Friday, December 12, 2008

"Lost' Fridays: Dr. Jack Shepard=CMG

Note: It's been nearly eight full months since there was actually a new episode of "Lost" for the proprietor of this blog to obsess about. We've done our best here to maintain our obsession through that long morass, even if sometimes our weekly posts have been limited to things like pictures and lame videos uploaded by other people. Once the show actually starts back -- on Wednesday, Jan. 21 -- expect things to go a little crazy here, at least for a moment. Just try not to judge me. Anymore than you already have, I mean. OK? OK. Moving on.

While trying to find an Alabama sports comparison with this cult-like show, I came up empty. Maybe Hurley and Terrence Cody share the same body type, but I doubt sincerely that Hugo could control the middle of a line the way the Mountain can. And neither Ben nor Locke nor Jack have the steely-eyed stare of Nick Saban, or the goofy hair of Johnny P. Wilson.

Then, as I was thinking about basketball season -- and how Alabama is ultimately headed for another one of the ultimately-disappointing rollercoaster rides that have become the hallmark of the Mark Gottfried Era, it occurred to me the similarities between Dr. Jack Shepard and head coach Mark Gottfried.

Both were thrust into impossible situations. In Gottfried's case, he took over an Alabama basketball program that had fallen on hard times: David Hobbs, his predecessor, had bankrupted the program from a recruiting standpoint, and there were some NCAA sanctions that briefly extended the probation window (allowing for UA to be slapped with "repeat offender" status in 2001 when new violations came to light on the football side of things). Gottfried's first team in 1999 featured the talents of Montgomery's Brian Williams and four guys out of the stands (including TWO white guys in the starting 5!).
But compared with Jack's situation, maybe Alabama basketball, 1999, wasn't so bad -- at least Gottfried, a 'Bama alum, actually got to choose his destiny (one of the central themes of the show, right?). Jack flew to Australia to pick up his dead father, crash-landed in the midst of the Pacific and woke up in the midst of 72 survivors (counting the dog) with utterly no direction. Against his will, he became the vocal leader of the group, official when he gave his famous "Live Together, Die Alone" speech that would become the theme of the show.

Both men helped effect change quickly. Gottfried's team actually won the SEC's regular-season championship in 2002, and briefly ascended to number-one in the nation the following winter.
(Am I going to use this as an excuse to embed the famous video of Antoine Pettway vs. Florida? Of course I am.)

Jack's leadership helped bring order to the survivors' camp on the Island. With Jack leading the way, the survivors started exploring, hunting, even building a raft to go in search of help. By the end of Season 1, you could clearly see everything coming together, with the surgeon running the show.

Ultimately, when adversity hit, neither could handle it with any semblance of a plan. When Gottfried's season started falling apart in 2003, it was because they had no set offense and couldn't catch a break. Even when the team briefly caught fire in the NCAAs in '04, it had less to do with the coaching and more to do with a blazing-hot shooting streak.
Jack never really was able to formulate a master plan, either. His only thought process -- "get us off this Island" -- was haphazard and reckless, and that ultimately led to a giant explosion, the rest of the survivors leaving and this painful flash-forward.

Neither guy inspires a great deal of confidence that they'll be able to correct the problem. Jack's got to lead the Oceanic 6 -- plus, I'm guessing, Ben, Desmond, Walt and John Locke's corpse -- back to the Island, somehow, and given his relative lack of a plan, I'm not holding out much hope that's going to turn out well.
As for Gottfried, early-season results aren't encouraging -- the team is still talented and athletic, still sleep-walks through large portions of every game, still relies too heavily on the abilities of a senior point guard with bad knees.
Time will tell, obviously, for both. But if this ends with Jack wearing a terrible blood-red coat on national TV, or Gottfried wandering around with a beard and popping pain-killers ... well, just remember you heard it here first.

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