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Unfortunately it will take a while to get that loss out of my head. Something tells me that I will always remember that one. Punt Bama Punt happened the year before I was born so there is no recollection of it. Maybe Cam’s Comeback Bowl 2010 is the new Punt Bama Punt.

My personal maxim of football is that the game is won on the line-of-scrimmage. Coming into the game, I felt like Auburn had done a better job all season of controlling both lines and thus the advantage was theirs. I hoped Alabama could put together its first complete game of the year and win, but I thought it would take the kind of effort that hadn’t been seen all season.

Here are a  few random thoughts about the game from the perspective of a fan on the 25 yard line of the West Upper Deck:

  • Auburn won because they were a better football team this year. Despite all the time we give to records and programs and comparisons, the game is won by the better team the vast majority of the time. I didn’t say more talented squad or better coached, or more focused, I said better team. I can still love the University of Alabama and its football team but I can readily admit that Auburn had the better overall team. This year.
  • Auburn is a better team this year mainly due to its experience. A quick review of their depth chart shows that one offensive lineman, the H-back, and running back are the only guaranteed returning starters next season ( I am assuming that Adams and Newton will go pro). On defense, one lineman, one linebacker, and two defensive backs will be back (I am assuming Fairley goes pro as well). That is a lot of experience and it is hard to trump that on talent alone and in all fairness, there are some pretty talented kids in that group. They never gave up, which is tenacity that is learned through experience. Talent in no way makes up for that.
  • Auburn also has an incredible quarterback. Forget about allegations for a minute. Cam Newton is a once in a generation athlete. You just don’t find talent like that everyday – Julio Jones is the same way at receiver, unfortunately receiver does not impact the game the way quarterback does. I’m just glad we only have to hear about him for one year. You think Tebow love made you sick, imagine four years of Newton.
  • Auburn rarely makes mistakes. There were no offensive penalties that I recall. The flag against Fairley was ticky-tack at best and was probably earned in the last game (Thanks, Bulldogs). They just didn’t do many things to beat themselves. That is the mark of a good team (see ’09 Alabama).
  • Forget about the “out-coached” comments. Alabama’s game plan was great. The team was motivated. The offense did a great job early on and the the Tiger defense on its heels. The defense was phenomenal. I never imagined Alabama would be that effective against Newton (despite the loss, Alabama still out gained Auburn and held Newton to season lows) but if the plan was to stop the run and make them beat us in the air, as it usually is, Newton and company made the plays that Alabama didn’t.  Four trips in the Red Zone in the first half that netted two field goals and two turnovers. That’s not coaching. That’s execution.  Look at it like this, if Alabama scores a touchdown on any of those four possessions, we aren’t talking about this today. A back dropping a sure touchdown pass or the most sure handed back that I can remember fumbling a ball through the end zone are not coaching problems.
  • I’m not sure what happened to the resiliency Alabama used to show in the fourth quarter. This could be a coaching call, but I’m going to defer to experience and leadership.
  • Empty seats in the student section are inexcusable. Come on, kids!
  • We need to have a few less Scott Cochran cheers during the game. I don’t think they are working.

Finally, as disappointed as I was (and am), I really don’t believe that this signals a shift of power in the state (other than the one obvious year). As mentioned above, Auburn is senior laden and both Cam and Malzhan should be gone next year (I’d kind of like to see Cam behind a line with four new starters and for both Newton and Malzhan, their stock will never be any higher than it is right now). With the majority of their defense gone as well, Auburn should struggle against a brutal road schedule.

Alabama is not unique in that it has struggled (by comparison) in a season after a national title with a roster that lost a lot of starters. The Tide had a much better season than Texas or Florida. Recruiting is going well and despite what happened Friday, I wouldn’t even consider trading Saban for Malzhan or anyone else for that matter.

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Alabama’s loss to Auburn on Friday hurt. It hurt bad. I’m just to the point where I can stand to think about it three days later. I was a little worried Friday night that I was too upset about it. I mean, I’m a grown man with responsibilities far greater than being a college football fan. I have a family. I have a business. When you shake out all the important stuff, the outcome of one football game isn’t really that big of a deal.

On the other hand, I am rational enough to know that there more important things than football and that realization, in and of itself, allows me to be passionate about football and not feel the least bit guilty about it.

I am a passionate person. That’s just who I am. I emotionally invest myself in the University of Alabama football team and their success and failure. The wins mean something to me, especially the big ones, like the SEC and National championships won last season and the last two year’s Iron Bowls. And if I revel in the highs, by nature, I must suffer through the lows. The losses hurt on an emotional level. It’s a vicious cycle that I am in, but the highs are worth the lows, because of one thing:

As a person, I am not defined by the actions of a football team. The football team that I have adopted as my own especially, but also any teams that interact with them.

My team losing does not make me a loser. My team winning does not make me a winner. My value as a person, both to myself and to others has nothing whatsoever to do with a scoreboard. Never has. Never will.

I think we all need to be reminded of that from time to time. Ego wants us to compare ourselves with others – even to the extent of winners and losers on the football field. That comparison makes us feel better or worse than others – better if our team wins, worse if out team looses – but never equal to others. As much fun as it is to build up the rivalry between Alabama and Auburn, the truth is that there is virtually no differences between the fan bases of either school. Maybe the comedy comes from pointing out despicable attributes of ourselves and labeling our rival with them. Either way, the jokes that we make about one school and its fans can be used in the opposite, just as easily.

The problem comes when we take the identity of our chosen team as our own.

As disappointed as I was at the loss, I was still proud to be a fan and an alumnus.  After the recent success of Alabama, it was hard to believe that they were going to lose again. When it happened, especially to our rival, it is hard to stomach.

One final thought while I’m full of brevity today: Hate is an active emotion. I’m not sure the psychological jargon involved, but I am certain that to hate someone or something requires active participation from the person doing the hating. I understand that it is considered part of the rivalry and that is what makes this particular rivalry so heated, but the hate doesn’t really do us any good other than the comedic aspect of all of this.

I’m not going to wast energy hating something. That’s energy I could use for other, more important things. Especially if that hate only serves to protect or feed my Ego.

Of course there are 39 weeks until the 2011 season kicks off.

Welcome to this week’s installment of the Roundtable. You can find the other responders and a wrap-up post right here. On to the questions:

1. What is the biggest lesson we learned in the win over Arkansas last
Saturday?

The first thing that comes to mind would be resiliency; Alabama did what they had to do late in the game to win. Sometime in the third quarter, when Arkansas was up by two scores, thoughts drifted back to a few previous Alabama experiences: at Auburn last season, against a Saban coached LSU team in 2000 and against the eventual national champion, LSU, in 2007 (which still had some Sabanistic toughness now missing in Baton Rouge). All three of those games were won, eventually by the better team (two of them were Saban-led) despite the fact that they trailed in the fourth quarter.

This team has confidence and a belief in what it is doing.

The second thing that was learned, and perhaps just as important, is that this defense still has a lot of work to do. This shouldn’t really be a surprise to anyone at this point. They were atrocious in the first half. If there is a silver lining it is that they did appear to grow up some in the second half. Now, let’s see if they can keep the intensity and effort up for a whole game.

2. What is the biggest concern going into the game with Florida next
Saturday?

The defense’s ability to stop Florida is the biggest concern. Granted, despite the production against Kentucky last week, Florida has not appeared to be the offensive team we’ve come to expect from a Meyer led team but there is potential for Brantley to find some success with the deep ball – two other opponents have and Florida is more than capable.

This weekend’s game appears to be a case of strength on strength (Florida’s defense versus Alabama’s offense) and weakness on weakness (Florida’s offense and Alabama’s defense). The talent gap you can count on with most of Alabama’s opponents is almost non-existent. It’s going to come down to who makes the fewest mistakes.

3. Will this contest be a preview of this year’s SECCG? Why or why
not?

At this point, due to obvious weakness in teams from the East, Florida is without a doubt your odds on favorite. South Carolina is the only team that could conceivably beat them, but that would seem to be a long shot at this point.

The West, however, is a different story. There are three teams that have a shot. LSU has holes, yet they’ve remained unbeaten.  The same could be said of Auburn. At this point Alabama has to be the favorite, but there are some holes there, too.

If Alabama can make it through the next two weeks unbeaten (or even with one loss) it stands a good chance of beating Ole Miss and Tennessee and making it to  the bye week in position to get it legs under it and focus on fundamentals for a week before preparing for the always tough trip to Baton Rouge.  Auburn could very well stumble down the stretch but right now they’ll be the favorite in every contest now except for one. The gmae on the day after Thanksgiving could very well decide the West’s representative in the championship game.

If this does indeed turn out to be a copy of the bill for the title game, it would stand to reason that both the Alabama defense and Florida offenses would be better.

4. What part of this week’s gameday experience are you most looking forward to?

While this appears to be one of the most perfect combinations possible in the football world – a top-ten match up of the conference elite, a clash of cultures and some of the best football weather imaginable – I find that I’m excited about this contest more than any other this season for other reasons.

For the past twelve consecutive seasons, I have gathered for at least one game with two of my closest college buddies. The core three have stayed the same, but without fail at least two more join us and it becomes an annual celebration. This might not seem like that big of a deal, but these guys  travel from at least 1,600 miles away. While they have definite Alabama ties – one’s grandfather played with Paul Bryant on the ’31 National Championship team and later worked for the Athletic Department for years – it’s their passion for Alabama in distant, heathen lands that has brought new converts into the fold. We now have a group of several guys from western states that make a yearly trip to the Capstone to watch Alabama play, despite the fact they have no ties to the University or SEC football. It’s going to be a big weekend for me.

This evening the 2010 college football season kicks off with a slate of Thursday night games.

And so it begins.

College Football may not be recognized universally as the best sport, but you know what? It is to me. There is nothing else that gets me as excited in the sporting world. If asked why this is the case; other than the fierce loyalties we have to schools we grew up cheering for or the actual university we attended and thus served as a backdrop for our transition from childhood to adulthood, and the passion that these places and teams invoke, it would be hard to put it all into a concise statement. It probably has to do with the fact that there is enough time between games to decompress, float down from the high produced by winning or the low generated from losing to truly anticipate the next game. Also, it’s the mixture of huge, emotionally charged contests with traditional rivals that churn your blood with vitriol or the Goliath you know your David can defeat contrasted against the contest against hapless East Nowhere State where the joy comes from the fellowship and pageantry only found in rooting for your team. Finally, it’s the relatively short season; I can think of few other sports where there isn’t time to get worn down with the tedium of a long season. Just as things are getting good and the excitement builds to crescendo the season is over and there are eight to nine months to contemplate what might be.

Which brings me to today; the waiting is over (or almost over in the case of Alabama fans).

While I’ll certainly be the first to tell you that there are many things that could be better about the great state of Alabama, like the unrelenting, oppressive heat and humidity, the lack of importance placed on education, or the overall lack of desire to improve and grow as a people, I will also be the first to say that on the last few days leading up to a big football game, there is no place in the world I would rather be.

Sure, the Rocky Mountains are breathtakingly beautiful, as is Yosemite Valley and the Grand Canyon. Sunrise in the desert or sunset over the Pacific are surely awesome spectacles. But in my mind, this town revving up to host football is a thing of beauty that is perhaps more rare. There is no way to accurately describe the palpable energy that permeates the air. It’s just something you have to experience.

Thirty-three years ago, my father took me to an Alabama game. More than anything else about that day I remember the hair on my neck standing up when the crowd raised its voice in unison. It was just something about that many people united and directing energy toward the same thing. I can’t predict how the team will perform but I can tell you without a doubt that the exact same feeling will come upon me in a little more than 48 hours.

It is good to be in Tuscaloosa, Alabama as football season begins.

This week’s edition of the Rountable bids a fond farewell to Memphis Tider as he ceases blogging on his site this week. I completely understand this thing called real life and how it interferes with activities like blogging. There comes a point when you have to pare down things in your life because there are just too many of them. Best wishes, Memphis Tider!

On with the questions:

1.After hearing as much as I have about BJ Scott, Dre Kirkpatrick, Rod Woodson, etc, is it possible that the secondary this year may actually be better than last year’s squad?

I guess that anything is possible and it would seem that the premise is that raw athletic ability will make up for the lack of experience but it just seems that experience is just too important. As talented as they are they are bound to see some things that make them think and as we all know at this point, if you’re thinking you’re not reacting. Really elite football teams react. The most likely scenario is that this groups surprises us by their rapid development as the season progresses. The early conference tests set up well for being tested and learning early.

2. How will all of the awards and honors, especially from his hometown, affect Mark Ingram’s performance this season?

Ingram seems to be a humble enough kid that it shouldn’t affect him. The unfortunate thing is that he is very unlikely to produce this year like he did last – it was, in fact, a record breaking performance, he stayed relatively injury free, and Richardson emerged as a viable option in his own right and that should reduce some of the load and thus opportunities this year. There is a faction out there that will blame his relative woes on a big head if the numbers drop. Tebow remained humble after his trophy and although his numbers were never as good as his Heisman year he remained an effective player. I believe that Ingram is made of the same type of stuff. At least I hope he is.

3. Could you see Greg McElroy as a legitimate early round selection in the NFL draft next year? Why or why not?

Admittedly I know very little of what constitutes an early round pick in the NFL but if McElroy improves some and is consistent (I suppose that would be his improvement) there is a possibility he could be an early draft pick.

4. James Willis was a master recruiter and one hell of a linebackers coach. We haven’t talked much about what the loss of him means to our staff. Tell us what you think the effect will be with him gone to Texas Tech.

What a great question. First Saban has shown that winning is not a function of consistency in staffing so I believe that as long as he’s piloting the ship, the course will remain the same. As far as how he’ll do at Texas Tech, his addition to the staff has to be a boon for Tuberville. Willis’ knowledge of defense has got to help the Red Raiders and surely his recruiting prowess will be helpful. But overall, Texas Tech will probably never be a football “power” and that is mostly for the same reasons that Mississippi State will never be: there is really no tradition from which to build and the location is horrible. I believe that as a coach selling a program you’re better off selling a new program than you are one with a history of mediocrity. Also, and I mean no offense to Starkville and Lubbock, unless you are raised with an affinity for these institutions, there really isn’t much in the way of enticement to spend four or five years of your life there. Sure some would argue that you could say the same of Tuscaloosa, and on many levels I’d agree, but the difference  is that Tuscaloosa is a football town – it doesn’t take very long for even the most football obtuse to realize that – and there is an established history of football excellence here. If you’re going to spend four to five years in a location that doesn’t fit your idea of paradise, you at least want the opportunity to win while you’re there. To conclude and be concise with my response: Willis will do well in Lubbock because he is a good coach, but there would seem to be a glass ceiling on the level of accomplishment that is possible at Texas Tech.

5. Have you ever seen a state whose political views can be switched by football rumors? The Tim James fiasco is absolutely incredible to me how much football can mean to a state.

I must be out of the loop more than I thought because I don’t know all the details. I don’t listen to Finebaum because he’s an instigator and tends to bring out the worst elements in the football loving public of our fine state. As far as I can tell most folks that would seek to be callers on Finebaum’s show are exactly the kind of person that can’t wait to vote for James.  So I’ll provide two responses: First, good or bad, football is our thing in this state. Despite the ridiculous heat that unpacks its bags  and moves in for four to five months this time of year and the ignorance that abounds in this state (the very fact that there is even the remotest of possibilities that Tim James could become governor proves the astounding amount of ignorance) there is no place in the world I’d rather be as September rolls around than right here. Football is what we do.

Second, Tim James represents the worst element of this state, the ignorant masses who attend church every Sunday and still believe that it’s acceptable to hate and oppress, the hypocrite, those with two-story houses in their eyes that stand up and yell about the splinters of their neighbors eyes, those who would gladly lead a prayer in a school unless of course it was a prayer to Allah or in Hebrew, those who teach English in schools and still say “ain’t” and end sentences with “at”, those who believe God and the founding fathers stand firmly with them despite the fact that the only verse of scripture they know  is John 3:16 and couldn’t tell you anything of the fathers other than that they were “Christians”, basically the people that love Rick and Bubba. James  is counting on their vote to become governor. That is reprehensible. He is the definition of a politician and I loathe him for that.  I contend that we need a leader. Someone who will embrace the future and the changes that must take place in this state if we are ever to move beyond where we are now.  Someone who will put an emphasis on education despite the fact that it doesn’t play well politically. OK, I’m done now. I’ll stop before I get really worked up.

This weeks questions were courtesy of Roll Bama Roll. A round up with links to all participants can be found here.

1. How did you watch the game, and why?

I have not yet watched the game. I spent an incredible weekend rock climbing in North Carolina. As much as I love Alabama Football, it was the farthest thing from my mind on Saturday. I guess as someone professing to be an Alabama fan to the point of blogging about it this demands some sort of explanation.

In 1995, I was a few years out of high school and basically a sophomore in credit standing entering the university. From the first game of that season I have missed exactly one game played in Bryant-Denny Stadium; and that was for the weeding of a great friend and Alabama was playing Utah State. I’ve been a season-ticket holder since 1999, my first year out of school. Of course this doesn’t even go into the first game that I attended, in 1977, or the dozens I attended or followed prior to my college years. I’ve lived and died with the Tide, and you’ve got to remember there was a lot of dying in that time period. I’ve literally had dreams of singing “Rammer Jammer” in the waning moments of victories over Tennessee, Auburn, and LSU.

Suffice it to say, my dreams came true this year. I was there in Pasadena and I almost cried. Hell, I probably did. As the game was about to kick off I told my best friend, seated to my right, with all the seriousness I am capable of, “Other than the birth of my children, this is the coolest shit I have ever seen.” I’m sated. Everything I wished for was attained. Alabama has returned to prominence, and that was the thought that kept me warm in the coldest moments of NCAA turmoil, recruits slipping away, coaching debacles, inexcusable losses, and passion killing streaks. Combine my satisfaction with the weariness I experienced from going to every game this season save Kentucky and Ole Miss. That’s twelve of fourteen, which is the most I’ve ever been to in a year. I also own a small business and most importantly above all those, I am a husband and a father – my two most important roles. Two of my three boys are in the midst of little league – if you think an Alabama score is exciting, wait till your eight-year old hits a triple, scores the winning run, and gets a game ball – and the only reason that the third isn’t playing is that he’s fourteen months old.

In a nutshell, I’m tired and there just isn’t enough time or energy to do everything that I want to do. But I’m also satisfied and completely content with where the program is right now. I’m certain that come late August the passion will return and I’ll go sleepless the night before San Jose State, not to mention the entire week leading up to Penn State.

I took the week off. And I don’t regret it one bit.

2. Who stood out most on offense, be it for good or bad reasons?

Since I didn’t attend or watch, all of my impressions are distilled through the descriptions of others. What I’ve heard over and over again is how great McCarron looked, ditto for Ingram. The talent and depth at most positions is becoming apparent and that is great but also to be expected at this point in Saban’s Process. Disturbing were the reports of Julio’s drops; got to be better in that department.

A quick word on McCarron, McElroy and the “quarterback controversy”: regardless of what you read or hear McElroy is the starter. Hands down. No Question. End of story. His credentials for that are too long to name and if you even need to know them you probably don’t need to be reading this. He will, without question, have times when he struggles this season. He may even lose a game. Unless he just completely loses himself – which is highly unlikely – he is not going to get benched in favor of McCarron. Especially in a big game. So to the folks that are going to scream for A.J. after GMac’s first interception, save your breath. McCarron looked great in a scrimmage, that’s a far cry from the 4th quarter in Neyland or Tiger Stadiums when the game is on the line.

3. Same question for the defense.

I keep hearing great things about the front seven and Dareus in particular. I’m very excited to the whole unit. Everyone writes that side of the ball off, but I have a feeling it will be a pleasant surprise. For us, not opposing offenses.

4. Did A-Day make you feel better or worse about our chances for a repeat in 2010?

I’d have to say better. As I mention in question #2. The talent and depth are really becoming evident. You’ve still got to continue to prepare and develop, and hope for some luck but Alabama is setting up to be a power for the next few years, similar to LSU, Florida, USC, and Ohio State have been recently.

5. With the long dark of the off-season finally upon us, what’s your favorite coping mechanism?

As I described in my opening answer, I’ve got a lot going on. Used to be that the summers drug along and September couldn’t get here fast enough. I’m going to enjoy baseball, both my kid’s for the next month or so and then the Braves – their tied for the lead of the NL East after the first two weeks of the season and Jason Heyward is a very exciting player. I’d like to take a trip or two and climb as much as time and extreme heat allow. Before you know it we’ll be talking about Fall Camp.

I was clearing the digital camera in preperation for the trip west and found this little gem.

This was supposed to be an angel but somehow ended up more like the Joker. I didn’t have the heart to leave it for Santa and based on the amount of sleep lost thinking about this being in the next room, I should have just gone ahead and eaten it.

For the record, I mix and bake and leave the icing up to my wife and children.

There, very understandably, is much weeping an knashing of teeth over the present BCS National Championship Game. The seventeen year drought for a championship has the entire Alabama fan base giddy with anticipation and I can’t imagine that the desire to go to the game has ever been higher.

The tickets that went on sale to the public this past week has gotten everyone more upset than they already were, because most people thought they had a chance to purchase tickets only to find out that was about as likely as getting a cheap plane ticket anywhere near Los Angeles either side of January 7th.

I believe that glimmer of hope may be the biggest part of the problem. The LSU game and the SEC Championship games also had high demand but nowhere near the hand wringing. Had there been no public sale for this game, I don’t think people would be nearly as upset as they appear to be. One of the other factors at play here is the complicated logistics involved; this game is around 2,000 miles away. The vast majority of folks want to know they have a ticket before they make such tricky travel arrangements and fork out deposits.

We all love the Crimson Tide and a lot of us want to be there.  Even if there were half of the 91,000 seats available to Alabama fans, the demand would be far greater than the supply. There aren’t near that many seats. Similar to the SEC Championship Game, somewhere between half to two-thirds of the tickets are provided to the representive schools. We sell out 82,000 seats minimum in Bryant-Denny for big games. There aren’t near that available to begin with and the demand is far, far greater. There is no way that everyone wanting a ticket is getting one. That’s a fact.

Now the passionate fans, hungry to watch the game live and be part of the experience are crying foul. Mostly in the form throwing around the term greedy. There is no question that there are people out there that are using this as an oppurtunity to make money. Why wouldn’t they? If you told me that I could get three to ten times my investment of $200 and do virtualy nothing other than place an add online (and not do anything illegal in the process), I’d jump all over it. So would you.

Put yourself in this hypothetical: You have one or two tickets to the game. There is no way you can go. You have at least six friends clammoring for tickets, so there is no way you could make all of them happy, in fact you’d probably make four mad by making two happy. It’s Christmas time and expenses are mounting. You’ve got $400 invested but you could clear at least $800 by selling them on the open market. Are you greedy for doing that? Generally, only if you’re one of the prospective buyers. What if the University or the government mandated that you had to sell those tickets at face value or even at a set profit margin. Would that be right either?

Anytime a discussion of ticket demand comes up, someone always throws out the “big money boosters are bad” arguement or, “it’s the everyday working fans that make this program what it is”. If you’ve ever maid either one of these statements or any derivative of them, you’re quite simply wrong.

Big money boosters do make the program go. Big money boosters pay coaches huge salaries, build extravagant facilities and stadiums. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. Public money does not make any significant impact on our athletic department. Boosters are essential to a big time program. It’s just that simple. No boosters equals a non-competitive atlethic program.

What do those boosters get in return? Amonst other things, tickets. They keep the program going and competitive. Do you have more of a right to a ticket than they do?

It’s not just big money guys either. It’s the middle class families that donate anywhere from $75 to $2000 per seat per season to watch their favorite team play football. Do you, who’ve never done anything but bought a t-shirt at Walmart and sclaped a ticket outside the stadium have more of a right to a ticket than anyone of them. The worst part of the donation is that on the lower end of the spectrum you haven’t got a prayer of an away game or post-season tickets.

It doesn’t even go ticket for ticket with considerable donations. I’m part of a group of three married men, whom all have children that want to go to games. We each pay $350 per seat just for the right for tickets. I spend at least $1,500 each year for game tickets and have for years. Out of those eight seats, and a considerable donantion from one of the guys (we’re talking close to what a teacher makes in a year in this state) we get four post season and away game tickets. That means that four of those guy’s spouses, children, or even the guys themselves are out in the cold, when the National Championship game kicks off in twenty days.

I understand the frustration but let’s look at the facts:

  • There is more demand than supply. Not everybody that wants to go to the game is going to go, even with all things being equal.
  • People that donate large sums of money make the program go and therfore deserve the right to attend the game before others. Everyone has the right to donate. Not the means but the right.
  • Many that donate smaller amounts of money aren’t going becasue they don’t have tickets.
  • Free market economy has it faults but it isn’t greedy to make money if you have the oppurtunity to (as long as you aren’t breaking the law). The down side of that is that they stand to lose money if the demand were not there (which we have decided it is) and that some will go without becasue they can’t afford it. This isn’t milk, bread, or even gas. There is no such thing as gouging in this situation becasue you don’t have to have football tickets to live.

Good luck on getting a ticket. I do hope you get to go to the game if you want, but keep the bitching to a minimum if it doesn’t work out in your favor.

Most

College Football writer Clay Travis has been taking some heat lately from Alabama fans for two articles that he posted on his Fanhouse site. I, for one don’t neccesarily agree with his opinions, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have some vaild points or that he is an idiot. In both the articles my immediate disagreement was quilcky tempered by reading the comments. Why is it when someone disagrees with you that they are immediatley branded a fool or uninformed? This is probably a general indictment of our society overall, but the example of these two articles makes a great case on the small scale for the overall, larger problem.

In Clay’s typical format I’ll lay out my opinions. Feel free to disagree, that’s your right, just keep nmae calling out of this.

1. The Heisman is a completely subjective award.

There are 85 scholarshipped players on 120 FBS teams. That’s 10,200 football players that could be considered for this award. There is absolutely no way that you will ever get a concensus agreement on the best 102 (1%), 51 (0.5%), 25 (0.25%),  or 5(0.05)% players in that group, much less the absolute best individual 1(0.01%) out of that pool. There is always going to be a differance of opinion about who the winner is. Every year. Without question.

I’ve never been a fan of tha award becasue I believe it to be assanine to attempt the task as described above. Furthermore, I’m of the belief that to award the Heisman helps to undermine the team concept that is neccesary to have one of the best teams in college football. I’ve taken it as a point of pride that Alabama has never had a winner, unitl this seasom, and as a testament to the fact that the program stresses team over the individual.

You could objectively make arguments for all five of the candidates to have won this year’s award. Plus a few others beside.  You can name stats  and facts for all of them. Yes, Anthony Dixon had more yards-per-game than Ingram, and McCluster had more yards-per-carry. Gerhart had more total yards and yes, it’s true that the defenses he faced were not as strong as the ones in the SEC schedule, but really, what’s the point of going on about it. Ingram won. You can make as many arguments for his win than you can against it. I’m not going to dwell into how the voting method would change the outcome; I believe that the fact remains; there will be disappointment in the winner every year because of the nature of the award. I’m happy for Ingram and our University. If you happen to disagree, you’re not a moron.

2. It is possible that the decision to cancel classes was not a wise one.

I’ve lived in Alabama for the majority of my life. I have also lived elsewhere and traveled enough to know what Alabama does and does not have. Since I have chosen to make my career here and raise my family here, I believe that it is a great place. Alabama is a state that is filled with proud, hard working people that are among the friendliest you will find anywhere. Is it without problems? Absolutely not. Is it worse (or better) than anywhere else? That, folks is another question that is even more subjective than the problem of the best College Football player in the nation.

In my opinion, one of Alabama’s biggest, if not the biggest problem, is the state of our educational system. I would dare say that it all stems from a belief that education just isn’t that important. The statistics are there to validate the arguement. We need to improve our educational system from the ground up. We will never reach our potential as a state until we do that. Does that mean I hate Alabama? Obviously not.

Therefore, is it possible that canceling classes in light of a football game could send the wrong message? Absolutely. Was Clay wrong for pointing that out? I don’t think so. Is he an idiot for writing about that opinion? Absolutely not.

Ultimately, I believe that the decision will not have a negative impact on the upcoming semester or the school itself. It certainly does nothing to devalue an Alabama  or other SEC education, in my opinion. Would it have been so bad to let individual teachers make the decision as to whether to cancel class with the administration mandating that there be no reprocussions beyond making up work to those who miss class to attend the game? Let’s face it, if you were a student and you were going to the game, you were going to miss regardless.

Once again, Clay had an opinion that had some merit. Why beat him up over it.

3. Clay Travis writes for a national market media outlet.

Media outlets pay their writers for their content – at least the good ones do. They do that because advertisers will pay them to be seen on their sites. The more traffic on the site, the more the Outlet can charge for their ad space and the more Advertisers are willing to pay for the exposure. It’s capitalism and it works.

Another sad function of our society is that controversy tends to draw attention. “Ingram deserves the Heisman” or “Alabama made a great move by canceling classes” might invite you to read, but opinions that are certain to be counter to yours will bring you running and email ten people to click and see the audacity of Clay Travis. Not to mention, the traffic brought by detractors of the program; which all high profile teams have. If these articles were about Akron, or even Stanford would that many people be incensed? Probably not.

In short, Clay Travis writes for a national site and has to love the traffic brought by articles like this. I suppose it’s possible that the articles were written specifically to generate traffic, but I’ll get into that later.

4. Clay Travis is not a traditional print media journalist.

Clay does not report facts without bias. You know when you read the sports page and get a recap of the game. That’s reporting and that’s not what Clay does. Hurt’s columns in the Tuscaloosa News, Scarbinsky and Melick’s column in the Birmingham News, and Finebaum’s column in the Mobile Press Register. Those are all opinion pieces. While they list some facts, they are more annoucements of opinion. Most of the time they are more informed opinions than the general public has, but not always. Those opinion peices are more in line with what Clay does. He’s paid to write about his opinion. Sweet deal, huh?

Attempting to make fun of Clay Travis or any other writer that hocks an opinion simply because it’s an opinion is ridiculous.

5. Clay Travis is an unabashed Tennessee Volunteer fan.

Clay makes no bones about this. Tennessee is a chief rival of the University of Alabama. I’m sure you know Tennessee fans. Do they gush on about how wonderful Alabama is all the time? Do you not like them becasue they don’t?

I’d be a little worried if he did gush about Alabama.

As fans we realize that we have no rational reasons to pull for our teams other than that they are our teams (at least we’re supposed to). There’s nothing wrong with that.

We’ve estabished that Clay loves Tennessee and therefore wouldn’t be scared to take a shot at Alabama, that he writes his opinion, he writes with the expectaion that his writing will be read, preferably by as many people as possible, and that he has written his opinion on two recent subjects with which he has at least some valid opinion.

6. There is a problem with blog commenting in general.

This is where I get on the soapbox big time: without quoting research I hold it true that the massive amount of information available to us and the almost total anoynimity with which we can respond to someone has created a cloud of angst and vitriol. We can sit down in front of the computer, read a story in a few moments, and then agree or disagree, we can spout off about what we’ve just read and continue on with our day. Instead of talking to oursleves or those near us, we now have a huge audience that can almost instantly know what our opinion or reaction. Is this good or bad? I’m not sure. I think maybe is has elements of both.

On the negative side, quick responses are rarley well thought out; you’re giving your snap judgement. Those are filled with passion and not much reasoning. You certainly can’t take time to read other opinions or facts before you form your own idea and bang it out on the keyboard. If this were the way we worked in everyday life then we wouldn’t funtion very well. There’d probably be many more hurt feelings and violence.

Also on the negative side is that the process repeated over and over reinforces the idea that our opinions have more value than they do.

If there is a positive is that it allows some venting in a non-violent way.

Next time you type out a comment to a post, pretend that an aquaintance has just made the statement you are respodning to in your presence. Would you say in reply what you are about to type?

7. I know Clay Travis.

I don’t really know him, but I have met him in person. Prior to that meeting we had corresponded via email for close to three years. Clay has read some of my writing and we’ve discussed some other things. I have always found him to be sincere, courteous, and extremely intelligent. I’ll admit that I’ve never read one of his books; I’m a voracious reader and I plan to read his books, I just don’t buy very many books and his three have not hit the local public library yet.

I also have disagreed quite often with him. That doesn’t mean that I think he’s a fool, it just means that I have a differing opinion than him on some subjects. That makes him exactly like every single other person that I know.

I do think that he can be a little sensationalistic in order to make the piece more controversial and that he takes a few extra jabs on certain topics when he doesn’t have to (like Alabama football). I also believe that he has the utmost integrity and in argument is not unreasonable.

Did he pick these topics to gig Alabama fans? I don’t believe so, but I’m sure when they came up he didn’t let them pass either.

The ironic thing to me about the current form of media and news is that the user has more choices than he ever has. We can find out all we want with minimal effort and have the freedom to pick and choose what we read. Why then, are people so attracted to articles and stories that they know will irritate them? There are sites out there that are always negative toward Alabama. One in particular makes bashing Alabama one of its top priorities. Why on earth would I add hits to their counter?

Maybe it’s true that we are getting more information and less relationships. I might have tremendous ideas but If I don’t have the skills to convey them in a meaningful way that will give people reason to contemplate them, what’s the point?

(Ed. Note: the following is what I wrote for our tailgate blog. It has been modified slightly to remove names and content specific to that blog)

On April 4, 1865, Gen. John T. Croxton and his cavalry brigade of the Union’s Army of the Cumberland, raided, seized, and burned Tuscaloosa and the campus of the University of Alabama. There are only a few buildings, including the President’s Mansion, that still stand from this horrific event. Just five days before Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House and within the last months of active fighting in the War Between the States, the full effect of the horrors of that war were felt in Tuscaloosa.

What, you ask, does this have to do with a football game? Two things, if you want to know the truth: First, there has not been an event in Tuscaloosa in the span of 144 years since that tragic affair bigger than what will happen this weekend and second, we will have more than old men and boys to defend against the invaders this time.

The game this weekend is the culmination of thirteen years of misery and the slow return to glory. This is the type of game that everyone dreams of.

So here we are, our team has sat atop the polls all season, the respect that has been denied for so long has finally returned, and we have returned to our rightful place among the nation’s elite. The talk of conference and national championships is now more than just talk. It is all right here in front of us, ripe for the picking. But at least for now, all that lies in front of us is LSU.

The glorious warrior-poets of the Crimson Tide will battle the fighting Tigahs of LSU this weekend in Bryant-Denny Stadium at 2:30 in a game broadcast nationally by CBS. On the line is not only our pride, the pride of our coach, and our #3 national ranking, but a guaranteed birth in the SEC Championship game, a chance to take our unblemished record into the final three weeks of the season, and a continued march toward a 13th national championship.

I’m certain there are other games on television  but honestly, I just don’t care. There is only one game this weekend.

Alright folks, you know what you have to do. This is the perfect storm of football and tailgating. Great weather (clear with highs in the low 70’s), lots of great food and fun, and the biggest football game in the country between two great teams. This, my friends, is what it’s all about. By the time this game ends under the lights of Bryant-Denny, the emphatic statement that we are back will have been made.

I’ll see you on the Quad! Roll Tide Roll!

I’ll close with this (just in case you weren’t fired up already)

They say this is the loudest Bryant-Denny has ever been. Let’s prove them wrong.

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