[M]an was presented with the choice of two disciplines to guide him: either he could live by faith . . . or he could plan his life in accordance with objective evidence and verifiable experience. . . . [Against] a supernatural token of life's meaning, he must weigh the empirical, naturalistic code of the astronomers, geologists and biologists, abandoning entirely all transcendental speculation.
-- Dr. Homer W. Smith, Man and His Gods, 1952
Anticipation is the enemy of pass offense. . . . You must never take an opponent lightly. You must never relax when you are ahead. You must stay a little scared. Opponents play hard. . . . You must live with the final score. . . . You are never completely defeated.
-- Coach Homer Smith
Coach Eddie Robinson died this week. And despite his saintly nature and the prevailing theme of the season, I am not optimistic for Sunday. As a rule, I am suspicious of religious fervor applied anywhere outside college football’s universe of discourse, of which I was reminded often this past month when members of the broadcastnoscenti would label the NCAA basketball tournament, in a subtle but pointed contrast with college football, a “perfect” sporting event.
Agreed. If Robinson’s life reminds us of anything it is that college football is not perfect--it’s better. Legend has Robinson building the Grambling program from the ground up, literally--head coach, faculty advisor, equipment manager, groundskeeper--and better still: The legend’s true. We have not yet invented a word good enough for what college football is.
However, already without Robinson, college football threatens to grow more imperfect as Homer Smith announced via the web recently his being diagnosed with multiple myeloma, for which he will undergo chemotherapy and stem cell treatments.
Proof of college football’s blessed irrationality, Coach Smith and his brown bag of tricks were unceremoniously run out of Tuscaloosa (twice!), yet he remains one of the most revered members of the Alabama coaching fraternity.
His first tour of duty consisted mainly of applying gild trim to Bill Curry’s runaway frigate before it steered toward Lexington, but he’s perhaps most fondly remembered for his work during Gene Stallings’s tenure.
Smith, a divinity student and novelist, was the antithesis of Stallings, who as a strategist makes a fine bulldozer. Nearly 25% of the offensive playbook Smith penned for UCLA was dedicated to the quarterback’s eyes!
Smith, however, was no propeller-head like Mike Leach, no slave to gimmickry for its own sake. For all the thunderstrokes available in the pass attack, his wing-T was unafraid--perhaps even eager--to run the option.
The tightrope between creativity and conservatism draws especially taut at the University of Alabama and may be ultimately what cost our last coach his job. Our current coach dances easily along the thread, swearing by violent conditioning and sampling players across various roles--creating young dilettantes of collision.
Not everyone fears the new, as the money race for our would-be Presidents proves. Now, it’s an open secret where this site will be placing its considerable political muscle--a candidate with Bama in his name doesn’t come along every four years, you understand.
However, given the competition, an endorsement might be possible even if his name were Barak O-Auburn. Surely Hillary Clinton is despised by many fearful people for many frivolous reasons, just as she is duly loathed for things she’s actually done: disparaging Tammy Wynette, for one.
When her husband ran for the office the first time, Hillary proudly, smugly, stated that she would be more than a “Stand by Your Man” first lady. No doubt this was to inspire young women around the country that they could achieve success on their own terms, without coattailing their husbands.
Well, Mrs. Clinton, Ms. Wynette, who did achieve success on her own terms, was more than a one-hit wonder. Perhaps you’ve heard her number one tune from 1968, “D-I-V-O-R-C-E”? I thought not.
If this strikes you as frolic, then perhaps we may turn to a different object lesson, with a different President. On July 19, 2006, George W. Bush vetoed a bill that would have increased the federal funding for stem cell research, a costly enterprise that surely could use the dough.
Now critics will rightly cite that the President has squandered the goodwill of nations and the lives of volunteer soldiers, has belittled national concerns and amplified paranoia, has padded the purses of his friends and slandered the names of his critics, has ignored the cries of the drowning and disgraced the sacrifice of patriots.
But, so help me, if this bastard ends up killing Homer Smith, that’s what I’ll hate him for the most.