Friday, December 19, 2008

University of Alabama Football Report for 12/19/08: Week 1 Bowl Preview

EagleBank Bowl
Wake Forest vs. Navy
Washington, RFK Stadium
Dec. 20, 11 a.m., ESPN
Prediction: You will learn to love the toss sweep.

New Mexico
Colorado State vs. Fresno State
Albuquerque, University Stadium
Dec. 20, 2:30 p.m., ESPN
Prediction: By halftime you will have said the phrase “I wonder how I’d look with a Fu Manchu” at least twice.

magicJack St. Petersburg
Memphis vs. South Florida
St. Petersburg, Tropicana Field
Dec. 20, 4:30 p.m., ESPN2
Prediction: South Florida.

Pioneer Las Vegas
BYU vs. Arizona
Las Vegas, Sam Boyd Stadium
Dec. 20, 8 p.m., ESPN
Prediction: Empty casinos and sold-out Osmonds tribute show at the Bellagio.

R+L Carriers New Orleans
Southern Miss vs. Troy
New Orleans, Superdome
Dec. 21, 8:15 p.m., ESPN
Prediction: Confused Ute fans will wonder where their team is.

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia
Boise State vs. TCU
San Diego, Qualcomm Stadium
Dec. 23, 8 p.m., ESPN
Prediction: Three Broncos fans will be arrested trying to paint the field blue before the game.

Sheraton Hawaii
Hawaii vs. Notre Dame
Honolulu, Aloha Stadium
Dec. 24, 8 p.m., ESPN
Prediction: As an Alabama fan, I have hated Notre Dame before I even knew what a Notre Dame was. If Charlie Weis has to coach this game saddled onto one of those motorized scooters because of his knee surgeries, then—I’m sorry—I’m just honor bound to laugh my ass off at him.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday, December 05, 2008

University of Alabama Football Report for 12/5/08: SEC Championship Edition

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II might well be the most dazzling war machine existent in the history of man.

Hyperbole? Some numbers: At just over 51 feet in length, the F-35 can carry twice its weight in weaponry and fuel into a battle radius of 610 nautical miles at a cruising velocity of Mach 1.6, roughly 1200 miles per hour in straight flight. Its joint-combat maneuverabilty is bolstered by over 20 tons of pure thrust from its after burners.

Furthermore, the F-35 can carry an internal payload of up to four air-to-air missiles, not including two bomb bays adaptable to five different makes of bombs ranging from 1000 to 2000 pounds each, with a maximum capacity of four per bay.

Nor does this account for possible external rigging along its 35-foot wingspan, which includes four armament pylons plus mountings for each wingtip. Also, the F-35 boasts an internal four-barrel cannon with in-flight reserve munitions totaling up to 400 rounds.

In addition to its flexible payload, the plane can also be fitted for stealth flying. Its on-board computer easily handles the extra burdens of stealth navigation; after all, it’s already nailed the (literal) balancing act required for hover flight via its Rolls Royce-manufactured lift fan.

That same computer acts almost as a co-pilot, combining a heads-up display with voice-recognition software that allows the one-man crew to perform the duties of an entire bomber team all by his lonesome. Rumors abound that it can perform a limited range of sorties via remote control akin to a muscled-up Predator drone.

Estimates vary on its total cost of development, but the scuttlebutt number approaches $100 billion dollars, an enormous sum divided up mostly between the United States and Britain, with a number of other partners it is probably best not to mention outside a certain five-sided office building.

Hell, the gizmo is so badass, they put it in a Die Hard movie.

Yet for all its frightening statistics, add one pissed-off deckhand with a sledgehammer and it’s just an overvalued paperweight that never leaves the runway.

From a distance, be it a cockpit or the pit in a Vegas sportsbook, one can become enamoured by the big numbers and the intricate design of these spectacular and horrifying machines of tomorrow. But it’s the ground game that always wins the war.

I sat in on a Kurt Vonnegut lecture once, which he, ever the good infantryman, began with the words “never trust a fucking pilot” and then spent over an hour plotting points of development for the main characters in Hamlet along an ordinate while marking the plot along the abscissa.

The resultant line made by connecting those dots might have been the beautiful thing I’ll ever see. There it all was, madness and love, revenge and absolution, all in one loopy little line.

But it wasn’t the play. It wasn’t the down-and-dirty details or the three-hour long slog of the real thing up on a stage with the whole audience watching.

And, as the young prince says, “the play’s the thing.”

Roll Tide.

Friday, November 21, 2008

University of Alabama Football Report for 11/21/08

The Bama Report is thankful for the following:

That presidents, much less presidents-elect, have no jurisdiction over college football’s postseason.


Ju-co transfers at nose tackle.

At the moment, Pale Fire.

Those little wasabi crunchy things in high-end trail mix.

My hazy memories of the 1979 Sugar Bowl.

America’s growing number of ethic restaurants beyond Chinese and Mexican (really, you should try an Ethiopian restaurant if you have one in your town ((and if your first thought is “how do they have food in Ethiopia?” then you should expand your knowledge base outside an elementary-school playground and I fear your perception of Helen Keller))).

In general, David Markson.

“. . . the scent of the upturned earth, most heartily appreciated in early spring. The smell of a ploughed field is perhaps the best of all earthy scents” (Alice Morse Earle, Old Time Gardens, Newly Set Forth [London: MacMillan, 1902], 300).

That Derrida’s work was as long-lasting as it was clearly written. (Deconstruct that.)

My clearer memories of the 1992 Sugar Bowl.

Amendment XXI to the United States Constitution.

Therefore, the city of Loretto, Kentucky.

Johnny “Guitar” Watson.

Javier Arenas.

The wall briefly yet purposely built around one’s harried life for the few hours each Saturday in the fall when one’s rooting interests can thrive or fail without consequence, where one’s mood can sour but one’s hope will rise for the next kick-off.

That even the worst of us may yet be salvaged.

OK, cats too.

Bye weeks.

Roll Tide.

Friday, November 14, 2008

University of Alabama Football Report for 11/14/08

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else. You are the one who gets burned.
--Buddhist proverb

We know they beat us the past two years. It makes us mad, OK?
--quarterback John Parker Wilson, on Mississippi State

A revenge tour
--defensive end Brandon Deaderick, on Alabama’s final three games of the regular season

I don’t give a shit who we’re playing; you have to be loud!
--head coach Nick Saban, on his preference toward vocal fan support during an athletic contest

The Alabama Crimson Tide, its players and coaches, appear to be a little high strung this week. Never have I seen so many people thoroughly pissed off by others wanting to congratulate them.

With the division wrapped up, a number 1 ranking, and a play-in game for the national championship against Florida on the horizon, Alabama’s team seems a bit out of sorts that no one else wants to discuss two teams that have combined for just three conference wins this season (it should be fewer, but someone had to win Auburn and Mississippi State’s, ahem, epic 3-2 battle).

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama warns, even in exile, that revenge leads to a miserable life, that one’s duty is to assist those who aggrieve us on their path to Nirvana. Life is already miserable enough, so who is he to deny even the briefest of pleasure? This is exactly the kind of drivel one expects from a soccer player.

Though in fairness to His Holiness, he’s not alone. Clytemnestra’s trysts didn’t make Agamemnon a better man. And she certainly didn’t make Cassandra better company, for that matter. But the House of Atreus was on shaky ground to begin with.

Hamlet’s revenge may have had no bounds, but it did have a cost; Lear cried out for the “terrors of the earth,” yet they befell him more than anyone; and Othello’s revenge may have had stomach for all, even though the man himself lost his appetite.

Other examples abound. Half the cowboy movies are vengeance operas, and all the gangster ones. And what are horror movies if not vicariously living through the business end of a vendetta?

Remember, these things cut both ways. Surely Bulldog head coach Sly Croom took some satisfaction in helping eject Mike Shula from the office on Bryant Drive two years ago, and it’s more than a coincidence that former Mississippi high school star Jimmy Johns was knocked woozy on a kick-off last year.

But we’re not alone in looking for deeper meaning here. After a close loss to Kentucky, Mississippi State quarterback Tyson Lee kept the big picture in mind. “Hey, Jesus went through stuff,” he said, “and we’re going to go through stuff. That’s how life is.”

Right you are, Erasmus! And Starkville’s budding theologian continued with that theme: “Football is a metaphor for life . . . . In life we go through good things, in life we go through bad things. God has a plan for everything we go through.”

Kid, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but, according to the numbers, God’s plan seems to call for you to get your ass kicked Saturday.

Roll Tide.

Friday, November 07, 2008

University of Alabama Football Report for 11/7/08

Strange business, this making history. Stranger still to know one is making it while it happens, that one’s every step is hounddogged by a memory that will outlive one’s own.

This is as good a week as any to think about it. On Sunday, Alabama made its debut atop the BCS poll. On Monday, the University of Tennessee fired longtime nemesis and fitness icon Philip Fulmer. And on Tuesday, black President. At this rate, I thought we’d hit National Sex-with-Scarlett-Johansson Day by Thursday just to keep pace.

Of course, we’re talking degrees here, nuance not equivalence. But aren’t we always? Besides, you don’t take a direct path from the back of the bus to the White House to Mount Rushmore. Degrees matter. That’s how a 6 percent margin becomes a landside and 44 becomes a lucky number.

As for Fulmer, despite impromptu feel of his slovenly, blubbery address to the public this week, his departure has been a long time coming. You need only compare the conviction of his words with the truth on the field to know his time has come, and gone. Some men are born for failure, while others have failure thrust upon them.

Alabama, contrarily, seems determined to undersell its expectations and overperform on its return. Like the new President, the Great Leader displays what the pundit class call “message discipline.” Repeat with me the articles of faith:

External factors are no influence on our preparation.

The scoreboard has no bearing relative to a player’s goal of dominating his opposition.

Process. Process. Process.

Thus is the Zen nihilism of our Great Leader, the negation of all things beyond the 100-yard field upon which his life’s work takes place.

During the Great Leader’s Wednesday press conference, in which he was asked if he talked to the team about the presidential election and the importance of voting (as did his counterpart in LSU). He said the subject did not come up and that, as a rule, he doesn't really discuss politics—whether with the team or anybody. In fact, he did not know who won the election until someone told him that morning before practice.

Alabama has a coach so focused on football that he doesn't notice when a black guy becomes President.

You wouldn’t know it by looking at him, but this making history, it can be a hell of a lot of fun.

Roll Tide.

Friday, October 31, 2008

University of Alabama Football Report for 10/31/08

Hail hail to the good times
Because rock has got the right of way
We ain't no legends, ain't no cause
We're just living for today.

from "For Those about to Rock (We Salute You)"

The University of Alabama Crimson Tide football team has not won a game in the month of November in three years. That’s nine games lost not only to the likes of LSU but also to Louisiana-Monroe. It also includes the current losing streak to Auburn, who hopefully won’t fire Tuberville before this year’s game—but more on that at another time.

Throughout this season, the Great Leader has repeated his mantra of limited attention, the powerful nihilism of dominating the moment. One’s reward is the fulfillment of one’s ability in the present, not in the achievement of a future goal. That’s headbending stuff for most people, much less football players.

But if last year’s loss to a Sun Belt team proved anything though, it’s that, for all the bruises and breaks and blood, football is a mental game too.

A pet peeve: proselytizers—religious, artistic, or otherwise. So I ask forgiveness for what follows:

AC/DC’s new album, Black Ice, so thoroughly blows me away that I encourage you to seek it out for yourself. It’s impressive, and not a little absurd, that the band is still around at all, much less manufacturing (and that’s exactly what they are doing; AC/DC is not so much a band as a business conglomerate of musical influence) some of their finest work.

Perhaps they are representatives of an embassy for some nation of pure rock buried beneath the Great Barrier Reef or maybe they biomechanically engineered astronauts from some equadistanced orbiting alter-Earth where everyone’s grandfather is Chuck Berry.

No matter. Whatever they are, they rock.

Upping the absurdity ante is that nothing about the album leads one to believe it should be as good as it is. It’s essentially the same riffs and same grunts that they’ve been peddling for three decades, yet rather than sounding dated, the album feels like your favorite record from last summer that you played the hell out of and just want to hear one more time.

OK, two more. Maybe three.

It is, of course, possible that AC/DC sounds fresher today than they did ten years ago (or longer) because the competition can’t keep up with them. That’s the benefit of glorified hedonism, one assumes.

The same lens can be used to view Alabama’s football team, were one so inclined. Is Alabama undefeated because they’re so good or because the competition was worse that people estimated? Are there better teams left on Alabama’s schedule?

Better? Worse? Just play. We salute you.

Roll Tide.

Friday, October 24, 2008

University of Alabama Football Report for 10/24/08

Our labor knows no rest.
Our mountains crumble,
Our mountains crumble.

--Song of the Emperor Wu, second century B.C.

The Third Saturday in October arrives a week late this year, yet another testament to how broken the organism is. I cannot eat my vegetables for fear of disease. I cannot cross a bridge for fear of its collapse. I cannot kiss my imported, miniature, Chinese choo-choo trains for fear of poison. I cannot pass out facedown on Bourbon Street for fear of drowning. And I cannot set my calendar by college football.

One hopes the new administration will remedy these ills.

Logistics aside, another sign of entropy befell beloved nose tackle and geographic wonder Terrence Cody, who left last week’s game against Ole Miss with a knee injury. Given Cody’s folk-tale-like proportions (slimming down from a high watermark of 400-plus pounds to a svelte 360), it’s a minor miracle that those knees haven’t declared a strike before now.

“Mount” Cody (a.k.a. “Kitchen,” a.k.a. “Zip Code”) became a fan favorite not only by bulling through centers on rushing downs but also contrasting the terror of his physique with the pleasance of his personality. The love affair was inevitable. What else can one do with a monster who breaks furniture around the house yet dozes off to the Cartoon Network under his Spiderman sheets?

Play him at fullback? Sure thing. As it is, Alabama will go at least two weeks without their newest lead blocker or their full rotation at nose tackle.

Football is perhaps man’s least successful attempt in warding off chaos and, therefore, our most useful test case. When something goes wrong on a football field, by God, everyone can tell. Things can get ugly quick (ask Tony Franklin).

The most worrisome and the most heartening aspect of Alabama’s season thus far is that the team has yet to play a complete game. Their number-two ranking spurs from a string of mostly dominant performances put up in the first half of each game this season, followed by a deflating second half. It hasn’t cost Alabama a win yet, but . . .

For Tennessee to beat Alabama tomorrow, everything will need to go right for them. However, for Alabama to lose, very little will need to go wrong. If this bothers you, then you’re probably a baseball fan.

Each game should be a learning experience for the one that follows. By extension, then, the first half of any game should prepare the team to play better in the second half. This has not been a trait of the Crimson Tide in recent years, but the mark of a well-coached team is that they should improve as the season continues.

The second half of the season begins, and where Alabama needs to improve is clear: they merely need to overcome the second law of thermodynamics.

Roll Tide.

Friday, October 17, 2008

University of Alabama Football Report for 10/17/08

How to solve a puzzle like Houston Nutt?

In a world where most people identify themselves by the lines they will not cross, the prisons they gleefully sentence themselves to, Nutt zigs and zags through the swamps of his life on a constant jailbreak, the shackle cut but still tight around his ankle, the hounds still tracking the last air of his scent. Not quite sane yet not yet mad, he is more easily defined by what he is not than what he is.

Perhaps this is because Nutt always seems to vacillating between two ends of a dialectic. When he became the head coach at Arkansas, it wasn’t quite a homecoming because, although he had played there for Frank Broyles, he had also left the school to finish elsewhere. As his coaching tenure followed suit, at least one could say he’s constant in his inconstancy.

On his first day toward becoming the Razorbacks’ most successful coach (other than Broyles), Nutt laid out a claim for a national title he’d never win. On the day before he resigned, he beat the team that would.

What else do you expect from the coach whose players include both Darren McFadden and Clint Stoerner? Nutt is beyond analysis, beyond evaluation. He is, as the Beats would tell it, a holy fool, a football Siddha.

Now at Ole Miss, Jason to Orgeron’s Benjy, this is a man who bragged about winning a division title in a room with at least four national championship coaches present, a man who hired a high school coach just to land the school’s quarterback before running both of them off to different schools—and then taking the coach’s playbook with him to a third!

His coaching career is a Mobius strip, a non-orientable band of underdog victories and callow choke-jobs, a Klein bottle circulating half-diffused opium and paranoia. And as such, the Rebels are everyone’s point-spread pick for the weekend at two touchdowns.

Of course, one can over think such things, to be sure, but were there such a thing as easy money, friends, Lefty Rosenthal would’ve never earned a nickname.

So if everyone’s in on the gag, is the joke still funny? Therein lies the metaphysical dilemma of a Houston Nutt team: how can you sneak up on someone making all that damn noise?

Roll Tide.

Friday, October 03, 2008

University of Alabama Football Report for 10/3/08

Uneasy lies the head et cetera, et cetera. But Lord am I tired of hedging bets. Many years ago, I was sitting a few chairs down from one of Umberto Eco’s translators and a girl wearing nothing more than a smile and a pair of glittery high-heels asked me, “Why so sad?”

It’s a good question. And if she weren’t likely, as they all exit the stage, in a grave or on a church pew, I’d have half a mind to give her an answer. If I had one, that is.

There comes a time when a gambler, with all due respect to Kenny Rogers, has to know what he doesn’t know and give in to the chaos, remembering that past performance is no guarantee of future results, that statistical evidence is but a summary or sampling of prior data, an unchanging snapshot of no bearing on an uncertain future.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer . . .

It takes a healthy restraint to remember that even the most beautiful wedding photos are but the work of lighting and poses. The numbers bear out that most of those pictures will end up boxed up, thrown out, or torn to pieces—no matter how pretty they are. It was the translator’s first trip to a strip club, his soon-to-be ex-wife would later tell me.

The two most relevant numbers from last week’s AP poll were 62 and zero, the number of first place votes received by, now, one-loss USC and, then and now, unbeaten Oklahoma, respectively. The other three first place votes were divided between Georgia and Florida, meaning that every college sports writer in the AP poll saw, in their opinion, the top team in the nation lose last week. Well, they’ll learn to love again.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world . . .

Still, even though this gives some credence to not using the AP poll in the BCS rankings, it's a healthy indicator. After all, we should remember that in today’s football, being number two is as good as being number one. It takes two to tango.

The last I heard of the translator was that he’d found, following the legal necessities, a happy ending elsewhere. The best kind too. The kind that doesn’t end.

And without projecting or discounting the rest of the season—for God help us, things have turned ugly quick around here in the past—let’s simply assess where Alabama is at this moment and name the potential outcome: Alabama has in front of it a clear road to, at least, the number two BCS ranking and a spot in the national title game—all of this before October.

Again, as we all caution ourselves, this is a team that hasn’t beaten Auburn or LSU since well before its seniors were driving age, a team that hasn’t beaten Mississippi State in two tries, and managed a loss to Louisiana-Monroe—but to hell with all that. Any losses from this point forward—and there will probably be some—won’t come from lack of effort. Those are some big men up front and some hard runners behind them; better still, more are on the way. You will have to beat Alabama because they sure as hell aren’t going to beat themselves.

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere . . .
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

Roll Tide.

Friday, September 26, 2008

University of Alabama Football Report for 9/26/08

Scaramouche: Have you heard Georgia will be wearing special jerseys for the game with Alabama?

Mister Punch: Huzzah! Alabama will also be wearing special jerseys—the ones they wore while beating Georgia!

Scaramouche: Are you unaware? Georgia will be donning black jerseys for the game.

Mister Punch: Huzzah! Better that they look like Vanderbilt than play like them.

Scaramouche: Perhaps you did not hear me. Their fans will also be wearing black.

Mister Punch: Huzzah! For they will be in mourning their team’s dashed championship hopes.

Scaramouche: No, you miss the point. For that night, everyone in Georgia will be wearing black.

Mister Punch: Huzzah! I love Vicki Lawrence!

Scaramouche: No, that is “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.” This is called a “blackout.”

Mister Punch: Huzzah! Here’s hoping Georgia fans will have nothing worth seeing.

Scaramouche: You do not understand. Mark Richt is a psychological mastermind.

Mister Punch: Huzzah! Mark Richt is Mike Dubose with public relation skills and a chastity belt.

Scaramouche: You are not impressed by Georgia’s black uniforms?

Mister Punch: Huzzah! I am impressed by Georgia’s stellar running back, strong-armed QB, and steadily improving receiving corps. I am not so impressed with a motivational tool once employed by the now unemployed Jerry “Send in the troll!” Glanville.

Scaramouche: But Georgia is the number three ranked team in the nation!

Mister Punch: Huzzah! Perhaps you did not see the number one ranked team in the nation lose last night.

Scaramouche: Were they wearing their special jerseys?

Mister Punch: Huzzah! Huzzah! I’ve beat the devil—Roll Tide!

Friday, September 19, 2008

University of Alabama Football Report for 9/19/08

David Foster Wallace is dead1, and I don’t feel so good myself. I find myself torn between heart and head in trying to assess this football season.

In the vagaries of college football, perception is reality. The AP named Alabama a top-ten team this week, and also populated half of the top ten with teams from the same conference.

By the transitive property of football then, tomorrow’s match-up with an unranked Arkansas team that has barely held on to beat two lower-tier opponents and is in the pre-vestigial stages of building up a glitzy pass offense X-1 out of Houston Nutt’s leftover Sherman tank parts now becomes the biggest game on the schedule to date. Bigger even than the opening defeat of Clemson, which seems almost a decade past by this time.

The dirty little secret in college football is that the top ten, even the top 25, list is damn near meaningless today. Less hay is made about the inconsistencies of the voters’ choices, not to mention the impossibilities of their actually making informed ones, because we all know it’s a scam.

Spots three through twenty-five might as well not exist in today’s game, so there’s little use in getting overly excited or raising a ruckus. The blessed illogic of it all becomes clearer once the BCS poll is released, which initiates a feedback loop between the rankings—a self-correcting parabola that invariably gets it mostly right half the time, or not.

Which brings us back to tomorrow’s game against Arkansas: on paper, a top-ten team that leads the nation in a number of defensive categories should have little problem against a young team acclimating itself to a new coach’s system on the opposite end of the pendulum from the last decade of its history.

However, this is an “SEC Road Game” ™, and a win here is valued like gasoline in a Mad Max movie. Furthermore, it’s a division game, and with either Auburn or LSU guaranteed a loss tomorrow, a keep-up-with-the-Joneses one at that, because the winner of tomorrow’s game in Auburn will be perceived as having the inside track to Atlanta.

But perception is all preamble; in reality, we have a scoreboard.

Roll Tide.

= = = = = = = =

1. Any obit you read will list Wallace’s cause of death as suicide, which, like much reporting, offers datum instead of context and is tantamount to saying a cancer patient dies due to being a picky eater. And though sadness was a recurrent theme in Wallace’s work, his depression, which he’d been treating more or less successfully for two decades, killed him as sure as the rope.

After the initial announcement, follow-up reports and interviews and grievings pieced together a little more to the story. His father said he’d been taken off his medication after noticing unwelcome new side effects, perhaps due to the body’s natural rebalancing of hormones and such as we age. Wallace’s work was often built around careful observation. His sports writing displayed the beauty of the human body free from the pseudo-pedophiliac or narcissistic impulses of the advertising age.

Most of his memorials include admissions of not having finished his most famous work. It is a behemoth, in weight and in concept.

When he dipped his toe into shallower waters—sports writing, political reporting, travelogues, general science—he was accused of never taking a stand, of scattering everything all over. I’d say he was just being thorough.

He was accused of being a cynic. Nonsense. He was just a moralist with very high standards—just how you’d want one to be.

Oddly, though, I can’t say that his name was first on my lips were I pressed to offer the writers I most look forward to reading, most curious to keep up with. Yet, now that he’s gone, I find I am missing him, regretful that his body of work is complete.

How is it that I came to be counting on him, to take for granted that his monsters and his monster of a book would always be there? One is never so self-aware as to avoid surprises. Right about here is where Wallace would insert a joke that would be funny and true, but too sad to retell.

Then he would just end the damn thing.

Friday, September 12, 2008

University of Alabama Football Report for 9/12/08

If [the players] don't do it this week and don't buy into it the way I just said it, they're going to the scout team. And from the scout team, they may be going out the door.

Nick Saban
The Nick Saban Radio Show
September 11, 2008

Constructed to overwhelm the direct border assaults and trench warfare that epitomized the First World War, the Maginot Line along the German border was France’s primary defense against Nazi invasion, an elaborate series of fortified bunkers, gun stations, and artillery posts that dug nearly thirty miles deep into French territory and extended all the way to Belgium.

It is also—since the Germans crossed through Belgium and took France in a month—military shorthand for a prop that looks good but isn’t worth a damn.

Obscured in history, though, is the fact that the Maginot Line actually worked. Of the few assaults directed toward it, the Line mostly held. Furthermore, were it not for the Line’s formidable reputation, the Germans may not have considered a move on neutral Belgium to begin with.

No, the problem of the Line was not a problem of ammunition or design or manpower, but of vision. The army still fighting the last war usually loses the next one. With the Line in place, France’s leaders had little incentive to ready their forces for the forthcoming assaults and little recourse when the Line, as stalwart in defeat as ever, proved useless.

Pride, not mortar or shells or firing pins, was the faulty component, and that’s a lesson applicable to endeavors less brutal than warfare.

For example, let us say that—oh, I don’t know—a team of young sportsmen, a football club, perhaps, were to engage in a contest against, say, a highly-spoken-of squad from a neighboring conference on a neutral field, hypothetically, and, though grit and execution, outperform those boys handily.

And let us say, hypothetically, that the awe of those in attendance of said performance were to gather into national accolades for the team, landing them, perhaps, even on the cover of a prominent sports publication.

Why, one would expect, hypothetically, that those young men would be riding high indeed! One would expect that would be just the beginning! One would expect no end to what they could accomplish!

Now let us assume they drop a steaming pile of shit against Tulane.


Since his arrival, the Great Leader has spoken of “the process” and the patience required to establish a winning character in today’s college football. If anything, it appears the coach’s, not the fans’, patience is about to run out.

For the fans, there is progress on display. In seasons past, last week’s performance against the Green Wave was exactly the type of thing that would lead to an Alabama loss. This time, the Crimson Tide still won by two touchdowns.

Much of that is attributable to Javier Arenas, but an unknown—but welcome—factor is John Parker Wilson’s lack of miscues. Yes, he was pressured all night and even took a few sacks, but he did not turn the ball over or repeat any of his previously maddening improvisations.

As uncomfortable as it is to hear, the grand tradition of Alabama football doesn’t mean squat after kick-off. Ask East Carolina what they think of football’s “traditional” powers. Try to sit through Notre Dame and Michigan tomorrow as anything more than a museum piece.

Does that make tradition meaningless? Heavens, would it not be so. Rather, pulled from its shelf and dusted off, tradition can be see for what it is, not a product, not a cape to be tied on in the moment of crisis, but a standard of measurement, the blessing of expectation, a—for lack of a better word—process.

In formal analytical thought, one may classify failure under two broad categories: a failure to execute or a failure to perceive. The Great Leader as ensured the elimination of the latter; tomorrow will reveal how far he’s come toward eliminating the former as well.

Roll Tide.

Friday, September 05, 2008

University of Alabama Football Report for 9/05/08

First things first, and I believe we can all agree on this, Clemson was overvalued being ranked as the ninth best team in the country. Furthermore, some would say that pre-season rankings—maybe even those in the first month of the season—are, at worst, baseless or, at best, founded on unrepresentative sampling.

Plus, regardless of how stupid it is to promise the first hand-off of the season to an unproven back when you’re fielding perhaps the best tandem backfield in college football, the Tigers didn’t show what they were fully capable of.

We’ve no way of knowing what the Great Leader told Tommy Bowden when the Clemson coach called up after the game asking for advice, but if he were to ask me, I’d say let your best player touch the ball more than four times.

And, sure, Alabama could be fairly described as having “dominated” the game, as the nation’s sports press dubbed it. One of this site’s polestars, Cecil Hurt, even went so far as to suggest the opening coin flip as the most competitive moment of the game. But surely some of that is due to Clemson’s playing catch-up right off the bat and being knocked, not just off the line, both lines, but out of their game plan.

Obviously, Alabama’s defensive effort was impressive—anyone could see that. However, close observers of the Tide have been anticipating a strong, if not experienced, unit on that side of the ball. After all, wasn’t it just last year that Rolando McClain and Kareem Jackson played, and played well, as true freshmen?

Why, all last year I heard people opine that, were it not for depth issues, Lorenzo Washington would be a fine fit at defensive end, so why should we be surprised to see it come true? And haven’t fans been, half-jokingly or not, anticipating the play of JuCo-transfer nose tackle Terrence Cody?

So, really, no one should get too overexcited about seeing an already decent defensive squad play well, especially when they’ve had all fall to prepare for this first game.

Granted, the fans might be forgiven for their enthusiasm regarding Alabama’s offensive performance. John Parker Wilson played within himself, played poised, played the game as it came to him—in short, played the way fans have been wanting him to play for years. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves; his best statistic of the night was zero turnovers, and that’s what you expect from a senior quarterback. So this can be classified under meeting expectations, nothing more. And that’s fine.

Of course, much attention was given to the freshmen, and given how well they played, on defense and offense, they deserve it. However, the plan was the share the load, not feature just one player. Julio Jones and Mark Ingram performed as well as blockers as they did as receiver or tailback. Don’ta Hightower recovered a fumble stripped by Cory Reamer. No one needs to be hero. After all, can't play the game for them.

Even though last week displayed a better, tougher, more cohesive Bama team, let’s not forget that this is essentially the same squad that lost to Louisiana-Monroe. Another heavy underdog from Louisiana is headed to Tuscaloosa tomorrow, by the way.

So let’s keep this in perspective. This was, as the Great Leader said immediately afterward, just one game. A great game? Sure—by any standard you wish to measure—but, still, just one game.

No one overreact, OK?


Roll Tide.

Friday, August 29, 2008

University of Alabama Football Report for 8/29/08

Football has for ages been a favorite game with savages . . . . I am not decrying football—I incline to the view that an occasional rough-and-tumble scrapping match in which there is imminent danger of black eyes, and even of broken bones, is good for a boy. . . . It is a mistake to assume that an intellectual divertisement must be popular with an intellectual people. The highest culture is but a film cast over a fathomless sea of savagery.

William Cowper Brann (the Iconoclast)
“The Public Pedagogue: Making Wise Men by Machinery”

Standing six-foot-four and approaching 220-plus pounds, freshman receiver Julio Jones in no hothouse flower. However, when word of his being named a starter at receiver and possibly also at kick returner, the Alabama fanbase took a collective gasp.

Imagine your grandmother when she first heard a hip-hop album—that slow mix of confusion and fear settling through her yellowed face like the clouds in a glass of Belgian beer—that’s about it.

How bizarre that the formerly most expectant, nay—demanding, fans in the country should be so timorous in displaying the latest youthful, athletic bauble to don their school’s colors. Although it was not on his list, instilling confidence in a gun-shy populace has become another item on the Great Leader’s agenda.

Attribution? Alabama has been so snake bitten (apologies, Kenny) in recent years that you can forgive the fans’ coy appreciation of new talent.

Furthermore, the old guard hold that for every freshman a team starts, that’s a game the team will lose—if not immediately, then eventually. But that was before sophomores were winning the Heisman and scholarships were doled out like meat rations.

Once upon a time (as we are beginning a fable here), the citizens of Alabama looked to the football team of Alabama for proof that they were worth a damn. Nowhere else on the planet, much less in collegiate athletics, is such value derived from a team’s accomplishments throughout its faithful.

It is martial, it is religious, it is delicate.

For the opponents of the team, or this view itself, the visceral threads between the team and its fans make an easy target. Such is the case for all ludicrous behavior—but it’s a sad man who goes to the opera in order to mock the hats.

Not quite a decade ago, the state of Alabama was in the top ten in teenage pregnancy rate. Between then and a decade before that, the nationwide rate fell by almost 25 percent. Alabama lagged behind. Being the gaudy, rodeo-trophy buckle of the Bible belt, Alabama discourages preventative measures for such dalliances—to say nothing of operative measures.

The fear of playing freshmen is that they will see things move at a rate too fast for them to comprehend. From there, mistakes are inevitable and, in the worst case scenario, their confidence gone, they lock into reactionary behavior from which they, and the team, cannot recover. Worse than the loss of a game, the loss of potential is the real casualty.

If you are wondering, we may have stopped discussing football somewhere in there.

But for tomorrow, against Clemson, in front of the nation, Alabama will field its young and hope not to eat them too. The odds say they may as well stay in the locker room.

The odds also say that the child of a teenage mother has a greater chance of serving prison time than earning a college degree. But, hell, you never know—one of them might grow up to be President.

Roll Tide.

Friday, August 22, 2008

University of Alabama Football Report for 8/22/08: Political Endorsements Edition

Office: President of Pakistan

Issues: Shortly after the attacks of 9/11, America showed up in Pakistan with a sack of money in one hand and a loaded gun in the other. Since that time, American officials have reiterated at every opportunity that Pakistan is one of America’s strongest allies in the War on Terror.

With the ouster of Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani presidency opens up for early harvest. Think of it as the geopolitical version of a muscadine. However, unlike the muscadine, the fruit on the end of this vine could be harboring Osama bin Laden—or at the very least harboring the harbors (the muscadine is a true patriot and holds no quarter for terrorists).

Were this 1980s professional wrestling, Pakistan would slap America’s face and leave the ring when America was reaching out for the tag in the championship match, leaving America to receive a two-on-one beatdown at the hands of Tommy Rich and “Tennessee Stud” Robert Fuller.

Since taking power in a coup d’etat, Musharraf had been holding together his country with the promise of free elections in the future, and then allowing people to freely vote for him. It was a sweet deal, but all good things must come to an end—often while facing impeachment.

Bama Report endorses: The corpse of Benazir Bhutto

As a martyr, Bhutto has shown a remarkable ability to unite an often fractured political base. Furthermore, being dead, she’s immune to the pressures of radical Islamic groups in the region and above the temptation of abusing the power of her office.

Critics may concede those earlier positives but would point out that she also lacks a heart beat or any brain functions. All the better say the politicos here at the Bama Report; it’s like getting Cheney and Bush in one package!

Office: United States Senator representing Alabama

Issues: Like many Southern states, Alabama faces an unpredictable future in the early part of the new century. Rising fuel prices have threatened both the state’s nascent automotive manufacturing resurgence and the transportation and trucking lines that carry goods to and from markets. An underfunded and archaic public education system only complicates the worrisome forecasts for Alabama in a technologically fast-paced world. These daunting challenges demand a leader up to the task.

Bama Report endorses: Mark “No NCAA” Townsend

On his campaign website “Sessions Is a Sissy” and its sister site “No NCAA,” Townsend has laid forth a bold vision for Alabama's, and America’s, future.

1. Remove collegiate athletics from the control of the NCAA (a.k.a. “the Devil’s Pitchfork”) and place it under the auspices of the United States Marine Corp
2. End America’s military deployment in Iraq
3. Find out if the moon landing really happened
4. Something about 9/11 and UFOs too, maybe—it’s kind of hard to figure some of this shit out frankly

Townsend is a former truck driver who ran for governor using the nickname “Rodeo Clown” as his middle name. He came in third with nearly ten thousand votes, but he claims a second place finish considering another candidate had withdrawn from the race. In his campaign for the Senate, he switched to “No NCAA” because “No Restrictor Plate Racing” was too long to fit onto the ballot.

In his campaign video, Townsend presents his case to the electorate and states that he has a mental disability caused by brain trauma and dehydration from the grueling practice regimens common to high school football programs in his youth.

However, he also points out that Jeff Sessions is a sackless opportunist without the spine to stand up to the worst president in American history while the blood of his constituents is spilled in a vainglorious enterprise on foreign soil, so he can’t be all that brain damaged.

Office: President of the United States of America

Issues: Man, fuck the issues. One dude has “Bama” in his name and knows how to use his cell phone while the other guy panders to the worst instincts of the electorate and can’t remember how many houses he owns.

But fine, you want issues? How’s this:

OK, why is Johnny Mac holding a football like is damn daytime Emmy Award? Seriously—it is a football, part of the greatest game on the planet and a symbol of our national identity. If you want to be president, then hold it right!

And please don’t even begin that it’s because of his injuries from the Hanoi Hilton. We’re talking about gripping a football, not entering a punt-pass-and-kick contest.

In fact, since you (and he, repeatedly) brought it up, after watching McCain bait the nutjobs through the primary season, stumble over the most basic facts of governance, backtrack on any rational compromise he’s ever uttered, and dumbfoundedly spout out jinjoistic nonsense like a W-to-English phrasebook, I’ve finally come around with something positive I can say about George W. Bush: amazingly, the pampered little Texan shithead broke John McCain; even the Viet Cong couldn’t do that.

Bama Report endorses: Barack Obama

“It is a prolate spheroid in which the outer leather casing is drawn tightly over a somewhat smaller rubber tubing. Better to have died as a small boy than to fumble this football.”

You know who said that?

This guy:

The one on the statue, not the skinny guy with the ears. He’s all right though.

Roll Tide.

Friday, August 08, 2008

University of Alabama Football Report for 8/08/08

There is, sometimes in thunder, another person who thinks for you, takes in one’s mental furniture, shuts and bolts the mind’s window against what seems less appalling as a threat than as some distortion of celestial privacy, a shattering insanity in heaven, a form of disgrace forbidden mortals to observe too closely: but there is always a door left open in the mind . . . for the entrance and the reception of the unprecedented, the fearful acceptance of the

Malcolm Lowry
Under the Volcano

This fall’s practice, more so that recent past seasons, opens amid a mixture of great anticipation and worry for those who follow the Alabama Crimson Tide football team. The nation’s most heralded recruiting class reports to a team with, for varied reasons, many holes to fill on the roster. And among those spots not left absent through graduation, transfer, or (ahem) the Treaty of Wanghia, several are in need of upgrading. However, a quick glance across the SEC can reveal several teams familiar with the spasm of a recruiting buzz.

Georgia, the nation’s top-ranked team, so routinely plucks the upper echelon of America’s high school talent that their fanbase may consider it as automatic as replacing their assembly line of Uggas. They would be wise to ask of Tennessee the fault in that logic. Years ago, I was warned that Mark Richt was a shallow huckster with a good luck streak—counsel I dismissed at the time.

As the seasons have come and gone, and Richt’s PR skills have increased; as he’s pulled out black jerseys and motivational high-dives, and tallied the malfeasances of both his players and coaching staff, I’ve gone the opposite direction of the national media hivemind.

With all the advantages they bring to the table, if Georgia doesn’t—at least—play for the conference title this year, Georgia is doomed to be a more muscled version of Kentucky.

Some of that doubt is already spreading. SEC Media Days ended with the local boys picking Florida as their choice out of the eastern division. Surely some of this results from the press being bathed in the beatific glow of Tim Tebow in person. But most of it is just playing the odds.

After all, ask USF’s Jim Leavitt. You can take the fourth-best roster of Florida’s high school flock and totally fuck up a national title contender’s day.

LSU, a powerful multi-barreled shotgun that was built without a trigger, appears to be a week away from filling their quarter back position via a reality television show; while Auburn is living out the last days of its great recruiting classes with the traditional firing and hiring of both coordinators—oh, and freshman beat downs. Welcome to Lee County, now get the hell out.

All of this adds up to a confusing backdrop in which to conduct Alabama’s Fabulous Freshmen Experiment of 2008. The Great Leader has already released the annual anti-depth chart tirade for the fall, signaling that he’s still lining up the pieces on the chessboard and probably will be halfway through the season.

The great number of cracks showing in the hulls of the SEC’s largest battleships make it tempting to think this year’s Alabama team as a slim—nay, threadlike, almost indescribably translucent—chance of pulling off something special, at least one, but more probably two years earlier than logic would dictate. Depending on a handful of players who were thinking more about prom dates this time last year than playbooks, the risk/reward on this bet can swing from BCS bowl to bottom of the division.

Most likely, the Great Leader will work a few of the freshmen into the games in a few spots and be content with chopping down the oak with his hatchet, rather than boring into it with a chainsaw that could explode in his hands.

However, with so much that could go wrong for so many teams, and so much that could right for one . . . well, best not to think about that. There’s a reason they call it a sucker’s bet.

But there’s a sucker born every minute.

Roll Tide.

Friday, July 25, 2008

University of Alabama Football Report for 7/25/08: The Making of a Quagmire at SEC Media Days

Day One: Never Hire a Carpenter with a Messiah Complex

Hoover, Alabama, should be proud of itself.

Not only is the Birmingham suburb home to one of the state’s more upscale residential areas and a nationally televised high school reality drama (?), but it has accomplished this while being mooned by Vulcan, Red Mountain’s pantsless icon of a steel industry gone bust.

Into the shadow of those rusty cheeks, the twelve teams of the Southeastern Conference have each sent a caravan of one coach and two players as sacrifice before the oracles of television, radio, print, and internet(s). In the modern time of daily—hell, hourly—online sports coverage, some have openly questioned the purpose of the event as little more than show ponying. However, with so many riders, a carousel may be necessary.

The latest national championship coach in the SEC is having a grand time. He has the look of a man riding the up escalator even when he’s walking flat earth. And if you think his Alabama jokes are funny, you should hear the ones he uncorks about blind people.

Things look more serious, or at least more serious looking, when the conference’s earlier national championship coach speaks. And of course he brings his true trophy with him, just as his trophy brings the Heisman.

Why do I have such distaste for Tim Tebow? I am not one to shun success; it is a wicked world and anyone with will enough to climb forward should be recognized for their efforts.

Mere rivalry cannot explain this; no one despises Bo Jackson. Is it because Tebow’s success appears so free of struggle? That his victories, through their ease, mock the costs they require? Were it not for sunglasses and mescal, I don’t think I could bear more than five minutes of his halo’s glow. There’s something about the guy that makes me want to break a commandment.

The world is wicked, though, and it is only a matter of time until someone with two boards and a handful of nails speaks to Tim Tebow in a language he can understand. Perhaps merely the heartbreak of his assured apocalypse is what rises such dread in me.

Or maybe it’s because he gets his jollies by slicing Asian cock.

Day Two: What We Talk about When We Talk about Torts

The sundry and sunbaked media types at SEC Media Days are, on average, a cynical lot. They’ve eaten far too much sausage after seeing how it’s made. And, while the early morning scheduling of these press events helps the print and television outlets with their respective deadlines, one senses that the larger motive is ensure that a segment of the old timers are at least mildly sober.

The star of the day is not our Great Leader, who arrived, in an attempt to foil a repeat of last year’s mobscene, rather stealthily at the hotel before taking his place behind the lectern. Nor is it the coach of the probable number one team in the nation Mark Richt or perpetual drama queen Houston Nutt.

Today’s spotlight falls on the frenzy—the obsession with football that, in a small sense, leads Alabama fans to crowd the upper decks for spring practice and, in a larger one, spurs fans across the South to dedicate the GNP of a European principality to its continued support and survival. The objective correlative of the frenzy today is a subpoena.

The subpoena derives from a Latin phrase meaning “under penalty” and originates from English common law procedures soliciting a witness’s appearance in those cases where the witness may wish to avoid cooperation with the court. The service of a subpoena is often charged to a processor rather than any standing member of the court. The potentially uncooperative witness served at Media Days, in the fulfillment of a threat dropped long ago by different litigant, was none other than Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer.

Fulmer initially denied he was served—until someone wisely informed him that stonewalling legal documents is a little different than firing Randy Sanders—and then confirmed the subpoena by calling it “B.S.”

And he’s right, of course. But it seems rude to complain of bullshit when you’re wearing the cowbell yourself.

Day Three: Nobody Follows Elvis

If you’re an asshole for long enough, eventually people get used to it. That, above all else, is the lesson of Steve Spurrier. The icecaps will melt before Les Miles’s act becomes half as entertaining as that of the current South Carolina coach. But for all the swagger and snark that accompanies a Spurrier sermon before the media, this point is often lost: the ol’ ball coach is a realist.

Spurrier is his own harshest critic. And if you work or play for Spurrier, he is your harshest critic too. That’s convenient one-stop shopping for a football team, and it helps that—to my knowledge—Spurrier the critic has never told anything but the truth as he sees it. And his eyesight’s pretty damn good.

I doubt he will ever win the division, much less the conference or the national championship, at South Carolina. And in terms of offensive innovation, Spurrier’s long since been replaced by the tinker toys of the spread (don’t even get me started about the A-11). Though he’ll never admit it, he must know that.

Perhaps that’s why his son is taking over the majority of play-calling duties this season. The Spurrier on today’s sideline is already a chairman emeritus.

Don’t take this for a sweetheart letter: oh, he’ll still knife you, but never in the back, amigo.

Roll Tide.

Friday, July 11, 2008

University of Alabama Football Report for 7/11/08

Recently, I was lucky enough to come across a first printing of Championship Football: A Guide for Player, Coach and Fan by former LSU, Texas A&M, Nebraska, and Texas head coach Dana Xenophon Bible.

Bible, a contemporary of Warner, Rockne, et al., is partially responsible for establishing college football as a national phenomenon in the first half of the twentieth century, as he was, for a time, the most successful coach at three different universities in the American West. His only losing seasons were his first two at the reclamation project named the University of Texas, this in a career that touched on four decades.

And true to his middle-namesake, Bible’s football manual serves as a de facto history of the game and reportage of others’ wisdom. As Xenophon did for Socrates, so Bible does for Warner and Rockne and Wade and Neyland. His football manual has little in the way of tactics per se, and wouldn’t seem anachronistic were it published in 1917 over its real date of 1947.

Were a high school coach in today’s America set up the line drills for his players as described in Bible’s manual, he would likely be charged with child abuse. Were a college coach to run any number of the variant pre-Lombari shallow sweep or dive plays against a contemporary top-tier defensive front seven, he may be charged with manslaughter.

This man never met a passing down he couldn’t punt his way out of.

However, even though line shifts and the single wing have long been replaced by zone blocking and the read option, Bible’s influence on college football is still felt today. His so-called “Bible Plan” of dividing the state of Texas into smaller territories and relying on prominent alumni to pipeline young talent through the high school system is the model upon which today’s coaches still most commonly rely and the backbone of the accompanying Rivals / Scout / ESPN / perv-of-the-month recruitnik-fueled coverage.

Another of Bible’s signatures was his commitment to scouting the opposition. Certainly not an innovation, but his micro-managerial obsession with knowing the enemy filtered down to his players, whom he would require submit essays and answer questionnaires about upcoming opponents.

If there is a modern-day echo of Bible among the coaching ranks, it is arguably our very own four-million-dollar man, who on numerous times has insisted that he’s never innovated anything in football, he just “works with what works” harder than those around him.

The Great Leader’s salary will not go unmentioned, whether as prize or folly, throughout the upcoming season and a good many more to come. But one should remember that such compensation is not limited to the autumn months. In fact, one could rightly posit that the Great Leader earns the lion’s share of that salary on signing day, with special notice given to the following months in which the arcane scholarship algebra is negotiated to permit those top recruits’ arrival.

There is more to being a good coach than calling clever plays. After all, Bible’s reputation for scouting the other team was borne from necessity.

Opponents would already know his plays—all three of them.

Roll Tide.

University of Alabama Football Report for 7/11/08

Recently, I was lucky enough to come across a first printing of Championship Football: A Guide for Player, Coach and Fan by former LSU, Texas A&M, Nebraska, and Texas head coach Dana Xenophon Bible.

Bible, a contemporary of Warner, Rockne, et al., is partially responsible for establishing college football as a national phenomenon in the first half of the twentieth century, as he was, for a time, the most successful coach at three different universities in the American West. His only losing seasons were his first two at the reclamation project named the University of Texas, this in a career that touched on four decades.

And true to his middle-namesake, Bible’s football manual serves as a de facto history of the game and reportage of others’ wisdom. As Xenophon did for Socrates, so Bible does for Warner and Rockne and Wade and Neyland. His football manual has little in the way of tactics per se, and wouldn’t seem anachronistic were it published in 1917 over its real date of 1947.

Were a high school coach in today’s America set up the line drills for his players as described in Bible’s manual, he would likely be charged with child abuse. Were a college coach to run any number of the variant pre-Lombari shallow sweep or dive plays against a contemporary top-tier defensive front seven, he may be charged with manslaughter.

This man never met a passing down he couldn’t punt his way out of.

However, even though line shifts and the single wing have long been replaced by zone blocking and the read option, Bible’s influence on college football is still felt today. His so-called “Bible Plan” of dividing the state of Texas into smaller territories and relying on prominent alumni to pipeline young talent through the high school system is the model upon which today’s coaches still most commonly rely and the backbone of the accompanying Rivals / Scout / ESPN / perv-of-the-month recruitnik-fueled coverage.

Another of Bible’s signatures was his commitment to scouting the opposition. Certainly not an innovation, but his micro-managerial obsession with knowing the enemy filtered down to his players, whom he would require submit essays and answer questionnaires about upcoming opponents.

If there is a modern-day echo of Bible among the coaching ranks, it is arguably our very own four-million-dollar man, who on numerous times has insisted that he’s never innovated anything in football, he just “works with what works” harder than those around him.

The Great Leader’s salary will not go unmentioned, whether as prize or folly, throughout the upcoming season and a good many more to come. But one should remember that such compensation is not limited to the autumn months. In fact, one could right posit that the Great Leader earns the lion’s share of that salary on signing day, with special notice given to the following months in which the arcane scholarship algebra is negotiated to permit those top recruits’ arrival.

There is more to being a good coach than calling clever plays. After all, Bible’s reputation for scouting the other team was borne from necessity.

Opponents would already know his plays—all three of them.

Roll Tide.

Friday, June 27, 2008

University of Alabama Football Report for 6/27/08: The Curious Case of Jimmy Johns

The brash unbridled tongue, the lawless folly of fools, will end in pain.
Euripides, The Bacchae

That quarterback turned tailback turned fullback turned linebacker Jimmy Johns was arrested earlier this week for selling cocaine comes as a bit of a surprise. Everyone knows that the preferred intoxicant among the Alabama faithful is getting high off the fumes of their own bullshit. And nothing proves that more than the relationship between the fans and Jimmy Johns.

During one of the Great Leader’s state radio broadcasts, Nick Saban fielded questions about why Johns did not see the playing field more, since he was one of the team’s “best players.” What followed, perhaps after a couple of self-censor disabling beverages, was a brief inquisition of the fan, asking who told him Johns was one of the team’s “best players.” Certainly not, as Saban described himself, “the man wearing a National Championship ring.”

To pull rank, National Championship rank, on an Alabama fan in public is akin to telling the French that not only is their bread stale but that they could use a little more self-confidence.

How Jimmy Johns became the infatuation, and ultimately the embarrassment, of the collective Alabama fan consciousness is an object lesson for the future.

Act I: Straight Outta Brookhaven
For better or worse, Jimmy Johns was the best thing to come out of Brookhaven, Mississippi, other than State Route 550. A town of just under ten thousand people distributed over just seven square miles, Brookhaven bills itself as a “Homeseeker’s Paradise” and a town that “has the best of all worlds.” Why limit (or name, for that matter) to just two, one supposes.

As quarterback for his high school team, John only lost one game and took his team to the state Class 4A championship his senior season. The team won the title and Johns won the title of “Mr. Football” for the state. Online recruiting sites ranked him as a top ten “dual threat” prospect as he had nearly the same number of touchdowns throwing the ball as running it. A college future was assured, but where?

The suitors for Johns’s signature were two SEC schools: local favorite Mississippi State, who had recently made headlines by hiring Sylvester Croom, the conference’s first African American head coach; and neighboring Alabama, who at that time was coached by Mike Shula, the man who beat out Croom for the Crimson Tide job the previous year.

Any time a local hero considers a rival school, the recruiting heat can tick up a notch. However, the personal animus between the coaching staffs at Alabama and State (which had hired many former Bama men, like Croom himself) was considerable. Ultimately, Johns would make his decision based on who promised him a chance to play quarterback.

At the time, both schools were building a pro-style passing game requiring quick and accurate reads of the defense with an ability to stretch the secondary on occasional deep routes and keep linebackers back with hot reads. Croom, who had spent much of his coaching career in the NFL around West Coast offenses, knew Johns had no chance of doing what the offense required. Many argue that Shula knew that too, but told him otherwise.

If there is a bellwether moment of Johns’s poor decisions—well, friends, as Maine goes, so goes the nation.

Act II: A Special (Teams) Player
John was arguably the jewel of his signing class and certainly looked the part of a cut diamond. Much of the hype surrounding Johns’s career at Alabama may boil down to two factors over which he had no control: First would be the contentious recruiting chatter between Croom’s staff at MSU and Shula’s at Alabama. The second would be the physical comparison of Johns to the class’s other quarterback signee, Jimmy Barnes.

Jimmy Barnes was a California import with a big arm and a big everything else too. All freshmen report with a little pudginess to work off under the demands of the next level’s conditioning, but reports of Barnes’s massive size soon ballooned (pun intended?) to comic proportions. His early diagnosis of mono was even questioned in some quarters as a cover-up for inferior cardio stamina.

Johns, on the other hand, had a senior’s build beneath a freshman’s face. In his class’s group picture, he’s easy to point out as the player who already looks four years older than everyone else.

But Joe Montana never looked like Mr. Olympia, and Johns’s tryout at quarterback was predictably short. His already questionable arm was hindered by a tweaky shoulder and his ability to read progressions quickly never materialized. One option would be to redshirt his freshman year, giving Johns time to rehab his shoulder and study the playbook. Johns, however, continued to push for immediate playing time—another condition of his recruitment, supposedly—and was moved to running back.

In relief of Kenneth Darby, a squirty corkscrew of a scatback, Johns had moderate success as a change-of-pace runner. He had one speed and one direction, fast and straight ahead. He also had only one way of holding the football and no way to protect it.

Watching Jimmy Johns run the football was like watching a coat hanger being jiggled up and down in the slots of a locked car door, a stiff erratic motion that rarely yielded success and more often led to greater frustration.

Rumor had it that upon seeing Johns in high school, former Bama and current A&M DC Joe Kines said he planned on making Johns the best linebacker Alabama had fielded since Biscuit. Why he never got his chance is speculation. Some say Johns openly defied a move away from the offensive side of the ball, others say runningback coach Sparky Woods had more pull than Kines with Shula, still others say both, and a few say nothing because the truth may be worse than the rumors.

No surprise then that, after Shula’s dismissal, Saban wanted to make good on Joe Kines’s boast. However, in their first, and now only, year together, it took an entire season and a painful fumble for Johns to accept his role with the linebackers.

To be clear, it was not one moment that benched Jimmy Johns for good on offense. At one point in the season, he had cost the team more yards in personal foul penalties than he had gained in running yards. Also, he had been outspoken in how he couldn’t wait to show up his home state Bulldogs and their coach who’d suggested he was foolish for believing he could play quarterback, which only served to make Johns, now primarily a special teams player, a human target:

Yet, despite all this, or perhaps because the fanbase had instilled so much hope in his potential, there were near weekly cries for Johns to see more action throughout the season, as there were calls for him to replace Darby his freshman year. Saban directly challenged the fans, saying that he’d never seen so much attention given to a player who’d done so little.

He will be answering other questions now.

Act III: The Dog in the Fight
Lee Thomas says he doesn’t “work for Jimmy for money.” No, the self-described “caretaker” of Jimmy Johns says he works for the now former Alabama football player “because it's not often you see a young black player come through here and take people by storm like he done.”

No, I suppose not. Usually when a “young black player” takes the fans by storm, like say Andre Smith or Tyrone Prothro or DeMeco Ryans or the hundreds of other “young black players” reaching all the way back to Wilbur Jackson for whom Jimmy Johns isn’t worthy to hold their jockstrap, it is because they fucking earned it.

Mr. Thomas, though he works for free when it comes to Jimmy Johns, must be charging someone, as he posted the $120,000 bail for six charges of cocaine distribution (and two traffic violations), then added that Jimmy Johns is “not sad at all. He wasn't crying or anything like that” following his arrest.

That comment would probably not be appreciated by the eventual judge in this case, and is not appreciated by the current defense lawyers for this case, who stated “contrary to comments made by those claiming to be close to him [I wonder who?], Jimmy Johns is distraught over his arrest.”

Mr. Thomas further stated that Jimmy Johns may be finished at Alabama but isn’t “done with football.” This statement was uttered roughly ten hours before, the website for Jimmy Johns Linebacker Bullies, a pit bull breeding kennel Johns promoted by posting pictures of himself in uniform and proclaiming that he not only sells “some of the bulliest dogs in the country, he also plays for the best college football team in the country. The University of Alabama. Roll Tide!”

Ah, school pride. Too bad it is also a letter-for-letter violation of NCAA Bylaw, which states that a student-athlete will lose eligibility if he or she “accepts any remuneration for or permits the use of his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind.”

Roll Tide, Jimmy! Another personal foul on your way off the field.

I swear to God, just when one thinks this team has hit rock bottom, someone reaches out for another damn shovel. At least now, finally, we’ve hit bedrock.

Of course, we’ve said that before and could be wrong here, as wrong as Mr. Thomas the Caretaker is about Johns playing football again; oddly, the pit bull business, not the drug trafficking, sees to that. During his recruitment, in what seems a lifetime ago, Jimmy Johns wanted to be mentioned in the same breath as Michael Vick. With his arrest this week, he’s finally achieved that goal.

Jimmy Johns’s football career is a pattern of losing his roster spot to players with lesser talent and greater effort at no less than four separate positions. And sadly, Johns has a greater likelihood now of showing up face down in the swamps of southern Mississippi than he does of ever stepping foot on a football field again—one does not receive the title of “caretaker” without taking care of loose ends.

Two weeks ago, this space was dedicated to support of Kenny Stabler, who was held for DUI shortly beforehand. Is it because one is a winner and the other not, because one is old and the other young, or—worse—because one is white and the other black? For those who believe in only binary condition—right and wrong, win and loss, lawful and criminal—and not value, how to explain the condemnation of one player and not another without hypocrisy.

In the tragedy of The Bacchae, Euripides presents a conflict between the king Pentheus and the god Dionysus. Pentheus has outlawed worship of the drunken son of Zeus and denies him his rightful stature as a god because he claims that kings must maintain order, making worship of Dionysus—and a good many other things—a waste of time.

However, like a classical Larry Craig, Pentheus also wished to observe privately the orgiastic rituals he condemned publicly and, through disguise and trickery not unlike a sting operation, gets his chance. But the voyeur king pays for it with his life.

I mention this only to point out that I’m no Pentheus, and I probably worship at the altar of Dionysus a little too much for my own good. Would now be a bad time to mention the thrill of snorting a line off a sorority girl’s ass while she’s phoning her dad for more money?

I thought so.

Rumors of Johns and drugs have been floating around Tuscaloosa for at least two years, though nothing of the magnitude of this week’s charges. Rumors are just that, and at best only shades of the truth.

That truth being that we love sport because it provides us an escape from the horrid gray areas of our real lives, the uncertain choices we hope will make today better and stave off death until tomorrow. It is a relief to see a cleanly drawn world of win and loss, where there’s always another play or another game.

A line of thought says that sport does not build character so much as reveal it. We forgive—hell, love—Stabler because we know his character. We know he cheats, but he cheats for us. His whole life is the Holy Roller.

Football, this ridiculous thing that means so much to us, means nothing to Jimmy Johns. How else to explain his dealing blow in the parking lot of the building named after Mal Moore.

It is not that Jimmy Johns broke the laws or the rules that disgusts us. It is not that he didn’t live up to his potential. It is not that he cost his team something as transient and light as victory. It is not, as his caretaker insists, that he fell in with the wrong crowd. From this viewing, he is the wrong crowd.

We know his character. Football had revealed it long before the police.

Roll Tide.

Friday, June 13, 2008

University of Alabama Football Report for 6/13/08

My favorite Kenny Stabler story takes place very late in 1966—or very, very early in 1967. Every version is set before Alabama’s Sugar Bowl game against Nebraska (as opposed to their Orange Bowl game against Nebraska the previous year). That point is important, as it is Stabler’s first season not splitting time with Steve Sloan.

Each version involves a bar fight.

In some versions, it’s Kenny’s friends from Foley starting a ruckus; in others, it’s fans from an opposing team; in many, Kenny’s right in the middle of it. Some people say this happened in the Flori-Bama bar. Others say a joint on Bourbon Street that got shut down in the next couple of years. Wherever it is, the cops find it.

However many folks were involved—let's say, seven—six of them get crammed into the back of the first squad car, and Kenny gets a solo ride in the other. They get taken to jail, and if the arresting officer had bet his money on Nebraska, Kenny would’ve joined them.

Alabama beat Nebraska 34–7. How much the cop walked away with is not known.

Kenny Stabler’s favorite Kenny Stabler story—the one he tells at booster clubs or if he’s cornered by a few fans after a few—is from his Oakland Raider days. It’s early in the morning, there’s a big game the next day, and Kenny’s phone is ringing. Kenny’s not liking that.

Who’s dumb enough to call a professional quarterback during his beauty rest? Only a lineman would take that risk.

An hour later, Kenny drives across the bridge to a San Francisco police precinct and is led back to the drunk tank. And there’s his lineman—Kenny never rats out his position, but you’ve got to believe it’s a tackle—alone, drunk, and bare-ass naked save for a pair of bright blue cowboy boots.

Posted bond, a cup of coffee, and a beach towel later, Kenny’s got his lineman in the car, but he’s still not liking this, and he asks the cowboy, “You know, they only give you one phone call. Why didn’t you call a damn lawyer?”

“Hell, Snake,” he says, “I was too drunk to give directions and I figured you knew the way!”

Kenny Stabler won a lot of games and won a lot of gamblers money. Just recently, during some tacky pre-game stunt, an asshole from a cable network pulled the nearest barely(est)-legal he could find from the crowd and asked her to toss a football into one of those inflato-targets that sells Dr. Pepper or steroids or whatever.

After a couple of her embarrassing ducks landed well short of the target, Kenny walks over from his radio spot, takes a ball, threads the needle in one shot and tells them to give her the money.

So there are other stories, all of them someone’s favorite.

One of my favorite folk tales is about the frontier woman gathering brushwood during an especially harsh winter when she finds, coiled frozen on the ground, a little snake.

The snake pleads with her to take him inside because he will surely die if left in the cold. The woman says, “Oh no, I can’t do that. You are a snake and you will bite me.” But the snake continues his cries, and the woman’s heart goes out to the pathetic little fellow.

Once inside, the snake tells the woman that her fire feels nice, but he would feel better if she could place him closer to the fire where she sits. “Oh no,” says the woman, “You are a snake and you will bite me.” But again, the snake pleads, and again, the woman relents.

Once more the snake says that sitting next to the woman is nice, but he knows he would thaw completely if she would place him in one of her pockets. Again, there is protesting and pleading, but in her pocket goes the snake.

And the snake is right. He does thaw completely, and as soon as he does, he slithers out of the woman’s pocket, and strikes the woman just as she feared. “Why?” cries the woman. “I saved you from the cold, I moved you to the fire, I kept you in my pocket—why would you bite me!?!”

“Lady,” he hisses, “you knew I was a snake when you picked me up.”

There’s an archaic quality to that story, to be sure. It’s little more than a backwoods version of Little Red Riding Hood—a poorly disguised fear-appeal for women to avoid bad men. However, once we admit that, I think there’s a lesson to be learned, no?

This past week, the local hacks in Birmingham and elsewhere have been shocked—nay, appalled—that Stabler was issued a DUI over the weekend. His third in a dozen years, and his second while employed as Alabama’s radio analyst. They are near unanimous in their opinion that the time has come for Kenny Stabler to leave the booth, that he is unfit to represent the University of Alabama.


You knew he was a Snake when you picked him up.

Roll Tide.

Friday, May 30, 2008

University of Alabama Football Report for 5/30/08: SEC Spring Meetings Edition

To be face to face with Bobby Petrino is to stare into the eyes of the murderous cyborg sent from the future to rip your heart from your chest. The weapons you need to stop him won’t be invented for another half century. If the eyes truly are the windows to the soul, then Petrino has long since blackened his over. Like those on a sandwich joint that will be converted into a video poker hall or truckers-only strip club once the local economy tanks.

But if you wish to confront the gears of the machine, such opportunities are offered this week in the galactic gravity well of the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, a sprawling, sun-baked tax dodge where the Southeastern Conference spring meetings are underway.

Stay awake for three days straight, buy a glass of cheap hooch, throw on a glossy lanyard and bored expression—presto—now you have your official member-of-the-working-press disguise and can move unhindered through the concentric circles of hell where SEC Commissioner Mike Slive keeps his plans for a future conference-owned television channel, one of the two major topics of discussion.

Were the SEC to buy a corner of Lucifer’s Dream Box, one wonders what exactly they’d do with it.

Surely the Big Te(leve)n’s television channel has left them intrigued in concept if uninspired in delivery. Most of the programming decisions seem based on which lacrosse player’s parents will be home to watch on a given night.

Conference-owned channels will always be less-than-secondary venues for the most desired events. The hoops ESPN is jumping through to get this year’s Alabama at Georgia game only illustrate how tight the grip of network television still is. However, said network’s contact is set to expire soon. With rumors of Fox wanting to reach their cultured hand further into the underpants of college football, the SEC is likely wanting their own suitor in the room, if only to make sure someone seals the deal.

Topic numero two concerns the Great Leader and the new (SEC-initiated) NCAA bylaw that unofficially bears his name.

The Saban Rule, as it is called, is an update of the Bump Rule, as it was called, which outlined the limited parameters under which a head football coach may interact with a prospective football recruit at said recruit’s high school during the NCAA-defined spring evaluation period, the “bump” nicknamed derived from coaches only being permitted no more than unplanned bumping into the players.

In the modern era of college football, how someone like Nick Saban—or Urban Meyer or, hell, even the Cybernetic Bobby Petrino Coaching Unit—is supposed to enter a high school without it being the event of the season was never addressed under the loosely defined Bump Rule.

Enter the Saban Rule. Now every stray thread of the Bump Rule’s definition has been neatly tied—the bumps have been flattened into the hard macadam: coaches may not enter the premises during the spring.

It is tempting to foist this panic’s source onto the usual suspects, like the mahogany-desked overlords of the NCAA or the cartel of the Big Ten (after all, really, who gives a shit if Joe Tiller comes to your high school?). But, mi amigos, this was an inside job all the way.

As was dropped in above, this rule change was proposed from within SEC itself, by coaches in the Ara Parsegian mold who would rather not fight on if it meant they could leave with a tie.

Crabs in a damn bucket.

Roll Tide.

Friday, May 23, 2008

University of Alabama Football Report for 5/23/08

What will my redeemer be like? I ask myself. Will he be a bull or a man? Will he perhaps be a bull with the face of a man? Or will he be like me?
--Jorge Luis Borges, "The House of Asterion"

Fans, this is why I love you so much: You have hope that the guy you have not seen is better than the one you have seen.
--Nick Saban

To be a sports fan is to wrestle Antaeus. Expectations are unavoidable and, by necessity, overly optimistic.

And like the Greek giant, the expectations of the sports fan grow more fragile the higher they are held aloft. For example, to a breed of starry-eyed fan the best player on the field is always the player held off the field.

Why these coaches charged—and charging highly—to win games would choose to field inferior players is a riddle the sports fan cannot solve. It is an old dilemma that resurfaces each season, as predictable as . . .

In a famous review of a nonexistent retelling of Quixote, Jorge Luis Borges wrote of a Frenchman who sought not to retranslate or reinvent or reimagine the classic tale, but to rewrite it: sentence by sentence, word for word. Borges's supposed author planned to immerse himself so thoroughly in the background and underpinnings of the work that, when he attempted to write his own story, Quixote would have to come out.

This culmination of inevitable influence is not without precedence. Nabokov is to have stumbled across a ghastly novel called Lolita from 1916 about a pedophile carrying his prey from hotel to hotel. If any pleasure is in it, it is not Nabokov's.

Uncle Milty was such a charming thief that he invented his own rule for the occasion: by the time he told your joke a third time, it belonged to him.

The kicker in Borges's review was that he found the new Quixote, though only available in fragments so far, superior to the intact original. The new story, being new, allowed for fresher exegesis, more creative metaphors, more current allusions that the old version, though word for word the same, couldn't logically contain.

To convince by reason is not the task of fandom. As theater critic John Lahr wrote of Bill Hicks's irresistibly unspeakable comedy, it convinces through joy. The vaudevillians appreciated their own absurdity: their jokes were funnier when they were Milton Berle's.

Roll Tide

Friday, April 25, 2008

University of Alabama Football Report for 4/25/08

Would that more people have read Duncan Stanley’s comprehensive Technology of Biscuits, Crackers, and Cookies (now in its third edition) to better understand the meaningless tar pit we’ve turned our world into, where children’s treats and tokens of affection are deposited upon us in mass eruptions from cold, heartless, terrific machines. Nothing available better explains who we are or the destruction we’re gleefully embracing.

A Brit, Stanley speaks of “biscuit” as a sugared confection, not as the Southern staple, and that there exists no American companion to his work is a disservice. Perhaps the endless schwarmerei we Colonials pack into and onto our food prevents us from exploring the terrain.

Consider, for example, a possible excursion on the biscuit were we to trace its origin back to its position as American class signifier. Below is a common recipe for “tea biscuits,” sometimes called “lady biscuits”:

2 cups of flour
4 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of shortening
3/4 cup of buttermilk (or whole milk, per preference)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F) and apply grease to a baking sheet.
2. Combine dry ingredients, then add shortening until mix crumbs.
3. Stir in milk with a fork to make a soft dough.
4. Knead the dough around 10 times, and then roll flat to at least 1/2 inch thick.
5. Cut into small rounds with a cookie cutter. Place on sheet for a few minutes to settle.
6. Contemplate one’s place within centuries old caste system.
7. Bake for up to 15 minutes. Serve warm.

The tea biscuit, as opposed to the “drop biscuit” or “cathead biscuit,” appears on the menu of the gentility and is distinguished both by its smaller circumference and nonnegotiable lack of bacon grease.

That the proles, for once, are afforded a larger portion of the biscuit bounty should be viewed in its proper context, namely that the percentage of gross biscuit relative to the total meal is inversely proportional the diners’ ability to increase exponentially their meals in both variety and frequency, and hence and indicator to their total wealth.

A heuristic that we may present simply in the following function:

f -1 (B) = Wm!

In other words, we’re out of eggs. Eat more biscuit.

However, modernization has greatly altered the outward signifiers of class cuisine. In keeping with the upper crust’s thinking that large biscuits are “unladylike,” today’s foodstuffs fall within a hierarchy of paying more for less--less saturated fat, fewer preservatives, no chemicals.

The results? Eating healthily becomes a luxury good, and “dollar menu” items glut the sidestreets and arteries of those beyond the pricepoint. Relatively few products are labeled “fair trade,” questioning what type of trade creates the bulk of our goods. There is high comedy in watching Martha Stewart become a billionaire performing the acts of a houseslave, but I’ve not the foggiest as to whom joke’s on.

The larger point, though, is that generations of people walk around thinking of “home cooking” as a box of dust, justly added with water and zapped in a microwave. More and more of the individualization of memory is being replaced by focus-grouped taste tests and high-priced marketing slogans. This, among other reasons, is why I hold no grudge against graffiti.

For it is no mistake that these vandals are named “artists,” even in the police blotter. Though aesthetically the graffiti artist may not be Chaim Soutine, he or she is less a criminal than the bastards who invented Red Bull.

Roll Tide.

Friday, April 11, 2008

University of Alabama Football Report for 4/11/08

Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear't that the opposed may beware of thee.
--Polonius, Hamlet (I, iii)

The start of act two in Hamlet is tricky.

Traditionally, those in charge of the production have a choice in that scene of presenting Polonius with his daughter, disturbed over Hamlet’s appearing “loosed out of hell,” or with Reynaldo, a messenger Polonius dispatches to spy on his own son.

Were the audience to see the second act begin with Ophelia, then Polonius is a fool, a bureaucratic bumbler who will later wrongly confuse the source of Hamlet’s madness with his own overprotective urges toward his daughter’s honor. This Polonius is a showpiece, a know-nothing, a babbler, a man limited to insular ambition.

However, were an audience to begin act two by watching Polonius, who moments before (in the trademark “Neither a borrower nor a lender be” speech) swore devotion and pride in the character displayed by his son, Laertes, send essentially a hired gun to tail him to a brothel, then this Polonius is someone to watch out for.

Most productions feature a thunderstorm of a Hamlet and reduce the other characters to mud puddles (have you ever seen a Fortinbras worth a damn?), so the clownish Polonius is more common.

If you’ve ever seen the version of Hamlet with Richard Burton in the lead, the one without costumes or a set, then you’ve seen perhaps the best portrayal of Polonius you’re ever likely to. Hume Cronyn won a boatload of praise and awards for his joyfully sinister Polonius.

That Hamlet contains Act 2, Scene 1 in toto.

When it comes to life imitating art, Fitzgerald, our American Shakespeare, famously eliminated the problem, but he was probably speaking just for himself (in that regard, he’s better our American Keats, one supposes). Americans, today, seem to thrive on second acts.

And if he and Zelda were alive today, no doubt they’d be headed to Tuscaloosa tomorrow, sloshing it up in a pair of million-dollar, air-conditioned, buffet-flanked seats in a luxury box filled with Z’s people overlooking the rabble out in the sun. No doubt, too, that they’d have no memory of it.

Just as well. The Great Leader, beginning his second act, hammers home that the stats from these scrimmages and, since statistics are a measure of performance, these scrimmages themselves mean nothing. But, as the sweet prince says himself, “there be players that I have seen play, and heard others praise . . .”

Roll Tide.