Editor's note: The sometimes author of this blog has fully intended to write a comprehensive breakdown of ... That Game. It has taken 6 months to find the time and composure to do so. There's a lot of ground to cover here. Let's hope it was worth it.
It's funny how the progression of time can change a person's perspective, particularly when one is evaluating a football season.
This is actually a thought I have written about on at least one occasion: when we evaluated the 2010 Alabama football team. That team that was riddled with injuries and ultimately lost 3 games, in order, to the SEC Eastern division champ, an LSU team that won 10 games and the eventual national champs (who, as an added bonus, started Superman at quarterback). Those losses came by 14 points, by 3 points and by 1 point. Two of them were on the road in two of the SEC's toughest environments.
Was it a disappointing season? A "failed" season? If we judge everything by the national championship, then sure.
And, for better or worse, that's kind of where we are with Alabama football these days.
Aside from perspective, the other important thing we talk about periodically at this site -- and they probably talk about it on other sites, but you only read those because I tired of blogging -- is the importance of ... well, luck. The best teams are typically the most talented and best prepared, to be sure, but they are also the luckiest. The ball tends to bounce their way when it matters most.
We have covered this ad nauseam, but Alabama fans, above all, should understand the value of a little good fortune, particularly in the midst of this run. In 2009, the Tide got lucky when Tennessee couldn't kick the ball past Terrence Cody, when replay officials wouldn't overturn an apparent interception vs. LSU, when Marcel Dareus knocked out Colt McCoy in the national title game. In '11 and '12, a little luck was necessary to climb back into the national title picture after devastating home losses to opponents in the same division.
Alabama was the best team in all of those years. But a little luck didn't hurt the cause, either.
Luck, unfortunately, tends to even out over time.
These are two of the mechanisms I have attempted to use to cope since Nov. 30, 2013. You hardly need me to remind you what happened that day. And if you do, look it up, because frankly I'm not in the mood to rehash it all over again.
But we do need to confront it, because there is no proper way to move on, otherwise.
With the passage of time -- and particularly since a disinterested squad was shocked in New Orleans by Oklahoma -- a narrative has emerged from the coaching staff and the locker room (and subsequently parroted by the most obtuse in the fan base). It is a similar narrative to the oft-repeated assessment in 2010: the team was entitled, its players didn't work as hard, didn't prepare like champs, didn't "take care of the little things" its predecessors did in similar circumstances.
I'm not here to question the validity of the narrative -- certainly, the value of "staying hungry" as a competitor cannot be diminished.
And yet, if we learned nothing else from the 2013 game at Auburn -- Auburn 34, Alabama 28 -- we should learn that the difference between "champions" and "disappointments" is razor-thin. As thin as a failed fourth-down conversion that might have put away the game. As thin as one made field goal by an otherwise unknown place-kicker. As thin as two key defensive failures at the end of the second and fourth quarters.
Gene Stallings famously told his teams that they played 60 minutes of football for the privilege of making 5-6 plays per game that ultimately affect the outcome. Six months ago, Auburn made all the plays, and Alabama did not. And so, the "Kick 6" happened -- Auburn won the SEC title, then came within a few seconds of its second national title in the past four seasons.
And in the process, the entire narrative of this season, and possibly the upcoming season. Now it is Auburn receiving recognition as a budding powerhouse, with the up-and-comer as head coach, the relentless offense and the swagger that comes with defending a title. If Nick Saban's Alabama is the Roman Empire, Auburn is the Barbarians at the gate (I'm not up to speed on my Roman military history, so somebody correct me if that analogy doesn't work).
It is difficult, of course, to say where we go from here. Those who proclaim themselves experts in the field of college football are all over the map when it comes to assessing 2014, with some ready to crown Auburn the new power in the SEC West, and others saying statistics still trend towards Tuscaloosa. With the new College Football Playoff dawning, it's likely the national championship picture will grow even crazier than it ever has been in the past.
Which means it will require a little luck. Or maybe a lot. Whatever.