Friday, March 14, 2008

University of Alabama Football Report for 3/14/08: Spring Practice Baedeker

The University of Alabama Crimson Tide football team initiated spring drills this week and, as such, the countdown to the new season. Many expect an improved team to take the field in year 2 A.S.; a more restraining mind might expect much the same result as last year, now due to youthful blunders rather than entrenched blasé. But restraint has never been the Alabama fan’s strong suit.

Case in point: spring scrimmage 2007 brought a capacity crowd (and more) to Tuscaloosa. At the time, this outpouring was decried as “sick” and “fanatical”; however, that was before there was a buck to be made.

This spring, schools around the country--including Alabama--will engage in some cockamamie fan-participation hoo-hah, ostensibly pitting schools against one another for a prize in scholarship money.

Realistically, this is just the latest and, calendar-wise, earliest attempt to whore out college football fandom, to further cement the notion that college football is best viewed as a cash cow and nothing more.

Much of the revenue from this venture is to be brought in from musical concerts on the night prior to the different schools’ spring games, a motley crew (though, surprisingly, no Motley Crüe) of acts from the mosquito festival and casino theater circuits.

What a team gains by letting all two dozen Fall Out Boy fans run amok on its field the night before it’s supposed to react to game conditions is beyond me. For inspiring the bankers to hatch this scheme, Alabama has been, ahem, rewarded with Alan Jackson.

At this point in his career, Jackson is little more than a hokey, Stetson-wearing Dracula, an undying, perverted simulacrum of long gone royalty, taking succor off the blood of those too ignorant to stay in the sunlight. If the Gray Lady is to be believed, he hates hawing through his minstrel act now as much as I would hate watching it. But this is about love, not music criticism.

You’d be fair in pointing out that it is harder and harder to love college football, mostly because it tries so damned hard to be unlovable. Its postseason, and now its preseason, is a blatant cash grab. Its alignment facilitates cowardice and bullying rather than competition. Ask Ray Ray McElrathbey how the cold logic of college football rewards a young man’s devotion.

For every saintly act, you easily will find seven sins. As in any abusive relationship, one must overlook a lot to be a college football fan. Though to look back on Alabama’s spring crowd last year, many are willing to make the effort.

Will this year’s crowd reach that number? Perhaps. The Great Leader stated that the route to the school’s top-rated recruiting class began on that day, so that may be all the goading the faithful need. If they needed any at all, it will come from him, not from a hat act strumming a Telecaster.

Roll Tide.