He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.
Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 146
If you are expecting someone to play the victim, stop reading. No one cheering a team ranked in the top five by everything that matters, a team with the leading rusher in the SEC, the best defense in the SEC, and the best quarterback in the SEC can legitimately lay claim to that title. Even the Svengalis of the neon lights have Alabama as a (slight, but growing) favorite.
No. Broken bones aside, there are no victims here. Then what to make of Phillip Fulmer? Is his noblesse oblige to be believed? Should all be forgiven? Has he even sinned?
Sadly, the time of heroism in sports is dead. Even today’s language of sport denounces its ambition. You, heralded athlete, may be a ‘legend’ but not a ‘hero’. You may mindlessly chuckle with Stephen A. Smith, but you may not inspire. You may attack your fanbase and seek unwilling congress with the waitstaff, but, by God, you will wear pressed slacks while doing so! In such a world, sport is derided as so much juvenilia. And by such a standard, let us place Fulmer where he belongs.
In the sixth grade playground of today’s sporting landscape, Phillip Fulmer is not the popular kid. He is not the bully. He is not even the class clown. But he is the kid who sees you cheating on your spelling test and can’t wait to whisper it to the teacher after class. You can expect nothing more of him.
To ruin a line from Nietzsche: Bear Bryant is dead.
But if the dancing man is right and all our life is a dispute over taste and tasting and all guilt nonexistent, then maybe some small measure of the new can be worth savoring. Last week, in a game they could have lost, Alabama won in what Mike Shula termed, “a great way to win.” That way, not to be confused with the Florida blowout, was to drive in the final two minutes, mostly tossing the ball to unknown bench players, and setting up a last-second field goal for a kicker who’d missed one earlier in the game – all against a team they were supposed to manhandle.
But for those two minutes, there it was: the empty gestures you’ve read about come to life, the will to power. So for any statistical advantage or motivational mumbo-jumbo Alabama may have to lead themselves to victory over Tennessee tomorrow, its best chance may be that they simply will not lose.