Sunday, August 31, 2008
One of the most important nights in Alabama football history occurred on Labor Day Weekend in 1971. Paul Bryant's Alabama team -- which had gone 6-5 the previous two seasons, followed him by him nearly leaving for Miami to coach the Dolphins (you read that correctly) -- traveled to the Los Angeles Coliseum to take on Southern Cal in a Friday-night, nationally-televised game.
It should be noted that USC in 1971 was quite good. The season before, they'd come to Legion Field and dismantled an outmanned Alabama team in the famous "Sam Cunningham Game," which many pundits now agree helped speed up the integration of college football in the South. And with Alabama's only real threat on offense graduated -- quarterback Scott Hunter -- it seemed painfully clear to even the biggest Tide homers that Bryant's squad was making the trip to receive another whipping in '71.
Except Bryant knew something no one else did. Frustrated by his offensive game plan over the last two seasons -- which featured too much passing (even though by today's standards the stats look tame -- the legend spent the summer learning the wishbone from Texas and Darrell Royal. And somehow, he spent four weeks installing the system in fall camp in complete secrecy (and no, this wouldn't work today under any circumstances).
When the Tide came to the line in a three-back set, the Trojans were shocked. It took them nearly a half to adjust, and by that time, Alabama led 17-0. They ultimately won 17-10 in an upset that shook the nation.
Maybe the significance of that win wasn't as socially significant as the game from the season before, but the importance of that night for Alabama fans can't be understated. After nearly sliding into mediocrity during the latter half of the '60s, the program was back. Alabama was a player on a national stage again, and again a big dog in the SEC -- they ultimately won the conference, whipped Tennessee and Auburn (and Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan) and lost only once: in the Orange Bowl against Nebraska.
For some reason, I found myself thinking about that night in L.A. after last night's dismantling of Clemson in Atlanta. Alabama hasn't been mediocre for the last 10 years -- they've been worse. Since 1997, the program has experienced three sub-.500 seasons (after only one since 1957), hired five different head coaches, suffered through a crippling NCAA probation and two separate sex scandals involving those aforementioned head coaches, and become the butt of jokes around the conference it used to consider its playground. Quite simply, we've sucked.
Adding to the misery has been the string of agonizing losses in high-profile non-conference games during that period. UCLA, Oklahoma, Michigan, Florida State: in each case, Alabama had a chance to make a statement on a national stage; in each case, Alabama played competitively; and in each case, Alabama fans ultimately walked out of the stadium, muttering things like "shoulda won that game, dammit." The Tide's most memorable non-conference win during the past decade was the 2006 Cotton Bowl, when Joe Kines' defense frustrated Mike Leach's gimmicky Texas Tech team long enough for Jamie Christensen to win it on the ugliest made field goal try in school history.
And on Saturday night in Atlanta, it all changed.
Alabama 34, Clemson 10.
Here's the most surprising thing about that victory: it wasn't a surprise. Nothing about that final score was a fluke, there was no garbage-time touchdown to make a close game seem like a blowout -- if anything, C.J. Spiller's kickoff return made the game seem closer than it actually was.
No, Alabama won last night's game by 24 points, because Alabama was (and is) 24 points better than the ninth-ranked team in the nation. Play that game again today and you'll get nearly the same result. Next week, week after next, at their place or ours. The better team won Saturday, and won decisively. As Cecil wrote today, the game was basically over in the first quarter.
OK, so before we go crazy fawning over each other after this, it's important to note that it's just one game. And one game against a vastly overrated opponent at that: as Doc Saturday notes today, the Atlantic Coast Conference got its lunch thoroughly handed to it all across the landscape, including Virginia Tech's self-destruction against East Carolina. Watching the replay and hearing Kirk Herbstreit rant about Clemson being flat, about Clemson having no emotion, about Clemson rolling over, etc., I couldn't help but wonder, "Have you considered the possibility that maybe they're just not that good?"And I feel pretty strongly when I say they're not -- seven or eight teams in the SEC would beat Clemson. I believe that.
Still, it's hard to temper the enthusiasm that comes with a satisfying win like that. In prime time on national TV, Alabama lived up to the hype. Maybe better days are ahead, after all.
A few other random thoughts (at least partially affected by our Saturday festivities and the fact that I tried making Sangria and succeeded only in getting drunk).
-- As my dad and my brother -- both in attendance -- noted, Terrence Cody more than did his job up front. On more than one occasion, Cody occupied at least two blockers, something he'll be almost required to do if Alabama's going to run the 3-4 successfully.
-- Two hidden turning points that helped solidify things: Rolando McClain stepping in front of Cullem Harper's pass to cause an interception (followed by a half-ending drive that netted a field goal); and the offense sustaining a possession following C.J. Spiller's long return and not allowing Clemson any more momentum. Both were huge in keeping the foot on the throats of the purple ones.
-- Speaking of Spiller, why weren't he and fellow back James Davis a bigger part of Clemson's game plan? How can you tout the best back combo in the nation, then allow them to handle the ball only eight times? If I were a Clemson fan that would infuriate me; even Houston Nutt -- as shaky a game coach as there is on the planet -- never went through a game without over-thinking so much that he took the game out of the hands of McFadden & Jones.
-- Good John Parker showed up Saturday night. That's the John Parker who was around for most of the Arkansas game, the fourth quarter against Georgia and against Tennessee. Will he stay for the season? We'll see.
-- As much excitement as surrounded Julio Jones, Mark Ingram proved to be the frosh who showed out. A powerful back with soft hands, he's the sort who evokes memories of the Stallings era -- which, by the way, is where we've all been trying to get back to ever since the old man left.
And no, we're not back there yet. But, depending on what happens in 2008, we as fans can look back at Saturday night and say the tide turned on Labor Day weekend.
Back with more on the weekend at large once it's completely finished.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Jacksonville St. (+27.5) at Georgia Tech
Vanderbilt (+3.5) at Miami-Ohio
NC State (+14) at South Carolina
Oregon St. (-3) at Stanford
Troy (-6) at Middle Tennessee St.
Georgia Southern (+35) at Georgia
Memphis (+7.5) at Ole Miss
Syracuse (+11.5) at Northwestern
Washington (+13.5) at Oregon
Tulsa (-13.5) at UAB
Mississippi St. (-7.5) at Louisiana Tech
Oklahoma St. (-7) at Washington St.
Hawai'i (+34.5) at Florida
Illinois (+9) at Missouri
Michigan St. (+4.5) at California
Alabama (+4.5) vs. Clemson
La.-Monroe (+26) at Auburn
Kentucky (+3.5) at Louisville
Colorado (-11) at Colorado St.
Tennessee (-7.5) at UCLA
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
The two schools do share a number of connections, however, as most people already know. Clemson's legendary Frank Howard was a Tide alum, as is Danny Ford (whether his legend is smeared or not is up for debate). Tommy Bowden, of course, worked for a number of years in the state -- first at Alabama, then Auburn (and has been linked with the job in Tuscaloosa every time it's come open since 2000).
One more connection that you may or may not remember: back in 2001, the NCAA Committee on Infractions handed down those gruesome penalties which basically ruined Alabama's program for the remainder of the decade. The chairman at the time? You guessed it: Terry Don Phillips, Clemson AD.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
And, courtesy of RBR and youtube, we now have the perfect duo to replace Snake in the booth.
Seriously, the mere thought of those guys sharing a booth with Eli Gold makes me want to start sobbing with joy.
A few more links for the day ...
— Clemson DC implies Alabama's paying recruits, then has to be rescued by his boss and his own retraction, perhaps at least partially explaining why coaches like Nick Saban don't let their assistants talk to the press. Confused? Well, Creg has the story.
— Senor CFB talks about the new deal with ESPN, in the process holding out hope that the WWL will retain the 3 Daves as part of its broadcast team. I maintain that this is a perfect opportunity to try out my groundbreaking idea: sending no announcers to cover the game and allowing people to listen to the stadium sounds. But they probably won't do that.
— Tidesports has the story of Alabama's freshmen, including some eye-opening quotes from Antoine Caldwell about Terrence Cody, official mascot of the DP.
(Note: Remember when last season started spiraling out of control, and coach Saban started making off-hand references to "the people who want to do it the right way" being here and those who didn't not being here? In a related story, Alabama's 2008 two-deep features 14 freshmen. Yeah.)
— Smart Football previews the Clemson game.
— Auburn-related links: the AP says coach Tubs won't name a starter until ... actually he won't name a starter at all; Track 'Em previews Auburn's opener, complete with the requisite billboard shot. Is it embarrassing to link such an article? Yes, but those guys earned it, so let them gloat.
— Speaking of Track 'Em, a new Web site launched today: AlabamaFB.com. No word yet on what all it will offer, but the possibilities are enticing.
— Since it's a Tuesday in the fall, here's a TMQ link. Sweeeet.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Right here in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and right now, the first week of the college football season I believe that I am the person I am truly intended to be. The first game is three days away and the first time that my beloved Crimson Tide takes the field is still some 129 hours away and yet, at 5:50 this morning I jumped out of bed with a start - ready to get the day begun in order that it may be done and I would be 24 hours closer to my treasure.With that in mind, we're going to change up our schedule on a weekly basis — at least, we're planning to do that. By Week 3, I may give it up. But we'll see.
For now, I'm planning to have links Monday and Tuesday; youtube related to that week's game(s) on Wednesday; weekend lines (and possibly picks) on Thursday; we'll keep "Lost" thoughts on Friday; maybe some live-blogging on Saturday (whenever possible); and finally, a weekend recap on Sunday.
As I said, that's the goal. It may not work out that way, but we'll try.
And with that in mind, here are some links for today.
— For those who haven't heard, ESPN and the SEC today announced the end of the Jefferson-Pilot era in Southeastern Conference football. EDSBS has the skinny on what happened, and how much we'll miss the Dave, Dave & Dave combo when it's no longer a part of our lives. Capstone, however, says the new deal is good for recruiting.
— RBR tells the story of Nick Fanuzzi's transfer. Easy to see it coming, I guess.
— Rap has the tale of Alabama's best fan: Randall "Putter" Burcham. Interestingly, Burcham used to write for us at Dateline Alabama — I still remember having to read him the riot act for ripping quotes out of a different article for his column and failing to give proper attribution.
— Finally, BSR gives us the Week 1 depth chart. The actual depth chart ... aight?
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Also, watch for the clips of Ruth Ann and John Mark during the game. Almost enough to bring a tear to your eye.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Here's where I would've linked to ABC's site, but unfortunately, it's one of the least user-friendly Web sites I've ever come across (and that's saying something). So I'd rather you avoid it if possible.
Instead, therefore, let's post a fan trailer for Season 5 ...
Can we all make it until January, 2009? And are we absolutely sure the show isn't going to get pushed back like the Harry Potter movie?
Whatever the case, let's cross our fingers. After all, we do have football season to pass the time.
(Yeah ... that's right ... it's next week ...)
Thursday, August 21, 2008
In any case, some new lists are up, which means analysis, etc.
-- Mgoblog is the host for the preseason blog poll. Not surprisingly, it looks almost exactly like the ones those awful media types put together.
-- G&B Attack ranks the SEC's best coaches. Frankly, at this point, you could throw 10 of them in a bowl and draw names and get the same results.
-- I did take some umbrage with Mark Bradley's rankings of SEC fans, if only because he actually wrote the words "LSU fans are polite." It bothers me that anyone not from Louisiana thinks that way.
Moving on ...
-- I know you can't control what people write in the commentary sections of your blog, but what some Alabama "fans" write in the commentary for Ian Rapaport's blog about the UA stationary situation is truly bizarre. Really, are people this stupid?
-- Finally, BSR takes another run at 'Bama's scholarship situation.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
It's next week, folks. Next. Bleeping. Week.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Use of UA Athletic Department stationary gets employee in trouble
By David Atchison 08-20-2008 PELL CITY — A University of Alabama employee faces disciplinary action after using Athletic Department stationary to recommend clemency for a man convicted of smuggling drugs into a state prison.
Doug Walker, associate athletic director for media relations with the University of Alabama athletic program, said the employee admitted writing the letter, using Athletic Department stationary.
Glenda Edwards, the administrative assistant to Alabama head football coach Nick Saban, wrote a one page letter to St. Clair County Circuit Court Judge Charles Robinson, using the Crimson Tide football stationary.
In her letter, Edwards asks Robinson for clemency in his sentencing of Tommie Borden, 34, of Gadsden, a former state correctional officer who worked at the St. Clair Correctional Facility in Springville.
“I am convinced that the fact that Tommy and his family find themselves in this unfortunate position is a true anomaly,” Edwards wrote. “Therefore, I respectfully and humbly request that you consider probation during the sentencing phase of this judicial process.”
Borden and former prison guard Mark Clark, 27, of Anniston were found guilty in June of second-degree promoting prison contraband. The correctional officers smuggled a small amount of marijuana into the prison.
Prosecutors said their case was not about the small amount of marijuana smuggled into the prison, but about the betrayal of the public’s trust by officers who were sworn to uphold the laws of the state.
A probation and sentencing hearing was held at the St. Clair County Courthouse in Ashville Monday, when the letter from the University of Alabama Athletic Department first surfaced.
The letter was apparently faxed to the judge with an Alabama Crimson Tide fax cover page and included a copy of Edwards’ business card.
“I have known Tommy Borden for many years,” Edwards wrote.
Defense attorneys for Borden and Clark also asked the judge, who is a University of Alabama alumni, for clemency at the hearings, but the judge told everyone in court Monday his responsibility was to the people of St. Clair County.
Robinson denied probation for both defendants and sentenced them to five-year split sentences, where each man will serve two years in prison and the remainder of their prison terms on probation.
Walker said Edwards is an excellent employee who has worked with the Athletic Department for more than 15 years.
“She simply made an error in judgment by using official letter head,” Walker said.
Walker would not comment about Edwards’ disciplinary action but said the matter is being handled internally.
In court Monday, Robinson gave Borden and Clark two weeks to get their personal matters in order before reporting to the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department to start serving their prison sentences on Sept. 2.
Walker said Tuesday Edwards was not available for comment.
Monday, August 18, 2008
-- Josh Moon wrote a ... (insert adjective here) column about Nick Saban, painting him as a mafia boss. Apparently, the column was the hottest topic on Finebaum's radio show today (I listened for a few seconds before flipping my satellite back on). And, of course, Capstone's in a rage, because ... well, that's what Capstone does.
Rest assured, by the way, the column is nothing but a transparent, tongue-in-cheek way to get people talking -- Moon got an entire Finebaum column developed to ripping him last year and decided he enjoys it (obviously it works). And while much of Moon's column is provocative over-simplifications, none of it is untrue. Saban has found ways to circumvent the NCAA, remember? And he's done it out in the open in perfectly legal manners. It's part of his reputation as an evil genius.
Look, I love Capstone -- if it weren't for Capstone, this blog probably wouldn't exist right now -- but thick skin and a little perspective are necessary for sanity's sake here. Moon doesn't like Saban. He's not afraid to write columns expressing that. So take a deep breath and move on.
-- Speaking of blowhards nobody wants to hear, apparently Dennis Franchione isn't your only option for Week 1, says I-Rap. So, I got that goin for me ... which is nice.
-- CC's got a quality puff piece about 'Bama's offensive line. The operative word there is "puff."
-- RBR has its preseason top-25 ballot up and running. I can dig it.
-- Finally, remember SMQ? Well, his excellent site exists no longer, and he's now getting paid to do what he do. And the results ... well, they're pretty remarkable.
The rest of us will bow down accordingly.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
At the moment, I'm sitting in the middle of the floor in my office, which is in the process of getting a brand new coat of paint in advance of next weekend's football season festivities. Needless to say, this -- combined with a sudden burst of busyness at the office -- has put something of a dent in The DBHDP.
We're hoping to be back up and running sometime tomorrow, or the next day. In the meantime, think positive thoughts. And also, keep this in mind ...
We're inside two weeks. Yeah ... that's right. Two weeks.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
If you're a university student and happen to see Mr. Cody out, please do not make any sudden movements. Do not attempt to feed him, talk to him, look at him or acknowledge his presence in any way. Remember: Terrence is as afraid of you as you are of him (OK, that's not even remotely true -- if you see this dude, get away quickly).
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
At the same time, it seems only right that we give Packer fans — actual, real-live people who follow the team up close on a daily basis — a chance to speak their minds. Unfortunately, we only know three Packer fans: The Rogue Booster, his wife Shannon and Whit's friend Mitchell (I suppose, if you count Little TRB, that's four Packer fans we know, although Josh can't walk yet). Mitchell had his say last week; thus, today we present you with the completely biased, unabashedly partisan thoughts of one Bart Styes. For another good take on it, read TMQ's return column on ESPN.
I'm an Alabama fan by birth and a Packers fan by marriage, and both are by the grace of God. Having lived in Minnesota for two years I came across a lot of Vikings and Packers fans and married one of the latter. Season tickets in the family to both Bryant-Denny and Lambeau! Does it get any better for a football fan? I submit that it does not. So here's my take....
There are two generations of both Bama and Packer fans. Bama fans can be divided into those who grew up rooting for Bryant's teams and those who grew up rooting for Stallings' teams. While I can remember my dad telling me that Coach Bryant passed away, I cannot remember ever watching him coach a game. For Packers fans, they can be divided (roughly) between those who grew up watching Bart Starr behind center and those who grew up with Brett Favre behind center.
My father-in-law who fishes for salmon on Lake Winnebago knows that the Green Bay Packers are bigger than Brett Favre. He was irritated by the franchise star acting like, well, a franchise star on any other NFL team. Dr. Hering is of the Starr generation. My old bandmate Tony drove to Kiln, Mississippi (Favre's hometown) on the way to New Orleans for the Super Bowl.. He didn't care what Brett did to exacerbate management and coaches. Tony wanted the gunslinger throwing touchdowns in green and gold, squarely a member of the Favre generation.
In the end, Favre owes the Green Bay franchise everything. They plucked him from the Atlanta Falcons, where he was on his way to a long coaching career in Mississippi high schools, and brought him to a coach, team and town that never waivered in helping him cultivate a Hall of Fame career. The franchise let him go out on his terms and prevented him further making an ass out of himself by refusing to let him play in the division for the rival Vikings. By the way, Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy has guts of steel. Not only did he confront Favre over his lazy, forced throwing style under Mike Sherman and got the man back to truly executing the West Coast offense. The result was an incredible 2007 season for Favre both in season statistics and career passing records. But then McCarthy tells the most beloved Packer of the modern era, "Brett, we love you but you can't jerk us around this way. We made a commitment to Rodgers and we're not breaking that a month out of the season opener just because you've got an itch to play." I like this guy!
Favre will always be loved in Green Bay. But by playing for the Jets, he avoids the Brother Oliver scenario. Remember him? He should have succeeded Stallings at Bama. He got frustrated by the old coach sticking around and left for Auburn. Coach Oliver will always be one of Bear's boys but still: he left Alabama out of selfish spite and coached for our rival in one move. After the anger subsides, can he come home again? Brett Favre will always be welcome in Green Bay, if not necessarily in that famous uniform.
Monday, August 11, 2008
With that in mind, here are some links to start your day.
— First off, something that's neither poignant nor silly: the family of Kyle Tatum involved in an accident on Lake Martin. Yikes. Keep these folks in mind when you're going to bed tonight.
— From tragedy to inspiration: the first "USA rulz!!!!!!!!!" moment of the Olympics happened last night when our swimming relay team whipped a bunch of trash-talking Frenchmen.
In your face, Pierre. In your face.
— EDSBS has more on the international incident between Georgia and Russia.
“The speed of the Russians really surprised them,” said analyst Mark May of ESPN. “They were much faster and stronger than Georgia expected, and really put pressure on the front four with their rushing attack.”— Questions you probably haven't asked yourself recently: what is the UFL? And where is Michael Vick going to land? Peter King says the answers to both questions may be related.
May paused. “They also had tanks. That helped, too.”
Lou Holtz, who works with May as a commentator for ESPN’s College Football Preview, responded to questions with “TO THE BUNKER! THE SPANISH HAVE ARRIVED!!!” His whereabouts are currently unknown.
— Remember BCS Guru and his series on the decade-long BCS reign of terror? Yeah ... he made it to 2004 last week. We may need to give the Auburn folks reading that a minute.
— BSR had most of the good Alabama links for this week. A few I enjoyed:
• Alabama's motivational speaker who looks nothing like Matt Foley. Disappointing, really.
• The New York Times ranks Alabama 25th.
• Finally, Rocky Top Talk gives Alabama the top spot on its list of college football logos. And yes, it's this one ...Sorry, but I must take umbrage with this. It's not that I don't appreciate the irony of a blog devoted to a rival school dishing out respect towards his own rival, but Alabama's current logo is abysmal. Forget about the fact that the elephant looks like a constipated cartoon -- what exactly was so wrong about the logo Alabama used to have, which looks like this ...I rest my case.
Friday, August 8, 2008
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Editor's note: With the end of the Brett Favre saga finally at hand, it seemed most appropriate to allow the thoughts on these issues to come from genuine Packer fans. Not a huge deal, perhaps, but I actually only know three Packer fans – The RB, his wife and Whit's friend Mitchell (I suppose the number goes to 4 since RB & Mrs. RB now have an infant son ... but for all we know, he could turn out to be a 'Skins fan or something weird like that). In any case, what follows is a guest blog from the aforementioned Mitchell dictated to brother Whit. Please to enjoy.
It looks as though the 2008 Brett Favre saga is coming to an end. The faceoff between the Green Bay Packers and their former superstar moved towards its closing with a trade last night to the New York Jets. Favre has been my favorite athlete since I was a 1st grader. Because of him, I am an avid Packers fan. However, I am extremely disappointed in the way No. 4 handled the fiasco.
No player is bigger than a franchise, especially one of the NFL's most storied teams, but Favre seemed to believe he was. He retired, decided to come back once, changed his mind, and choose to un-retire. AGAIN. Favre had the Packers players, coaches, and fans hanging on a limb, waiting for his next move. At some point, Green Bay had to escape from the run around and move on, and they did just that. The Packers altered their offensive scheme towards the strengths of Aaron Rodgers, drafted QB Brian Brohm with a 2nd round pick in the draft, and began "Life After Favre."
When Favre realized the Packers had moved on, he went T.O.-style on them. He demanded a trade, criticized personnel moves by GM Ted Thompson, and questioned the hiring of head coach Mike McCarthy. Brett must have forgotten who built and coached the team that was one play short of a Super Bowl in the 2007-2008 season; ironically, that play was a Favre interception in the NFC Championship game against the Giants. This diva attitude by Favre shocked me more than anything over past few months. In my mind, Brett was the tough, gritty, down-to-earth superstar, a rare combination in sports. Instead, he acted like the typical egotistical and selfish professional athlete, no better than a Randy Moss.
For a bad as the past few months have been for the relationship between Favre and the Packers, it is impossible to forget the 16 tremendous, courageous years Brett gave the team and its fans. His fearlessness, his love for Sundays will remain. As the drama winds down, a question arises: how will these months be viewed in ten years? I cannot answer this, but I hope the wounds are not too deep to heal. I hope Favre realizes his mistakes, I hope Green Bay flourishes in life without the legend, but most of all, I hope No. 4 stays a Green Bay Packer at heart. Green Bay is where he started; I wish it had been where he finished.
— With the news of Dennis Franchione's new employment, The Druid envisions how his first broadcast is likely to sound.
— The Sporting Blog has the story on the famed 'Bama stabbing in Auburn from 2005. What disturbs you more ...
Barnett: *a tone of nervousness in his voice* Well… uh, so let’s talk about your former school, the University of Alabama. Nick Saban is in his second year as the Tide coach, bringing in a highly praised recruiting class. Of course, he has some depth concerns, and will probably have to play a bit of a balancing act in knowing when and when not to play his freshmen. How difficult can that be for a coach?
Fran: Oh, it can be fairly difficult. Of course, it depends on the situation of your program, such as the actual talent of your older players. You don’t want to just pull a solid player out to appease fans by replacing him with the likes of Julio….. *avoids a flaming Fran bobble-head doll*… Julio Jones or Jerrell Harris, but you do need to play them eventually if they have a clear athletic advantage over the older player.
Barnett: This is getting crazy. *flips open cell phone* Honey? Hey, it’s Dave. Listen, I was wondering when my new life insurance policy is effective. Do you have the papers nearby? What’s that? Oh, no reason. Ok…. Ok. Sure, I’ll meet you for dinner with Tony and Martha on Monday if I can. Love you too…. *gulps* bye.
• That a trained cage fighter carrying a knife picked a fight with an entire fraternity for no good reason ...
• That he won and won easily ...
• That he convinced a retarded guy to take the fall?
It's a toss-up, right?
— The headline of this story nearly made me throw up:
Bama safety makes impression by tackling children
Dammit! Stupid off-the-field incident (grumble, grumble) lack of discipline (yak yak) what's wrong with these ...
Oh. Well, that's cool.
— Inspired by this Ray Melick column about bullying, Capstone takes a look at coaches and the media. Speaking of coaches, Track 'Em released a list of coaches they hate the most, and guess who's at the top?
- Bobby Petrino (Arkansas) - Is there a bigger scumbag in any level of coaching than the weasel from Montana? Not only did he quit on his former team, but he treated grown men like children. And let's not forget what he did to Tommy Tuberville. The guy has no integrity or loyalty.
- Nick Saban (Alabama) - If you could buy him for what he's worth and sell him for what Alabama fans think he's worth, we could all retire to Aruba.
I realize that asking the guys at Track 'Em for rational arguments based in reason is a little like asking Nick Saban to take a reporter to dinner. But even for them, this is a little specious.
— SMQ examines the viability of a playoff. I actually picked the Roundtable edition containing the playoff question to let Whit handle things, and never really have addressed the issue (except briefly on the old LJ). But the last two seasons have outlined, for me, the need for some sort of playoff to balance the scales. For the past two seasons, Ohio State has cruised through an astonishingly easy schedule — and really, the toughest game they've played in either of those two years has been Texas on the road — and ridden that to a berth in the national championship game, simply because other teams played themselves out of it. In '07, LSU lost by 6 at Kentucky, and by 2 vs. Arkansas ... and if not for an incredible chain of events, would've been left out of the national title discussion despite being clearly better than any other team. How is that fair? If Ohio State '07 had played the schedule LSU had played, what would have been its January destination? Nashville? Shreveport? The weight room?
Anyway, hopefully it's coming down the road. And it'll be fun. Trust me.
— Finally, in my continual effort to shamelessly promote myself, here's my column about Skip Caray. Because I'm like that.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
I actually have a tape of this somewhere — it aired on ABC during halftime of the '92 Iron Bowl, Pat Dye's final 'Bama game and part of the prelude to the national title. And even though I never knew John Mark (my loss), it's still pretty emotional to look at.
A one-way ticket to heaven, says Coach. From what I know of him, he deserves it.
Anyway, here are some links for the day, just in case you were twiddling your thumbs at work.
-- OTS has an exhaustive list of early practice news and notes. Some interesting nuggets in there.
-- Apparently upset by Jimmy Johns' attempted hijacking of the Fulmer Cup this summer, (TH)UGA got to work. Here's what they came up with.
-- SMQ takes a look at his top 5.
-- Ivan Maisel discusses the relationship between college football and presidential politics. Worth noting, by the way, that Alabama won its last national championship during an election year, which went to a little-known Democrat we now know as Bill Clinton.
(Note: does that mean we should all root for Obama in November? Probably not -- just sayin'.)
-- Finally, in a rare step outside the world of college football, I'm linking Sally Jenkins' scathing column about Beijing and the Olympics. Expect a lot of these in the next two weeks.
It's plain that the Chinese people have worked mightily to create a beautiful Beijing Games, from the elegantly manicured gardens to the whisked-clean streets, and that they are a source of immense national pride. No one could wish to injure that pride, and every one wishes them a successful Games. But the Olympics are not solely about the host, they are about all the participating nations, and the common goal of "preservation of human dignity." The moment it became apparent that the Beijing Olympics was causing a crackdown, and that basic Olympic values were being constricted rather than expanded, these Olympic partners should have spoken out, and threatened to withdraw if abuses didn't halt. When they didn't, it cast a permanent pall over these Games. Like the air here, the Olympic movement is struggling for a clean breath.wlh
Sunday, August 3, 2008
In their honor, I'm posting the resolution of William Cullen Bryant's Thanatopsis, arguably the best secular commentary on death ever written. It was my late grandfather's favorite poem, and there's still a copy of it hanging in my parents' house.
So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.
What can I say? I'm a dedicated nerd.
Have a good weekend, folks.
Friday, August 1, 2008
Who's neither friendly nor in your neighborhood.
The guys over at Capstone Report -- in an effort to make me feel as important as the guys who work at the big papers -- sent me a list of questions slugged "Day in the life of a sports editor." I'm so flattered they'd think of me for a feature like this, I won't even make any snarky comments about a site that used to be really good being turned over to hacks and flamers. In fact, forget I said that.
Anyway, his questions and my answers are listed below. Hopefully I'll prove worthy enough to keep participating in things like this.
1. How do you start your day? Reading what papers? What do you read online? How has this changed since you started working as a sports editor?
How I start my day in general: coffee and taking my traveling entourage (read: dogs) for a walk while being careful not to slip, fall and break something.
As for how my day at work starts, unless there's an assignment to cover on the way into the office -- a scholarship signing or an interview -- I usually start by listening to whatever angry voice mails have been left for me, checking angry emails and reading over that day's paper to see what I screwed up. Suffice to say, it's a long list.
During football season, we're usually working on preview stories during the week -- notebooks, features, etc. -- and trying to figure out who's going to cover what on Friday night. We're fairly fortunate at our paper to have multiple news staffers who double as capable sportswriters, and they're usually pretty available (so long as they're paid for the overtime).
2. How much time do you spend in the office?
More than I'd like to, frankly. Unfortunately, because of the rising cost of ... well, everything, our bosses prefer we keep our travel to a minimum (particularly since we're already charging the company money for the overtime we inevitably put in during football season trying to cover 14 schools with two sportswriters).
My folks got me Sirius for Christmas a couple years ago, and it's pretty much changed my whole music-listening life. With the XM merger now complete, life is likely to get even better. I spend most of my time toggling between the various music channels -- I like pretty much anything that's not Rascal Flatts -- and ESPN Radio (not nearly as good as it used to be). I get most of my political info from The Daily Show and consider myself a skeptical moderate.
4. How many schools do you cover? How do you prioritize who gets covered?
Our coverage area officially includes 14 schools -- basically, the entirety of Talladega County, plus Pell City and Coosa Valley Academy (mostly because so many kids from Talladega County attend school there). We also sort of partially cover Central-Coosa and the schools in Clay County.
Prioritizing who gets covered has a lot do with who's good -- sounds superficial, I know, but most people would rather read about who's winning than otherwise. This isn't to say that we completely ignore teams that aren't good -- in fact, one of my favorite games I covered in '07 was 1-9 Winterboro's lone victory, over White Plains.
We do the best we can to spread out the coverage during the regular season. Obviously, we could always do better. But we're giving an honest effort, and I think most of our readers -- not all of them -- appreciate it.
5. Coaches are a weird combination of personalities. Found any like Saban?
None like Saban per se, no. Interestingly, football coaches rarely actually read what's written in the paper -- most of the times I've had football coaches angry with me, it was because they'd been told about a newspaper piece by a wife/mother, who told them about the piece (often leaving out key pieces).
The only real time I've had a significant battle with a coach occurred while I was in Georgia, and Dublin head coach Roger Holmes -- a very accomplished high school coach who's almost always in the Georgia Dome in November -- accused our staff of bad faith in relation to a story we'd run about his team forfeiting some games because of an ineligible player. Relations were strained enough that he was threatening to not speak to us ever again and our boss (a prominent Georgia politician, ironically) was threatening to embarrass him in print. But the principal of DHS resolved things, Dublin wound up having a banner season and we were there to cover it all.
That's the good thing about sportswriting -- players and coaches rarely hold grudges.
6. How many stories do you write on a typical day? week?
During football season, we'll pump out roughly six or seven stories per week, depending on whether we do any game coverage on Saturday. And last season I took to writing a notes column on Sundays, which was well-received and a good way to work in tidbits that didn't necessarily warrant a full story.
7. Once practice begins, what type of access do you have?
Depending on the coach and whether he knows me, almost unlimited. Usually new coaches who don't know me will send an assistant to run me off -- once they figure out why I'm there, there's no trouble.
But it's interesting you should bring that up, because football coaches, as a group, tend to be the most paranoid people on the planet. Even David Norred at B.B. Comer was concerned about an outsider watching his practices last season, and his offense only consisted of two plays. Driving through Tuscaloosa a few weeks ago, I was shocked to see the new condos on Hackberry Lane have balcony access across the street from the practice field -- dollars to pesos Saban moves all his Thursday and Friday practices to the indoor facility by the end of the season.
8. How do you go about planning your coverage? How much space are you allocated for your total sports coverage?
My average section is 3 pages -- during football season, I get four on Thursdays and Fridays, and six on Saturdays and Sundays. As I said earlier, we have some capable staffers already in the building, which keeps me from having to martial an army of stringers (though we have some of those as well). The key is to limit travel as much as possible -- have a reporter who lives in Pell City cover Pell City, etc. Some weeks the featured game on the front is obvious -- a local rivalry or the like -- and some weeks it's on the fly.
9. Interviews, how many are face-to-face? How many are done on the phone?
As I said earlier, we do more by phone than I prefer. But I'm not above driving to the practice field if I can't raise the coach on the phone, either.
10. How many column inches are you allocated each day/week for sports commentary? How much Alabama/Auburn coverage is included in your paper? How do you balance that with high school coverage?
I try to stick as closely as I can to the regimen of two columns per week -- on Wednesdays and Sundays -- and those usually average out to around 3,500 words. As I said, I sort of settled into a pattern last season -- weekend picks on Wednesday, notes on Sunday -- that made it a tad easier.
The Alabama/Auburn coverage for our paper used to be a bigger deal, I think, than it is now -- with the AP access we have, plus The Star (our big brother) right up the street, we don't spend much time on the collegiate ranks. We do usually make it to the biggest games in a given season, and print special emphasis pages to preview the Auburn-Bama matchup in November. But that's about it.
The more delicate balance for us occurs during race week in October, when we have to be full-time reporters at the track as well as on the local fields. Typically, we need extra pages, more stringers and we each carry a suicide capsule -- you know, just in case.
11. How does a Friday differ from the rest of the week?
Ummm ... well, there's no difference at all unless you count the fact that we usually work ourselves silly until around 1 a.m., then wobble home and attempt to avoid a fiery car crash that winds up on the news the next day.
Other than that, it's exactly the same.
Unfortunately, I can't find them all -- it would take forever, I think -- and I'm not nearly enough of a nerd to translate them all.
Maybe if I could, I'd have some idea of what was going on with this show.