Sunday, January 31, 2010

basketball-blogging, whit-heath style, part iii

Editor's Note: With the basketball team coming off a stinging loss at Auburn on Saturday, now seems like the right time to renew basketball thoughts with my brother Whit, aspiring hoops coach, all-around hardwood junkie and current youth director at Trinity UMC in Tuscaloosa. As always, feel free to add your own thoughts in the commentary section below.
Just a reminder: the boys are at home Thursday against Florida, coming off its own stinging road defeat. Tip is at 6.

1. We've been playing basketball for more than 2 months now, and we've played 6 SEC games (SEC record: 2-4). What are your impressions of the product you currently see on the floor? What are our strengths? Our liabilities? Anything surprise you? And what are your impressions of Grant, from a pure Xs and Os standpoint?
I've been very impressed with the product that Coach Grant has put on the court this season. I honestly didn't expect too much for this season because I don't know that it would be fair of me to expect a lot from a coach in his first season. I've been consistently impressed with the defensive effort that the team has put forth thus far. I understand that we're leading the SEC in defense and holding teams to 30% of what they usually score which is impressive no matter how many games you've won and lost.
I would say that defense is the biggest strength that this team possesses. It's a lot of fun to watch our guys press teams and have turnovers turn into easy layups and dunks. That kind of basketball is tons of fun to watch. If our guys start to hit together at the right time, they could make a run at the SEC tourney....until they have to face a team that plays good zone defense.
Against Auburn, Jeff Lebo put his team into a great situation towards the end of the game by running a 2-3 zone instead of the man defense that they had been in the entire game. I have watched a lot of bama basketball this season, and I have yet to see the Alabama basketball team consistently beat a zone defense. That is a huge problem, and the lack of production against zone D is directly related to the fact that Bama does not have a pure shooter. Charvez Davis, Anthony Brock, and Mikhail Torrnace can shoot the ball well sometimes, but they're not consistent enough to beat a zone defense, and surely not consistent enough to hit three pointers with the game on the line. There are guys in the recreation center on campus who could walk on and be the best three point shooter on the team.
As for Coach Grant, I'm mildly impressed. I love the different presses that we run, but I still don't get to see many offensive sets that impress me. We do run plays to get the ball into the hot players' hand, but it's not very impressive to see 3 guys running an offense and have the other two standing still. Most of out offense comes from fast breaks and off of I suppose that the fast break points will come as long as the defensive intensity is still there.

2. As I'm typing this, I'm looking at our field goal percentages as a team, as well as the percentages of the entire league. And, um, they're not good. As a team, Alabama currently shoots just over 45 percent from the floor (6th best in the SEC), and just over 33 percent from 3 (9th in the league). Statistically, the best 2 shooters not named Andrew Steele (who, in keeping with family tradition, is out for the season with an injury) are Mikhail Torrance and Anthony Brock, neither of whom shoot even 40 percent from 3.
All of that to set up the question: who gets the ball for us in crunch time? And is there any reason to believe we should have faith in that person?

Mikhail Torrance definitely gets the ball in crunch time. He is by far the person that I would trust the most with the ball in his hands. He can create for other players, has a wonderful left-handed finish at the basket, and can shoot the ball off the dribble well enough...I don't think I can explain anything more than that. I wish I could, but I can't.

3. We know by now that Kentucky is awesome. Any teams outside of Kentucky that might surprise some people this winter? And where do you see 'Bama fitting into that picture? What do you think we have to do to make some noise come tournament time?
Don't ask this question...I have no idea how to answer it any further than I already have.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

idea for the weekend: Dynasty Park

Hat tip to my buddies from for this one: Dynasty Park, in Tuscaloosa.

Feel free to share your own thoughts, as always, in the commentary section.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

on superiority, football and ... otherwise

Just a quick thought on an emerging trend I've begun to notice over the past few weeks and months: anyone who reads this blog knows me well enough to know that I'm a pretty moderate guy. As recently as last summer, I opined that I was concerned about the direction of the Auburn-Alabama rivalry. And this still rings true, particularly now with both schools recruiting at a very high level.

It's a bizarre thing, and it's probably existed for a long time: for whatever reason, Alabama and Auburn fans now seem to be opining about which of them possesses the moral high ground. It's not enough to just be on the winning side — fans of both stripes now feel the need to prove that being a devotee of a certain program simply makes you a better person than everybody else.

Exhibit A: my friend at, who ran out of ways to say "we shoulda beat those guys" after Alabama's comeback win at Auburn last November, and instead posted a hilariously misguided rant about how Auburn people are just better than Alabama fans.
Most Alabama fans just like to ignore these facts, and only care about winning. Don't get me wrong, during a game I could say the same about myself. Winning is very, very important. That's sort of why we have athletics right? As I walk out of the stadium following an Auburn loss, I'm not thinking about our players being better men, but in the long run, that's all that matters, and will eventually lead to better days and championships.
I know that if a program is built on solid values, class, and respect that many years of greatness will follow. I know that if you don't care enough to bite your tongue in public, look like you want to punch someone just because they asked you a question, and demand that your players pile up the score to satisfy your hatred, then the house of cards will soon begin to fall.
I'll end this with a question. If you are a recruit's father and want your son to go to a good school with a good coaching staff that is worried about your son becoming a better man and then a better football player. Who would you choose?

It's a genuinely hysterical piece of reading, if only because it becomes obvious about three paragraphs into it that a) Kurt has never been within 500 yards of an organized football field and b) he's obviously attempting to get the goat of Alabama fans (who, unfortunately, are kind of easy in this respect).
But the point is that Kurt believes that growing up an Auburn fan makes him a better person than me. And since Nick Saban swears occasionally — he's from the Midwest, and that kind of stuff isn't as frowned upon as it is in the South (come visit with my mother-in-law sometime if you doubt me) — and because he may or may not have intentionally run up the score on Auburn in 2008 (he didn't, but whatever) then cheering for him to succeed, in Kurt's eyes, is a demerit on my eternal report card. Whatever.

Exhibit B: Our friends at the Capstone Report posted a genuinely strange story about the wives of Gene Chizik and Gus Malzahn teaming up to accost Paul Finebaum prior to the Outback Bowl.
Ever wondered why the Birmingham media is so servile to the Auburn Tigers? Now you know. When a media personality dares to challenge the Auburn family, the attack dogs, err bitches, err dogs, err wives, err harpies bare their claws and scratch out the eyes of dissenters.
Doubt this is how Auburn tries to keep the media in line? There is even a blog dedicated to attacking media personalities that dare question the superiority of Auburn. The Realist Nation compared Finebaum to Johnny Ola. The nicest thing the blog said about Finebaum was when it called him a “menacing, bald-headed squirt.”
When you anger the Auburn cult then this is the treatment you get.

Once again, it's hard to know how serious to take this post, since the CR spends the majority of its time attempting to get the goat of Auburn fans (who, in spite of themselves, post there in droves). But the point is that Capstone wants to paint Auburn's coaching family in an ill light, as a means of proving Alabama's superiority, both on the field and off, to its in-state rival.
(Note: Frankly, I'm all for anyone who wants to attack Paul Finebaum. He's not biased, but a good slap in the face probably wouldn't hurt.)

As I said earlier, I guess this has been going on for some time now, and it's difficult to know exactly where it started. I've always blamed David Housel for it, if only because he was the bombastic blowhard who had the audacity to call Alabama's first visit to Auburn "the equivalent of the Berlin Wall coming down" and occasionally makes other hilarious remarks, such as 2002, when he compared the rivalry to World War II and vowed "we will win the war," whatever that means. But it probably existed for some time before him, I just don't know the history of it.

The point is, it's BS. All of it. I'm not an Alabama fan because I decided it would make me a better person; I became an Alabama fan because my dad is one (like his dad is) and because I thought it was cool. And that's really about it.
The college football experience in this state is special. No one denies that. But Tuscaloosa is extra special to me ... because that's where I spent the bulk of my existence for four years — I met my wife there, made most of the friends I still hold dear there, became an adult there. Tuscaloosa will always mean more to me than anywhere else because of those things.
And Auburn is the same way for people like Kurt and my friend Zach and even Matt "Idratherloseasanauburnfanthanwinasanythingelse" Collins. Is there something extra special about Auburn that drew them to the place? They went to school there. So, for them, the answer is yes.
(Note: No one feels this way about UAB. Just for the record.)

My only thought is that we cheer for the teams we cheer for because we like them and that's that. Maybe we don't root for one another to succeed; hell, maybe we openly root for each other to fail. Doesn't make better or worse people.
(Although we're all better than Tennessee fans. Those people are animals.)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"Lost" Wednesday: only 6 days 'till theory becomes ... well, more theory

Before I get into today's "Lost" post, here's the best video I've seen so far of the Oceanic 815 crash — edited in real-time, "24" style.

Anyway, since the season premiere is now only six days away — nice job by ABC to run last season's finale last night, only it's "annotated" version (footnotes at the bottom attempted to explain what you were seeing) — here's a list of the chief conflicts taking place on the show, or, at least, the ones I can remember. Feel free to add your own thoughts in the commentary section.

• Destiny vs. Freewill (in the persona of Jack vs. Locke). After watching some old episode via Hulu, it's impossible to ignore repeated references to "destiny/fate" and "choice." Not sure which one wins.
• Jack vs. Sawyer; Juliet vs. Kate. A weirder love mess I can't fathom. No idea who's going to end up with who.
• Charles Widmore vs. ... Everybody? Once again, I have no idea whether Widmore (and possibly Mr. Paik) are the good guys, or if Ben & The Others are evil, or whatever.
• Sun & Jin vs. Whatever Weird Time Warp Separated Them. For whatever reason, their relationship is special. I'm convinced.
• Ben vs. Sayid. Not sure who's going to win here either, but there will be lots of blood shed.
• Jacob vs. The Man in Black/The Smoke Monster/Fake Locke. The conflict that's apparently been defining the Island since the beginning of time.

You get the idea.

UPDATE: has a list of 10 questions we need to answer in this final season. Pretty comprehensive. Although they left out the one about how people keep getting knocked out repeatedly with one blow to the head, then wake up later with no repercussions.

It's rare that you watch a TV show and have no idea what's going to happen — for example, anyone who watches "24" knows that eventually Jack's going to stop the terrorists, even if he has to torture the whole world and endure some kind of physical and/or emotional pain along the way. But, when it comes to the final season of "Lost" ... when I say I have no idea, I mean I really have no idea.
But I'll be watching.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

the Matt Miller column I said I wouldn't post

Editor's Note: This column was originally a good bit longer and an awful lot angrier — my publisher, fortunately, had the good sense to read it and tell me to cut it back before it ran. Multiple people have called or emailed to say that this column touched them. I don't think it's that good. But here it is, for better or worse. If you want a good eulogy for Matt, read what David, Donald and Robert read to the gathered masses last week at his funeral. Not a dry eye in the room.

Angry, hurt, confused

There aren’t words to say
Words aren’t remembered
But presence is
A good friend once told me
And he was there
He was there
But she wasn’t there
And it’s not fair
It’s not fair*

Not enough people knew about Matt. I barely feel like I knew him, certainly not well enough to write him a proper eulogy. I do know that at age 25, he always seemed older than he was – at age 18, he strode up to me and confidently declared he’d handle our intramural jerseys through his own t-shirt company. And he did.

Matt loved Alabama football. As much as anyone I know. After the SEC Championship Game win over Florida this past December, Matt posted a facebook status warning, “All my Auburn friends might want to block me for the next 72 hours or so.”

My friend Matt Miller loved Camp Sumatanga — he served there every summer for as long as anyone can remember, and everyone there remembers him as a guy who was quick to say whatever was on his mind, and quick with a hug.

“You never got cheated on a hug from Matt.” That was my wife’s memory of him.

And my friend Matt loved the Lord. He had dedicated his life to ministry, was less than one semester away from completing his seminary work and was already pastoring a small church in Millport, Ala.

“Matt was one of our most promising young ministers.” That was Bishop Will Willimon’s memory of him.

For reasons unbeknownst to all of us, God chose to call Matt home Saturday — an accident while he was hunting with his dad in Arkansas. He died only a few hours before his favorite football team celebrated a national championship in Tuscaloosa.

On Wednesday they’ll bury his earthly remains. And the rest of us will have to carry on without him.

If you think I’m angry and having a hard time knowing how to carry on, you’re right. Because it’s not fair.

I don’t weep for Matt. Matt’s just fine. He got the best seat in the house on Saturday, and I suspect he hasn’t stopped talking to everybody he can grab hold of since he left this earth.

No, I cry for all of us down here. I cry for the work he wasn’t able to finish while he was here. I cry for his family, his extended family, the one that stretches all across North Alabama, from Hoover to Millport to Tuscaloosa to Sumatanga and way beyond that.

We’re the ones who are lost today.

*The song is actually an old Derek Webb tune, which appeared on the first Caedmons Call CD. It's painful to listen to, because Webb's voice takes on the persona of a weeping funeral guest. Yeah.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tuesday 'tube: same song, different verse

Can't get enough of these championship videos, so that means you'll see them today and you'll enjoy them. After all, we 'Bama fans have to live in the past as often as possible.

Monday mid-day: like you didn't wish you were there, anyway

My friend The WarBlogler messaged me this morning in the hopes that I "hate the Saints." As usual, I disappointed him: not only do I not hate the Saints (I'm pretty much ambivalent when it comes to the pros) I was definitely rooting for them last night: not only was it an opportunity to watch Brett FailFavre come up short on the big stage yet again, not only was a New Orleans-Indy Super Bowl the absolute best possible matchup, it was an opportunity to see, well, this.

Saints Video: Bourbon Street

As if New Orleans isn't cool enough anyway.

Anyway, here are some links to move your Monday along.
— Tailback related links: Roy Upchurch received a late invite to the Senior Bowl (good work, Upchurch!); and Gentry sits down with Eddie Lacy.
— Some possible recruiting news: Opelika's Corey Grant, who committed to 'Bama during the summer, is re-thinking said commitment ... maybe? Nobody seems to know. In case you're curious, here's how Alabama fared in the recruiting rankings, according to the Press-Register. Also, Mr. SEC tallied up the commitments and ranked them according to points. Or something.
— Since we're talking about possible incoming players, we might as well talk about those who are leaving. BSR has an excellent series on the outgoing series — here are Parts 1 and 2.
— Two more links looking ahead to 2010, both from the T-News: first, the linebacker corps will have to reload; and Kerry Murphy reflects on an incredible year in his life.
— Also, in case you haven't noticed, Alabama won a basketball game Saturday. I'd say more, but I don't want to steal any of Whit's thunder.

Elsewhere ...
— Remember when we posted about Urban Meyer, his stress level and so forth? Well, it turns out he may not be taking a leave at all. That news comes in the wake of this story, that his old buddies Kiffin & Orgeron were telling prospects that ESPN had him lined up to replace Lee Corso on the "Gameday" set. Classy bunch. Oh, and Mr. SEC thinks Urban is putting himself at unnecessary risk.
— Finally, because I know it will make Peter happy, here's a post from last week explaining why UGA was successful in the last decade (hint: it's not because of Mark Richt's hairline).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Friday: links for a semi-normal weekend

"What we really need is a weekend. ... A drama-free weekend."

Admittedly, the year 2010 has already been an exhausting one. There's been the national championship drama, the beginning of clinical rotations, and ... well, you know what else. On the whole, a draining first few weeks in this new year.

Not that it's been all bad — in fact, my goal at the outset of this post was to count all the ways 2010 has been good to me. I do have a family I truly love, an extended family that I got to see (admittedly under strained circumstances) this past week. And, of course, in the fall we'll have this.

Anyone who knew Matt Miller for more than 5 milliseconds knows how much that meant to him. So I feel completely comfortable moving on with weekend links, talking about trivial matters of which memories are made.

— First, on the football program: the university is, of course, looking for ways to boost admissions and this championship (and the resulting increased visibility) might be a good way to do it. Here's the part where I should probably mention that the whole reason Alabama started to promote its football program in the first place was a thought by the administration at that time that football might be a good way to promote the university around the nation. And, since we missed this last week, we must remember that coach Saban insists "this is the beginning."
So how do we, then, begin again? OTS correctly noted that the last time we were in this position, we didn't handle it so well.
All in all, it was simply a wasted opportunity. Fresh off of a national championship with our main rivals in disarray, we should have went off on a run of dominance for years to come. Instead, we squandered it all away. Recruiting fell apart, the coaching staff fell apart, facilities became outdated, and then the NCAA capped it off by coming down on us with major sanctions. Three years removed from a national championship, we suddenly found ourselves with a weak staff, relatively little talent on hand, having to cope with NCAA sanctions, and having to compete with newly reinvigorated rivals. The Dubose era followed, and it went from a golden opportunity to a train wreck. As a result, as good as it felt, the harsh reality was that the 1992 national championship was of mere passing historic consequence.
And now, seventeen years later, Alabama once again finds itself with the same golden opportunity. Fresh off another national championship, Alabama now has the opportunity to once again establish itself as a national powerhouse for years to come. But as promising as this opportunity seems, nothing will be given, everything must be earned. And if Alabama doesn't do a better job of seizing the opportunity this time around, then this national championship, too, will be of mere passing historic consequence.

— To business, then: Gentry has a look at 'Bama's 2-deep for 2010, as it stands today; Spencer White takes a look at some of the holes that need filling; BSR has first look at the scholarship numbers for 2010.
(Ohbytheway, one story that completely slid under the radar because it happened the same day as the incredible Lane Kiffin event in Knoxville: Jackson Jeffcoat, the No. 1 recruit in the nation according to Rivals, actually canceled his visit to Florida because "they told me they had no scholarships left." Seriously.)
— Because the decade is now officially over, time for everyone to start stealing my ideas. Remember my "Program of the Decade" entry? Chris Low totally swipes it; Ivan Maisel gives out Coach of the Decade honors, as well (note: Mr. SEC has a list of the Best SEC Coaches At This Moment). Meanwhile, in a sign of things to come, Scarbinsky decides to create an argument where there isn't one by saying Auburn had a better decade than 'Bama (duh). Interestingly, in spite of Auburn owning the decade, AU & UA finished with exactly the same number of conference championships (1) exactly the same number of division championships (2) and 'Bama finished with double-digit wins four times (as opposed to Auburn's 2). So while Auburn had the better decade — more wins and a gaudy 7-3 mark vs. us — it wasn't the landslide you'd think.
— A few other footnotes: a sculptor in Fairhope is working on a new "Iron Bowl" piece; Mal Moore lost his wife last week; and you may have noticed that Tennessee hired a coach. Good for them.

That's all for now. Hopefully we'll have some basketball at the start of next week. And something resembling normal life again. If there's such a thing.
Some Webb to close out the week ...

Roll Tide.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

a "Lost" Wednesday: more annoying than ever?

Editor's Note: This morning, I'm going to St. Mark UMC with a heavy heart to celebrate the life of Rev. Matt Miller, who almost assuredly enjoyed a hearty laugh last night at the staggering number of people standing in line to see him. In the meantime, like the rest of us, I have to attempt to return to something resembling ordinary life, if only because, having known Matt (trite as this may sound) he'd have wanted it that way. And so, here is your weekly post highlighting the TV show "Lost." I'll understand if you can't find it funny just yet.

Grabbed this from The Onion today — and yes, I realize I'm probably one of the people described in the video. Sue me.

Final Season Of 'Lost' Promises To Make Fans More Annoying Than Ever

As always, feel free to add anything you may have about how we as fans will be more annoying than ever in the commentary section. And, as always, Roll Tide.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tuesday 'tube: a tribute to a lost friend

Many apologies for the radio silence in the last few days — like most everybody who knew Matt Miller, I'm having genuine difficulty knowing how to carry on. For anyone who might be interested, his visitation is this evening, and we'll gather to celebrate his life tomorrow at 11 a.m. at St. Mark UMC. And no, it's not fair. But I don't know how to fix that.

Anyway, one thing I do know: Matt Miller loved Alabama football. And he loved this past football season. And so I can't think of anything more fitting than to post this from Saturday's festivities at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

God bless you, Matt Miller. And Roll Tide.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

hey guys ...

Just a quick note: we in the 'Bamasphere lost one of our best this weekend: Matt Miller, who you may recognize from the commentary on this blog or from church or camp or one of about 1,000 other places, apparently went home to be with God earlier today. I'll have more later.

Life just ain't fair.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

time to re-assess this whole "Team of the Decade" thing, like it or not

The 2009 Alabama Crimson Tide accomplished more than any other Alabama team in history — 14 wins, an SEC championship, a victory over the No. 2 team in the nation, a Heisman trophy and six All-Americans.
Moreover, they made a last-minute grab at the title of "Best SEC Team This Decade."

"But wait," you're saying. "You've said repeatedly that 2004 Auburn was the Best Team of This Decade. You were adamant about it. So now you're changing your mind?"

Well, here's the thing: a decade is 10 years. An entire decade. And since another SEC team pulled off the feat that no other SEC team could since Tennessee in 1998 — isn't it kind of cool that both SEC teams to go undefeated this decade both came from Alabama? — I'm forced to re-evaluate that assertion. So, with apologies to Bill Simmons and Dr. Jack Ramsay, here's a breakdown: 2004 Auburn vs. 2009 Alabama.

14-0 for 'Bama; 13-0 for Auburn. SEC champs, both times.
The Alabama resume, however, crushes Auburn's in this department: 'Bama played a much tougher schedule — 10 of that vanquished 14 played in the postseason, and two of them — Florida and Texas — didn't lose to anyone else on their schedule besides Alabama. (To be completely fair to Auburn, they didn't get the chance to play the best team in the country in 2004. Which, in retrospect, kind of sucks.)
Reviewing their schedules a little more closely, '09 Alabama's best wins of the season — over Florida and Texas, both on neutral fields — are better than '04 Auburn's — over Georgia (10-2 in '04) at home and Virginia Tech (10-3) in the Sugar Bowl — and their best non-conference win in the regular season (vs. 10-3 Va. Tech on a neutral field) is better than Auburn's (over ... I dunno ... Louisiana Tech? ... at home).
(Spooky fact when reviewing the stats of the two teams: their average margins of victory are almost exactly the same, roughly, 32-11. Weird.)

Without thinking about this much, I was ready to hand this category to Auburn without any questions. That '04 Tiger team had a whopping four first-round NFL draftees in April of 2005 — Jason Campbell, Carnell, Ronnie Brown and Carlos Rogers — plus another who eventually became a first-rounder (Ben Grubbs in 2007). And that doesn't count all the guys who have become quality NFL role players: Marcus McNeill, Anthony Mix, Devin Aromashadou, Ben Obomanu, Stanley McClover and a few others I'm sure I forgot. This seems like a slam dunk.
But there's a mitigating factors here, however: most of Alabama's best players are underclassmen and won't even be eligible to be drafted for a few years. Best guess, here's how I see it shaking out ...
• Rolando McClain is a sure-fire first-round guy, unless something insane happens.
• Dont'a Hightower (didn't play much this year because of his knee and maybe doesn't even belong in this discussion) could be a solid pro one day.
• Someone will draft Terrence Cody. Will he be an effective pro? I have no idea. But someone will take that risk.
• Javier Arenas and Kareem Jackson can play professionally.
• Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson look like eventual first-rounders.
• Julio Jones, Marquis Maze and Colin Peek likely have professional futures.

I'm sure I'm leaving somebody out here — wait, I didn't mention Courtney Upshaw or Marcel Dareus? — but you get the idea. It's fair to say this is a push.

2004 Auburn wins this one easily. Maybe this 2009 Alabama team means a lot to me personally and to Alabama fans all over for redeeming what's been, on the whole, a decade of misery. But it doesn't compare to that Auburn team that rebounded from the disappointment of 2003, rode a wave of good feelings (stemming from the AU brass' reprehensible attempt to oust their head coach) and carved out a nice as the most likable team in America that season. They orchestrated that goofy pregame ritual where they walked out with their arms linked, prayed together after touchdowns, even adopted a gospel song as their signature.

And yeah, maybe I have a soft spot for that group because its leader was my buddy T.J. Jackson, an Opelika guy. But it's rare a team connects with its fan base the way that 2004 Auburn squad did.

Gotta give the edge to '09 'Bama here. Maybe Tommy Tuberville is the more likable of the two bosses — though by the way, no one was complaining about Tubs' "lack of class" when he was waving 5 fingers around like a moron in Tuscaloosa four years ago — but Nick Saban now has three SEC championships, four SEC West championships and two national championships to his name. Tubervile has ... well, 2004, and that's really all.
For the staffs of the two teams, both have an offensive coordinator who came from the West Coast and immediately started winning (combined record of Al Borges/Jim McElwain in their first two seasons in the state of Alabama: 50-4). On the defensive side of things, Gene Chizik became a head coach eventually (with mixed results so far) and Kirby Smart is widely considered a head-coach-in-waiting. So they're pretty much even.

Maybe there isn't one. Auburn in 2004 was one of my favorite stories of the decade, and I couldn't believe any team this decade would approach that rarified air, particularly with the increased competition in the conference. But this year's version of Alabama did it, and did it under the highest of expectations from the time camp opened.
So which one is better? I have no idea. I suppose it's like the bit about reaching the mountaintop: you can't really climb higher than the top of the mountain, but you can at least reach the top, and hang out with everybody else who's there. Maybe we can agree on that, at least.

Roll Tide.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

a "Lost" Wednesday: take a number

Since I do owe everybody a "Lost" post, here's something I pulled off the spoiler Web site ODI related to everyone's numbers.
Locke 4
Hurley 8
Sawyer 15
Sayid 16
Jack 23
Kwon 42 (either Sun or Jin)

What does this mean? I have no idea. But I did find this video, which is totally awesome.

I come to bury Lane Kiffin, not to praise him

If you don't enjoy hilarious, drunken, profanity-laced youtube rants, please, do not visit the site today and search the phrase "Lane Kiffin." Among other things you will find a) a bizarre video in which a man evacuates his bladder on an orange shirt bearing Kiffin's likeness; multiple grainy videos of violence and mayhem; this smattering of student opinion from around downtown Knoxville (presumably, the drunk, profane and disorderly were edited out).

I won't pretend to feel sorry for Tennessee over this — it's not as though they haven't spent the past decade smirking and sneering in Tuscaloosa's direction every time something bad happened to our program. What goes around comes around.
At the same time, I'm not here to dance on their grave, either (other 'Bama fans can handle that one).

A few scattered thoughts on this one.
— For whatever reason, from the time Lane Kiffin was hired at Tennessee, it seemed that his tenure in Knoxville was destined to end badly, with either a Woody Hayes or Rick Neuheisel type scandal. I have no explanation for this, but something about Kiffin (and his staff) always seemed off: the brash, constant mouthing, the blatant flouting of NCAA rules, the constant touting of his own staff. I caught a Kiffin interview with Dan Patrick before the season started; he bragged about several of his recruits by name and rating (specifically noting that certain guys were 4 or 5-star prospects) and mentioned repeatedly how he'd hired away "the best recruiter on Alabama's staff" (Lance Thompson). Listening to him, I generally got the same impression one would get from an interview with a brash 16-year-old the day after prom having breakfast with his buddies ("I'm not kidding, dude — she wanted to do it with me AND two of her friends"). That continued to manifest itself during the season — specifically, after his team gave a valiant effort in a loss to Alabama, Kiffin eschewed praising his own team's effort or Alabama's resilience, choosing to instead to accuse the referees, the SEC and whoever operates the headsets at Bryant-Denny Stadium of conspiring against him. Well done.
Look, I'm not pretending that Kiffin is any less of a jerk than Saban or Urban Meyer or about 50 other coaches in the country. But those guys at least have the good sense to comport themselves with something resembling classy behavior in public (Saban is famously complimentary of everyone on his schedule and even said something nice about the officials in midseason). I'm only suggesting that such poorly veiled petulance is bound to show itself eventually.
— One thing that has surprised me: the number of Vol fans and bloggers who have expressed shock that Kiffin and his staff were in this thing for anybody besides themselves. Really, guys? You thought this douche nozzle was loyal to anything other than bottom line? You expect the Vol Walk and the Vol Navy and Neyland Stadium to mean as much to this guy as it does to you? Are you sane?
I suppose I used to think this way. The Franchione thing kind of took it away from me. Coaches are in the business to make money and take care of themselves and everything else is just a means to that end. It's the way things are now, not just with high profile coaches, but with everybody.
Here's a line from a column penned by Bill Simmons after Johnny Damon enraged New England by leaving the Red Sox to sign with the Yankees:
For instance, let's say your buddy has spent eight quality years working for a law firm. He loves everyone in his office, loves his job, never imagines going anywhere else ... and then another law firm comes swooping in and offers him a partnership and big bucks. And let's say he asked you for advice. Well, you know what you would do? You would tell him to take the big bucks. You would. I'm telling you ... you would. And when he does so, you would praise him for doing the right thing for his family. That's the way life works. With sports, for whatever reason, we expect athletes to do the right thing ... for us, not for them. When they choose themselves, we act like they mailed us a pile of dog poop. Somehow they're the ones being selfish.

Do I believe, for example, that Nick Saban is "loyal" to Alabama? Kind of. I figure he genuinely cares about his players and his coaching staff; he (and his wife) probably likes Tuscaloosa and the money he's making; he seems to like his bosses, and he's built a strong program here with no signs of slowing anytime soon. I believe it would take something substantial to walk away from all that. But do I believe he's "loyal" to the program in the same way I am? Does he get goosebumps when he hears the first notes of the fight song? Did he choke up during the celebration after the SEC Championship Game (and only because it meant so much to him to be there in person to see something you cherish so much walk proudly out of the wilderness, unscathed)? Does he bristle every time rival fans and columnists try to smear on everything the team accomplished this season? Would he turn down any offer to stay at Alabama, just because he loves it so much? Please.
More importantly, why should I expect him to operate that way? As Simmons put it so aptly, it's not as though we live that way in the rest of the world. If someone called me from Knoxville or Auburn or Athens, Ga., right now, with an offer to come and work for them making twice what I make now ... I'm supposed to turn it down because I want to work in Tuscaloosa and only Tuscaloosa? Don't be ridiculous.
(One hilarious note I didn't realize until I started reading some this: Lane and wife Layla apparently named their first son "Monte Knox Kiffin." Wow. Talk about a lack of foresight.)
— Having said all that, I have no idea what USC wants in Lane Kiffin. Lane isn't Saban or Meyer, someone with a proven track record who needs a new challenge. Here, in essence, is his resume, per Dr. Saturday:
Thirty-four-year-old Lane Kiffin, bearer of a career record of 12-21 as a head coach at two different jobs in three years -- one of which he left in midseason with his boss calling him a "flat-out liar" -- is officially in charge of the dominant college football program of the last decade. Embrace the chaos.

Near as I can tell, here are his qualifications as head coach at USC.
• He can employ a good staff. No arguments here — if he can bring Norm Chow aboard (as he says he can) to team with dad Monte and certifiable lunatic Ed Orgeron, that's three of the better assistants in the country (all of whom have to be at least a little taken aback that they'll be working for this ass clown, but never mind that).
(One note on the staff: someone on ESPN made the observation that Chow hasn't worked at UCLA thus far because he's butted heads with Rick Neuheisel, who's also has a background in offensive football. Assuming that's true, how does he expect to co-exist with Kiffin, who called his own plays at Tennessee, prided himself on the development of QB Jonathan Crompton AND followed Chow at USC? Don't people think about these things?)
• His players seem to like him. Maybe it's a by-product of youth, but Tennessee's '09 squad definitely had a swagger that the '08 version did not, evidenced by the way the team formed a tight huddle and bounced up and down in the middle of Bryant-Denny Stadium last October prior to the fourth quarter (and they damn near won that thing, don't forget). It was a marked difference from the last days of the Phil Fulmer era, when the team seemed pretty disinterested down the stretch.
• When he loses, he'll whine and cry until he gets his way. Whoops, this isn't a good quality.
• He has a hot wife. Who's perfect for Southern Cal, I might add. Good call there.

— If what some of the UT prospects said is true, and Ed Orgeron was recruiting for USC before he even left Knoxville, there should be some sort of recourse. It's one thing to leave a school in the lurch; it's quite another to be working for your new employer while you're still technically employed by your old one. That's not OK.
— Of course, the talk has already turned to the Vols' next head coach. The "Phil Fulmer as athletic director" has already come up, as you probably knew it would. Will Muschamp's name will inevitably come up, as well as David Cutcliffe and a smattering of other names. Feel free to add your own dark horse to the mix (Trooper Taylor, Jim Leavitt, Mike Leach and so forth).
I'm not sure in which direction the wheel will turn. If Muschamp is indeed the target in Knoxville, that's probably the right move — 2009 was the first season I thought he really proved himself as a defensive coordinator (even if the only time his Texas defense faced a true offensive test was the BCSMNC Game, and surrendered two 100-yard rushing performances and 37 points). That battle will likely come down to a) what UT is willing to offer and b) whether Mack Brown is serious about retiring in the foreseeable future. We'll see.

For now, though, I must confess myself somewhat disappointed. I was looking forward to the battles down the road with Kiffin's Vols — they were looming as a legitimate foil in 2010 with a legitimate group of villains leading the way. That's way more fun than thumping a rival that's in turmoil, right?
One final thought on that: certainly, UT's biggest moral victory in a season of them was its near-miss in Tuscaloosa. If you think this is an excuse to replay that monumental event, you're right.

Watch the video again. Watch the postgame handshake between Kiffin and Nick Saban. Watch it closely. It certainly appears Kiffin is saying, "We'll get you next year," doesn't it?
Oh well, guys.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tuesday 'tube: like you were there

Here are few (kind of "Blair Witch" level) videos shot from the stands at last week's BCS National Championship Game.

(You've heard about this by now, right? Yeah, Alabama won the national championship. No kidding.)

(UPDATE: Embedding for this fantastic video from the locker room was disabled, but if you don't go and view it, I'm seriously thinking about revoking your membership card.

Said it before and I'll say it again: Roll Tide.

Friday, January 8, 2010

on success ... and hate

Since we're now more than 24 hours removed from Alabama's victory in the BCS National Championship — you heard about that, right? — I figured I'd preempt some of our bitter friends from rival schools and their tired lines about redneckery, luck and so forth.
The thing is, it's good to have these people. I'll let Katt Williams explain (warning: language is decidedly offensive).

So yes, just to save everyone the time, Alabama is lucky, Alabama cheats and Alabama fans are all rednecks. Also, if you'd like to see the BCS National Championship trophy anytime soon, swing by Tuscaloosa and have a look.

Enjoy your winter. I know I'm going to.

week 15 thoughts: up where we belong

For today, and the rest of this weekend, let's forget the national championship debate. Whether Alabama now has 13 national championships — as the new helmet on the set of "Gameday" proudly attested late last night — or a mere 8 national titles — as the analysts for ESPN said repeatedly — it doesn't matter. Instead, for today, drink in the moment.

Two numbers matter. 14. And 1.
(This shouldn't require explanation.)

And if that doesn't do it for you, read this post OTS.
Consider the following... we went undefeated in the SEC at the zenith of the SEC's run as a dominant conference, and did so in a year where being undefeated was an absolute requirement to having a chance at earning a berth in the BCS Championship Game. Furthermore, to go undefeated, we had to defeat on a neutral site arguably the single greatest player in the history of college football, and we had to defeat his team... the defending national champions that practically returned every single key member of their national championship team.
Then once we did earn a berth in the BCS Championship Game, we drew not the pushovers of the world -- no Ohio State for us -- but we drew Texas, an elite team and an elite program in every sense of the word, and also a team that we had never defeated before, not to mention a team that was undefeated in their own right.
Oh and by the way, we were to play this game in Pasadena, site of the effective birthplace of Alabama football, and a game that we had been barred from -- largely due to our own success -- for more than sixty years.
And ultimately we answered the bell. We went undefeated, we beat Florida, we beat Texas, and we lifted the crystal ball high into the sweet Pasadena air. And oh yes, we also picked up a Heisman Trophy along the way, a Butkus Trophy, the Broyles Award, and oh yes we also had six All-Americans.
Again, not all national championships are created equal. This is most certainly not just another national championship.

If you're a fan like me — and Lord knows, I hope you're not — today is a weird place to be. What do you do when your team just completed (arguably) the best season in school history? When the team with which you've lived and died since third grade just answered every question, defeated every challenge and received every deserved accolade?
Simmons actually sort of discussed the issue in this famous column after the Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2002.
You bleed for your team, you follow them through thick and thin, you monitor every free-agent signing, you immerse yourself in Draft Day, you purchase the jerseys and caps, you plan your Sundays around the games ... and there's a little rainbow waiting at the end. You can't see it, but you know it's there. It's there. It has to be there. So you believe.
Of course, there's one catch: You might never get there. Every fan's worst fear. All that energy over the years just getting displaced, no release, no satisfaction, nothing. Season after season, no championship ... and then you die. I mean, isn't that what this is all about? Isn't that the nagging fear? That those little moral victories over the years won't make up for that big payoff at the end -- that one moment when everything comes together, when your team keeps winning, when you keep getting the breaks and you just can't lose.

And so, when it finally comes together, what do you do?
You smile, for one thing (yes, Coach, go ahead and smile). You puff on the cigar you've been saving for the right time (living perilously with the knowledge that the right time might never come). You sip champagne and call everybody you know and try not to weep like an idiot.
And you smile. You keep smiling.

Any season spent following a sports team is always something of a journey — we begin each season with a certain of expectations for our teams, about who's going to play where, what factors will be important to achieving certain goals, what are our expected results. Those expectations evolve over time, a few people we didn't consider before the season (think Marcel Dareus or Darius Hanks) emerge and by the end of the year, we might not even recognize the team that lined up in Week 1. And when it's over, it's always a little bittersweet: after all, we spend way more time cussing and discussing football than we do actually watching football.
Reflecting back on the journey that was this decade in Alabama football, I can only shake my head in amazement. We've been ridiculed, forgotten. Told we're a relic of college football history. Told we're unrealistic. Endured a steady stream of embarrassment, from Mike Dubose all the way to Louisiana-Monroe.
Somehow, the decade ended with our fans in Pasadena, celebrating ... a national championship. A God's-honest, not-at-all disputed, consensus national championship.
I grinned like the Cheshire Cat when I typed that last paragraph. And I shook my head some more.

Some scattered thoughts on the game ...
— Of course, the dominant storyline coming out of the game will be, unfortunately, Colt McCoy's shoulder injury, which took away much of Texas' offensive game plan AND stole the momentum from TU's early-game barrage. Certainly, the game would have played out differently with him in the game; it would be foolish of me (or any other 'Bama fan) to suggest otherwise. Consider two things, however:
• McCoy didn't trip climbing out of the bathtub — Alabama's defense knocked the guy out of the game. And, as Jerry at WBE noted today, when your quarterback is your primary rushing threat, and Plan B is an untested freshman ... you were kind of asking for it.
• More importantly — and Jerry mentions this also — Texas cost itself when it made the unbelievable decision early in the game to leave 4 frigging points on the field by kicking a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Really, Mack Brown? You're taking the 3 and hoping for the best in the national championship game? When you just put in a freshman QB and can't guarantee when you'll be this close to the end zone again? I'm still scratching my head over this — not only did it send the wrong message to his team ("I don't believe we can make a yard in this situation"), it basically let Nick Saban off the hook for the baffling 4th-and-23 fake punt (since, from the point where the ball was intercepted, TU would've had a field goal, anyway). It reminded me of the 2006 Auburn game, when Mike Shula made a similar decision in a similar situation — a writer friend of mine in the press box received a text message that read "We just lost" even as the kick was clearing the uprights. And we had.

— That reminds me: our quarterback was injured, too. And broken ribs hurt. A lot.
— On Marcel Dareus: we've known all year that the guy was a stud. Now everybody knows.

— So what exactly happened to Alabama in the third quarter? As much as anything else — and this is hokey to say — I believe the team let down and lost its focus. We seemed to be celebrating the win before it was completely in the bag. It happens; they're just kids, after all. And Texas made its run — as I heard someone on the radio saying this morning, good teams always make a run — and Alabama had to hold them off. That's what champions do.
— Not nearly enough has been made, from what I've seen, about Alabama's rushing attack chewing up Texas' vaunted run defense (two 100-yard rushers vs. a defense that hasn't allowed one all year). And consider that it did so without Greg McElroy being much of a factor. That's an impressive day at the office, gentlemen.
(Note: A couple of blog outlets — I'm looking at you, WBE — have already predictably lambasted the last touchdown as "classless." I'll have to see it again, but it appeared Saban wanted to keep picking up first downs until TU used its last timeout, only Mack Brown decided the game was lost and didn't want to spend it. It's not Richardson's fault he scored when he got the ball. Look, Saban's a bad enough guy without making too much of something that miniscule.)
— I'm not certain, but I think Brent and Kirk Herbstreit had money on Texas covering the spread, judging by their second-half commentary. And even though Brent remains completely over-the-top, and even though Herbstreit always sounds like he's shouting into his microphone, they're still way, way better than FOX. So it's good they're taking over the BCS next year, if nothing else.

— So, of course, thoughts will almost immediately turn to next year, whether we want them to or not. And if you want to dream, read this Scarbinsky column predicting a repeat (damn you, you beret-wearing fruit).

To be honest, I didn't read it. I don't want to think about next year. Or last year. Or anything except what just happened.
I can't help it. We're back at the top of the mountain, and I can't stop smiling.

Roll Tide.

can't think of the right words ...

I saw it. I watched the highlights. I'm watching them again now.

But I'm still not sure I believe it.

This really happened, right?

We'll have some extended thoughts ... later. For now, I'm feeling ... well, like this.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

gameday & I'm a wreck

That's really about it. I need to start drinking to keep my hands from shaking. Hopefully we'll all still be here after it's over for ... whatever.

Roll Tide.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"Lost Wednesday: all you need to know in ...

ABC apparently just released this one (h/t:

In other news, it's cold here and getting colder. If no one comes over tomorrow, I'll understand.

scattered thoughts on Championship Eve

If you didn't get your wife anything for Mark Ingram Day, there's probably still time. I suggest a nice No. 22 Alabama jersey, possibly with fishnet hose. But enough of my own fantasy. There's a championship to win.

• Quite honestly, I have almost no feel for this game Thursday, the 14th game on the schedule (which probably explains why you've seen very few blog posts about it). In addition to the long layoff — by the time we kick off tomorrow, it will have been exactly a month since the SEC Championship Game — there's just not a whole lot I know about this Texas team. They played a lousy schedule (as this game-by-game recap will attest) and were decidedly underwhelming in the national spotlight. Arguably, their two "best" wins all season were back-to-back road thumpings of Missouri and Oklahoma State (combined record: 17-9). In fact, after their razor-thin win over Nebraska for the Big XII crown, Jerry at War Blog Eagle ranked them fourth, then said the following:
I hate this Texas team. Hate. Fraudiest bunch of frauds that ever frauded.

The strength of this Longhorn team should be its offense, with a Heisman finalist (Colt McCoy) and his favorite receiver returning (Jordan Shipley). But they've been mostly "meh" all year — only twice all year have they faced defenses as good as what Alabama has, against Oklahoma and Nebraska (in the Big 12 title game), and they struggled to reach double digits in both games (against OU, specifically, they needed 5 turnovers to survive).
That's left things to the defense, which is frankly spectacular. Only once all season have they looked vulnerable — in a Thanksgiving Day tussle with Texas A&M (McCoy had to be brilliant for a 49-39 win). With a month to prepare, they should be just as rock-solid as Alabama's unit.

• It's the month's worth of preparation, for me, that makes things so difficult to read. Last night I watched Iowa — yes, the same Iowa team that was lucky to even have a winning record, based on its stats from the regular season — take apart Georgia Tech's offense, the same one that tore through the regular season on its way to a conference championship. Is Iowa that much better than Georgia Tech? Is there that much disparity between the ACC and the Big 10? Were they playing, as Chris Myers stupidly suggested, with the pride of the Midwest in their hearts and minds?
It's ... possible. I guess. But the more likely explanation is this: what makes Georgia Tech so difficult to figure out during the regular season — that quirky flexbone attack (erroneously dubbed "spread option" during last night's telecast) — is somewhat negated in a postseason setting, if only because defenses have all that time to prepare. The better defenses — and yes, Iowa is one of them — can take away that option with sufficient preparation (in a similar setting, LSU dominated Tech at last year's Peach Bowl).
Neither of these teams — Alabama and Texas — is as quirky or unconventional as Georgia Tech. The point is that you just never really know what you're getting from a team that's been off for this long. Remember the '93 Sugar Bowl (sure you do)? The key to that game: Bill Oliver & Co., with a month to prepare, installed a variety of different defensive looks (most notably a "press" look, something Miami hadn't seen all season, that led to this).

So, what will we see tomorrow night? Will Mack Brown come out in the wishbone? Will Jim McElwain employ Terrence Cody as a pass catcher? Will Marcel Dareus play like the Smoke Monster from "Lost" and destroy everything in his path? Will Colt McCoy look him in the eye and scare him away, Locke-style? You just never know.

• One of the overriding themes of this postseason, so far: the relative lack of dominance by the SEC. Currently our conference is 5-4, and even some of those wins — Arkansas' escape vs. East Carolina, Georgia's rope-a-dope vs. A&M, Ole Miss' snoozer over Oklahoma State (seriously, I fell asleep during that one) — weren't exactly signature moments. Also, that mark includes an atrocious, atrocious performance by South Carolina in the Pizza Bowl. That was embarrassing.
(Note: My favorite moment of the bowl season so far, though, was Clemson players & fans chanting "A-C-C!" in the waning moments of the Tigers' win at the Music City. Anytime the runner-up in your conference can secure an 8-point win in a lousy bowl game over another league's 9th-best team, you should totally plant a flag.)
That said, I can't shake the feeling that this Texas team would be fourth or fifth in the SEC. They're like a well-coached version of LSU.

• One more big intangible danger, something Nick Saban spoke to earlier this week: the possibility that Alabama has will lull itself into believing it's already made it. Maybe I'm a little put off by the fact that so many people received DVDs of the SEC Championship Game as a Christmas present (yeah, I was one of them). Or about the pronouncement that Alabama has already taken over as the SEC's dominant program. Or the recent revelation that Alabama will likely be ranked No. 1 in next year's poll.
All of it makes my cynical/pessimistic side kick in, makes me feel like Nick Saban. A season ago, the team spent a month accepting pats on the back and congratulatory wishes from fans who were excited to be relevant again ... then went out and got kicked in the teeth by Utah. It's not one of my fonder memories.

• That said, as I've said repeatedly, anybody who knows anything about this sport should know enough to drink in the moment. It barely even feels real.
Think for a moment about where we were just three short years ago. The program had just broken the bank to hire Nick Saban. We were all jumping to his defense (for fleeing Miami) and to the university's defense (for shelling out so much cash) while simultaneously dreaming of what a football team with a real coach looks like. We were a program with potential to be great, even if it seemed far in the future.
In less than three years, we have a chance to touch the top of the mountain, light cigars and pour champagne. It's a special moment.

I'll try to have something up for gameday tomorrow. I'm not promising anything, though.
Roll Tide.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Tuesday 'tube: we've been here before ..

... But it's been quite a while.

Alabama fans will occasionally talk about "where we're used to bein'" in relation to the national championship game, and it's true that 'Bama fans of a certain age grew up cheering for a team that annually competed for national titles, even considering the SEC something of an afterthought (Cecil Hurt described this beautifully in a recent radio segment).
However, Tide fans like me know enough to know how precious championship shots are — I watched my team compete for & claim a national title in 1992, but they haven't been very close since. Off the top of my head, in fact, here are the times Alabama had a real shot at a national title since '92:
1994 (12-1). Undefeated going into the final weekend of the season, Jay Barker & Alabama fell 24-23 to Steve Spurrier's Florida team (the core of which went on to win 12 games in '95 & then the national title in '96). They ultimately finished 12-1, having won more games than any senior class in Alabama history.
2005. With Nick Saban's meteoric success in the past two seasons after replacing the fired MIke Shula, a number of analysts & talking heads have treated the '05 season as though it never really happened. But I was there — it happened. That '05 team had a rock-solid defense and was ranked as high as third before losing to LSU in an overtime heartbreaker in Tuscaloosa. The team didn't really recover emotionally, got smoked the following week in Auburn & finished 10-2 after a Cotton Bowl win over Texas Tech.
2008. We all know what happened here.

That's really it. We haven't come within sniffing distance of a ring any other season. Which makes this week's youtube such a challenge — there certainly isn't much youtube available of Alabama in the Rose Bowl (the last trip there is one most of us have tried to forget) and no video exists of Alabama beating Texas (cuz, ya know, it's never really happened).
Lucky me: I can rely on those obsessive 'Bama youtubers to post video archives. Here, then, are the highlights of the last 3 national championships in Tuscaloosa, which includes arguably the greatest single play in Alabama history. Please to enjoy.

And, of course, there's this video, which is worth the price of season tickets, just to see it 7 times in the fall. Yes, obviously, it's fashionable to mock Alabama fans as "living in the past" or whatever tired line people like to trot out, but this one always gets my blood pumping.

This is Alabama football. Roll Tide.

first post of 2010: links for championship week

As it does most years, this year's postseason game has kind of sneaked up on me — Jan. 7 seemed so far away in the immediate aftermath of the victory over Florida, and there were so many other things to worry about (Christmas travel arrangements, what to buy for whom and so forth) that I didn't give the game much thought. Even now, I'm pretty hard up for real analysis. Which means I'm giving you a bevy of links to enjoy yourself.

(This, by the way, will be an Alabama-Texas party. For thoughts on any other bowl games, read the following thoughts from Jerry at WBE & Michael at Braves & Birds.)

Of course, because this wouldn't really be one of my blogs without a video I shamelessly plundered from someone else, here's one of the many excellent hype youtubes (h/t: RBR).

Well, I'm sufficiently terrified. How 'bout you?

— Your standard "Alabama is taking this game seriously" article comes to you today courtesy Chris Low.
The long layoff wreaked havoc with Alabama last season, but McClain said the practices have been significantly more physical this time around as the Crimson Tide prepare for the Citi BCS National Championship Game against Texas.

Well then. Glad we settled that. To reinforce the point, Alabama even put up a curtain around its practice field. Because we don't want anyone thinking that our coaching staff is a group of paranoid egomaniacs or anything.
— For a more intelligent bit of motivation, Saban offers up the 1980 Miracle On Ice. In this analogy, Florida is the Soviet Union and Texas is Finland. But we don't have Al Michaels to do this.

— The T News — whose coverage of the lead-up to the bowl has been predictably excellent, by the way — offers a glimpse at the similarities between Mack Brown and Nick Saban, as coaching philosophies go. Which reminds me: the next time you start crying about how much coaches at that level make, read this look at the most valuable football programs in the nation. Right there at the top: Alabama and Texas. Yeah.
— Player features: Greg McElroy has become THE guy in Tuscaloosa. And for the record, if we're going to win No. 13 Thursday, he'll have to be the guy.
— Because no game like this can be played without some kind of trumped-up controversy, here's a column about how Alabama doesn't belong in the national title game (because of probation). Just to clear things up — assuming you'd read that column long enough to get yourself worked up — here's the reason she's completely wrong.
— A few off-the-field links: a 'Bama-themed float won at the Rose Bowl Parade; Bevo will challenge Big Al for "coolest mascot" this week; and the L.A. Times looks at the residual good being done by the Paul Bryant Scholarship Fund.
— Finally, a quick look at recruiting: first a cornerback committed during the Under Armour game last week; several commits may enroll early; and, the Wall Street Journal has a fallacy-filled article about "fraudulent" recruiting rankings. Thanks, guys.