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!

No comments:

Post a Comment