Monday, January 31, 2011

Tuesday tube: a long awaited tribute

This is delayed, but nevertheless: This week's Tuesday youtube edition is centered around our 2010 early departures, courtesy of shooterk.

(Note: Since no one realized Marcel Dareus was still on the team in 2010, I reached back to 2009. Thanks, 57.)

That should hold us until Wednesday. See you then. Roll Tide.

Monday links: with Signing Day in sight

Before we go any further with the links to start your week, here are the current SEC men's basketball standings, courtesy of RBR.
1) Alabama (5-1)
2) Florida (5-2)
3) Kentucky (4-2)
3) Tennessee (4-2)
5) Arkansas (4-3)
6) Vanderbilt (3-3)
6) South Carolina (3-3)
6) Mississippi State (3-3)
9) Georgia (3-4)
10) LSU (2-4)
11) Ole Miss (1-5)
12) Auburn (1-6)

Obviously, a long way to go for the season. Even so ... I mean, look at that again. That's really something, right?

— The biggest (non-recruiting) story on campus, then, has to be the Tide's romp over LSU, in which Alabama defended like madmen and eventually wore down a young Bayou Bengal squad. One sequence inparticular stood out: late in the first half, Chris Hines hedged out over top of a screen to force the point guard away from the basket, then executed a perfect switch, rotating in plenty of time to prevent an easy basket; he even blocked a shot attempt for good measure. That's perfect, and it's a reflection of a pride this team takes in being defense-oriented.
(Worth noting: In all my years of watching sports, I've never seen an official "wave off" a technical foul before. Was it a stupid technical in the first place? Of course it was. But the ref should've stuck to his guns.)
— Another important story this week was Rolando McClain, who was fortunate to survive an incident in which his SUV was actually shot up. He wasn't hit and isn't hurt, but good Lord.
— This would be a fun story: Sylvester Croom has interviewed for an assistant coach's job in Tuscaloosa.
— A few links looking back at the 2010 campaign: first, Dr. Saturday examines just what happened to our defense; and this guy from Bleacher Report (I hate linking to Bleacher Report) talks about Alabama's emergence in the running back department.
— Elsewhere in news related to Alabama alums trying to make it at the next level, we have Greg McElroy breaking his hand.
— OK, so, National Signing Day is Wednesday. So here's your up-to-the-minute update on that. Can we agree not to talk about this anymore? Please?
— Speaking of Signing Day, did anybody else see this genuinely bizarre story about a reality star in Auburn? I'm confused.
— Finally, for those of us who love Braves baseball, the pitchers' voluntary camp starts today. Killer.

That's probably it for today. See you tomorrow. Roll Tide.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

shameless promotion (2.0): Jan. 27, 2011

Editor's note: In the ongoing attempt of this blog to promote its primary author's failing career as a writer, here is this week's column from the St. Clair Times. As always, feel free to leave your own thoughts here, or find me on Twitter. We thank you in advance for your feigning of interest.
Thoughts on athletes and 'toughness'

While in college, I experienced problems with my shoulder: it burned, would sub-lux (the medical term for “pop out of place sometimes”) and generally served to annoy.

Because my mother made me (and because the shoulder once caused me to cry while moving a relatively light cardboard box), I visited an orthopedist who ordered an MRI on the faulty joint.

(Quick sidebar on this particular orthopedic doctor: In my lifetime, he has checked multiple broken bones, a knee ligament and this shoulder on me, stress fractures on my brother and multiple knee issues with my other brother. Mom used to joke that we bought the guy a summerhouse. At least I think it was a joke.)

Anyway, eventually I had to have surgery to repair a torn labrum. People would repeatedly ask, “What did you do to hurt your shoulder?”

“Um, I slammed into a large man wearing shoulder pads repeatedly. In high school.”

And they would marvel at me for carrying around a torn labrum three years. It made me “tough,” I suppose. And there’s nothing more important to someone who plays sports than being tough.

Being an Alabama fan, I was raised on stories about the great Paul Bryant, still the greatest coach in the history of football (and I won’t argue about this). Bryant, of course, had a career founded entirely on an aura of toughness. He earned his nickname wrestling an actual bear, played in college on a broken leg (“It was just a little bone,” he said years later) and conducted practices as a coach that seemed sadistically designed to kill ordinary people.

Even in 2011, as we learn more about the human body and its limits, we continue to debate the concept of toughness.

During Sunday’s NFL semifinal between the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, Bear quarterback (and Vanderbilt alumnus) Jay Cutler played poorly for a half, then limped to the locker room with an apparent knee injury. When the team took the field for the second half, Cutler emerged from the locker room but did not take the field, instead (apparently) sulking on the sidelines, done for the day. The Bears eventually lost 21-14.

The outcry from everywhere — the media, the blogosphere, even fellow players (current and former) — was as immediate as it was bloodthirsty. “He’s GOT to gut that out!!!” they said in unison. “Does he not have any TOUGHNESS??”

Injured or not — Cutler was diagnosed Monday with a sprained medial collateral ligament — the quarterback was expected to soldier on with a championship on the line. Like Bryant did.

The legend of the tough-as-nails athlete is one that continues to endure in our culture, even as we lead, by all accounts, the most comfortable lifestyle in the history of the world.

Still, we like to think of the Boston Celtics’ Kevin McHale, who broke his foot in 1987, kept playing on it, broke it again, still kept playing and nearly helped win a championship that summer (the Celtics lost to Los Angeles in six games). Even now, he says he’d do it again.

Except that he could never do it again. In fact, McHale still walks with a limp nearly 30 years later; he did permanent structural damage to his feet by ignoring the pain in them during those playoffs.

It’s the part of the game, and of life, that we try to ignore in these discussions about “toughness” — when something hurts, it’s usually hurting because your body’s trying to tell you something’s wrong. And it wants you to stop before you hurt yourself even worse.

But, of course, that’s the athlete’s unending question: Is it worth ignoring agonizing pain (and the ability to walk like a normal person) for a chance to win a championship and be remembered forever?

(Actually, I don’t have a good answer for that one.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tuesday (late) tube: shot from the stands

Due to circumstances well within my control, I've been away from my computer the last two days, and thus unable to blog effectively. Please accept this Tuesday tube as penance: it's two big plays from the 2010 season, only viewed from the bleachers.

Hope that works for now. Back with more later. Roll Tide.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

the obligatory basketball post

Really, I'm almost afraid to say anything. Isn't everything going well the way it is? Don't we run the risk of ruining everything by blogging about it?
(Eh ... why not?)
Only a few minutes after Alabama outlasted a gutsy but truly awful Auburn team on the road Saturday night, some whispers came from a few select Bama fans and writers. Could this Alabama team win the SEC?
I thought that was absurd, of course: I've watched this team for the better part of two months, ever since our football season fell apart and I was looking for a place to receive my anger. It's a hard-working team. It can play outstanding defense, as evidenced by its cumulative defensive stats: 57 points per game against, 36 percent FG percentage against (29 percent from 3). But it's a team that struggles to do much of anything offensively (45 percent shooting as a team, 31 percent from 3). Basically, it's the exact same team as last year's, but in a weaker Southeastern Conference.
Which, in a way, is why the door is open right now. Take a look at the SEC standings right now. Only an agonizingly close loss at Arkansas is currently standing between Alabama and a perfect conference record.
Now look at those standings again, and bear in mind the following:
• The SEC West is terrible. Just terrible. And Alabama has already beaten the traditional Western division overlords — Mississippi State — in Starkville.
• Of the top 4 teams in the SEC East, Alabama has already beaten 2 of them, Kentucky and South Carolina (and you only play the opposing division once) and one of the others, Georgia, comes to Tuscaloosa in the final week of the season.
I mean ... it's not so far-fetched that this team could win this thing, is it?
Is it?

Having said all those positive things, and acknowledging that this last week has been fun, let us also acknowledge the obvious: This is a very, VERY (insert that word a few more times) limited basketball team, particularly on offense (the performance against Kentucky was an anomaly). Currently, our best shooter, by percentage, is Charvez Davis, currently shooting a scorching 38 percent total (and 37 percent from 3). Even more troubling, the team really only has one reliable ball-handler: freshman point guard Trevor Releford, who is hampered by a) being a freshman; and b) constantly getting himself into foul trouble, which means he has to come out for extended stretches. One of the team's many offensive frustrations.
The "go-to" players on offense are small forward Tony Mitchell, a lanky, athletic slasher who can't shoot (28 percent from 3 for the season) and struggles in halfcourt sets where he can't run; and junior center JaMychal Green, who unveiled his skills facing the basket vs. Mississippi State (his surprisingly reliable mid-range jumper came out of nowhere) but remains very weak with the basketball, and panics anytime defenses collapse on him.
Weirdly, the most steady veteran on the team thus far has been Senario Hillman, who made some big shots vs. Kentucky and Auburn AND some big defensive plays (took a key charge, swiped the ball). Does he still sometimes take three-pointers that are, shall we say, ill-advised? Of course he does. Does his haircut make him look like DJ Jazzy Jeff? Of course. But he's providing a reliable fourth guard off the bench, and it's working so far.

One weird element has cropped up at inopportune times, though: Anthony Grant's late-game management skills have been, shall we say, questionable. In the aforementioned Arkansas loss, Grant failed to call a timeout with 20 seconds to play and a chance to hold for the last shot, resulting in Releford turning the ball over; vs. Kentucky, we kept feeding JaMychal in spite of his well-known penchant for fumbling the ball away (it felt like he turned the ball over 10 consecutive possessions). It didn't become an issue vs. Auburn because ... well, Auburn is terrible.

So what do we make of all this? I have no idea. Basketball season, for most fans in this state, is mostly a diversion: we enjoy it and want our team to do well, but it's not something we base our livelihood on.
Having said that, Saturday night's win at Auburn meant something to me and to Alabama fans, and Tuesday night's game vs. Kentucky was something truly special. Maybe that's the best the hoop squad can say for itself right this minute: Basketball matters in Alabama.
Maybe it's not much, but it's definitely an improvement.
Roll Tide.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday Andy: clearly defined under normal weather conditions

Today's edition of "Friday Andy" is a 5-minute edition of "Opie and the Spoiled Kid." One of my favorites.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

gameday texts: Wildcat edition

I promised you more hoop in the aftermath of last night's win over Kentucky ... and instead I'm punking out by giving you a compilation of the best text messages from yesterday afternoon. One programming note: You may notice the list is completely absent of von Herrmann texts — that's because he was sitting next to me. As always, feel free to chime in with your own texts, either here in the comments or by finding me on Twitter.

Halcombe (3:01 p.m.): Okay, it's what like Jan. 18 and they're still airing College Football Live? Really? Jesse Palmer doesn't have a D-list celebrity golf tourney to play poorly in?
Halcombe (4:43 p.m.): Announcer for ESPN college hoops coverage pronounced peanut butter cup sponsor as "Racists." I can't speak to Reese's feeling as it is I don't know their race.
Halcombe (5:05 p.m.): If "ankle, ankle, knee" was applied to Jordan, Pippen and Rodman, or Magic, Worthy and Jabbar, would they receive same notice as Heat trio of Owies?

Stacey (6:57 p.m.): Roll Tide. I love you.

Whit (8:10 p.m.): Pretty sure John Masingill is still on the front row of the student group tonight ...
Maguire (8:37 p.m.): Is it me, or do the UK players seem to not respect Calipari very much?
Rob (8:52 p.m.): I like that we actually play defense. When do we fold? I am guessing with 5 to go.
Zach (8:53 p.m.): Sounds like you're winning.
Zach (8:55 p.m.): Or radio guy is just giddy.
Zach (8:58 p.m.): Easy win on Saturday.

(This, by the way, was the halftime show that had everybody talking.)

Whit (8:59 p.m.): Well that's talent.
Dad (8:59 p.m.): You can do that.
Rob (9:00 p.m.): Yeah but that's awesome!

Whit (9:08 p.m.): We ain't white, we ain't white, we definitely ain't white!
Audra (9:12 p.m.): What's up with Bama leading Kentucky?
Audra (9:17 p.m.): Them blue boys is rattled — it's over from where I sit.
Maguire (9:28 p.m.): I sure hope so.
Rob (9:29 p.m.): When Hillman makes any shot besides a dunk or layup it's your night.
Audra (9:29 p.m.): Crowd is too pumped, they are in the minds of Kentucky — it's over.

Whit (9:38 p.m.): So at what time left in game does UK take lead?
Maguire (9:45 p.m.): Geez. I'm going to take Jamychal's wallet from him tomorrow. Should be easy.
Audra (9:47 p.m.): Well damn — the crowd just quit on them, that sucks.

Jamie (9:57 p.m.): Coach Cal may have just lost his team.
Maguire (10:06 p.m.): Somebody said, "That's an interesting scenario." And Mrs. Hillman said, "That's what I'm gonna name my boy." But she misspelled it.

Rob (10:07 p.m.): Put the 7-footer on the inbounder.

Jamie (10:08 p.m.): Nice W.
Rob (10:08 p.m.): It counts.
Whit (10:09 p.m.): We almost beat the hell outta you.
Jamie (10:09 p.m.): W=W.
Maguire (10:09 p.m.): How about that?! Roll Tide!

Jamie (10:10 p.m.): Do only the ugliest 10% of fans go to bball games?
Zach (10:38 p.m.): Wow. Turned out to be a close one huh. Good win.

Tuesday tube (on Wednesday): hanging on, but barely

Today's installment of "Tuesday youtube" (on Wednesday) comes from last night in Tuscaloosa, where our guys somehow made it home after nearly giving back every bit of a 20-point lead vs. Kentucky. The video is courtesy of

Going to try to have more on this and the state of the basketball program later on. Roll Tide.

Monday, January 17, 2011

just a thought on recruiting

I had an interesting revelation the other day, while I was thinking about the back-to-back national championships this state has earned. You'll have to hang with me a moment to get there.

I was having a conversation with my cousin's husband (cousin-in-law?) Jamie the other night, and I remarked at how many of the players on the Auburn team that recently won the national championship — you may have read about this — were not recruited by Gene Chizik or any member of his staff. Glancing at the Auburn two-deep for this season, I see the majority of the team in fact belongs to Chizik's predecessor, Tommy Tuberville. Glance at his 2006, 2007 and 2008 recruiting classes, and you'll see names like Darvin Adams, Terrell Zachery, Zach Clayton and Lee Ziemba. In fact, of Auburn's starting 22, only Cam Newton and a handful of youngsters really belong to Chizik.

Of course, that led me to the 2009 national champs, coached by Nick Saban. Significant contributors on that team included the following: Greg McElroy, Leigh Tiffin, Justin Woodall, Roy Upchurch, Brandon Deaderick, Mike Johnson, Baron Huber, Cory Reamer, Javier Arenas, Marquis Johnson and Preston Dial.
And what do those guys have in common? They were signed in 2005 and 2006, by Nick Saban's predecessor, Mike Shula.

This isn't a terribly uncommon thing in college football history: Alabama's 1992 national championship was recruited almost exclusively by Bill Curry, and Auburn's undefeated 1993-94 team was attributable primarily to Pat Dye. More recently, Urban Meyer won a title with Ron Zook's crew in 2006, while Les Miles hoisted the trophy with a team recruited mostly by, yes, Nick Saban (don't tell LSU fans this, though ... they get a little prickly).
The big difference between those guys and the Shula/Tuberville combo: Conventional wisdom at the time was that those guys couldn't recruit, and that was one huge reason they had to go.
When Mike Shula was fired after the 2006 campaign, the biggest comparison between him and his successor was in recruiting: Nick Saban and his staff recruit at what is commonly known as "a championship level." Every service that follows recruiting has consistently rated Saban's classes in the top-5 since he started, a huge difference under Shula (his last class, the one with Javy, Greg and Andre Smith, rated 18th on ESPN). To be completely fair to Shula, he was operating under probation during his entire tenure at 'Bama, but he still wasn't recruiting at a high enough level to keep his job. At least, that's what we all said.
As for Tuberville, the prevailing party line from Auburn patrons since his ouster was that he was getting absolutely worked by Saban, Urban Meyer and Les Miles, on the recruiting trail. Tubs' last two classes were 7th and 19th on ESPN, respectively, and the sound beating that occurred in 2008 prompted Jamie to say he felt like he'd been gang-raped.

Three years later, that class is helping hoist a championship trophy. And you wonder why I hate this time of year and love it all at once.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday Andy: I don't chew my cabbage twice

The "Friday Andy" segment returns with one of my favorite moments in the show: Ernest T. Bass attempting to court Charlene Darling.

Planning on having a little more later. No promises, as always.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

shameless promotion (2.0), part xvii

Editor's Note: In the ongoing attempt of this blog to promote its primary author's failing career as a writer, we present to you this week's column from the St. Clair Times. As always, feel free to voice your own opinion in the comments about the poor quality of the writing, the topic or whatever might be ailing you at the moment (you can also find me on Twitter). Thank you in advance for your feigning of interest.
The only cure for election burnout is more election

Late last week, while driving around — something I do pretty much all the time — news came over the radio that the White House was preparing to “shake up” its staff members.

Specifically, the analyst said, President Obama was likely to change his press secretary, his secretary of state and possibly his chief of staff within the next few days. As I type this, the press secretary (Auburn native Robert Gibbs) has already stepped down.

This is happening now, the analyst went on, because of the election.

“They’re shifting into campaign mode again,” he said. “Gibbs is great on the campaign trail.”

Well, I thought, that’s kind of a stretch, right? I mean, the election isn’t until November and it’s only January. Is he really that concerned about an election that’s 10 months away?

The host of the radio show howled.

“Campaign mode?” he said. “The election isn’t until 2012!”


This, it seems, is the way of the world in American politics these days. With the new Congress barely warming its seats in Washington, the conversation is already shifting to who will win the next election, in November 2012.

This isn’t a new trend, of course: Presidential candidates for 2008 were emerging in the middle of 2007, and some of the members of the current legislature had already begun campaigning against the current administration before they’d even taken office in 2008.

It’s a disturbing trend, really. Analysts, columnists and bloggers who focus on politics all seem to have their eyes on the same issue: Will this help (Candidate X) win the next election? Every issue — health care, Afghanistan, the economy — is viewed through the same prism.

What no one ever seems to ask is the following: Putting aside how this issue helps or hurts your political aspirations, is it good for your constituents? Is it good for America? Is this the right thing to do?

It won’t end anytime soon, of course. From now until 2012, Obama and the Democratic party will saw back and forth with the Republicans in Washington — the phrase “will of the people” will emerge multiple times, politicians will disingenuously complain about “government waste” (while openly lobbying for more federal money to go into their own districts) and every debate will center around “how it will play” in various political circles.

And we, the voters, will fall for it. Guess we always do.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tuesday tube: Sweet Home Alabama

Congrats go out to Auburn and its fans for completing the final leg of the journey last night in Glendale. in a way, it was eerily similar to the way most of the season went for Auburn: Clearly the better team, the Tigers controlled much of the action, only they couldn't quite put it away, and just when it looked like it might be slipping away — with Oregon having tied the game and their star QB clearly hurting — they came up with one more big play — Dyer's goofy "was he down/he wasn't down/he's still runnin!" run — and did enough to win. Auburn fans shouldn't feel any need to apologize; finding a way to win is what champions do.
Anyway, I take no pleasure in celebrating an Auburn national title; then again, it is the second straight championship for our state. Here, then, for our Tuesday tube feature, highlights of the 2009 and 2010 national champs.
(One note: Couldn't find a good highlight from last night's game. Guess it's a little early. You'll have to be satisfied with this for now.)

Congratulations to all our in-state ring-bearers. See you tomorrow. Roll Tide.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Monday links: so icy, so icy

As I'm typing this, the entire state and region is currently being held hostage by ice on the roadways. I'm not arguing, just pointing it out for the record. It has given me ample opportunity to watch two NFL playoff games ... and wow, is professional football barely watchable. Shouldn't they just change it to flag football? Don't get me started.
It has been strangely enjoyable to see so many SEC guys I recognize in playoff games. In the Baltimore-Kansas City game alone, I saw LeRon McClain, Jarrett Johnson, Terrence Cody, Ben Grubbs, Michael Oher, Javier Arenas, Dexter McCluster, Dwayne Bowe, Tim Castille and ... a bunch of other guys I'm sure I'm forgetting. It's pretty neat.

Anyway, since we're stuck indoors, it seems like the perfect time to update the links file. Hopefully wherever you are you'll be able to read this (meaning you'll have power) either tonight or tomorrow. And if you can't, maybe Miami-Ohio's interim coach can inspire you.

Well, I'm fired up.
— The biggest news of the day in Alabama quarters, of course, is the departure of three Tide juniors: Mark Ingram, Julio Jones and Marcell Dareus. None were a huge shock, and frankly any one of us who had friends with chances to make that much money should encourage them to go, anyway. It's the mark of a healthy program when players of that caliber can leave and it not be considered death or even a terribly serious loss.
Dr. Saturday, of course, asked the question that was begging to be asked: What if he hadn't been forced to split carries for two of his three seasons? He's the subject of a new Daniel A. Moore painting, regardless.

— In links related to next year, the T-News has this story about early signees who have already shown up to campus. Also, Izzy examines the 2011 quarterback battle. As an aside, if you follow our 2009-10 quarterback on Twitter, you may have noted that he's apparently considering getting into broadcast. I bet he'd be awesome at it.

— Our basketball team picked up a big win yesterday at Mississippi State, which involved us actually making a few jumpers and staying in control the whole way. Why is this significant? Well, a) It's our first win away from Tuscaloosa this season; b) State has ruled the SEC West for longer than you think, c) You may not realize this, but the State-Bama basketball series is actually a pretty big rivalry for both teams.
More to the point, if this program is progressing at all in Year 2 with coach Grant, we should be able to make a serious run at first place in this lousy division. Thumping the reigning division overlords at their place is an important step in the right direction. Just keep an eye on things.

— BCS MNC related things: Mike Svetitz is predicting an instant classic; Joe Medley is noting that the game preparation crossed paths with the horrific tragedies in Arizona yesterday; Sally Jenkins is begging the NCAA to reform college football; and Thayer Evans wants you to know the Cam Newton investigation is still open.

— Also, Michigan may be close to hiring Les Miles. That is all.

See you tomorrow, I hope. Roll Tide.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Tuesday tube: that complete bowl game

Here's a little Tuesday youtube to while away today: Offensive and defensive highlights from Saturday at the Capital One Bowl, courtesy of

That was fun. Let's do it again in September.

See you tomorrow. Roll Tide.

gameday texts: New Year's edition

This week's edition of "Gameday Texts" actually spans the time frame from Wednesday (Dec. 29) through Saturday. Suffice to say, there were too many to leave anything out. As always, warnings about content and (possibly) language apply. Also as always, please feel free to include your own texts of note either here in the comments or by finding us on Twitter.
Halcombe (8:06 p.m.): Zoooooooooooooookkkkkkkk!
Whit (8:24 p.m.): The Zooooooker!!!!!
Maguire (9:58 p.m.): "Playing under control" something Nathan Saturday never learned to do.

Pedro (3:44 p.m.): Do they make everyone wear pinstripes at the Pinstripe Bowl?
Jamie (7:59 p.m.): Word to the wise, when you lose your helmet stop playing.

Jamie (9:19 p.m.): My Lord, it's football not chess. CONTACT SPORT!
Jamie (9:20 p.m.): Then they DON'T call THAT?
Jamie (9:24 p.m.): They don't deserve to make this kick.

Jamie (9:29 p.m.): Lost in all the commotion was the fact that Janzen Jackson got flagged for "tackling too hard."
Pedro (9:51 p.m.): "History maybe ending on ESPN2." Does this mean the end of the world, the end of the Deuce, the end of women's basketball, the end of UConn?

Pedro (10:13 p.m.): The Mrs., "Are you kidding me? Oh my God, are you freakin kidding me? Show me the football game! That's it, I'm going to bed. Not like we don't have ESPN2."

Maguire (1:52 p.m.): They have Bluth bananas in Disney World.

Pedro (2:09 p.m.): Not sure I'm a fan of interviewing the incoming coach in the midst of his predecessor's finale. Methinks Randy Shannon not a fan of that CBS programming choice.
Halcombe (3:08 p.m.): ESPN, absolutely "love" the Roll Tide spot during the Liberty Bowl. Priceless.
Halcombe (3:18 p.m.): Have to say, I'm pulling for O'Leary, but today he may show why he should have actually earned the degrees on his resume.
Halcombe (4:07 p.m.): NOTRE DAME IS BACK!!!! Oops. I meant to say Oregon is all hype. My bad.
Jamie (5:52 p.m.): P to the a to the thetic.
Jamie (5:54 p.m.): Hey Chris Durham, you're 6-6 going in. Nothing to cry over chief.

Jamie (5:57 p.m.): Charlie Weis to UF. Good move by Mchamp.
Jamie (7:22 p.m.): FSU and SC hitting the hell out of each other.
Jamie (7:27 p.m.): Chicken bowl is my favorite.
Halcombe (7:40 p.m.): Woof woof woof. Go dawgs. Schmucks.
Rob (8:47 p.m.): Yeah the SEC looks weak so far.
Maguire (8:48 p.m.): We haven't played yet. And I'll take an SEC 0-fer if it means Oregon shuts those people up.
Pedro (8:53 p.m.): We've always got MS State. They can take Michigan, at least most of America thinks so.
Zach (9:43 p.m.): Yeah. This is bad.

Zach (10:18 a.m.): However, all 3 have been from East.
Zach (10:22 a.m.): Bama will not lose.
Zach (10:23 a.m.): Guaranteed.

Jamie (12:04 p.m.): Rhodes Scholar nominee ...
Maguire (12:21 p.m.): That's a great way to start the game. Now let's see if we can play D.
Jamie (12:28 p.m.): Man to man buster. Crossing and go routes.
Whit (12:28 p.m.): Yeah we are manned up on the WRs and are bringing heat on every play, it seems.
Maguire (12:30 p.m.): Lester!
Maguire (12:46 p.m.): Good to capitalize on the turnover. Rtr.
Zach (1:12 p.m.): As I said, guaranteed.
Rob (1:19 p.m.): Seriously can we maintain in the second half.
Pedro (1:28 p.m.): TiVo shocker of the week — 1:23, Saban caught smiling/laughing at McElroy's block.
Rob (1:32 p.m.): Did McElroy's block remind you of you in high school?
Dad (1:37 p.m.): Is 28 enough?
Rob (1:51 p.m.): SEC West is showing good so far.

Maguire (1:55 p.m.): 30 more minutes ... let's finish this season strong.
Dad (2:02 p.m.): Just remember we are all counting on you.
Pedro (2:12 p.m.): Think we'll send a mercy pickle to the MSU sideline for that guy's cramp?
Rob (2:12 p.m.): Upshaw and Dareus together are scary.
Dad (2:12 p.m.): Good luck. We are all counting on you.
Rob (2:15 p.m.): Wow second string in.
Audra (2:22 p.m.): Is there a run rule in football? They need one for this game.

Pedro (2:40 p.m.): Go State, Go State.
Rob (3:01 p.m.): Instead of SEC we should chant "SEC WEST."
Pedro (3:32 p.m.): "They (MS State) have smelt great today." See?
Pedro (3:33 p.m.): I wouldn't know that without ESPN's announcers.

Pedro (3:51 p.m.): I'll take it, but hope we can do better next year.
Rob (3:52 p.m.): Well it will be interesting to see who leaves for the NFL.
Rob (3:52 p.m.): But 10 wins is nice yes.
Maguire (3:53 p.m.): I'll take it. 36 wins in the last 3 years.
Dad (4:00 p.m.): As Auburn would say, Wait till next year!

Pedro (4:17 p.m.): My wife really enjoys saying, "Hook 'em, horned frogs."
Halcombe (4:18 p.m.): I'm waiting for Musberger to toss this gem at Herbie: "What does a lion call a monkey's balls? A sack lunch. And the Badgers take the early lead."
Dad (4:21 p.m.): I bet Toon's nickname is Car.
Halcombe (4:23 p.m.): Wonder how long it will take before TCU sideline reporter shouts, "We don't need no stinking Badgers. Back to you in the booth."
Halcombe (4:37 p.m.): Wonder how many pancake-eating contests Clay has won this past year?
Halcombe (4:44 p.m.): What's up with all the Adidas bicep bands? Badgers going for the "Gladiator" look?
Rob (4:45 p.m.): Big Ten defenses equals sucks.
Pedro (6:15 p.m.): Illinois might win the Big Ten next year. Vandy could. Opelika High School would.
Halcombe (6:58 p.m.): Forcing out Wannstedt is looking better and better isn't it Pitt?
Pedro (7:08 p.m.)
Halcombe (7:11 p.m.): WAY TO GO BIG TEN!!!
Rob (7:13 p.m.): How many times can Erin Andrews say, "Put that into perspective."

Halcombe (7:36 p.m.): Can't wait to hear all the Plus One talk coming out of Herbie's mouth on Sportscenter, the Sports Reporters and OTL.
Dad (7:55 p.m.): Red means mean.
Dad (7:56 p.m.): Please drive through.
Audra (7:57 p.m.): Quote of the day from a blonde co-worker, "What state is Yukon from?"
Halcombe (7:58 p.m.): So did UConn have to beat Delaware in the FCS title game to earn a berth in tonight's Fiesta Bowl?
Maguire (8:08 p.m.): I wonder if Edsall is imagining Bob Stoops with a baby in place of his head.
Halcombe (8:13 p.m.): There's football on ESPN? I've been too busy catching the New Year's Day marathon of "V." AMAZING SPECIAL EFFECTS, even if there's no Michael Ironside.
Dad (8:16 p.m.): I will need more than 16 points.
Halcombe (8:22 p.m.): Haywood after his last arrest: What did I tell my old lady with two black eyes? Nothing. I done tole dat trick twice.
Dad (8:33 p.m.): We are back in it baby!
Halcombe (8:40 p.m.): Apparently fumbling is a trait for any OU offensive starter and not unique to AP.
Audra (8:41 p.m.): We like our kickers to have a lil gut.
Halcombe (8:46 p.m.): We hear so much talk about the chips, but what about the accompanying line of queso and bean dips? Then we could have the Tostitos con queso Bowl.
Audra (8:47 p.m.): The second best quote: "Hey, isn't UConn a women's basketball team?"

Sunday, January 2, 2011

final thoughts: writing the 2010 epitaph

For most of the year, the 2010 football season has been inordinately frustrating. In August we were a consensus No. 1, a favorite to repeat and a potential dynasty in the making. By New Year's Day we looked like a squad of overrated frauds who never really belonged in the national conversation at all.
Neither designation is really altogether fair, of course. The 2010 Alabama Crimson Tide began the season with a target on its back, endured a couple key injuries, got an overdue butt-kicking at South Carolina and lost two games — to LSU and Auburn — it would have survived in 2009. No, it's not the team it was when it won it all last season, but anyone with half a brain knew it wouldn't be.

That doesn't mean Bama fans should be pleased about what took place this fall. Specifically, in its two biggest games of the season, the Tide was soundly outplayed in the second half, the diametric opposite of its 2009 identity (and really, the identity of Alabama football since the Bryant days) as a second-half team that wore teams down and pounded them in the fourth quarter. The defense — where Alabama teams have hung their hats for most of my life — wilted at the worst possible times; worse still, Alabama's physical style was a huge letdown in November, when the offense and defensive lines failed to control the game when it mattered most. That's just not Alabama football.
In a way, what happened during yesterday's Capital One Bowl served to underscore the frustration of this season. Alabama's offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage; its two top backs, Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, ran with frightening abandon; its playmaking receivers, Julio Jones and Marquis Maze, looked like All-Americans. Defensively, the pass rush was punishing and unrelenting: MSU quarterback Kirk Cousins eventually removed himself from the game in the second half because of "an accumulation of hits" (read: He didn't want anymore of this team, and can you blame him?).

In sum, the Alabama team that showed up for the Capital One Bowl was the team we thought we were getting for the whole 2010 season.

Of course, for all that aforementioned frustration of 2010, the team's final record was 10-3, meaning the team has won 36 games in a three-year span, more than any three-year span since the 1970s. As impressive as the mark itself: I can remember only two times the team was absolutely whipped: by Utah and by South Carolina. Maybe it's not quite the salad days of the Bryant era, but ... I mean, 10-3 ain't so bad for a down year, right?
Some other notes:
— The dominant narrative coming out of Saturday, fair or not, was the SEC's destruction of the Intercollegiate Conference of Faculty Representatives. It's not a huge shock, but in every matchup Saturday, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi State all made their Big 10 opponents look slow. And in Alabama's case, a team that felt it deserved a BCS berth looked outmanned at every turn, and basically quit in the second half.
— Coach Saban actually seemed a little embarrassed by the final margin of victory, even saying something that looked an awful lot like "I'm sorry" to Mark Dantonio during the postgame handshake. Kudos, by the way, to the announcing crew of Brad Nessler and Todd Blackledge for correctly noting that Bama made no effort to run up the score, even pulling its starters in the third quarter. But you can't coach the players not to score.
— Greg McElroy, in many ways, played the same game he's played most of his career at Alabama: made some easy throws, didn't take any chances, got out and threw a big block for Julio, then hit a deep ball and exited to rousing cheers. It was enough that I'm willing to forgive him for the pregame sequence when, after the Spartans won the toss and said they wanted to defer, McElroy said, "Kick ... uh, we want the ball." Remember: he's a champion. Now and always.
— The secondary wasn't a problem Saturday, mostly because the pass rush was so dominant. Which, in a way, kind of proves the point we've made all along this season: If you can affect the quarterback, it makes your secondary much better.
— Of course, the conversation will now turn to Alabama's cadre of draftable juniors, and whether they will return in 2011. If I had to guess, I'd say Julio & Ingram go, everybody on defense comes back. The offensive two have too much on the table to turn down. The others can make themselves a great deal by staying. We'll see, I guess.

And with that, we can officially put a cap on 2010. Not bad for a down year. Roll Tide.