but I’m not focusing in on that. I’m thinking about the follow up question, not the tone he is talking in. I will say this; it’s a shame that people judge him based only what they see of him on television, because there is more to him than that and no one should be judged based solely on what the say in front of the camera. That’s not really who he is.”

I told Ian that in my opinion he had become kind of a lightning rod – that a lot of Saban’s zingers seemed to be directed at him. Ian agreed with that and when I pressed him about whether or not he cultivates that image he told me that he was just trying to ask good questions, “ I’m trying to get the most information I can because that’s my job.”

In my opinion, Ian had to know that Saban did not want to answer “the question” and it had to be tough just ask it knowing what kind of response he was going to get. Ian disagreed.

“I never try to think what the answer is going to be. That’s why I ask the question. With Saban you never know how he will respond but he always does respond. He gives very intelligent answers. He is really a good interview – so was Sylvester Croom. Their answers are very intelligent.”

When I asked him, if in his opinion, Saban cared about success or the players, he told me that “everything he does is to win but he is also all about building relationships, with the players now, with future players, and with past players.” Ian said that from his experience the past players really feel more welcome now and that is a credit to Saban. He also told me that Saban spends time in the press room talking with the reporters, building relationships with them. He was very clear in his belief that Nick Saban cares a great deal about his players and as an example told of the genuine remorse he showed when talking about Tremayne Cooger’s decision to leave the program and in the manner that he did it – before the end of the school term.

Ian told me that he really believed that Saban likes Tuscaloosa and appreciates the town. As does his wife and that helps the situation. He was certain that he is content with the job because he could have gone literally anywhere – citing Nebraska if he had wanted to wait a year.

When we discussed “the question”, Ian told me that, there again, the taped segment didn’t show the whole story. Ian insists that Saban had a crack of a grin as he was going through his answer and also that he was joking after he left the podium. He also indicated that because of his belief that Saban really does care about his players that the answer to “the question” must be very complex. He said otherwise he would have just given a quick answer but out of caring about the outcome he seems to be troubled by it and that is what Ian took away from the encounter.

To end on a good note, I asked Ian a few “no brainers” and even then he surprised me.

“Who has the better looking girls, Auburn or Alabama?”

“That’s easy,” he replied. “Mississippi State” He then explained that his girlfriend attended school there.

He refused to comment on Clay Travis’ “Hope Scholarship” theory and while admitting that he was going to Athens next weekend, which would give him a great opportunity to answer with authority, stated that he would still have no comment. I’m pretty sure that goes back to the girlfriend.

Ian had been really professional all through the process – refusing to comment on the supposition that Saban asked Gentry Estes to remove a recent blog entry, only stating that he would take Genrty’s comments at face value – so I was surprised when he took my offer to confirm or deny my claim that Ray Melick is an “ill-informed, verbal-diarrhea-spewing, douche bag.”

“Deny,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for Ray’s integrity and skill as a columnist.”

I got him to answer one final question: “Does Nick Saban indeed hold the key to the Fourth Circle of Hell?”

“It’s been a long time since I read Dante’s Inferno.”

[Editor’s Note: I do not intend this blog to be a typical journalistic outlet. By that I mean, I don’t anticipate interviews being a staple of what goes on here. However, I have been amazed at the coverage and opinions this incident has generated. I tried to be as truthful as I could with Ian’s anwsers and comments. I greatly appreciate his time and trust in me, a virtually unknown blogger. I did not want to cloud his comments with my opinions, and therefor part 2 will be my appraisal on what Ian had to say. Look for it Tuesday or Wednesday. PMR]

I made my at least annual sojournto The Joe on Saturday to watch Alabama and Mississippi State play the first game of their double header – which Alabama won 21-7. I was there with several friends out in the grassy area behind right field. Other than to watch baseball, most of us there were participating in a benefit for Alabama Assistant Baseball Coach B.J. Green, who is battling Leukemia. There was barbecue and all the trimmings being served up for the “Strike Out Leukemia” Foundation. There was also a poker tournament at Gallette’s later that night. I’ll try and do a little more on B.J. and the foundation in a later post.

The weather was great. As was the food and fellowship but there were two events that helped to draw a lot of attention away from the game. The first was two girls who were parading around in bikinis. The other was that Tyrone Prothro – sportinga sleeve on his ankle that reminded me of one of those neoprene braces people wear on their knees – was with what appeared to be several friends hanging out in the back of a truck there behind the center field fence.

The group he was with appeared to be laughingand having a good time enjoying the great weather and atmosphere – like the rest of us were. They were minding their own business and I’ll have to admit that it was good seeing him laughing and cutting up after the last time I had seen him, which was on October 2, 2005, leaving the field of Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Near the end of the game a lot of the kids in the area, as well as some of the adults, had seen him and for about fifteen or twenty minutes there was a gaggle of people surroundinghim. They appeared to be chatting him up and I saw him signing several items, including a baseball of all things. I’m glad that he has retained his superstar status despite not seeing the playing field in a year and a half. I also found it amusing that no one was asking any of the football players he was with for their autograph.

Boo-ing Golf

Today, for the second time in as many tries, Thomas Brent “Boo” Weekley won the Verizon Heritage PGA Tournament held in Hilton Head, South Carolina. After the win, Boo is seventh on the money list. Why, you ask, am I mentioning a golfer who hails from Milton, Florida on my blog that deals chiefly with Alabama Football? Well, I’ll be glad to tell you. As Boo was walking up to the 16th green with a four stroke lead, the CBS announcer (Nantz?) commented on his “Sunday Red” shirt and the following comment awakened me from my dozing in my hammock on the back porch: “He wears it not to honor Tiger Woods, but the Alabama Crimson Tide, who he follows.”

Now I didn’t confirm that in my internet search of him, but if that is true, I might just have a new favorite golfer.

In his post-practice press conference this past Monday, Nick Saban, the head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide, was asked by Ian Rappaport, a beat reporter for the Birmingham News, how he intended to work with the scholarship numbers in the fall, when freshman report. By Rappaport’s count there are currently sixty-six players on the Tide roster with scholarships and if the University intends on bringing in twenty-five new freshman in August, as they are allowed by NCAA rules, then six current players will lose their scholarship. In the written report Saban seems curt but factual. Rappaport seems to dismiss it as verbal sparring and even hints that he knew it would be tough to ask and get a good answer, but he had to anyway. Anyone familiar with Alabama press coverage knows this is not the first time that Saban has had some tense exchanges with Rappaport. You can read Ian’s blog entry about it here.

This morning I saw a video clip of the exchange from an ESPN show that was posted on The Wizard of Odds. I’ve spoken before of the anti-Saban agenda I have perceived from the Wiz and his post this morning backs that up. However, seeing the actual footage shines a whole new light on things.

Saban was visibly agitated; bouncing on the dais as he addressed the question and spouting of age-old arguments like, “It’s none of your business”. After watching the clip I have come away with the impression that Nick Saban is in fact, a tactless jerk. I’m not going to make excuses for him and I’m not going to sugar coat it. Nick Saban was rude.

Alabama fans have all been duped and we should ban together and have him run out of town. We are certainly capable of doing that; just ask Dennis Franchione, Bill Curry, and Mike Shula. There is no reason we should tolerate this behavior from the leader of our vaunted football program. The most powerful man in the state of Alabama is a total asshole and I for one am not going to stand for it anymore.

Alright, I have said nothing that anyone didn’t already know. I do believe that some of us wanted to believe that his national image was a fabrication by the media and to an extent, it is. I believe that they do nothing to help the situation but then again neither does he.

There is such a spotlight on the Alabama program and Saban himself that any negative seems to be put out for national consumption and ridicule and it would seem that pundits are eager for the demise of one or both. One of the ESPN anchors even referred to it as Saban’s “I’m a man. I’m forty” moment. That’s sensationalism.

As a fan, that perception is troubling, but at the end of the day I really don’t care. Saban may be an asshole but he is our asshole. I don’t believe that he was hired to be a smooth-talking press agent, I believe that he was hired to bring the program back to a place where winning every game is not only expected but is a big probability. LSU was favored in every game it played this past year. Alabama fans expect that to be the case here as well. As long as Saban appears to have Alabama on that path there is no reason to believe that he will take too much internal heat – by that I mean in the program itself or supporters of the program. It is reasonable to say that he could chew-out an old lady or a boy scout and no one is going to get too upset, as long as we are still recruiting well and/or winning with much more consistency.

Let’s look at who he is being rude to: sports reporters. Other than reporters themselves, who cares if they are treated poorly. I dare say that most reporters are not too sweet to the people they report about. Ray Melick wrote a column that, according to the accounts I have read of it – I refuse to read Melick because I believe him to be an ill-informed, verbal diarrhea spouting douchebag – claims that Saban will only allow access to media that have something to offer him in return. If that is the case then good for Saban. Columnists like Melick (and Finebaum and Scarbinsky) have gone on for a long time being able to state what they think with zero possibility of censure, even if the statement was total garbage. I, for one cannot get too upset about that type of comeuppance.

I’m going to take a minute to apologize to Brian at Mgoblog . Brian did a post referring to Saban as a snake oil salesman mainly due to his dealings with scholarship athletes and the practice of over signing. There was a lot of backlash about the post and he was called a lot of names. I am certain I didn’t call him a lot of names but I did feel his opinion to be biased and ill-informed. I can’t remember if I commented on his blog but I feel he is owed an apology even if “I only thought bad things” . It appears that, to an extent, Brian was right and while I don’t agree with everything he said or the manner in which he said it, Alabama has over signed and someone, regardless of the manner it is done, will lose a scholarship.

I am not sure how I feel about that. There are a lot of factors that I will never be aware of. Kids will leave on their own accord and some may be run off. There will certainly be more medical issues and some will see the writing on the wall, but even if just one kid is told that his scholarship is revoked then Brian will be vindicated. The sad fact of this business, and don’t kid yourself to think that it is anything but a business, is that, like any other business, personal feelings are sometimes thrown out the window for success. I believe that I am alright with that. First of all I feel powerless to do anything about it, even if I believed it to be an injustice and second, if Saban is successful and Alabama starts winning again, I would more than likely, in all honesty, trade the bad feelings for one pine riding athlete for the emotional high of a victory over Tennessee, LSU, Auburn, or dare I say an SEC Championship.

Is it unfair? Yes. Does it happen at other schools and in other places in our society? Absolutely. Is that right? I don’t know. If it were me that got booted then I would probably say no. My personality is also one that says, what could I have done better to stay on the team? I am not a believer in placing blame, most of the time. I believe that I have power over my situation and in almost every situation there is something I can do or could have done to effect the outcome. I am confident though, that my belief system will do nothing to comfort the player and his family as his ride is taken form him- if in fact, it is.

The other side of the coin is that this whole thing is an athletic competition. With competition being the key word. As with any competition the argument begins and ends with the scoreboard. Having the moral high ground is little consolation while walking from the stadium with your head held down in defeat. At those moments the phrases, “our coach isn’t an ass” or “we don’t over sign” carry little to no weight. It is those moments, in victory or defeat, that give us the emotional surges that keep us hooked. Everything else is filler.

Nick Saban was hired to insure that Alabama stays relevant in this business (there’s that word again). To be relevant in the modern world of college football you need to have several things: fans, which equates to draw which equates to money are the main ones. To keep that flow you need to win. In the absence of winning, history and tradition will serve to sate the masses, but only for a while. You can live on cereal, but after awhile, even if you spruce it up with milk and sugar, it’s still just cereal and you need a little steak to remind you of the good life.

Winning is everything in this game. Have you ever noticed that Finebaum rose to his biggest success during the worst time in Alabama history? See when you are winning, Finebaum (and Melick) and other talking heads are just afterthoughts. If Saban wins here, those people will get on board and sing the company line or they will be irrelevant. When you are used to and expect to win , losing creates a void. That void has to be filled and the bulk of the filler is criticism and turmoil. If the winning starts up again all won’t necessarily won’t be forgotten but it will become irrelevant. Losing makes things worse than they appear.

I’m not for one minute suggesting that winning at all cost is to be accepted, because it shouldn’t be. Integrity is important but integrity is also not an absolute concept in the skewed light of this sport. For example Sylvester Croom is chock full of integrity but if he has another losing season he is probably out at State. I don’t say that it is right, I’m just saying it’s the way it is. You have to win first, then your integrity shines through. I think Mike Sula had a lot of integrity. He and his integrity are coaching quarterbacks in Jacksonville now.

Rudeness, while it isn’t a good thing, is not the worst thing. Losing a scholarship isn’t a good thing but then again college football isn’t in reality a means to educate young men, there are lots of ways for that to happen if one is willing to work. It’s all about being competitive on the football field; at least at this University it is. It’s easy for outsiders to point and throw around names like classless and morally reprehensible but the fact also remains that young men and their parents have seen enough of what they like to take the involved risks and play for what they believe will be a winner.

So I say, say what you want. It’s probably skewed by the agenda your working from and the small piece of the puzzle you see and more than likely in the years to come we’ll be able to point and say: Scoreboard.

You know what I thought about A-Day? I’ll tell you: It was A-Day.

It’s a glorified scrimmage and it’s just hard to say anything definitive. Some guys looked good and some looked bad. I bleleive that we didn’t see a whole lot of the offense and that was really the mian thing I was hoping for. My belief that the fans witnessed a vanilla package was backed up by comments that Nick Saban and some of the other players made.

I decided that my four-year-old would get his first taste of Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday. It was neat from the standpoint that he was predictably amazed but since he wanted a drink form about the moment our backsides hit our chairs and we left at half time, I just didn’t get to concentrate on football. The best moment of the day came when my son -who was rocking his #34 crimson jersey that no longer has the numbers on the front- looked up and me and said, “I’m gonna play football down there one day Daddy.” I almost cried. The sad fact is that he is cursed with my genes so that eventuality is doubtful, but you know reality never stopped me from wanting something, from playing for Coach Bryant to dating Elle McPherson. If your gonna dream kid, dream big.

Random thought ans links:

  • Gerry Dorsey sums up my sentiments about A-Day. I go to the game because it’s a chance to see a little football five months before actual football, but if I had to drive more than 15 minutes I wouldn’t do it.
  • Saban moves well for an older man rocking loafers.
  • For the first time in I don’t know when, I was in front of the television for every hole of the Masters. I did take a couple of quick naps but all in all, a great day on the couch. I did find myself rooting for Tiger after the 70′ putt on No. 11- just to make it interesting – but I believe that Immelman deserved the win. The cool thing was that when I was at the practice round on Monday, I got to watch him and Gary Player play the 16th. They walked within 6′ of me and at the time I had no idea I was watching the future champion.
  • Your Monday Football Haiku (which has been absent for the last few weeks, sorry).

Spring satisfies not

The yearning for real football

Hurry blessed fall

Have a great week!

One of the greatest things about college football is the fact that trash talk goes on all year long. If there is a team that you don’t like, rival or not, it seems that one of our national pastimes is to run them down and I  never ceased to be amazed at the lengths people will go to stir up the hornet’s nest.

A great example of this happened over the course of the last week. The Wizard of Odds is a great blog and is one of my daily destinations. There is not a more concise site that I have ever found for a viewing the most interesting stories in college football regardless of who you pull for. If you like the sport of college football, you will like visiting the Wizard of Odds.

Today a post was made on the Wiz’s site referencing a post on Gentry Estes’ blog. Gentry writes for the Mobile Press-Register and evidently he was a little frustrated about the way Alabama and specifically Nick Saban handle their press releases relataing to fall practice. (That is my interpretation and not his). Estes blogged about it and then took the entry down. The insinuation was made that someone within the Alabama circle asked him to take the entry down. He later wrote an explanation and re-posted the entry. You can read it all here.

Possibly an attempt to make something out of nothing the Wiz posted this. And in all fairness, the post is a fair summary of the events and makes no judgement. The facts are all presented and the reader is allowed to judge for himself what really happend. My issue is the title of the post- “Did Saban Request Blog Post Be Spiked?” I believe that the title insinuates that there is the possibility that he did. Maybe it’s good marketing; you’re going to attract Alabama fans and Alabama and Saban haters alike with that title. As an Alabama fan I beleive that it points to an agenda.  The aftermath is what will prove me right or wrong. There were two  comments when I read the post. The first was a known Alabama fan who asked what the big deal was. The second was a Dawg fan, judging by his moniker he refutes Gentry Estes’ claim that no one asked him to remove the post and then he goes on to tell how excited he is about the fact that Saban is not his coach and other stuff you would expect from a rival fan.

There are two things that bother me here. One is specific to this post and one is with fans in general.

As far as the post, I beleive that it fits an agenda. The Wiz has never written impartially about Saban or Alabama that is to say there is an air of contempt in anything Saban related. That is his right and I don’t hold it against him.  But I beleive that  he is helping to blow it out of proportion. I don’t think that the post coming down is really a story. Estes’ explanation seems plasuible. It makes sense that he would be frustrated trying to report news from a program that give out very little news. I don’t believe he was out of line saying the things that he did. But I also certainly do not believe that Nick Saban is checking blogs or even having his staff check blogs or other media sources. If Nick Saban is focusing on the media and not depth at linebacker right now, Alabama certainly does have a problem.

The wild card here is the fact that Paul Finebaum picked this thing up and ran with it. I’ve been very clear about my feelings with Finebaum in the past. While he is entertaining he does absolutely zero to advance football or the people of this state. He highlights the ignorant minority of people who are convinced that not only does their opinion matter but is right. [For the record, my opinion matters not at all and right or wrong in most of these instances depends on the colors you wear on Fall Saturdays.] He is in it completely for himself. What does that mean? It means that in the absence of a real story he will pick up circumstantial threads and create fabricate a story. And in the current dearth of real stories this is a humdinger.

I believe that the Wiz’s post was nothing more than a way to stir up argument. I don’t like that. Estes’ thoughts are there for all to see and he is after all a journalist. Unlike a blogger or Finebaum if he lies he is out of a job because he doesn’t have credibility anymore. Most bloggers run from an agenda and facts only get in the way or are at least a starting point to put out a great yarn. Finebaum lost credibly a long time ago and his agenda has always been to stir the pot.

There are other bloggers that picked this up but as the colors on their banners are orange and blue I am not even going to go into their take on things because they are certainly pushing an agenda.

On the larger scale, I am still just baffled by the latent hate and anger out there that is directed at Nick Saban. The man likes to keep things quiet around his football team. What’s wrong with that. I don’t believe that you, as an American Citizen who follows college football have a right to know every single thing. Saban has been villified by the majority of the media because he doesn’t tell everything that goes on with his team. There is no crime in that. I can understand frustration – it must be harder to do your job if your job is to report news about Alabama football. But as a fan, I don’t really need to know about every time Ross’ brother farts on the practice field.

It seems to me that someone who discusses at what point in the show he left the Kenny Chesney concert isn’t tight lipped. I’d rather not have known he went to that show honestly. That made me lose more respect for him than anything he’s done in the past five years. It seems that he has openly talked about things he could talk about. He gave information about Elder after he was dismissed. He stood  up for Johnson after his arrest. But what he doesn’t do is talk about things that he feels are important not to discuss. What’s wrong with that. Are any of us really at a loss because he hasn’t said something. I can see where anyone could spin it to advance their agenda of how he is a terrible human being but in my opinion the evidence just isn’t there to go on tirades about it.

To be totally honest, I wasn’t a big fan of Saban when he was at LSU. I thought, as I still do, that he was arrogant. But I wasn’t a big fan of Spurrier either. I don’t really care for Tommy Tuberville although I couldn’t tell you why. I think Mark Richt is kind of prissy and self-rightous. Herban Meyer seems like a douche nozzle to me. My loathing of Fulmer is well documented. I’ve never really had a lot of good words for Houston Nutt. Sylvester Croom has been a lttle cry-babyish at times. Wait… is this a trend developing? Could it be that I don’t really like any coach of a rival team.

I don’t have a lot of good words for any coach in the conference save Saban. The only reason I have good words for Saban is that he is the coach of the football team that I have allegiance to. With every one of the men that I listed above I have zero first hand knowledge but I’d be willing to bet that there are good qualities about every one of them and I am positive that former players of theirs would fight you if you said something in their presence to disparage their characters.

We see these men on television and the sidelines and we read and hear their words and we think that we know them. The truth is that we don’t know them and with Saban we know him even less because he isn’t as open as the others.

It’s the same way with fans of our opposition. We can paint stereotypes and list great reason to loathe all of them and that works real well when we keep them at arms length. But, when we get to the tailgate and start discussing things, we find that, with rare exception, they are just like us.

You can interchange any coach in the conference with any other team and once that coach becomes “your coach” you are going to hold him in the same light with slightly varying shades. Bring Fulmer or Tuberville here and as far fecthed as that sounds they would have new defenders and new haters almost immediately. Saban, Tuberville, and Nutt are the best examples of that. There are people right now at Alabama, Auburn, and  Ole Miss that “hated his guts” that are now cheering for them. There are also people at LSU, Ole Miss, and Arkansas that would speak easily of their demise but at one time sung their praises.

The sad fact is that most of us aren’t any more complex than that.

I can’t get over how much there is to talk about with everything going on right now. There seemed to be stretch with such a dearth of news about anything that I really cared about.  No real football news, Alabama being out of basketball for a year, performing my absolute worst ever in the tournament pools, and the start of baseball – which typically I couldn’t care less about made it a tedious stretch. Then, in a span of about four days, all of that changed.

A-Day is three days away. There is basketball drama all of a sudden. The NCAA Final was exciting. But I think that the biggest thing was the whirlwind sports weekend that I had that got everyhting spinning in my mind like it is. So, I’m gonna start there and then I work through the other things.

While I grew up in Tuscaloosa and am prod to call it home, I was actually born in Atlanta and most of my extended family is in and around the metro area. My grandparents lived about an hour from downtown and when I was a kid we often went to sporting events in A-town. In fact, all of my experience with sports other than Alabama football took place in Atlanta. So the town has always had a special place in my heart and while it is common for people in this area to pull for the Braves, I have always felt that my allegiance was a little more purebred than the run-of-the-mill fan who liked them because they were so good for so long or that for a long time, at least around here, they were the only team you could see on television or hear on the radio with any regularity.

In 1982 I was in elementary school and the Braves were on TBS. There were not many games that I didn’t watch. That was also the year that my dad took me to see them play a lot. I was the typical kid. Little League, baseball cards, and hero worship. My hero then was Dale Murphy. Dale Murphy and my Dad. The 82′ season was the year that I remember connecting with my dad; we finally had something in common with our love for the Braves and we spent a lot of time in the car driving between Tuscaloosa, my grandparents’, and Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. That has been 26 years ago but I can still tell you that Dale Murphy, Bob Horner, Bruce Benedict, Chris Chambliss, Rafeal Ramierez, Claudell Washington, Brett Butler (before he was traded to Cleveland) played on that team. (I swear I didn’t look that up – I can’t remember the second baseman even though I can see his face.) I saw Phil Niekro, Gene Garber, Pascual Perez and Al Hrabosky, the “Mad Hungarian” pitch. I saw Tommy Lasorda manage the Dodgers and Fernando Valenzuela, Steve Garvey, and Pete Rose play. The world revolved around baseball at that time and I loved every minute of it.

Sitting in the outfield seats, keeping score in my program ,enjoying being a kid with his best friend and the muggy summer nights in Atlanta. Old enough to begin taking in the world around me and still young enough to believe that it held magic for you if you believe hard enough. Knowing that one of your heroes was going to hit it out of the park his next time at bat and that your other hero would make sure that you caught it or catch it for you if that magic shot made it to your seat.

Dale Murphy is still a hero of mine and my Dad has begun to return to that status now that I realize how solid he has been his whole life. Truth be told, Dad deserves to be a hero for much different and better reasons. See, I think Murphy gave me something to dream about as a child, but Dad took care of the small things so all I had to worry about was dreaming and more importantly when some of those dreams didn’t pan out he was part of the solid foundation that I could rely on till I could gather myself up and start toward the next dream.

And so as I settled into my seat in Tuner Field on Sunday afternoon that’s where my mind was. Thinking about a little kid and his dad. I hadn’t been to a game in almost ten years. Honestly, I had quit caring about the game. It wasn’t the same to me as it had been. I no longer followed every move of the team or the sport. Football is much more exciting and I am sitting in the middle of it here. Life keeps moving on and seems to get busier and I had just stopped making time for baseball.  But on this somewhat cool day in Atlanta baseball reminded me just what is so great about it.

Baseball is a game for fathers and sons. Baseball is easy. It isn’t complex – you throw, hit, and catch. You and your dad can do that after work and we often did. Also there are so many chances for beauty in the game. You sit through the monotonous parts for the big payoff, like the home run or the double play, that makes it spectacular. Those occasions of being down and battling back make it so exciting. It’s a lot like life in those ways. And it is that much better if you’re sitting next to someone you love while it’s going on. In fact those single events are fairly empty in and of themselves. It’s the sharing them with a friend, or your child, or wife, or your dad that make them really special. On this April day I was reminded that there is still a little magic.

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