Monday, October 24, 2011

thoughts at 8-0: waiting on the world to change

I don't ever remember, in my time as an Alabama fan, a season quite like this one.

I should back up. I've been an Alabama fan since 1989, and through some curse blessing of life, I have a pretty decent ability to remember things that other people don't consider important. You know, like football seasons.
In any case, while scouring that memory bank, I can't remember one quite like this for Alabama. Not the undefeated part, obviously — this is the fourth season since 2005 Alabama has started with 8 straight victories. But in none of those seasons has the narrative centered so clearly around one game, as it has in 2011.
And, for better or worse (sorry, coach) that has been the narrative ever since sometime around the halfway mark of the Florida game, when two things became very obvious:
1. Alabama and LSU are the best two teams in the country.
2. None of the teams on their schedule appeared even close. 
So the tone of the past month — Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and even this past week against Tennessee — has been one of pure business: Get through this without getting hurt or getting embarrassed, and let's prepare for the biggest game of our lives.
It's different, even, than 2008 or 2009, when we were looking across the division at Florida for 12 consecutive weeks. Alabama wasn't as clearly superior to its competition in those years as it's been in this. Geez, the closest we've come so far to "facing adversity" was being tied with the Vols Saturday night at halftime.
But even that wasn't so much "adversity" as it was "not really focusing on the task at hand." Everyone — fans and players alike — has been so keenly aware of the "get to the LSU game unscathed" narrative this year, it's affected pretty much everything else. I don't think I ever remember a more docile crowd for an Alabama-Tennessee game than the one Saturday night ... and it showed.

The narrative, however, managed to obscure — even for me — what should have been the dominant storyline of Saturday night in Tuscaloosa: Bama has now won 5 consecutive over Tennessee, and 6 out of its last 7.
For me it's a pretty incredible stat. I spent the entirety of my high school and most of my undergrad years not knowing what it feels like to beat Tennessee. Every year, I'd talk myself into believing our squad had a chance, and every year, it would end badly for me. Some years, like 1996 or 2000, we'd hang around for three quarters and find a way to mess it up; some years, like '95, '97 or '99, they'd just hammer us and we'd never even have a shot. We were the Roadrunner, and Tennessee was the Coyote. That's just the way things were.
No more, though. All five of those games except one — the, um, well, you know — the game was over well before the fourth quarter even began. Alabama's football program, in 2011, is superior to Tennessee in every conceivable way. On Saturday, Tennessee came into Bryant-Denny with a superior game plan to Alabama's, and surprised the Tide with superior execution, as well. And they scored a whopping 6 points. In the second half, Alabama turned it on and the Vols couldn't keep up.
Yes, on Saturday, Tennessee was simply a means to Alabama's end. It's a world turned upside down. Or possibly right side up. Whatever.

And you know what? Let's wait a few hours before we start worrying about LSU. 

1 comment:

-D. said...

I'm trying to wait before I start worrying about them, but there's this twinge in the pit of my stomach that's only going to get bigger and bigger as we move toward 7:00 p.m. on November 5.