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.