For those of you still smarting and aggrieved over the fact that an “undeserving” team like the Alabama Crimson Tide was allowed into the BCS Championship Game and then, wonder of wonders, actually won the thing, making this two titles in three years (Can you say, “Cam sandwich”?), then perhaps you can take some consolation in this: It really wasn’t that much fun for me.
What with the extra hours I’ve been working lately (and the resultant fatigue), having two good friends die in the past week, and all the moaning and yakety-yak coming out of Stillwater and practically every other corner of the country over the past six weeks, I hardly took any pleasure or interest in the game up until the time that I turned on the TV Monday night.
And then I got a little excited (Well, excuuuse me, America!), because I felt in my bones that Bama was going to win. Why you ask? Because the Tide were carrying themselves like they did in warmups a year ago in Orlando when Number One Son and I watched them prance around the Citrus Bowl like a pack of hungry Seabiscuits at the starting gate.
On that sunny New Year’s Day they were loose, confident (but no overly so) and ready, young men in their athletic prime caught up in the pure joy of the moment. They then went out and dismantled, and for good measure, dismembered Michigan State. I didn’t know if I would ever see them play that perfectly again, but if I did, I knew what it would look like before they got started.
I had also seen where Carson Tinker, the Tide long-snapper who tried desperately (but unsuccessfully) to save his girlfriend Ashley Harrison in last April’s killer tornado, Tweeted earlier in the day, “Let’s finish this thing.”
And then there he was, the long-snapper, on national TV, leading the troops into battle. Somewhere under that expansive dome, in a city that has been baptized with so much sorrow and death and yet raised up time and time again, sat Ashley’s parents, fulfilling a dream of Ashley’s that she never got the chance to complete, watching and hoping that Carson and crew, all of them witnesses to and participants in that awful day, would find some fitting closure and bring home a little joy to a people still hurting.
Ashley had been born in New Orleans, almost 23 years ago to the day.
Folks, this is the South, home of some of the best literature ever written. These types of karmic setups are common fare in these parts. We tell good stories because we live them.
There were other signs as well if you looked closely for them: the exit of a 5-star Louisiana high school player who announced his intent to play for the Tide just days before the game (oh, the disappointment on his mama’s face!); the way the LSU team buses, one of which had already broken down once on the trip from Baton Rouge to NOLA, had to stop on Interstate-10 and watch the Tide roll in and exit the airport (“Stand up, Les, your father is passin’!”); and the choice of pregame movie.
For inspiration, the Tide watched “Red Tails,” the story of the Tuskegee Airmen in World War II who fought racial prejudice in order to fight for their country. LSU watched “Contraband,” a story about, well, thugs and criminals.
Seriously? Does LSU not have anyone in their athletic department skilled in public relations? As they say on ESPN Monday Night Football, “C’Mon, Man!”
And then there was the plain truth that if you give Darth Saban six weeks to build a Death Star, he’s going to blast your armada out of the sky. What did you think he would do, spend all that time driving his crimson, Double Cab Ford F-150 up to the lake house for a little R&R?
People, it’s just a commercial! St. Nick is a football-coaching cyborg! He spent the last six weeks holed up in his office watching game film, subsisting on nothing but Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies and black coffee. He not only knew every move that Les would make, but also the color of his boxer shorts and how many fleas his dog has (Answer: 21). Judging from the way the Tigers stumbled about Monday night, Les spent much of the last month looking for the perfect spot on his mantle to put the trophy.
Look, ‘Pokes, I understand your disappointment. It’s a crappy system, and it needs a major makeover, but it’s all we’ve got for now. I know you’ll disagree till all your cows come home, but this time it delivered what it promised–the two best teams. You’re not the first to get left out, but you sure act like it. See Auburn 2004. Oh, and by the way, they were undefeated and didn’t lose to Iowa State.
Mike Slive, SEC Commissioner, came to the Big 12 and the other conferences a few years ago and proposed a playoff system, but the only one who responded to the invitation hymn was the ACC, bless their little basketball hearts. You guys, and all the others, thought you’d be better off going it alone and told him to get lost.
And now all of a sudden, you’ve got “Plus-one” religion. It reminds me of the last verse of that wonderfully upbeat hymn that we used to sing in the Church of Christ long ago, “Almost Persuaded.” “Harvest is past!” “Doom comes at last!” I’ve seen tearful sinners, some of them tough, burly men, go charging down the aisle just before the final “Almost–but lost,” but y’all held pat and got, well, burned. “Sad, sad that bitter wail,” indeed.
When Trent Richardson turned the corner for his TD, the deed was done. I stood in my plaid, flannel pajama bottoms and 2009 championship t-shirt (soon to be updated) and cheered. An LSU bus driver walked toward the parking lot, boarded a team bus, and turned the ignition key. But it didn’t move–someone had painted a 50-yard line in front of it (Lord have mercy, I wish I could take credit for that one).
About the same time, I read on Facebook that some latte-sipping, pompous-ass California college professor, upon hearing of the Tide’s victory, sniffed, “In some places, college football is the opiate of the masses.”
Well, la-di-da. I’ll see you your highfalutin words and raise you one fact of life: If you lived under a sky that threatens to swallow you whole and politicians that don’t know their brains from their backsides, you’d need drugs, too.
Try to keep it down while we redneck hoi polloi catch a buzz and do a little celebratin’, would ya?
Roll Tide, Roll.