“I never met a man I didn’t like.”
-- Will Rogers
“Will Rogers never met Steve Spurrier.”
-- anonymous Alabama fan, circa early 90s
Along Germany’s western border, about fifteen kilometers from a business complex housing a textbook distribution warehouse, a dental supply company, and an electronics store’s overstocked inventory, tourists can find a modest six-bedroom home that welcomes visitors all hours, day or night. Especially night.
Inside, anywhere from six to fifteen of the most beautiful women you’ll ever meet will ask you your name. And if you ask any of them their names, they will, in the only breach of etiquette allowed by the proprietor, answer your question with a question:
What do you want it to be?
Once you’ve decided who you’re talking to, you can choose her wardrobe, her hairstyle, in some cases her accent, and ultimately, her bedroom. There are no wrong answers. There are no bad choices. There are only options and prices, the limits of your imagination and your bank statement.
Earlier this week, University of Alabama head football coach Mike Shula stated during his weekly press conference that he awoke to just “another normal Sunday”, this coming after losing another lead and the game to Auburn, the fifth in a row (fourth that Shula himself can claim), another end of the season losing streak, another fourth quarter collapse, another game marked by indecision and ineffectiveness near the end zone.
Sadly, he is correct. Such is the normal state of Alabama football.
The past four coaches of the Crimson Tide have been, in order, an adulterer, a liar, a drunkard, and Mike Shula. Perhaps by that comparison and per those standards, the man who currently sits in Bear Bryant’s office should continue to do so. By nearly any other measurable standard, those involving winning football games, he should not.
Mike Shula accepted the Alabama job at a time when nearly no one else would (The other leading candidate landed in Starkville, if that shows you how desperate he was for a coaching job). He came in promising to take care of some “unfinished business”, an allusion to the SEC and National Championships he never won as a player. That practice of inflating negatives to compensate for their existence should have given fans fair warning.
It was a good story though. The former varsity quarterback with the million-dollar name has returned home to lead his alma mater out of the wilderness. It was the type of story Alabama fans would eat up with a spoon. It fit so neatly into the anthology, along with the Rose Bowls that proved our worth, the broken leg that proved our toughness, the surprising offense that proved our cunning, the rings that proved our dominance.
But for all the pageantry and illusion, for all the fun and exhilaration, when morning comes you strip away the fancy clothes and the make-up, and you remember your real name.
College football is no place for honorable men. Any profession where Tommy Tubberville thrives is nothing you want your son involved with. So while Mike Shula deserves our respect for accepting a tough job at a tough time, there’s a reason nice guys finish 6-6.
The devil has a name, and he has a price. Someone in Tuscaloosa should visit him in Columbia and ask him what it is.