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
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.