Monday, September 21, 2015

The Fall Of A Dynasty? Some Writers Have A Flair for the Dramatic

Okay, I kept this in for two days already and have been silently reading (and fuming) over the apparent lack of real homework done by any of the so-called sportswriters on a national level.  Three in particular - Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports, Dan Wolken of USA Today, and Matt Hayes of The Sporting News - are the ones that have really gotten me to question journalism at this point.  Is it really about being someone with credibility or do you now need to come up with stories worthy of the Enquirer to make sure people read your articles?  Are you guys really educated and capable of thinking a concise and clear thought, or do we all just want to jump on the bandwagon and hope that Alabama truly is headed for the ultimate, timely demise? 

Each of these three "reporters" are writing about Alabama's Dynasty coming to end.  It looks like the dynasty is over.  They're done.  We all saw it coming.  Guys, I have to ask - who 'anointed' this a dynasty in the first place?  It certainly wasn't Nick Saban or anyone in Tuscaloosa.  As a matter of fact, though there are some "extreme" fans, most of the Crimson Tide faithful were not eager to accept the moniker of 'dynasty'.  While many are hard-core and will defend their team to the bitter end, we know all too well that what is given can also be taken away.  Not all of us think there will be a National Championship every year, however (like many programs) we are always hopeful.  Still, to say this is a dynasty is a tad presumptuous as the program resides in the SEC West.  Things can change overnight, much less season to season.  Maybe.....just guys want to be the first to say the incredible run is over so that, should it truly happen, you can say, "See, I told you I was right."  Then again, if Alabama happens to ascend back to the top of the pile, you can always give an excuse why you were wrong and it won't look like such a big deal.  Funny, but I'm coming to think many of you are frustrated meteorologists - you don't have to be right OR wrong, you just have to state an opinion.  If you're right, you're a genius and great at your job.  If you're wrong, there are other factors involved that changed the situation.  No one ever seems to call you to task for your errors as long as there are readers.  Let's examine, though, some of your incredible insights. Shall we?

Let's start with Matt Hayes of The Sporting News.  The article that begins with, "Here we are, smack in the middle of we're better than you, and suddenly lost in where do we go from here?"  Seriously?  I watch the local and national news every day and NOT ONCE have I seen anyone on the Alabama team or staff say they are better than everyone else.  As a matter of fact, when members of THE PRESS began speaking about Middle Tennessee State and that Alabama was such a favorite, I believe it was Nick Saban that made sure you understood that he and the team were well aware that that opponent had put 700+ yards on their counterparts the previous week and they were being shown respect.  Thought it was lip service, did you?  Nick always preaches that the most important game is the NEXT game regardless of who it is.  Start thinking ahead and you get beat.  Then he goes on to talk about the uncertainty and raises the question of which all three of these fine gentlemen want to understand - why can't Alabama recruit a quarterback?  Well, guys, they have.  You seem to forget, while admitting that AJ McCarron was the starter for three years, that few of the other young men on the bench got a chance to play.  Blake Sims came in to clean things up in several games while AJ rested, but the others did not.  Ah, Blake Sims - I heard Pat Forde and others call him a 'stop gap' while Bama was trying to work the next QB into the rotation.  Did you guys happen to watch ANY football last year?  Did you happen to see Blake setting passing records while he was playing the role of 'stop gap' QB?  You remember that, right?  I've heard the question about the quarterback recruiting ad nauseum and I have to say, ANY program that has a QB that can play for multiple years will be more comfortable as time goes on.  Blake Barnett.  Remember the name.  You want to know why he can't recruit and you use your 'visionary' hindsight in questioning the crop of QB's on the roster, while I will go out on a limb and actually predict something (much like Pat Forde predicting Auburn would run the SEC West this year) like Blake Barnett orchestrating the resurgence of what you call a dynasty.  There it is - my prediction.

Hayes then goes on to say that the first mark in the fall of a champion is how they make excuses.  The exact words were, "There's no greater indicator of a lost dynasty, no more prominent a red flag, than ignoring the obvious: this is not the same Alabama program of years gone by."  Well, welcome to the real world, Mr Hayes.  Aren't you the astute one.  Problem is, you say that Saban and his players, while noting that they committed five turnovers and that a win cannot be expected when that happens, were making excuses.  It wasn't an excuse, it was an explanation.  You knew it, they knew it....hell, we ALL knew it.  Five turnovers, especially in the areas of the field where they were committed, would give any opponent an advantage.  Does that excuse it?  In no way, shape, or form.  It was not, however, an excuse.  While we're at it, you DID happen to see the final score, right?  43-37?  Six points?  One thing that the Alabama fans were certain of, and perhaps you might have noticed, was that there was no concession in this team.  Did Jake Coker throw an interception late?  He did.....while taking a brutal hit that caused his release to be ill-timed.  An excuse?  No.  An explanation.  I'm sure, though,, that you want to count this as another determining factor in the fall of a dynasty.  What you do not acknowledge, though, is that this team never gave up.  I've heard more than one person admit that this was, regardless of the outcome, one of the most exciting games played because Bama was never, ever out of it until the final series.  If you can honestly say you knew they'd lose any time before that, I say you're not truthful.  Until the last drive with four incomplete passes, they were not out of it.  Period.

What amazes me, too, is that on an annual basis we hear about the strength of schedule of most teams and how they, "schedule cupcakes on their way to another championship or the playoffs."  I heard (at least three times or more) this year that Alabama's schedule rated as the toughest, though that got little press as the season drew closer.  I guess the 'dynasty' teams are supposed to play tougher schedules so we have more parity, right?  Ohio State plays one ranked team all year and barely escapes Northern Illinois and no one says a word, yet Alabama plays Ole Miss and loses (again, by less than a touchdown) and the dynasty is over.  Stick a fork in them, they're done.  Really?   Yes, Michigan State and Ohio State rule the football world right now.  The beauty of this is that the season still has nine more weeks (or 75% remaining).  What say we wait until we get to the final two or three to see how they stack up.  Let's see how you guys feel when a Northern Illinois or Northern Iowa knocks off one of them.  Will we then hear how the might Buckeyes have fallen or will you find a way to, once again, show some anti-SEC bias.

Ironically, I saw Dan Wolken point out the obvious, too - Ole Miss had two things that Alabama doesn't have - a solid field goal kicker and a QB.  Thank you, Captain Obvious, for taking a shot at the easiest target - the field goal kicker.  Dan, I'm not sure what game you watched or if you thought that was just something you could say and it rang true for every game Bama plays, but Adam Griffith was not the reason Alabama didn't win.  You can make the statement that their 'dynasty' is over because they don't have a solid kicker, but that just makes me wonder if you really watched the game or, honestly, have any knowledge whatsoever about football in general.  I mean, I'm not a coach but I am an avid student of the game and try to learn as much as I can.  I do not profess to knowing, in a detailed manner, about certain specifics of the game, however I can tell you that there were problems the other evening that some of you brilliant writers failed to even think of addressing.  What about the offensive line?  There were issues there that, had they been rectified, would've allowed both Coker and Bateman more time to make reads and increase their completion percentage.  Not one of you said a word.  Derrick Henry would've been able to increase his stats had he been able to hit a hole that was, well, actually there.  You guys seriously missed that part?  Oh, but you wanted to spout off about the defense and that they aren't anywhere near the standard of years gone by.  Did you see how many tipped or blocked passes there were?  Bama's defense is just fine.  I will concede, though, that you did mention the secondary.  Again, another easy target, in my opinion.  Since the departure of Jeremy Pruitt a few years ago, the secondary, as whole, has not been playing to the same standard.  Nick replaced the coach, brought in new talent to replace the NFL departures, and they are young.  You guys, however, expect these kids to jump into a new system and play to the highest level of college football immediately.  Again, not being a genius about this, I'm going to go out on a limb here - Nick Saban and staff will not 'dumb down' their proven methods to make it easier because, as a solid educator, he wants to teach them to do it right.  No shortcuts.  That, gentlemen, may take a tad longer than anyone would like, however they will be stronger for it in the end. 

There was one writer, though - Kevin McGuire of NBC Sports - who wrote a piece that was contradictory to what these three wrote and, ironically, mentioned these three people by name.  He pointed out, much as I have, that there observations were suspect at best.  He asked what I am asking - does this loss mean the mighty Alabama has fallen and things are over in Tuscaloosa?  His conclusion, much as mine, is no.  Things are not over.  Know why?  Alabama lost a game.  A GAME.  They lost a game last year, too.  Just for grins & giggles, I went back to the record books for a peek at the Bear's legacy.  You will NOT believe what I found.  In 1968, after several great years, his team was 8-3.  In 1969, it was 6-5 and in 1970, it was 6-5-1.  Do you believe it?  THE BEAR HAD 6WINS and 5 LOSSES!!!  Oh, as an aside, over the next 9 years, his worst record (once) was 9-3.  Every other year was 11-1 (6 times), 10-2 (once), and 12-0 (once).  Bear Bryant having two seasons that were 6-5 sort of blows your mind, right?  The point is, no team is going to stay at the pinnacle every season.  They just can't.  No one but you writers anointed Bama a dynasty, either.  Don't blame Saban, the quarterbacks, the kicker, or anything else - they simply lost a game.  I know you don't think it's that simple, but they were on the wrong side of the score.  To say that a deflected pass off a helmet that accounted for a touchdown means a dynasty has fallen is ludicrous.  To not acknowledge the lack of a call on the pass for a touchdown where a lineman was obviously downfield is garbage.  To think that the five turnovers accounted for nothing more than an excuse is ridiculous.

Yes, Alabama lost to Ole Miss.  If writing that the mighty have fallen helps get you readers, then so be it.  As n observer of this program, though, I have to tell you that the Alabama faithful are neither delusional nor worried.  We have, without question, what most consider to be the best coach in the game.  It has not passed him by, believe me.  His knowledge has no bearing on how many times a ball is turned over to the other team.  He and the staff are fine.  The players are fine.  We stand behind them and support them.  After all, they are the Crimson Tide and, while many might think we are simply kidding ourselves,  I will tell you that this team will be fine.  If they have a down year, so be it.  You counted them out last year, too, and they entered the Playoffs ranked #1.  Did they lose? the eventual National Champions.  You guys have heard the phrase, "Any given Saturday," right?  It happens.  Just ask Oklahoma State of a few years back.  Better yet, ask USC after this week.....or Oregon after their meeting with Ohio State.....or Florida State after......well, you get it.

I appreciate you guys writing your articles.  I truly do.  It made me feel as if I might jump into sports journalism at some point because, obviously, all you have to do is guess or state an opinion.  Trouble is, you need to let people know it's simply an opinion.  You state it as fact, much like Pat Forde did when predicting that Auburn thing.  You know, the SEC West Champs this year.  LSU is still laughing about that one.  Oh, and should anyone see the Coach or players, let them know we are firmly planted where we always are - right behind them in support.  ROLL TIDE!

Until next time..............

Sunday, September 13, 2015

An Open Letter To Alabama Fans and An Apology to Coach Saban and the Crimson Tide

To ALL Alabama Crimson Tide Football Fans:

With all due respect, what are you thinking?  Before anyone asks, "How dare you," or, "Who the hell are you," let me state that I am an avid, loyal, diehard fan of the Tide myself.  As the old joke goes, my daughter and my money go to the University of Alabama.  I am a resident of the state and my tax dollars are invested here.  I've earned the right to say what I am about to say and, again, I have to ask - What are you thinking??

I have followed the Crimson Tide since Coach Bryant was pacing the sidelines and I plan to do the same for many years to come.  I have been fortunate enough to sit in the stands watching these teams play in person for the past several years and, once Coach Saban got to Tuscaloosa, I was one of the first to be fortunate enough to shake his hand and welcome he and Ms Terry.  You remember that, right?  We had just endured another sad season under Mike Shula and this once proud program had been slipping since Gene Stalling last won the National Championship in 1992.  Then, against all odds and news reports, Mal Moore hopped on a plane and headed to Florida.  You remember that, right?  How he was so very determined to breathe life back into a program that meant so much to him and to us all.  He was, I believe I recall later seeing him say, not coming back without Coach Saban.

Then came the introduction - Coach Saban and Ms Terry arrived in Tuscaloosa and our collective prayers had been answered.  He has been here longer than any other previous stop in his coaching career and yet we still have to listen to the stories and reports that he will be leaving.  Another joke I've heard recently - If Nick Saban retires here after another 30 years, someone will still have the nerve to say, "See?  I told you he'd leave!"  Well, folks, after what I've been seeing, I don't want to hear any complaints or disparaging comments if he does.  Why would I say that?  Well, after yesterday's game against Middle Tennessee, I can give several reasons.

First, let me say that we've heard Nick Saban preaching about complacency after the team won three National Championships in four years.  A sense of entitlement had seeped into the program and, as I'm fairly certain he does every year, he made sure each new team understood that the current team could not rest on their laurels for they were not THEIR laurels (some of the players perhaps) but the accomplishments of the previous years' team.  Each new year brought the challenge of finding an identity of their own and gaining respect week after week for what they have done.  Case in point - we don't have Blake Sims roaming the field this year, do we?  No, once again the team is forced to find a starting quarterback and many of you forget that it took Blake four years before he was the starter, and AJ McCarron did his understudy work with Greg McElroy.  The point being that every new year is a new team so they cannot get complacent.  That same sense of entitlement, though, has seeped into the fan base and the expectations, while I agree they should be hopefully high, have led to some rather uncalled-for comments and unkind words.  

Take, for example, the second field goal missed by Adam Griffith yesterday.  I'm not sure how many people knew that it had been tipped and an opponent got a hand on the ball after it left his foot, but when it did not go through the uprights we actually heard.....'booing' from the crowd.  How dare you?  Oh, I know - he gets a scholarship to MAKE these field goals, not miss them, right?  Well, let me ask - when was the last time you had 101,821 people watching you at work AND you were perfect?  More importantly, how perfect were you when you were in your early 20's?  Ah, not so much, huh? I hope to never hear that again from anyone in that stadium.  Sadly, I have no control and many of you are still asking who I am to ask this of you.  I'm no one.  I'm just an 'Everyman' that enjoys the privilege and honor of watching one of, if not THE, most storied programs in all of college football every Saturday in the fall.  While we're at it, these players and coaches, as well as opponents, give up much to provide the entertainment you all desire on Saturday afternoons.  They sacrifice much to be on that field and they deserve to have people in the stands cheering them on.  It is our part of the equation and The Process - they promise to do their part, now we have to do our part.  Park your ass in the seat and stay for the entire game - they deserve that and though you might want to beat traffic and the crowds, they never get to leave early.  You wanted this and we have it - a championship-quality team every year.  Would you rather have a team on the same level as, say, Kentucky or Kansas?  They probably get to leave early from the stadium, too, but they're not always treated to the same level of accomplishment that we are.  STAY PUT FOR FOUR QUARTERS!

Many of you begin your sentences and posts on social media with, "I remember when Coach Bryant...." before trailing off into something that is, at best, a 30-year old thought.  Bear Bryant is dead and, though his legacy will be enduring, this school and fan base cannot continue to live on what he did over 30 years ago.  You...we...begged for someone to save this beloved program and Mal Moore went to Florida and delivered.  He brought back a coach that has provided more than enough winning ways to want to keep him forever.  For some, though, that's not good enough.  Let me ask another question - what other program can boast of the Championships that Alabama has?  None.  Nor has any program gone on to win the trophy year over year.  Let me throw this out to you - Alabama has the best recruiting class in the entire country FIVE years in a row - do you think that happens without Nick Saban?  Do you think they continue to win 10+ games each year without him and his staff?  Do you think we'd prefer to have a program run the way Nick Saban does or would you want to sell your souls to get someone like Jim Tressel, Brady Hoke, or Rich Rodriguez?  Think people....then quiet down.  Let me go back to the comments about Bear Bryant - would ANYONE dare have said the things about him that they do today?  No. Don't even try to tell me otherwise because I know better.  Bear's word was gospel and, by God, Nick Saban's is, too.  This is HIS program to run as he pleases and I'm damn glad of that fact.  He gets more out of these players than others would and I tend to think many of you forget what a 17-year drought feels like.  Let the man do his job and be grateful you have the privilege of seeing a quality, second-to-none program play every week.  If you can't do that, the Barn is probably looking for fans.  If you're a true Bama fan, you'll understand that.

To Coach Saban and the Crimson Tide players:

Please forgive us, the fans.  We appreciate you, the staff, and the players of this great program more than you know.  I realize you understand it's not everyone, however there are many of us that cannot forgive that portion of the fan base that acts in a manner that is not to the high standards to which you have elevated this program.  In a time when many asked....almost begged.....for someone that could provide the same high standards of years gone by, you have provided that and we should all be appreciative and grateful.  I'm not talking about winning championships, either.  You run a clean program that frowns upon breaking the rules.  You have a compliance department to ensure the university is not embroiled in scandal, nor does the program face NCAA penalties.  You have, in short, restored the Alabama Crimson Tide to the respected program it once was.  You help the personal & professional growth of young men that turn out to be both amazing athletes and, most importantly, amazing individuals.  Your work here is appreciated and respected and we, as a fan base, are more than grateful.  We sincerely hope that you, Ms Terry, and your entire family know that we will always consider you part of the family and fabric of the Tuscaloosa/UA community.  We hope, too, that you will understand that, while we appreciate what you've done, we want to show that appreciation for you and your family.  We want this to be 'home' until that dreaded day when you decide you no longer want to walk the sidelines.

As for the players that wear, and have worn, the Alabama football uniform, we'd like to thank you for everything you've given us.  The excitement and pride that a fan base feels when we are allowed to share in YOUR accomplishments.  You have the honor of being led by one of, if not THE, greatest coaches in the history of the game.  Your selfless sacrifice of your time and energy is appreciated and watching you play in Bryant-Denny Stadium is something that many appreciate more than you know.  We are your fans and wish you nothing but continued success.  I, along with many others, want to apologize for the thoughtless fans that have come to take your success as 'a given' and that harbor an unrealistic sense of entitlement.  They have no idea what it is like to don pads and a uniform and suffer in 100-degree heat while preparing for the coming year.  Some of us - many, as a matter of fact - appreciate the sacrifice and will watch you for the entire sixty minutes of the game.  We wait for this from January until August and I, personally, wouldn't miss a minute of it.  We want to continue to encourage you and be witness to your achievements, while enjoying the camaraderie of fellow Crimson Tide fans as we wait for the 'Walk of Champions' on a weekly basis.

Please accept this as a letter of apology for the behavior of some, as well as a letter of thanks from the majority of us. Be proud, continue to be part of The Process (as we will), and ROLL TIDE!