Friday, July 23, 2010

University of Alabama Football Report for 7/23/10: SEC Media Days Edition

Day 1: Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy
One of the drawbacks of the SEC’s expansive broadcasting deal with ESPN and the throngs of journalists, broadcasters, bloggers, and sportsertainment professionals it brings is that there’s no place free of laptops where one can rest one’s cocktail. Furthermore, the newer envoys from Connecticut seem observably Puritanical in their attitudes about public consumption.

They have other things to worry about though. No sooner had reports of Marcell “Second L” Dareus’s possible involvement with agents at a South Beach party surfaced than a competing narrative entered the sports media hivemind: Nick Saban is mad.

In and of itself, this is nothing new, but this day’s wrath is of a formerly undiscovered flavor. No mere disappointment or error has led him to this rage. Innumerable headsets may be smashed on the turf and still his ire shall not be satiated. For upon this day, much like Christ’s cleansing of the Temple, the Great Leader has revealed to all his righteous anger.

And with this fury, he may hew the very supports of our nation’s de facto state religion, the National Football League, from the shifting sand upon which they have sat for so long. Nick Saban sees agent interference with collegiate players as such a threat that he wants to choke off the monetary incentive rogue agents (the “pimps,” as he calls them) have for engaging with collegiate athletes. Namely, he’s willing to ban pro scouts from Alabama. Permanently.

This crazy fucker is trying to cockblock the NFL.

What’s crazier still is that it just might work! When arguably college football’s best walking evaluator of talent says he’ll kick pro scouts from his campus, it’s a good bet he’s got enough of his brothers-in-arms to follow suit. And that makes all the difference.

To many people, college football is an important ingredient of their identity, akin to culture or religion. To some people (cough cough… Yankees… cough cough), it is mere entertainment. To a select few, the people most harmed by these rogue agents, it is a path to riches. And to the NFL, college football is a 100 percent free, wildly effective, zero oversight farm system.

Without access to college campuses, NFL teams then have two ways to evaluate players: a four-day long combine and DirecTV’s PPV package. On those two factors, they are now free to extend a hundred-million-dollar contract to a twenty-year-old.

Good luck with that.

Quote of the day: The obvious choice here is the Great Leader’s assessment of sports agents, but how about a curveball?
“I have a lot of more first-round quarterbacks drafted than he has in his career as a head coach.”
—Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, on Saban’s opinion that spread offense players are more difficult to evaluate for professional football
A comment: Dude, did you show up late? Why would you want to piss that guy off?

Day 2: I Swear to God I Thought Turkeys Could Fly
The first rule of journalism is to stay objective. Just the facts, as they say. Thus, when the assembled press corps in the Wynfrey Hotel’s ballroom applauded Vanderbilt’s interim head coach, Robbie Caldwell, as he concluded his Q&A from the podium, you knew the man had won them over—big.

Granted, the press has always had a soft spot for Vandy’s coach—frankly, someone has to and it’s not the school (how else to explain their Sisyphean out-of-conference scheduling?). But Caldwell’s performance, equal parts Jack Pardee and Jerry Clower, genuinely stole the show, covering topics from breaking in a new quarterback to inseminating a turkey.

With even the Steve Spurrier, resigned to his lion in winter status, saying that he’s “just another ball coach trying to win,” Vandy’s new man provided a welcome aperitif to the staid diet of coachspeak offered by Petrino and Richt.

Caldwell only found out he would be a head coach within the last week after the abrupt retirement of Bobby Johnson and claimed that he was so unknown to the locals that he was mistaken for a doorman (and pocketed a tip). If he can produce an on-field performance half as entertaining as his press wooing, the hokey act may become a staple of Media Days for years.

He’s already got the support of the third estate. Now he just has to win over the people who’ve already hired him.

Quote of the day:
“My first hourly paying job was on the turkey farm. … I was on the inseminating crew. That's a fact. I worked my way to the top. That's a fact, man. … Best job I ever had.”
—Robbie Caldwell, knows his way around, and in, a turkey

Day 3: Do You Have the Time?
For the first time in a decade, LSU is picked to finish lower than second in their division. Specifically, the Bayou Bengals are slotted fourth, above the two Mississippi schools, and received only one reporter’s vote to finish atop the conference.

Worse still, even though two LSU defensemen appear on the pre-season first team, they are alone among their teammates, including the second team—this despite consistent top ten recruiting classes for the past four years. Thus, we have a near consensus among the South’s press that players get worse the longer they stay in Baton Rouge.

One could humorously proffer that too much boudin is to blame, but at this point it’s clearer than ever that an even bigger meathead is at fault here.

I used to play tennis with a hack politico, a devious Teuton who swore allegiance to anything connected to a paycheck. In his estimation, the only unforgivable sin was a public figure’s reinforcing people’s own worst opinion of him. According to the shorthand version of last year’s Ole Miss game, Les Miles cannot tell time.

He was late to his own press conference.

Quote of the day:
“I reached out to Coach Fulmer, who I know is in many ways still in a painful state, and I understand. I told him that, I understood, because it was a difficult time in Tennessee.”
—Derek Dooley, on his contact with former Volunteer head coaches
Painful? Ha ha ha! Ha! Ha! I mean, ahem, no hard feelings, fatso. You were a bastard but worthy of hating, unlike the shithead they replaced you with.

Roll Tide.