“To mortify and even to injure an opponent, reproach him with the very defect or vice you feel in yourself”
-- Ivan Turgenev
As Homecoming weekend approaches, perhaps we should address this matter of fathers and sons.
1957 was a banner year for the Crimson Tide, for it was the last year of the horrid tenure of head coach J.B. “Ears” Whitworth, whose marquee coaching move was not playing future hall-of-famer Bart Starr. Also on the roster was fullback Cecil Hurt, progenitor of this site’s favored author of homer sports journalism.
Perhaps due in some part to that family history, Cecil Hurt (the younger) knows the damage poor coaching can have on young talent and takes to decrying it vividly and fully. He also knows the value of good timing. At the exact moment half the Alabama fanbase was wavering between frustrated hope in a close loss and relieved fear from avoiding the predicted 14-point blowout, Cecil drops the hammer on lowered expectations.
It’s too bad our head coach “didn’t read” the article, which may have been received by many readers but was prepared for an audience of one.
When it comes to fathers, Mike Shula’s got the golden ticket. His dad owns a steak joint and a golf course, not that he’d troll his own links because he’s also a lifer at Augusta. Pop can get boffo seats for any football game in America at any time. He can uncork one of those magic eyeball stares that can weaken men and repair machinery. Plus, he’s in a Nike commercial. Yup, the old man’s quite a winner. That may explain why the son’s such a mystery.
The previous Shula son who went into coaching didn’t fare very well and eventually landed out of football (i.e., How would you like your porterhouse, sir?). And the current son’s trajectory has been a mixed bag. From a distance, it’s a charmed life: brief stints at QB coach for a few teams, landing a job as OC for a Super Bowl contender – even when he was fired from that job, he scored a free trip to Hawaii out of it. Like I said, charmed.
But that one-way flight home from Pro Bowl weekend may be the only time “score” and “Shula” are that closely linked when discussing his Tampa Bay experience. Fans and media types grumbled that while the team’s defense was championship caliber, the conservative and predictable offense fired blanks. Too many field goals, not enough touchdowns. Sound familiar?
If Mike Shula is man enough to be the head football coach at the University of Alabama, these struggles – the special teams miscues, the red zone inefficiency, the depressing line play – will be little more than a stepping stone.
And if he is not? Well, it doesn’t really matter then, does it?