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.