Thursday, March 10, 2005

University of Alabama Football Report, Special Edition: Spring Practice Baedeker

Day 1

Eavesdropping on Alabama’s spring practice drills offers a cracked door’s peek onto the upcoming season, yes, but has the added benefit of providing escape from Nashville, which is under siege now by the unstoppable Paris Hilton.

Ms. Hilton and her cohort, America’s national wingman target, Nicole Ritchie, have taken to Music City to film the next installment of their unreal reality series, The Simple Life, in which they, according to local news reports labeled “The Hunt for Paris Hilton”, shop at malls, eat at bakeries, and hustle their fame.

For those who believe in spheres, who keep eyes open for an astral plane or manage their own variety of checkbook karma, Paris Hilton may well be the most powerful force in the universe. How else to explain how she uses celebrity to remain impervious to the fleeting rags of itself, like a man who cannot swim preventing his own drowning by drinking the volume of the pool? It may be unfair to identify Ms. Hilton, whose appeal is her own deficit of talent, as under-qualified, but so be it. To her credit though, she comes off as genuine in real life as she does in her sex videos, and you can’t say that about just anyone.

Around town I’ve started unconsciously cataloging Ms. Hilton’s mannerisms in an attempt to nail down the precise drug upon which she’s strung out. No natural human chemical setting accounts for the permanent detachment between her limbs and her gaze. Some additive must stage-manage that awareness without comprehension.

Heroin? No. She’s too active.

Cocaine? Not active enough.

LSD? Too dull.

It’s a puzzle that’s been rolling around in my head like a ball through a Rube Goldberg machine. As the mousetrap snaps and the balloon lifts a lit match across the bomb’s fuse, I’m comfortable thinking she must be on X. Or maybe pain killers.

Day 2

Using the football practice schedule as our calendar, Tuscaloosa in the springtime will never draw in the tourists. An ambushing wind gusts from sunrise on and the ground is harder than calculus. Downtown continues to scrub itself into meaninglessness. But it is a great town for keeping habits and that’s all these not-quite-spring drills are good for, instilling patterns into men and watching them plot their course.

I have a few habits of my own to keep up, which results in grab-bag philosophizing from locals and their liquor schleppers. Bartenders deal medicine so much they come to think of themselves as doctors. But in the barroom, we patients write our own prescription when we walk through the door – if we could replace the conceited bastards with vending machines, we would.

A few old guard stations still elbow in between the gentrified floor plan of the new downtown. What’s great about college towns is their constant jogging in place. They metamorphose without moving, like give a face lift to a corpse.

This is especially true in Tuscaloosa, whose very heart is a relic of charred mounds buried deep beneath fresh sod. The love of history here borders on necromancy and, on whole, is a little creepy. Hence, the bars. The best way for the living to cope in such a place is to become a little dead.

Old blue laws stated, and have since been repealed, that no alcohol be sold within one mile of the University. In the sixties, a San Franciscan measured that exact distance from the campus perimeter, signed a lease, and turned a warehouse into a bar.

Day 3

Coach Shula proclaims Our Blessed Saint of Rainbow City too fragile to withstand full contact drills, and as such, he will remain just out of reach. As metaphor, this is almost too perfect for elaboration.

This decision, however, is as strategically wise as it is poetically. Tempers rise on the practice field though the temperature doesn’t. On a team thinned through sanctions and injuries, many players are trying to outrun freshmen recruits who haven’t stepped inside city limits yet. Paranoia motivates as well as anything else.