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.
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.