Friday, December 18, 2009

University of Alabama Football Report for 12/18/09: An Open Letter to Saint Nick (the fat one)

Dear Santa:

I am well aware of my fixed position on the naughty side of the ledger. However, I write not on my own behalf but for others who are perhaps too preoccupied to take pen in hand this week leading up to your big night.

All I want for Christmas this year is

for someone to step up in the secondary to replace Rashaad Johnson.

one more round at Egan's.
to beat Tennessee in the most heartbreaking manner possible.
a beautiful day in Tuscaloosa to celebrate a win.

to beat LSU.

an evening with the cute brunette two barstools over.
a division title.
to beat Auburn in the most heartbreaking manner possible.

to make Tim Tebow cry.

for Rolando McClain to win the Butkis Award.

a conference title.

for Mark Ingram to win the Heisman.

a national title.
P.S. -- Apologies, Santa, but it appears my list is a bit out of date. Many of the items on the list have been taken care of prior to my writing. Thankfully, one item remains, thus reducing my demands on your time and allowing you to devote your efforts to those more deserving.

Also, are you aware that they barbecue reindeer in Texas? It's true, and you should hear the awful things they say about elves.

Roll Tide.

Friday, December 11, 2009

University of Alabama Football Report for 12/11/09: Heisman Trophy Watch Edition

What is this? 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.
-- John Heisman, addressing his first team

At Alabama, our players do not win Heisman Trophies. Our teams win national championships.
-- Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, answering a reporter’s question during his retirement announcement

I ain’t a player. Get it right, I’m controllin’ the game.
-- Jay-Z, “The City Is Mine”
An odd fact about the Heisman Memorial Trophy Award is that the twenty-five pound hunk of bronze does not display its eponymous stiff-arm. (The helmet should be a dead giveaway.) Instead, the foot-tall fellow that this entire hubbub is over is one Ed Smith, an altogether pedestrian player for NYU from the year the award was first given by the Downtown Athletic Club of Manhattan. Heisman was a member of the club.

In truth, the first Heisman was not even a “Heisman,” but simply the Downtown Athletic Club Trophy. It’s recipient, Jay Berwanger, a halfback for the University of Chicago whose career highlight was blinkering future president Gerald Ford, thought so much of the thing that he reportedly used it as a doorstop.

Even the Downtown Athletic Club itself has been replaced now. ESPN broadcasts the presentation ceremony from a Times Square theater, replete with satellite hook-ups. The club’s old location in lower Manhattan now holds condominiums under the slightly modified banner of the Downtown Club. Its “athletics” now include a squash court and mini-golf.

Over the years, the Heisman Trophy has been a slow yet accurate barometer of the college football atmosphere. As scholarship limits and conference payouts dispersed the talent pool around the nation’s colleges, the Heisman regularly broke its earlier taboo on rewarding underclassmen. For example, if the projections and Vegas odds hold, the Heisman could go to its third sophomore in as many years tomorrow.

Many critics point to the Heisman’s record against NFL draft status to dismiss its value, but they fail to grasp the award’s hold on the popular imagination. The Heisman is not a predictor and is, if anything, backward looking. In a sport like football, where team discipline is most paramount to on-the-field execution and success, the anomaly of an individual merit becomes more of an aesthetic statement than the result of any validating criteria.

Others decry the award’s regional biases and its blind allegiance to traditional programs, especially when they are atop the polls, by a cadre of reporters with long-held biases and past recipients with personal allegiances. However, as true as this may be, it only reaffirms the trophy’s standing as a comment on the game itself, a State of the Union Address for the past season. The Heisman Trophy is the script for Hamlet written on a thousand typewriters by a thousand chimps.

Of those complaints, I have heard many and all of my life. And much of the time, these protests were accompanied by the echo of the old Coach’s words: championships, not trophies. Such was our history, such was our truth. We are unaccustomed to questioning the Gospel.

However, it should be noted that although Alabama has never produced a Heisman winner itself, the university does hold a trophy on campus. John David Crow won the award in 1957 for Texas A&M--and for Bryant, whose museum displays it on a pedestal under a spotlight. A rather gaudy presentation for something the man supposedly didn’t care for.

Recently, throughout this season and the last, magazine covers and television hustlers have decreed, “Bama is back!” (this time, they mean it), and they’ll be at it again all the way up to January 7. However, if I may, I’d like to offer a small voice of dissent.

As Mark Ingram waits to hear his name called in New York City and his team prepares for Pasadena, against a school no Alabama squad as ever beaten, it might be possible that, rather than “back,” Bama is somewhere it has never been.

And at Alabama, that’s saying something.

Roll Tide.

Friday, December 04, 2009

University of Alabama Football Report for 12/4/09: SEC Championship Edition

. . . I with wings as swift
As meditation, or the thoughts of love,
May sweep to my revenge.

Hamlet, I, v, 29-31
It was too long a time before I realized that woman who cuts my hair was not, in fact, coincidentally wearing the same colorful little print upon each occasion of my visits, but was, rather, tattooed most elaborately and thoroughly, and, furthermore, not wearing much of a shirt at all. Such is life in the big city.

Despite her minimal clothing and maximized body art, I know not much of her. Her parents, immigrants, named her after the city of Hollywood, California. Thinking that America was the place that most people in the world would want to live, and Hollywood, California, was the place that most people in America would want to live. Thus did these new Americans venture.

I posit this would have been around the same time a young Axl Rose and his cohorts were en vogue. It took roughly two summers before her family had seen enough of that. Therefore, she kept the name and the fashion sense, but not much else of her toddling self’s western sojourn.

What does this weekend mean to her? In some order, probably giving my tip money to a dealer, working up a sweat on a dance floor, and waking up in the bed of some new boy—or girl—or both.

And despite the best efforts of the Columbia Broadcasting System and the working press, I cannot imagine she even knows who Tim Tebow is. Much less that he, through some indomitable magic of his will, is expected to make the dive play work against 1200 pounds of lineman tomorrow.

Is the lesson here that even the mightiest heroes can be humbled when out of context? Or that our humbling in inevitable, and we only learn the context afterward? Tomorrow’s game will answer that, along with many other things.

Had I told you, this time last year, that this time next year, we’d be right here again, I would not begrudge you thinking me mad as the Danish prince himself. Or worse than mad, obsessed. For in madness is there some respite of suffering, but obsession, even when slaked, is never extinguished.

How else to explain this rendezvous tomorrow? What simple vengeance could withstand such focus? A hundred years ago, men played football for Alabama and no one remembers their motivation save one: to win.

A hundred years from tomorrow, it will be no different.

Roll Tide.

Friday, November 27, 2009

University of Alabama Football Report for 11/27/09

Just beat Auburn (again).

Scratch that. This year, there’s no “just” anything.

If one takes away one point, and there are many to take, from Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs & Steel and Collapse, his twin works on societies’ rises and falls, respectively, it is the dull truth that a people’s success or failure depends not on the greatness of its citizenry but on their making great use of the resources around them.

Furthermore, the more limited a people’s resources, the smaller their margin of error, meaning there is no inventing a way out of a problem. In truth, that probably just makes things worse, which nags at the ego of many a would-be great man. Our world, then, is little more than a massively large 4-H club, prone to self-annihilation.

Even on a smaller scale, the myth of the great man is dangerous. Notre Dame is preparing to fire their great man over the weekend, perhaps looking to hire Florida’s after the New Year. And upon his exit from South Bend, he’ll take his “decided schematic advantage” back to the show ponies of the NFL where it belongs. How great can that advantage be when, in games against Georgia Tech and Navy, it has a losing record against a scheme older than color television?

Auburn’s little brother syndrome went critical last off-season when the school hired a new coach with an embarrassingly bad coaching record when the fanbase expected their answer to Nick Saban. Even the absence of a great man can cast a shadow.

Knowing our world runs on transparent, even mundane, causes can be humbling. For some, it is preferable to imagine a world of puppet masters and marionettes, plotters and schemes. The conspiracy theorist fears the uncontrollable far more than any tyrant because there is comfort in knowing someone, even someone loathsome, is in charge.

To acknowledge the chaos in the world is to claim our part in it, which is harder than just blaming a referee. And so this season, the usual wingnuts have been joined by coaches and the press in their imagined scandals. Rather than accept the complexities inherent in the referee’s job, the conspiracy-minded observer infers intent from incompetence, which plays on the observer’s pride, a seer among the sheep exposing the charade.

Let us grant the conspiracy theorists their undue. Let us propose a world where the rules of the game are lax. Tennessee has their re-kick. LSU has their interception. Mississippi State has their touchdown. Each would still have to face that defense, that exceptional collection of resources, on the other side.

Is Nick Saban a great man? He probably doesn’t think so. But with his constant refrain of “The Process,” he’s pretty damn sure he knows how to make full use of his resources. And if Diamond is right, doing so in the right place at the right time can lead to something special.

So here we are.

Roll Tide.

Friday, November 20, 2009

University of Alabama Football Report for 11/20/09

“Well, we had to play somebody.”
-- Nick Saban, University of Alabama head football coach, on this Saturday’s game with Chattanooga

“Auburn, maybe?”
-- Russ Huesman, Chattanooga head football coach, in answer to an ESPN question on what Alabama should focus on when they look at his team

In 2005, the National Collegiate Athletic Association approved the addition of a twelfth game to college football’s regular season. There were many reasons for this move: added programming for national broadcasting partners, increased ticket revenue for home stadia, an extra chance at bowl eligibility and bowl payouts for borderline teams.

Which is a long way of saying, “for the money.”

Of course, the NCAA, being the NCAA, said it was about anything but the money, which leaves us with the ineffable puzzles of late-season match-ups like Ohio State and New Mexico State, Florida and Florida International, and, of our concern, Alabama and Chattanooga.

Critics will decry the existence of these games, pillorying the athletic directors for scheduling such opponents or, at best, dismissing them as “tune-up” games. Were it not for the twelfth-game rule, Alabama’s final home game, its Senior Day, would have been against LSU, leading some fans to suggest this game exists only to provide the outgoing class with a certain win.

I humbly remind those fans that, although Alabama should not guarantee wins beforehand, nor should it concede contests either.

During his weekly radio address, the Great Leader admonished the faithful that these games may be forgotten once they are won, but will be remembered for a lifetime if lost. He then gave an unneeded reminder of Alabama’s last home loss to an out-of-conference opponent on Senior Day.

It is said that Coach Bryant, whenever he noticed his players dragging during warm-ups or showing the signs of wear that accompany the playing of football, would say, among other things, “Men, sometimes you get tired and think nobody cares, but you don’t have any idea how many people wake up this morning with one thing on their mind and one thing only, the Crimson Tide is playing today.”

But certainly against an opponent like Chattanooga, the cost in competition leads to a benefit in access. For example, I look forward to a substantial upgrade in my seating preferences in tomorrow’s game.

That benefit extends even onto the playing field. For no matter how overmatched the Chattanooga defense is, not every pass will land in the end zone nor play yield a score. No matter how high Mark Ingram is held in our esteem or perhaps, perhaps and probably, in the esteem of the Downtown Athletic Club of Manhattan, not every carry he takes will end untouched.

Meaning that even now, some young man from Chattanooga with little hope for victory is thinking that, if the cards fall correctly, he might claim the victory of the moment, thinking past tomorrow’s game and the next, past all his games remaining, to the day where he will tell his scoffing friends or co-workers in whatever trade he follows after football, “That’s right, the one who won the Heisman at Alabama. I tackled him once.”

How much money is that worth?

Roll Tide.

Friday, November 13, 2009

University of Alabama Football Report for 11/13/09

From as long as 15,000 years ago, from areas as far ranging as Africa, the Near East, to the Atlantic coast of Europe, early civilizations satisfied their craving for a god through the cult of the bull. Many times, the bull is needed merely as the gods’ footrest--what else could support the weight of a deity? Other times, the bull’s strength rewards its own end, an observable idolatry.

This fascination with the bull perhaps comes from the animal’s rare distinction of being a non-predator who would not back down from man’s gaze. Early man would fear the lion, dominate the horse, but worship the bull.

That is not to say it’s all green pastures, as it were, for the bull.

It is believed that the Golden Calf episode from the Exodus is actually a ret-con by later Yahweh priests who wished to discredit popular bull cults of surrounding kingdoms, dropping in a parable from earlier mythology or their own imaginations. The tale of the Minotaur reinforces the fall of brutal, animalistic Crete and the rise of reasoned, courageous Greece in the Mediterranean world.

However, if you want to see a continuation of the bull cult into modern times, look no farther than the yonder side of Gordo, past the state line, into a pit of clanging cowbells, to Mississippi State’s Anthony Dixon.

Dixon’s stellar senior season does more to reinforce the notion that a “spread” offense is more philosophy than playbook, as he is far from the prototypical back one sees in a spread team. Dixon, a bruising, momentous, pad-lowering monster, is no Noel Devine; and if mass is the only consideration, he is closer to two Noel Devines!

Virility and ecstasy also play into the longevity of bull cults, explaining how they survived the transition from nomadic peoples to farming societies. A dud bull could kill a would-be farm, so a potent bull was more valuable than his symbolic meaning. The bull was a marker of a people’s continued health, their survival, their success against nature’s entropy. Hence, rural populations incorporated the cowbell into their own folk music and observances--SEC rulebook be damned.

And a new generation of livestock provided as good a reason as any to start trying for a new generation of people--in the ancient world, often preceded by public rites; in contemporary cultures, charcoal briquettes. Any reason to party, after all.

As an analogue, there’s no telling how many new generations of Crimson Tide fans got their start three weeks ago thanks to Mr. Cody’s heroics.

But there is a key fact our neighboring bull-worshipers should remember: from the temples of the Elamites to the roadhouses of the Austinites, the bull frequently ends up sacrificed atop his own holy pyre.

Roll Tide.

Friday, November 06, 2009

University of Alabama Football Report for 11/06/09

We’ve probably already won a helluva lot more than anybody thought we would already, and we're going to focus on what we need to do to get better as a team, and come out with guns a-blazin’.
-- Nick Saban addressing the 1st and 10 Club at Heron Lakes Country Club, October 29, 2009

If emotion is strong enough, the words are unambiguous.
-- Marianne Moore, Paris Review interview 1960

Critics have posited that contemporary Americans have lost the appreciation of understatement. Which is to say they have lost their recognition of hyperbole. Which is to say they lack bullshit detectors. Which is to say they are suckers.

As readers, they find Plath and her daddy suitable vehicles for the tenor of the Holocaust, or vice versa, which is not to say they cannot read poetry, only that they cannot read it well. As sports fans, they become scoreboard watchers. As pollsters, they remain suckers.

For this audience, the Great Leader has decreed that the offense, the passing game, really, must do more than manage games but should become a downfield threat. However, there is more than opinion at stake. Continued victory demands it, as does the continued health of Mark Ingram.

Math quiz: for each yard Ingram has gained thus far in the season, divide by two. Take that total and divide by the number of carries. At this new integer, place a football player at equal interstices for the length of the sum yardage divided. Now have Mark Ingram run headlong through that distance being tackled by each player.

That is the cacophony through which Ingram has hummed this season, where half his yardage has occurred after initial contact. Bye week’s rest or no, that is not song that will end well--for Ingram or the team. And tomorrow’s game is as good a time as any to try a new tune.

For an audience who takes hyperbole as neutrality, the Alabama/LSU match-up has everything the contemporary viewer could want. High-profile teams. Bigger-than-life personalities. Violence. Obsession. Greatness. One preview of the game stated there would be more NFL talent on the field tomorrow than would be present in a Lions/Buccaneers game.

Hyperbole? What hyperbole?

In some circles, the Great Leader’s comments this past week about an improved passing attack and Greg McElroy’s public statements of pride over his no-touchdown performance against Tennessee have elicited a wary eye and an suspicious mind.

Could it be that the coach is laying a trap for his successor at LSU, who goes through rhetorical contortions to avoid saying his predecessor’s name or that of the team he now leads?

Could the quarterback be instructed to engage in some pre-game misdirection, a public relations play-action fake, if you will?

Could all this talk about the receivers “stepping up” and “attacking the middle” be a smokescreen to distract LSU’s preparation for the same ol’ Alabama offense you know and love? (You know, Mark Ingram.)

Unlikely. When the Great Leader speaks, his meaning is unambiguous.

But if this is so, if Alabama will indeed go to the passing game more this week, why then would he spell this out for his opponent?

For the same reason avian predators evolved eye sockets to the front of their heads and prey to the side: air assaults require clear vision.

Roll Tide.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Terrence Cody of Terrence Cody Football Report for 10/30/0Cody

"The fault, dear Cody, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."
-- Terrence Cody Shakespeare, Julius Cody, Act I, scene ii

Terrence Cody Terrence Cody Terrence Cody Terrence Cody Terrence Cody Terrence Cody Terrence Cody Terrence Cody. Terrence Cody Terrence Cody Terrence Cody Terrence Cody Terrence Cody Terrence Cody Terrence Cody? Terrence Cody!

Terrence Cody Terrence Cody Terrence Cody Terrence Cody Terrence Cody. Terrence Cody Terrence Cody Terrence Cody.

Terrence . . . Cody. Terrence Cody Terrence Cody Terrence Cody Terrence Cody Terrence Cody Terrence Cody Terrence Cody. Terrence Cody Terrence Cody Terrence Cody Terrence Cody--Terrence Cody Terrence Cody. Terrence Cody Terrence Cody Terrence Cody Terrence Cody Terrence Cody; Terrence Cody Terrence Cody Terrence Cody.

Terrence Cody Terrence Cody Terrence Cody?

Terrence Cody.

Terrence Cody Terrence Cody.

Terrence Cody Terrence Cody Terrence Cody.

Roll Tide.

Friday, October 23, 2009

University of Alabama Football Report for 10/23/2009

“It’s a game like any other game.”
-- Rolando McClain on the Alabama-Tennessee rivalry

The history of the Alabama and Tennessee football rivalry extends well before the existence of the Southeastern Conference itself, beginning in the first (or second, depending on how you count these things) year of the twentieth century. Except for a brief span in the 1920s, Alabama and Tennessee have been playing football for over a hundred years. For much of that time, the two schools were seen as perennial powers of Southern football and, sharing a border, it was only natural that a rivalry would ensue.

Occasionally, members of the Old Fogies Club will mention how the tone of the rivalry has changed since their youth. In the past, they say, the Alabama-Tennessee game was as much about measuring your own team as it was hoping they would win. General Neyland famously said, “You never know what a football player is made of until he plays Alabama.”

And, according to the OFC, the feeling was mutual. After all, this was Tennessee.

One imagines that rivalry being similar to those two weekends, years ago, when Alabama played a home-and-home series with Oklahoma. By the end of each game, clad in colors but a Pantone digit away from each other, the Sooner fans were consoling their new friends as much as they were celebrating their team’s win. How odd to share drinks with an opposing fan who says, “you’ll get us next year.” Odder still to imagine those fans were once dressed in orange.

Granted, we have our biases, but we lay a large share of the blame on Phillip Fulmer for poisoning this well. Tennessee fans probably blame--whom, exactly? Mike DuBose? Fine, have at it. Both characters are personae non gratae at their respective schools. What good does blame do now, or ever really? We have reached the volta, and the sonnet cannot be rewritten. After all, this is Tennessee.

Plus the game itself isn’t as important as it used to be. The rivalry most Tennessee fans care about today is with Florida (for example, the kid replacing the fat guy didn’t mention us in his introductory press conference to win over the fans). Even without Fulmer’s decline at Tennessee or Alabama’s rough waters through sanctions and coaching changes, this would likely still be true because of the conference’s two-division structure. In today’s SEC, a loss to Alabama in October would hurt Tennessee but it would never serve as a tiebreaker.

And what is an anomaly for one generation will become the nostalgia for another. Eventually, the new Alabama fans will look at their calendars and assume the rivalry is called the Third Saturday in October because Tennessee fans can’t count to four.

Or, if Rolando McClain is our example, they will not know it by that name at all.

Do not be disappointed in McClain’s statement, Alabama faithful. An athlete of his caliber does not get “up” for games, even rivalries. Rather, he is in his most natural state on the playing field. A place where he may finally liberate his solitary potential for physical excellence, withheld in our frail, papery world during the rest of the week.

In a profile of Roger Federer, David Foster Wallace wondered what tennis looked like to the game’s greatest player and imagined it a strange thing. Not the tennis we see from the stands, but a game where beach balls float toward Federer’s racket and are guided by his will to obscure places across the net. Such is the game of football to Rolando McClain, who runs past statues dressed like football players and summons opponents to his waiting and unyielding arms.

But despite the Great Leader’s unparalleled recruiting skills, no team is ever filled with eleven Rolando McClains. And surely one of the surprises Saban has found in Tuscaloosa is how young men of lesser ability are willing to commit themselves to his insane demands for the sake of this empty air, tradition. “It’s definitely Tennessee week,” to quote safety-turned-linebacker Cory Reamer. “You just get that feeling.” Tennis looks like tennis to Cory Reamer.

Perhaps it was a return to “that feeling” from the old rivalry that Lane Kiffin sought to evoke when he requested permission for his team to wear their home orange on Alabama’s field this Saturday, a tradition ended in the 1960s. Mal Moore, survivor of many Third Saturdays as player, coach, and ultimately Alabama’s athletic director, denied it outright.

It’s a petty thing to do, sure, but this is Tennessee. No battle is too small to fight.

Also, it is hard to trust Kiffin’s motives. His public identity is founded on bucking trends and dumping the past. It commands a willful ignorance to forget that his quick rise to head coach was bolstered more by his father’s name than his own innovations. However, Tennesseans are just the people to display that commitment to ignorance.

If 65 percent of them believe that the flu vaccine is a government plot to weaken their resolve to socialism, then accepting the enormous coincidence that the best head coaching choice just happens to be the son of the NFL’s most influential defensive coordinator is small potatoes. After all, this is Tennessee.

Not that having the son of a coach lead your team is necessarily a bad thing (recent history excluded). Our own Great Leader is himself the son of a coach, albeit a Pop Warner team in West Virginia. Mostly though, Nick Saban Sr. spent his time running a gas station. But according to Tennessee’s new head coach and lead recruiter, there’s nothing to be valued in pumping gas.

Our own coach may have different feelings on this matter:
By the time I was eleven, I was spending my afternoon and parts of my weekends pumping gas, washing cars, putting air in tires, and checking and changing oil under the ever-present eye of my father. Saban’s Service Station was full service—and I mean full. . . . We did it to perfection. I would wash cars with my hands and a bucket but after inspection from my father, I routinely had to wash them again. At the time, I could not understand his standard of excellence. But what I learned from my days at the gas station was to do a job right and not settle for anything less than the best.
(How Good Do You Want to Be? reprint edition [Random House, Inc., 2007], 37)

One wonders, after the game, when the coaches shake hands, will Lane Kiffin be asked what it’s like to have his ass kicked by the son of a guy who pumped gas for a living.

It would be a petty thing to do, sure, but this is Tennessee.

Roll Tide.

Friday, October 16, 2009

University of Alabama Football Report for 10/16/09

As if the record proved otherwise, the Great Leader is a good fit for Alabama. For one, the team’s followers are about the only people as obsessed with the game as he is and, furthermore, his style of football--disciplined, brutal, hard-line football--matches our history and aesthetics.

Because for college football, its polls and voters and computers, aesthetics are no small matter. For example, long before the table dancers confirmed it, Mike Price’s blocking schemes led us to believe we had hired a coach ill-suited for Alabama football.

Not so today. At nearly every position, from defense to offense, lineman to receiver, the potential of this team gathers toward a fearsome catharsis. Today, dissonance has been removed. We are attuned within our aesthetics.

Yet, if the scuttlebutt is to be believed, an alternative history awaited. For the briefest of moments before the Great Leader came to our university, rumors hinted an audience was requested before Steve Spurrier, head coach of this week’s visiting South Carolina Gamecocks.

The Ol’ Ball Coach’s penchant for downfield passing, his cold fish approach to player development, and eagerness to run up the score--literally and verbally--make him a man as diametrically opposed to every aesthetic of Alabama football as can be imagined.

Save one: he wins.

Or at least he won and is winning again. Hopes were that Spurrier would somehow mold South Carolina of the 2000s into Florida of the 1990s. If anything, they’ve pulled him down to their level. But after seasons of middling performances, the Gamecocks are off to a fast start, with five wins, a top-25 ranking, and a puncher’s chance of more.

Say what you will of Steve Spurrier, but he plays to win. Alabama will get no Kiffin game plan for “moral victory” tomorrow. Not long into his tenure at South Carolina, he scolded the fanbase for applauding the team’s (as the fans deemed it) near-victory.

Or as the Ol’ Ball Coach correctly called it: losing.

One wonders what Spurrier thinks of college football today: his orange punching bag replaced in Knoxville, his alma mater collecting another Heisman and two championships, and his old nemesis barely hanging on in Tallahassee. All while he’s struggling to sign anyone who can find the hot read on a blitz.

If he thinks about it all, he cannot be especially surprised. All men, given time, have their lives defined by their problems more so than their promise.





Limited recruiting base.

If Vegas is right and both teams play to their limits, Alabama should be able to well withstand the puncher’s chance tomorrow and land a few blows of their own. Quite more than a few, really. And without pity.

Because such is nature of competition and there need not be malice in acknowledging it. The Ball Coach knows that as well as he knows there’s no retirement plan for old gunslingers.

Except younger gunslingers.

Roll Tide.

Friday, October 09, 2009

University of Alabama Football Report for 10/09/09

“Dammit, sir . . . will you accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad?”
-- Judge Stevens, William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”

When the Ole Miss Rebels' national title hopes died, their whole town went to the funeral: the women through a sort of respectful affection for the fallen hopes of their men, the men mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of top ten, which no one save an old Manning--a combined Rebel and Saint--had seen in years.

Alive, the Ole Miss title hopes had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation, dating from that day in 1969 when Colonel Reb, the mascot--he who fathered the edict that no Ole Miss woman should appear on the Grove without a Red Solo cup--decreed that they may lose the game but never the party, the dispensation dating from the loss of the first game on national primetime television.

Not that Ole Miss would have accepted charity. Colonel Reb invented an involved tale to the effect that Ole Miss football was more of a social occasion than a barbaric field contest, which the town, as a matter of business, preferred.

Only a man of Colonel Reb’s generation and thought could have invented it, and only an Ole Miss fan could have believed it.

When the next generation of Mannings, with its more modern timing routes and pass patterns, became quarterbacks, this arrangement created some little dissatisfaction. On the first of the year, Eli mailed in a three-point win in the Cotton Bowl and went on to the NFL. A deputation waited upon him from San Diego, but he signed with the Giants instead.

On a tarnished gilt easel before the draft day podium stood a crayon portrait of the Ole Miss quarterback’s father getting sacked in a Saints jersey.

A season later the Ole Miss administration wrote the Mannings’ coach himself, to the effect that he no longer went after high-profile recruits at all. The termination notice was also enclosed, without comment.

The next coach looked bloated, like a body long submerged in motionless water, and of that pallid hue. His eyes, lost in the muscular ridges of his face, looked like two small pieces of coal pressed into a lump of granite as they moved from one recruit to another. He did not ask them to sit, but to remove their shirts and chant “Ole Miss!” and “wild boys!” and “I pay no taxes in Jefferson!” He stood on the sideline until the team came to a stumbling halt.

So Ole Miss vanquished him, horse and foot, just as she had vanquished the previous coach.

That was when people had begun to feel really sorry for her. People in our town, remembering how Ole Miss had gone completely crazy at last, believed that they held themselves a little too high for what they really were. None of the young coaches were quite good enough for Ole Miss and such.

Then Ole Miss named Houston Nutt, a Razorback--a squirrelly, ready man, with a big voice and eyes lighter than his face--their head coach. The little boys would follow in groups to hear him cuss Gus Malzahn and Springdale High School. Pretty soon he knew everybody in their town. Whenever you heard a lot of laughing anywhere about the Grove, Houston Nutt would be in the center of the group.

At first we were glad that Ole Miss would have an interest, because the ladies all said, “Of course another SEC school would not think seriously of running the ‘wildcat.’” But there were still others, older people, who said that single-wing football was no gimmick.

Then the newer generation became the backbone and the spirit of their town and Ole Miss defeated Florida in the Swamp, but the title hopes grew up and fell away and did not survive an early-season road game in Columbia. After tomorrow, the front door will be closed upon the last one and remained closed for good.

Roll Tide.

Friday, October 02, 2009

University of Alabama Football Report for 10/02/09

Established in Woodford County in 1865, Labrot and Graham’s Old Oscar Pepper Distillery is the home of Woodford Reserve, a small-batch bourbon whose texture and atmosphere may go a long way toward explaining why another name for drunkard is lush, as accurate a descriptive as one can place on this abundant and fertile offering from the bluegrass state.

Bourbon whiskey, unlike its Irish or Scotch cousins, is distilled from corn, not malt. Also, its distilling philosophy is more democratic, washing back portions of each completed batch prior to aging to create a consistent character across the distillery. These two characteristics make bourbon a decidedly American spirit, distinct and separate from the monarchist roots of Europe. One distillery, Maker’s Mark, goes so far to eschew standard aging practices altogether, favoring instead to have the master distiller sample each batch and grade its readiness by taste, no matter its age.

Kentucky bourbon, on the whole, is also more pleasing than the sour ashtray runoff produced in places like Lynchburg, Tennessee. Why anyone would want whiskey made in a town named after gang murder is de rigeur of the hillbilly mentality, one assumes. The mere fact that Kentucky, home of Muhammad Ali and Bill Monroe, can claim bourbon as its greatest export cements the stuff’s standing.

In large part, this may explain my fondness for Kentucky. I have a hard time generating any antipathy toward their efforts. Also, their population’s interest skews toward basketball and, tomorrow being only their thirty-eighth meeting, the football teams do not play all that often. (It doesn’t hurt that Alabama’s record is 34-2-1 in those prior thirty-seven games.)

But like bourbon, Kentucky football is improving with age and craftsmanship. Rich Brooks has stewarded the program into a consistent bowl team, if not championship contender. Last week’s result to Florida aside, Kentucky provides more of a challenge now that in recent memory.

For example, last season in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Kentucky played a close if lackluster game that the Crimson Tide could have easily lost late. Tomorrow’s game is not expected to follow that model, but this has more to do with bad luck than any disrespect to the Wildcats.

Kentucky is rather banged up. Their best defensive player, Micah Johnson, missed practice this week with a painful case of turf toe and, even worse, their quarterback suffers from a case of being Mike Hartline. So even though Alabama must respond to Dont’a Hightower’s absence in the linebacking corps, the overall talent margin still favors the Tide.

It’s important to know what you’re good at--love your fate, as Nietzche would say. The river tributaries and limestone foundation make Kentucky a great place for distilling bourbon. Alabama’s a place to play football.

Roll Tide.

Friday, September 25, 2009

University of Alabama Football Report for 9/25/09

The Razorbacks’ 2009 squad seems to be divided roughly along the lines of Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The offense, like West Germany, is a land of ample resources and careful governance. The defense, like East Germany, is a stark, sere blighted place where joyless workers yearn to escape to the other, happier side.
-- Cecil Hurt, Tuscaloosa News, Sept. 21, 2009.

For many seasons now, an assessment of the Alabama Crimson Tide football season's prospects has been the results of the Arkansas game writ large. This is not to ascribe some oracular value to the Razorback game itself, which can be diagnosed down to its core principles: in many years the Hogs are Alabama’s first conference opponent and for most of those years past they were coached by Houston Nutt.

Nutt, an enigmatic charismatic if ever there was one, has taken his road show to Oxford, where he’s dancing to the same tune from his Fayetteville honeymoon period, a heartfelt number that starts with poetry but ends with death threats (the joke remains that Clint Stoerner was voted the MVP for Tennessee’s championship season).

The point being that a Nutt-coached team is just as wildly capable of pulling a miracle as laying an egg (a point reinforced last night in Columbia), so how well an opponent handles the unexpected within the game provides a good measure for how it may perform the rest of the season.

Or at least it used to. Now in the second year of Bobby Petrino’s overhaul, Arkansas is half-way remodeled into a championship contending team and is fully formed into a Louisville clone, meaning that, as a measurement tool, the Razorback game has sacrificed its reliability and perhaps its applicability.

Any measurement comes down to comparison to a standard. And, therefore, all measurement tools, quantitative or qualitative, must exhibit consistent properties of reliability, consistent results after repeated comparisons, and applicability, verifiable connection to the matter of comparison.

For example, a yardstick contains both needed properties for the comparison of linear distance, but were one to attempt measuring velocity with one, its applicability, not its reliability (consistent in a fixed three feet), is nil.

And thus we have the new-look Arkansas Razorbacks, with their Orestes of a quarterback, their equally mountain-toppling offensive totals, and damn near no defense. The Razorback fanbase, those bipolar romantics all of them, swooned like a lucky slot jockey watching the scoreboard light up against Georgia--on both ends. If you seek a predictor of future conference success, you’d be hard pressed to find an SEC team that is less of an SEC team than Arkansas.

But perhaps the time has finally come--or should I say, returned--to Alabama that its team no longer needs to look to the opposition for measurement, that its known properties are visible and active to even the casual observer. Comparison is separate from assessment, and this Alabama team--resourceful, swift, brutal--may be the most SEC team in the SEC.

Everything’s different, but it sure feels like old times.

Roll Tide.

Friday, September 18, 2009

University of Alabama Football Report for 9/18/09

The Battle of Austerlitz was a victory so thorough, so decisive, this messy old world may never see its like again. Catalogued among the fallout one will find the securing of Napoleon’s claim as Emperor of the French and Protector of the Confederation of the Rhine, the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, the subjugation of Russia and Austria, and, as a commemorative marker, arguably the tackiest lagniappe in history, the Arc de Triomphe.

And though Napoleon believed the victory at Austerlitz the finest of his career, it also may have seeded his ultimate undoing. Having his enemies capitulate to even his most audacious demands in abject surrender, the little emperor believed himself infallible, perhaps invulnerable, perhaps divine.

Legend has it that upon his return from exile, Napoleon secured the very battalion sent to drag him to Paris in an iron cage by marching alone before them, shirtless, crying, “If any of you would kill your emperor, fire your rifles now!”

To a man, they joined his rebellion.

Thus did Napoleon confuse his own ambition with the good of France. Or so the historians would have us believe—British ones, at that—so consider the source.

Two cases bring the Moravian countryside to mind. First is the matter of Alabama’s game against North Texas, a game that, should everything follow form, should meet the criteria of decisive victory for our Crimson Tide’s own little emperor.

And, the game being Alabama’s first appearance this season in the ESPN regionally broadcast hangover game, the clock should tick down just in time to switch over to another potential slaughter: Tennessee at Florida.

What else can be said about Lane Kiffin and Tennessee? Some have posited that all this hoopla is but fuel for his planned machination. And, in truth, as a thirty-point underdog, Tennessee’s roster needs only to leave the state of Florida outside a body bag to surpass expectations.

To put this in perspective, the line on a game between two SEC division rivals is only eight points lower than the line on Alabama’s game against a Sun Belt opponent openly talking about firing its head coach two games into the season. The Volunteers enter the Swamp tomorrow with no pressure, yes, but also no hope.

Rather than some arch politico or refugee from Sterling Cooper, perhaps Lane Kiffin is exactly as he seems. Young, brash, largely ignorant to the world of consequence, and, by virtue of his family connections, in way, way, way over his head.

Were he not such an effrontit asshole, I’d almost pity him.

Roll Tide.

Friday, September 11, 2009

University of Alabama Football Report for 9/11/09

For that the evil ones comes here, and say,
“Fall down, O Simeon: thou hast suffer’d long
For ages and for ages!”

-- Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “St. Simeon Stylites”

Flagpole sitting became a popular fad in the United States in the 1920s and held the attention of bored jackasses for roughly five years. Somewhat on the low end of spectacles, flagpole sitting gained much of its appeal from the unspoken but undeniable promise of flagpole falling.

A promise too often broken since the, ahem, sport’s only skill was sitting in one spot long after the point most other people would have to use the john. Thus, flagpole sitting did not endure into the thirties.

Other than the altitude, little suggests its origins reach back to Saint Simeon Stylites the Elder, the ascetic who climbed atop a lone column among the ruins and found disciples by trying to escape them.

However, where and why a fad begins, what spark seizes the imagination into an inferno, is hard to pinpoint. If last week’s results alone were evidence, I could hardly defend the wildcat formation. What is so special about a jet sweep, a power run, or a counter fake? About three yards, apparently.

Simeon, by the way, would have been a poor inspiration for the bandwagon jumpers of the Roarin’ Twenties. He died on his pole. And brutally.

Years of exposure in the Syrian desert had left his body rotted with sores, and the sores crawling with maggots. When one of his followers climbed the ladder and attempted to clean them, the strange little preacher in the sky stopped him, saying that they were eating no more than what God had intended. Such a fate should await everyone with a divine plan.

Speaking of sports for sitters, the promised fall is the same reason NASCAR highlights only show the crashes and the victory lap (which would translate to a football reel of nothing but holding penalties and the scoreboard). It is a dubious element in man’s nature that brings him to watch the possibility of another’s destruction, and worse still the disappointment he feels when it does not come.

Some of the same element, though, is surely present when pulling for the underdog, the outmanned and outgunned opponent against impossible odds. Or at least a five-touchdown spread.

Such is the case tomorrow, when Alabama takes on Florida International, at team that has won only six games in the past three seasons. Five of them last year. So the Crimson Tide is a significant favorite, which is no surprise. After snapping a two-game losing streak, Alabama may well be a favorite in every game from now until after Thanksgiving.

In certain quarters, you might hear a team such as Florida International referred to by metaphor of a child’s pastry, a particular baked good, palm-sized, its top adorned with a layer of sugared frosting and miniature candies.

Not here though. The Great Leader has commanded that we “repect our opponent.” So let it be done. Let the teams play their best. Vegas and the flu be damned, I hope Bama stomps ‘em.

Roll Tide.

Friday, September 04, 2009

University of Alabama Football Report for 9/04/09

Evil is whatever distracts.
-- Franz Kafka, Notebooks (ca. 1917-1919)

One might be surprised to learn that Kafka, rarely published in his lifetime, was known to entertain with public readings of his works. I say entertain because apparently the man could not make it very far through his own words without laughing outright and, once introduced, his laughter contaminated the entire proceedings, leaving the crowd in stitches.

Kafka’s laughter teaches us that he was, despite all reason to be otherwise, an optimist. The blind bureaucracies and self-inflicted punishments that populate his prose do not constitute a prophesy, but an observation, at most a warning, at best a joke. For whatever mechanisms man upholds to imprison himself, they are, thankfully, just as flawed and prone to failure as his art. Perhaps our chaos is our hope as well.

As proof one need only look to Alabama’s game against Virginia Tech tomorrow night in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. If last season is an accurate predictor of events, the Hokies’ primary strategy is riding the hope of chaos and letting Tyrod Taylor’s legs carry them to the BCS. He is an exceptional talent so this would be a poor time to be distracted by off-the-field issues. Last year’s Alabama squad proved, for most of the season, able to withstand such distraction. Of course, each season creates a new team, so all we know is that we do not know.

For example, two of Alabama’s star offensive players, Mark Ingram and Julio Jones, were all but cast over the side of the boat by eligibility questions surrounding a springtime fishing trip with a man over twice their age. And, even more oddly, who has ties to Auburn. Given how well all things Auburn have gone lately, it is a relief that Ingram and Jones did not drown as the boat sank.

The NCAA, a bureaucracy so Borgesian in its bylaws and purpose that perhaps it has achieved the level of art, however, says that they are good to go. Because the value of the trip was so negligible. A boon for the state’s favored football team, if not its tourism board.

Regarding another player, Jerrell Harris, the NCAA is not so sure. Harris does not appear to be much of an angler, so his eligibility questions, if Teh Inter-Webz R2B beleevd, stem from impermissible gifts of a more landlocked nature.

But chaos appeared most concretely for Alabama’s starting defensive end, Brandon Deaderick, who will miss tomorrow’s season opener after being shot while foiling a robbery attempt earlier this week. Deaderick received one red badge of courage in his forearm and another in his leg.

As gunshot wounds go, these appear to be of the preferred kind. Clean. Small. Still painful as being stabbed with God’s own skinner blade though. Deaderick returned to practice yesterday but will not be asked to play. Compassion appears in even the Great Leader’s heart.

As for what we know and do not, the gunman is still at large, Mark Ingram and Julio Jones will play. Brandon Deaderick will not. Jerrell Harris, who knows? And Kafka laughed.

Roll Tide.

Friday, August 28, 2009

University of Alabama Football Report for 8/28/09

For so it had come about, as indeed I and many men might have foreseen had not terror and disaster blinded our minds. These germs of disease have taken toll of humanity since the beginning. . . . But by virtue of this natural selection of our kind we have developed resisting power; to no germs do we succumb without a struggle.
-- H. G. Wells, The War of the Worlds

The University of Alabama’s football squad began preparation for the season-opening game against Virginia Tech this week but did so without the services of one Terrence Cody. Man mountain. Crowd favorite. Run stopper par excellence. Swine flu victim.

In this, as in Wells’s original telling of mighty terrors humbled by tiny microbes, we find a warning for the future. Wells’s The War of the Worlds is a curious twist on the British invasion literature genre of the time, which often imagined the Queen’s borders overrun by neighboring hordes of interlopers. Many of them depraved schnitzel snackers attacking the hapless farm girls of the countryside.

Such as these novels could, xenophobic stereotypes aside, they sought to warn of the dangers of an ill-prepared national defense in pre-First World War Europe. In Alabama’s case, an ill defenseman presents its own problems but not the end of the world, to be sure.

Let us posit for a moment, then, the worst possible scenario for Crimson Tide football in 2009. In this cacotopia, the Centers for Disease Control seize our Mr. Cody from the Georgiadome sideline and sweep him into a government quarantine facility in order to extract a stronger, Cody-sized swine flu vaccine.

Which is too bad, because he was needed to stop the run and limit the Hokies’ possessions since Alabama’s two primary offensive players, Mark Ingram and Julio Jones, long since having been booted from the team for engaging in open seas piracy during the spring, are not there to share the load with first-time starting quarterback Greg McElroy.

Who is not even in the game all that long, having been carted off the field in two leg casts, a shoulder harness, and a neck brace because he was playing behind an entirely new offensive line.

Who were forced into action after the first-string team of Carpenter, Johnson, Vlachos, Jones, and Davis were all ruled ineligible by the NCAA prior to kick-off after being seen having lunch with Andre Smith’s agent.

Who whacked Don’ta Hightower’s knee with a tire iron for some reason.

But in a more probable worst case scenario, the 2009 team, deep on defense but largely untested on offense, may dream a little too much of a possible rematch with Florida at the end of the season to focus on beating LSU or Ole Miss or (don’t laugh) Arkansas during the season. More so than the loss of one player to the flu, one fluke loss to a conference opponent is an ever-present danger for a talented but young squad.

The smart money says that, on offense at least, Alabama will be in better shape for a title run next year, with a senior quarterback, a junior Julio Jones, and a more experienced offensive line. And like recovering from the flu, you can’t rush these things. Wait until next year, some will say.

I wouldn’t suggest you say that a certain senior nose tackle when you drop off the chicken soup though.

Get well, big man.

Roll Tide.

Friday, August 14, 2009

University of Alabama Football Report for 8/14/09

The haggard sun dragged across the cerulean. The ancients called it a chariot wheel. Helios, all-seeing and fiery. The spectrographists say it is an engine running on gas. Noble. Fused atomic. The bright thumbprint of some power dropped upon a dark futile envelope, center of an anonymous circus. This day, it was spiteful and long with the hours and decrying man his comfort. A manifest heat, felt and seen and heard.

Into this hot approximant came the father. He was among others and his own but between them could no difference be scrutinized. Such was as true for the cosmetic of their garments as was for their bleak unknowable hearts.

The father carried with him his station and served out his patience as if to belie his terrible ecstasy. And when the father stood before the coach, he delivered unto him the babe and muttered, Deus vult. Deus vult. Low and jolting. Deus vult.

The coach smiled. He placed his upturned hands beneath the babe, and the great man examined it as if to put down its likeness in some journal prepared for extinction. The babe’s puss was an apricot of folds. Its twitches attuned, as all youths, to some agitator unobserved in nature and its hipbones and shoulders seemed belonging to unlike bodies entire. Its toes little more than imagined, so small were their circumferences. The babe’s fingers the meat of spider legs.

What dispensation obtainable, the coach said, is relative to desire. And none present could tell if the coach meant this as directive or question. Nor if the words were said for his own hearing.

Into each man, the coach continued, yes, even myself, yes, even the largest of you, is but a needle of violence. The elevated, the lucky few, may believe this hard metallic precision drawn out of them but it remains. Truth cannot be separated from the earth no more than stone. One by its scarcity. The other, plentitude. Both necessary.

The coach looked over his charges and the babe was aloft. Look with what sacrament even this archimandrite must begin. Origins cannot define. What do we know of the Anasazi that is not drawn from their earth, loosed like the ribbons of a bow? To the man who can match his authority to his yearning awaits the obeisance of all the universe. I will never sleep, said the coach, and I will never die.

With this the coach uncapped his black Sharpie Fine Point and upon the babe he placed his mark.

Roll Tide.

Friday, July 24, 2009

University of Alabama Football Report: SEC Media Days Edition

Day 1: We Control the Horizontal

Mike Slive knows no cure for hubris.

The commissioner of the SEC and carnival barker for the greatest show on field turf uses the opening day of what, despite its official rebranding as the conference kick-off, is still known to the lokes as “media days” to grandstand a bit (“if the SEC were a nation, it would have placed fourth in the Olympic medal count”).

Presently, he is on stage to announce an expanded television contract with ESPN, extending the SEC’s broadcast reach into 47% of American’s households before the sun’s even at a high angle. By this I mean the dissolution of the Holy Dave Trinity that accompanies the early-morning SEC game each Saturday in the fall.

Over the years its UHF broadcast flew under various official corporate banners--Jefferson Pilot, Lincoln Financial, Raycom--and unofficially, albeit affectionately, as the “hangover game” or the Bloody Mary Bowl.

It is appropriate first day topic because the four teams represented today, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi State, and Vanderbilt, will represent the conference’s east and west divisions the majority of the time during these broadcasts. Greats swaths of our nation, from Phoenix to Newark, from Oak Park to Portland, will have “ESS EEE SEE foo-baw” for breakfast for the first time.

Southern transplants, in case you have forgotten, the preferred recipe is one shot over ice, three squirts of hot sauce, four squirts of Worcestershire, one twist of black pepper, fill with tomato juice, stir with a teaspoon of horseradish, top with two olives.

You have your orders.

Quote of the day: “I am on stage,” via Twitter from Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen.

Day 2: Last Night a DJ Ruined My Life

The recent dust up between Florida coach Urban Meyer and professional moron baiter Paul Finebaum reminds one of a joke political reporters tell each other at Washington cocktail parties about political reporters at Washington cocktail parties.

It goes as follows: A reporter named John Smith attends a party held in the home of a prominent political figure when, to the surprise of the guests, in walks the President of the United States. (Which one differs with each telling. Most prefer Teddy Roosevelt. Nixon is also popular, for obvious reasons. Clinton makes a strong showing. No matter.)

After some calming down, the guests each get their chance to meet the leader of the free world. But before our reporter can say anything, the President angrily blurts, “John Smith? You libelous guttersnipe! I’d never have attended this party had I known a lowlife, lying hack like yourself would be here!” With that, the President leaves.

John Smith, upon his return home, is asked by his wife, “How was the party?”

“Great,” he says, “the President knows my name!”

It is hard to imagine that Urban Meyer, the conference’s current offensive pioneer, winner of two National Championships in three years, mentor of arguably college football’s greatest player, doesn’t have enough sense to ignore talk radio in July.

But there you have it. Urban Meyer is no better than Phyllis from Mulga.

In other news, the Great Leader says that boys stormed the beaches of Normandy so that Steve Spurrier could vote for Jevan Snead in peace. Alas, they apparently died in vain and our coach’s struggle with appropriate metaphor continues.

Quote of the day: “Yes,” answers Tim Tebow, confirming that he, like the circumstance of his birth, is virginal.

Day 3: J’accuse, Steve Spurrier!

A mistake?

Arresting the President’s friend for a B&E in his own house is a mistake. Spurrier’s voting for Snead over Tebow is just nuts.

However, just as nuts is the idea that it matters or is unexpected. After all, this is the same man who said Peyton Manning returned for his senior season to become a back-to-back Citrus Bowl MVP.

Or is he the same man? The Spurrier of old wouldn’t have kowtowed to public pressure, even if he meant to vote for Tebow in the first place. He claims his vote wasn’t even his, that one of the administrative directors filled out the ballot for his review. This is common and reveals in snapshot how silly all coaches’ votes are, from all-star teams to top-25 polls.

But it also shows either a lack of interest or oversight, neither flattering.

Congratulations, South Carolina. First, he gave up calling plays. Then, he’s praising a seven-wins-per-season average as “success.” And now he’s backpedaling from outright jackassery.

Gamecocks, you have left Steve Spurrier a broken man. I hope you’re happy.

Quote of the day: “We had to create national attention immediately,” says Lane Kiffin, and with that he reached for a bucket of diesel fuel and lit his cigarette.

Roll Tide.

Friday, July 03, 2009

University of Alabama Football Report for 7/03/09: Star-Spangled, Firework-Blasting, Flag-Waving Independent Edition

This weekend you’ll hear lots of people proclaiming their patriotic bona fides, a love of the mother land et al., as if love of country were the stuff of a baby gurgling at a swollen teat. Myself, I prefer patriots who are partners in this enterprise, who love the ol’ gal warts and all.

For example, I am a lifelong collector of Nixonia--memorabilia, tchotchke, and swag related to one Richard Milhous Nixon. My collection’s not as extensive as others’, I’m sure. I am at best an amateur. One can imagine the goldmine Woodward has, or Bill Clinton, or the junior Senator from Minnesota.

That is not to say my inventory is without interest. Did you know, for instance, that the Watergate scandal was adapted into a musical? I have the original cast recording. The grand dance number is entitled “Do the Nixon!”

And I’ve sundry other Nixon bits: a ceramic pipe holder making use of his caricatured nose, a direct mail piece with CREEP (the Committee to Re-elect the President) prominently featured, a dreadlock of shag carpet reportedly from the Nixon White House’s bowling alley.

It is a respectable, albeit motley, catalog. In a way, I feel the tackier the item, the better it reflects the 37th President of these United States. Nixon is not one for subtly, and in that I find his appeal.

Across the landscape of American politics, perhaps no one has ever been so brazen and devoid of fear as Nixon. Consequences--hell, rewards--be damned! Nixon must be Nixon, and he will do what his will desires. Certainly this is due to his pathology, but it is also the measure of his, for lack of a better term, charm. He is a pungent, smoky ripple of molten iron burning through the bland, uniform, cardboard layers of the American body politic.

In truth, my interest in Nixon is linked to his total embrace of the Southern strategy of the 1960s and 70s, which targeted white, rural Southerners as potential Republican voters by using coded language appealing to their ignorance, fear, and, most of all, racism. I lived through it in real time, and I can attest to its effectiveness.

But you don’t need my testimony. To an American below a certain age, it is impossible to imagine the old “solid South” of Democratic Party support, so much so that for years the gubernatorial elections of Alabama and many other states below the Mason-Dixon were decided by who won the Democratic primary, not the general election.

All of this brings me to another certain Republican creep, Sarah Palin. It would be false praise to call her original. I have seen this rough beast slouch toward us before. Nor can I say I find her ideas contemptible. She would have to put forth ideas first. However, I will say I admire her in much the same way one is amazed by a car choking out another two miles long after the gauge has bottomed out on E.

Palin’s appeal, for those who respond to it, bubbles up from that same dun cauldron of resentment and anger that Nixon brewed up four decades ago. But this time, I think, I hope, the beast will devour itself. Perhaps we are no longer a people who deserve a Nixon.

Today’s announcement of her planned resignation (and let’s be honest, she’s just flaky enough to call the damn thing off in a few weeks) signifies a full-throated commitment to the airheaded nihilism that’s taken her this far. Without the distraction of governance (such as it is) of Alaska in her way, she’s free to pursue whatever divisive whim or lucrative paycheck comes her way.

But what she doesn’t understand is what Nixon knew to his core: the Southern strategy was a means to an end, not an invitation. The hicks are welcome to watch the fireworks, but the professionals get to light the fuse. Otherwise, people start losing fingers.

Roll Tide.

Friday, June 12, 2009

University of Alabama Football Report for 6/12/09

There was nothing evil at work, or at least nothing more evil than bureaucratic myopia and, perhaps, a little laziness on the part of UA athletic administrators who are, by the way, still UA athletic administrators. Every month, data came in from the Supply Store. Every month, it went from an administrative assistant (who was only looking for “correct code”) to an assistant athletic director to an associate athletic director, up the chain and out the door, rubber-stamped with no evidence of close scrutiny. Is that the ultimate crime? Not at all. But banality can be just as deadly as villainy.
-- Cecil Hurt, Tuscaloosa News, 6/11/09

Much of the horribly painstaking thoroughness in the execution of the Final Solution . . . characteristic of the perfect bureaucrat—can be traced to the odd notion . . . that to be law-abiding means not merely to obey the laws but to act as though one were the legislator of the laws that one obeys.
-- Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, p. 137

Along with the vacated wins from the 2005–2007 seasons (looking back to those seasons, some of those games appeared to be vacated before they were played), Alabama should keep the dustbins at hand and start vacating a few offices too. The University of Alabama athletic department has long held the, mostly valid, reputation as a holding pen for various Ministers without Portfolios, a bloated club of good ol’ boy sinecure positions that invites applicants based more on their bloodlines than their resumes.

The most polite detractors of these hard(ly) working folks have been content to replace them gradually as they die off, a piece-by-piece renovation that will one day reveal an entirely new model. One that befits the multimillion-dollar enterprise that UA athletics has become in today’s world of “amateur” sports. However, the time has come for a wholesale upgrade.

As Cecil Hurt, our resident taste-maker, noted yesterday, our memory of the vacated games will no longer match the record books—no real problem for a fan base that employs oral history as devotedly as Vedic priests—but our future is the real concern. While it may seem silly to believe there is a “competitive advantage” in playing athletes who picked up free textbooks for their girlfriends, the basis for an appeal should focus on the probation window, not the past.

Although most of the students who exploited the textbook system participated in sports that many Bama fans may not even know exist, the most egregious offenders, the ones who repeatedly and knowingly worked the loophole, were a handful of football players. It’s a testament to a few players’ ambition that they were able to scam the system so much that even arguably incompetent oversight found them out.

An ironically fitting rumor going around today is that only games through 2005 were vacated because the athletic department’s records did not extend further than four years ago. Finally, those fuck-ups are good for something!

Added all up, it’s hard to get too pissy with the NCAA over this. If anything, the head of the Committee on Infractions seemed a bit bewildered with what to do about such a minor incident given our major reputation, like busting John Dillinger for jaywalking.

But it’s that reputation that must be dealt with, especially now that the “repeat offender” clause has been re-activated until 2014. That’s five years or 1,826 days or 43,824 hours in which some senile blueblood who stirred Wallace Wade’s coffee or Paunchy Moneydonor III’s bastard son can doze off at the switch and screw up this good thing we’ve got going.

From day one on the job, the Great Leader has spoken of “The Process” of building a successful football program. He yammers on about it so much that the phrase is on nearly as many t-shirts as “Roll Tide” and “Yea Alabama!” He’s emphasized it to players, to recruits, to the press, even to the fans, but despite the price tag, he’s still just a football coach.

Should Mal Moore step down? He’s more of a bagman than an administrator anyway. He’s already raised the money needed to upgrade the stadium, the facilities, the basketball coach, pretty much anything he gives a damn about (sorry, baseball); so dumping him will affect the future about as little as those 21 vacated wins. But it’s past time for some coldhearted son of a bitch to step in and streamline things for the next five-year run.

Roll Tide.

Friday, June 05, 2009

University of Alabama Football Report for 6/5/09

Earlier this week, J. D. Salinger offered a new story to the world featuring his most famous protagonist, Holden Caulfield. Disappointingly, this work wasn’t penned by the author himself but rather by his lawyer. And for a specific audience, the U.S. District Court in New York, where Salinger filed suit against the author and would-be publishers of a sequel to Catcher in the Rye.

Obviously, this is not the famously private Salinger’s first go ‘round in refusing others’ attempts to build on his work. Billy Wilder wanted to make a movie out of the book while it was still banned from most schools’ reading lists. Twenty-some years ago, Steven Spielberg, fresh from making America fall in love with an alien resembling three feet of stacked dog shit, wanted to put Holden’s time in Central Park up on the big screen. He was curtly refused.

The author has reportedly insisted that there’s “no more to Holden Caulfield” and that anyone looking for more should “read the book again.” But that’s not quite the whole story. At Princeton University, in the Firestone Library’s Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, you can, with proper ID and supervision, thumb through a little more of Holden’s story. Or, to be precise, you can look through his brother Allie’s story.

Princeton came upon the unpublished Caulfield story and other works through the donation of an old literary journal. Some of the stories were declined for publication, others were requested back by the author. The library has been able to keep the collection under one condition: the works are not to be published until fifty years after the author’s death.

Salinger is currently ninety years old, alive, and litigious.

Princeton’s copies are stored away for safekeeping, but reproductions are available for viewing for anyone willing to out himself as a hardcore fan. So if you can endure the rolled eyeballs and tired sighs of a few librarians, there’s more to the story for you.

And, depending on the court's ruling and your stomach for cheap cash-ins, there will probably be more to the story for the rest of us too. The supposed sequel’s defense will rest on a large body of precedent, if and when the court handles the case. It’s unlikely that the publishers will deny the work’s outright connection to Salinger’s original; the author’s pen name is J. D. California and the would-be Holden character is called “Mr. C.”

It’s further unlikely that this book will be viewed, as a matter of statute, as a harm upon the original’s copyright. Would Salinger, unlikely as it seems, choose to pen his own sequel to Catcher in the Rye, I’d bet none of his readers would shrug it off.

Those are secondary concerns anyway. The primary basis that the court would likely assess in its decision would be whether the new work involves a transformational value within itself, a standard closely connected to the assessment of parodies applied next to the original.

Legally, the new work or parody must be seen as a comment on the original source, not a repetition of the original. Supposedly, the sequel posits Holden as an old man, a retired sourpuss living upstate. It may even include Salinger himself as a character. So whether or not it’s any good, it at least acknowledges its origins. But that presents its own problems.

Whatever else it is, Catcher in the Rye, and the mixed-up kid in the middle of it, is a set piece in its time, a fixed position where Holden knows just enough to be dangerous. Enough to buy a hooker but not enough to do anything fun with her. Not enough to be an adult but enough to know his childhood’s gone.

Transform Holden Caulfield? Into what?

Don’t get me wrong, I know he’s an easy target. And the book’s been around for so goddam long that the whole idea’s tired now. He’s a clichéd shorthand for every bored teenager too smart for his own good. Being the ubiquitous model for an entire trope opens one up to merciless and macabre disdain. Just ask the jackals who bid on Elvis’s empty pill bottles this week at auction.

When the quiet man speaks, you’d do well to listen. “Read the book again.”

Roll Tide.

Friday, May 08, 2009

University of Alabama Football Report: Decoration Day

Decoration Day, the day upon which the living gather to memorialize and visit with their familial dead throughout the South, may have its origin as a martial holiday, Confederate Memorial Day, at a time when the population beneath the ground dwarfed the one atop it.

Others claim that it began years afterward, influenced by the annual observance of Robert E. Lee’s death at Arlington House, with rural areas of the Virginia following suit, then expanding farther, county to county, state to state.

Antebellum origins of lunching in the graveyard can be claimed by the odd stew of French, Creole, and Haitians living in the port of New Orleans, meaning that the observance may bear more of a religious mark than military one. Springtime, after all, is the playing field of renewal motifs of which Easter is but the most common. There’s also the practical consideration, being when flowers would be most easily found and prepared for the graveside.

Therefore, befitting a confederacy, little consensus can be found on the origins, or even proper observation, of Decoration Day throughout the South. This is especially true within the state of Alabama, who, according to section 1-3-8 of the state code, officially marks Decoration Day as the “Fourth Monday in April” to commemorate Joseph E. Johnston’s surrendering to Sherman.

Therein lay at least two sly jokes. The first being that Johnston’s strategy of “withdrawal and hold” helped, shall we say, create the demand for such an observance. The second being that, in the grave, we have at last found a location from which Johnston could not further retreat.

However, perhaps because of the nature of the observance or, more likely, because the proclamation came long after the fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find, from town to town, graveyard to graveyard, a shared calendar date that all will agree on. Early June? Late April? Easter weekend? Mother’s Day weekend? The answer changes.

Over the years, larger families with longer lives may even lead to multiple observances on multiple weekends at multiple graves. One for the in-laws, another for the grandparents, another still for the new blood. But new blood is a relative term here. The changing demographics of the region and the technological influence of mass media have reduced most things “Southern” to a quick way to sell biscuits at fast food joints. Soon, this will all be forgotten.

I have memories of large family gatherings, an aristocracy of a small concern, girls in organdy dresses and boys in uncomfortable shoes. Women tending to an endless convoy of plates and trays. Men disguising their entertainments in polite conversation. A grandmother, the family’s Rex Sacrorum, who instructed us to respect our dead. Now they all have their places and the places all bear their names.

Why do we talk to the dead? How can they contribute through their absence more than some of the living do by their presence? “Let the dead bury their dead.” Easy for the Comeback Kid to say; the rest of us aren’t playing with house money. If the dead can teach us anything, they should teach us our limits, which extend further than we know yet shorter than we desire.

In the language of the internet, “disposable” is a value judgment, not a descriptive. The website post or the Photoshop image or the video clip that made you chuckle two, five, ten years ago is still online. Somewhere. But you don’t seek it out because its value is exhausted. It has been disposed. It is a ghost. When we talk to the dead, they remind us that they are permanent.

Roll Tide.

Friday, May 01, 2009

University of Alabama Football Report for May Day, 2009

Whoever has learned to be anxious in the right way has learned the ultimate.
-- Kierkegaard, The Concept of Dread

Earlier this morning the United States House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection summoned our peerless overseers of the Bowl Championship Series before their authority. Led by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas, seen here) of Arlington, the subcommittee gave audience to the desert criers of college football, represented by the commissioner of the Mountain West Conference.

One assumes they also rolled out the blue [sic] carpet for Boise State’s athletic director, who told them exactly what they wanted to hear, unlike the current BCS commissioner, regarding the appropriateness of a playoff. Furthermore, the subcommittee examined the diligent efforts of not only the BCS but also Derrick Fox.

Derrick Fox, you say? The Derrick Fox, head of the Alamo Bowl? Hero to millions? Beloved by mothers and desired by daughters? Correct, good reader, so you know this is serious. Besides, what other possible concern could a commerce subcommittee have to worry about these days?

Under what auspices I cannot fathom, but in an apparent show trial, Rep. Barton has decided to let the world know that he really wants a playoff for college football, which is strange considering that he’s a Texas A&M fan, and they’re on the verge of becoming the fourth best team in Texas (c’mon TCU). Also, hasn’t he ever heard of a message board? Or, given that he considers the BCS a form of communism, maybe shouting on a street corner is more his bag.

But other than despoiling what would be an otherwise glorious recognition of International Workers’ Day, what will Barton and his ranting accomplish today? Not much, to be generous. He’s confident that his proposed playoff, were it to reach the President’s desk, would be signed, but that’s not going to happen. And good for it too. The last thing we need is a basketball player from Chicago trying to fix college football.

Herein lies the trouble with fixing college football: it’s not broken. Or, to be straight, it’s no more broken than it’s ever been. No offense, Mr. President, but I won’t tell you how to mobilize millions of votes from an otherwise cynical and disaffected generation, and you don’t tell me how to hate Notre Dame. I’ve been doing it for a long time and, frankly, I’m pretty damn good at it.

Granted, the BSC is far from perfect--in fact, it’s pretty lousy. But it’s a contained lousiness that only renders, say, the Orange Bowl meaningless. A playoff would be a full-blown pandemic, a pigskin flu, if you will. The contagion would spread throughout the regular season, discouraging out-of-conference scheduling and decreasing the importance of each contest, each rivalry.

What is really happening on the Hill today is but one more manifestation of the American public’s changing view of sports from spectacle to product. For example, the Kentucky Derby takes place tomorrow, as does possibly the best boxing match-up in the past decade, yet there’s little concern for either but for the remnant of an old guard and a litany of compulsive gamblers (redundant?).

Both have been replaced in the casual sports fan’s imagination by more consumer-friendly alternatives. The investment/return ratio on horse racing or boxing is a rip off compared to NASCAR’s weekly autopocalypse or Ultimate Fighting’s creature-comforted bar-brawls. The airy talk of noble breeds or sweet science lacks the clean, clearly branded, result-oriented product available on the open market.

Not that a playoff in and of itself is a necessarily awful idea. No one watching the opening weekend of March Madness or awaiting tonight’s Celtics/Bulls series ender would dare say something that stupid. But neither event is college football, and that’s where a playoff makes as much sense as stilts on a giraffe.

Unlike any other sport, college football is unfair. More so than pro football, more so than baseball, especially more so than college basketball; and this inequity, this uncertainty to its claims, is to college football’s great benefit. There are perpetual underdogs. There are haves and there are have-nots.

College football is, in an increasingly fleeting and mobile cultural ocean, a marker of regionalism and identity. Its uncertain ending mirrors our own. We know not when the game ends, but we know the clock is ticking. This is not just what is so, but what must be so.

If you want your college football team to matter, then make them matter! Pay some asshole four million dollars to coach them! Drag 84,000 of your friends to watch them scrimmage on a rainy afternoon! Give a damn! College football is unfair, but it is fairly unfair.

Would a playoff make college football equitable? No. A playoff is not a mechanism of fairness, but a branding tool to reduce the demand on the consumer’s attention and increase the yield for his impatience. A playoff is only desirable in the same way that saying “gimme a number three” became desirable over saying “I’ll have a burger, fries, and a Coke.”

And what of Barton’s complaint? Is the BSC a communist cartel? From each conference according to its ability, congressman, to each conference according to its need. Greetings, comrade.

Roll Tide.

Friday, April 17, 2009

University of Alabama Football Report for 4/17/09: A-Day Preview

“It’s human nature to be average.”
--Nick Saban

“Let's not quibble! I'm the foe of moderation, the champion of excess.”
--Tallulah Bankhead

Although Nick Saban is not mentioned by name in The Open Society and its Enemies, Karl Popper’s reshaping the masses’ question from Plato’s “Who should rule?” to “the new question: How can we so organize political institutions that bad or incompetent rulers can be prevented from doing too much damage?” is as strong an indictment as anything you’ll read on a rival team’s lockerroom wall or a Miami newspaper’s sports page.

Here, Popper advocates the open society’s evolution from totalitarianism to freedom, the responsibilty of the individual to rise above the lockstep march of historicism, to quit cold-turkey the false narcotic of “the Good” electing “the Wise.” It matters not who rules, says Popper, when we have the rule of law. That may be fine for the Republic, but it’s a shitty way to run a football team.

A-Day, the University of Alabama football squad’s annual spring scrimmage, is tomorrow and if the throngs of barbarians crashing the gates these past two years mean anything, it’s that it matters a hell of a lot who’s in charge. The Great Leader has put forth the call for the masses to converge in Tuscaloosa tomorrow because he believes such numbers impress the still ductile minds of high school football players. And he is not alone.

Two years ago, the capacity crowd at Bryant-Denny Stadium was a punchline for the commentariat at ESPN; tomorrow, it will be a programming block. Schools around the country now campaign to boost their spring attendance totals. One website even offers odds on the scrimmage (Crimson +8). So people are paying attention.

This may be the time to start paying attention too, because the bandwagon may fill up fast. The Great Leader has dedicated the spring to improving the defense’s pass rush and seems to have gained a return on the investment.

It is one thing for the blowhard at Egan’s or the old man at his tailgate or some obsessive on a website to bring up the ’92 squad when discussing this defense; it’s quite another when Cecil Hurt does it.

In print.

In April.

John Copeland will be in town for the alumni seven-on-seven game, so maybe someone should ask him what he thinks of the new guys. But not tomorrow.

Tomorrow is for excess, for hyperbole, for bravado. No matter the outcome, your favorite team wins.

Roll Tide.

Friday, March 13, 2009

University of Alabama Football Report for 3/13/09: Bad Luck Edition

And not a fieldglass sees them home,
Or curious stop-watch prophesies:
Only the grooms, and the groom's boy,
With bridles in the evening come.
--Philip Larkin, “At Grass”

The University of Alabama Crimson Tide football team officially began the drumbeat toward the new season today by holding their first spring practice session, a many-holds-barred affair with little contact and much sweat. Beyond the introduction of a handful of new coaches and early enrollees, today’s practice was as de rigeur as could be expected: the conclusion of off-season workouts, the assignments of jerseys, and the annual suspension of Prince Hall.

Hall’s time at the Capstone has been turbulent. Perhaps he peaked too soon. Earning accolades as a freshman under the old regime and then disappearing down the depth chart as an upperclassman, Hall had supposedly reaffirmed his commitment to the team with his solid late-season contributions last year. However, if the dénouement of Andre Smith’s time in Tuscaloosa proves anything, it’s that old habits are the hardest to break.

That, and if you sign early with an agent, at least make sure the asshole’s competent.

Last year, Hall suspension was a source of handwringing among the skittish part of the fanbase that obsesses over position battles a full six months before the first play is snapped. But this year, following back-to-back top recruiting classes and dozen wins, the team need not hold a spot for him--and likely won’t.

Given the possible scholarship penalty awaiting Alabama due to the textbook policy violation--wait, textbook policy? Like actual student textbooks? For real college classes? Uh, OK. Whatever.

Given the possible scholarship penalty awaiting Alabama due to the textbook policy violation by the women’s teams and a handful of football players--hold up. The women’s teams? You mean, track and volleyball, right? And, what? Five football players? For real? This constitutes a department-wide investigation? Jesus Hussein Christ, I don’t know what the--

OK. OK. It’s just a bureaucracy. Play along. Play nice.

Given the possible scholarship penalty awaiting Alabama due to the textbook policy violation by the women’s teams and a handful of football players, Prince Hall may be more valuable to the team by his absence than his presence. But that’s all speculation for now.

Likewise, who will replace our former giant of left tackle is a mystery. A juco prospect looks to get a shot in the spring, but by fall, another monster may nudge him inward. A less positive speculative market surrounds the former three-year starter at that position, as his stock has dropped steadily and quickly, with hopes of a bail out growing smaller each day.

The bastards in advertising have always known that comfort is a weak motivator. You don’t sell a product through virtue, through making a good thing better. You sell through fear or envy or vanity or shame. The odd existential puzzle that faces both Smith and Hall now is how to see success as a danger. By peaking so soon in their endeavors, by being so praised for what came so easily to them, perhaps they couldn’t respond to adversity because they’d never known it.

I admit, this is an issue with which I am thoroughly unfamiliar.

But therein lies the beauty of menace, it will seek you out. Adversity, like passion, is best analogized as fire. It frightens. It consumes. It rewards those who are tempered through it.

Roll Tide.

Friday, January 30, 2009

University of Alabama Football Report for 1/30/09

Tonight the Late Show with David Letterman will air a stand-up routine by the comic Bill Hicks. This warrants special mention because, even though this will be the comedian’s twelfth appearance on the show, Hicks died nearly fifteen years ago.

In 1993, Bill Hicks became only the second performer to be censored on the stage of the Ed Sullivan Theatre. This put him in some pretty good company. As Bill pointed out, Elvis had been censored from the waist down, whereas he’d been censored from the neck up. Not one second of his routine made it to air.

Initially, Letterman’s producers claimed that CBS’s standards-and-practices division has excised his routine because it violated their broadcast standards. Bill believed them, at first, because the show’s segment producers had approved the routine and he delivered it, word-for-word, in the same fashion in front of the studio audience.

However, he soon learned that CBS’s in-house censors couldn’t have removed the act because they never saw it. Letterman’s own producers, no doubt with the host’s tacit approval, cut the material, perhaps for fear that the show, recently moved from another network and a later timeslot, would lose sponsors.

Bill never appeared on the program again and died of pancreatic cancer not long afterward. No one outside of his closest friends knew of his condition, and when fighting to get his routine aired on the show he never mentioned it to Letterman’s people either. In the end, all he asked for was a copy of the tape--for his mom.

Bill Hicks’s mother will appear on the show tonight too, and whether he’d view this as a vindication or an affront is something we’ll never know. But don’t think for a second that this means the endless flood of vomit spewed out by corporate America’s satanic pimps has been choked down and swallowed for even one night.

Someone, somewhere, even with Letterman’s good intentions, believes there’s a buck to be made by warming up Bill Hicks’s corpse. Bill would know that. And as long as you treat his mom nice, at least a nice sandwich on the house maybe, he’d probably even be OK with it.

Love all the people, after all.

One complaint against comedy performances, either a live routine or recording, is that they don’t hold up to repeated listening, that if you’ve heard the punch lines once you’ve little need to hear them again. It gets old.

With Bill, I’m not sure that’s true: your first listen may be the least important; after you laugh at the joke, then you’re free hear what he said. When asked by an interviewer “what if I don’t want to think when I go to a comedy club?” Bill replied, “fine, let’s meet wherever you do go to think.”

So what’s in the routine?

Well, that’s the thing. It’s no secret, and if you’re a fan you’ve probably heard it before. You can hear most of the same jokes on his concert albums or see them on YouTube clips. Hell, in his final show, a smirking Hicks made a point of introducing a section of his act as the jokes, word-for-word, too dangerous to be heard by a network television audience. He couldn’t believe it himself.

Without giving too much away, there’s a bit about pro-lifers, one about Jesus and crosses, some quick gags about the lame top-forty acts that always got under his skin, and a few jokes in between. But tonight’s broadcast is more about the singer than the song.

When you watch Bill Hicks tonight, try to remember that the man you’re seeing has nothing to lose; his clock is ticking, and faster than most at that. So you get to see how a performer would act when he knows that tonight might be his last time in front of an audience. Then realize that Bill Hicks had been acting that way for pretty much his entire career. That’s the joke.

In general though, the routine contained--as the man himself said--everything your parents hate, everything your church preaches against, and everything your government fears. Enjoy.

Roll Tide.