Thursday, August 20, 2009

like a broken record, only more irritating

Football season in the state of Alabama means many things to many people. For Alabama fans, it means hope springs eternal — particularly this season, with a team that could contend for a championship with a break here and there.

It also means something else: Nick Saban tearing into the statewide media.

The pattern has repeated itself (at least) once every August, usually in the middle of fall camp, when very little else is going on: Saban gets angry at the press, either because someone asked him a question he didn't like, or someone talked to a player when he didn't have "permission" (the First Amendment doesn't exist in big-time football), or because, as in this week, someone reported something he saw at practice.

“We let you come to practice. If you’re going to speculate on the depth chart and who’s starting at what positions, then I’m going to close practice — for everybody. So nobody’s going to get to come at all.”
“When you say one guy’s starting in the newspaper and he’s really not starting that makes the guy that is starting come to me and say, ‘Why are they putting it in the paper that I’m not starting?’ You don’t understand what you do and how it affects people. We would like to manage that internally and as coaches and a coaching staff make those decisions, not make them in the newspaper — before they even get decided.”

Invariably, Saban's overreaction to a story — and that's what it is, by the way: overreaction — gets played up on the same blogs that regard him as some sort of evil overlord, and the 'Bama blogs go crazy in his defense, such as this hilariously predictable post from Capstone Report.

When you consider all the problems including the mental deficiencies of reporters and their lack of knowledge about the subject they are supposed to cover, is it a surprise Saban might resent them?

Well, OF COURSE it's the media's fault, guys! Everything is the media's fault! Up to and including America's failures in Iraq and the eventual decline of the nation!
Yup. Right here. Our bad.

Look, I'm not here to trade barbs with Capstone Report — really, this is the same blog that regularly features Shane from Centre Point ... as a columnist. So it's a waste of time and an insult to everyone's intelligence to banter with those guys.

The point is that Saban blows up at the press about once every two or three weeks, and most of the time it's over nothing. Saban and his coaches have fundamentally different goals than the writers who cover the team: Saban's job is to turn boys into men, and prepare his football team to win games and championships; the media's job is to report to the rest of us how Saban is doing his job.
Furthermore, as we've stated in this space time and again, the press in Alabama, for the most part, is pretty easy. Just give them a handful of quotes, a buffet and a parking spot ... and they'll pretty much do what you want. And the guys who do the job on a daily basis have told me that it's a complete misnomer to say Saban "hates" them, or that they loathe him in response — most of the writers who have covered the team this decade say they'd rather talk to Saban than to any of his predecessors ("Sometimes he gets mad and talks down to you, but usually he answers your questions").
Most importantly, if these guys weren't reporting the team's every movement, we'd criticize them for that, as well. The whole reason the largest newspapers have beat writers and send them to practice every day is rabid fans like me want to devour every tiny nugget we can about the team's progress before the season begins.

The fortunate thing about this cycle? It usually ends once we start playing some actual games. I think I'm looking forward to that part of it most of all.

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