It’s Halloween, time for a ghost story.
The spirit we search for today is that of victory. But, truthfully, that search won’t begin until next week. This season, the Crimson Tide has had many sightings of her – like those campers in Oregon who return with nothing but plaster casts of muddy footsteps and loony stories of ancient beasts. But aside from a trio of times, she has proven elusive. And even though the uniforms will stay in the lockers this weekend, it doesn’t mean games aren’t being played.
Shula and his men are scattered across the state during this off week, talking to mamas and daddies, assuring them their boys’ futures will be best served by our losing coach and at our tarnished school. As the old saying goes, “Mothers, hide your children.”
It’s not hopeless, though. Shula has shown himself to philosophically consistent even if the team has not done so physically. After last week’s marathon disguised as a football game against Tennessee, he even declared his intention for the team to “win out.” (It’s too bad these types of surprising statements aren’t translating into the play calling.) Unlike football, recruiting is a game without a fourth quarter. It’s entirely possible Shula’s eye can spot tomorrow’s victories in some high schooler today.
Also, ghosts are important. In the Far East, departed family members are treated no differently than the living – except they aren’t asked to help pack the kids for college. Rather, they may be asked to accompany the kids on the trip. And “ghost” is rude, I should point out. Only when those of the past are forgotten do they sour and occupy our guilt as ghosts. When properly remembered and held in a place of honor, they are not ghosts. They are tradition.
As he drives down Alabama’s dirt roads in his company car, washes down yet another deep fried dinner with gas station coffee and reminds himself the name of the next young man’s mama, Coach Shula would do well to remember that this is one game he’s already won.