I am not a football analyst by A N Y stretch of the imagination. True, I had the rare opportunity of having served as the producer for the radio network broadcasts for a few years each for the Washington Redskins and the Miami Dolphins. In such a position, one cannot help but become embedded in the sport. But I was more concerned with the broadcasts than with the touchdowns. Regardless, football is probably the only sport that I follow each year, but not nearly to the detail that I once did.
Last night’s national collegiate championship game could not have been better. The main reason I watched it was because I do not like Nick Saban and I attempt to watch an Alabama game every chance I get just for the opportunity to root against him and hope his team loses, regardless of the team they’re playing.
Let me clarify why I disliked Saban. He was the coach of the Miami Dolphins for two seasons. Like those before and after him, Saban did not display any special coaching magic in his first and only NFL coaching position. He did, however, display a lot of arrogance and bold-faced lying to the media and that’s what rubbed me the wrong way. In late November 2006, during Saban’s second season with the Dolphins, there were all kinds of rumors about his leaving the team for the coaching job at Alabama. Alabama had just fired its coach. Who was that? Why it was none other than Mike Shula, son of retired Don Shula who pretty much owns South Florida after his coaching dynasty with the Dolphins.
At the time, Saban was insistent that he was not leaving the Dolphins for the Crimson Tide. In fact, he even answered a reporter’s question in a less-than-nice tone, “I am not leaving to be the Alabama coach.” He said that the last week in December of 2006. Just about 2 days into the new year, he up and packed his duffel bag and without further ado, left for Alabama. I’ve disliked him ever since because he so blatantly and arrogantly lied to the media, but more importantly to Dolphin fans.
But something strange happened last night. Clemson was good, really good. I got excited because I thought, just maybe, there might actually be a chance for Alabama to lose another championship game. I did, however say out loud, “never count Alabama out.” And then, slowly, methodically, plus with a prudent risk of an on-side kick tossed in at a critical and unexpected moment in the game, Alabama slowly took control in the fourth quarter. Suddenly, I found myself feeling a lot of respect for this team…this team that has always been so effective and, this year, incredibly spirited to boot. And Nick Saban? Well maybe I have been a little short-sighted. There have been a gazillion coaches since Don Shula retired in 1995. Not one has come close to fielding a Dolphins team worthy of the Shula era. And the team’s management has had no better reputation, maybe even worse.
So I’m thinking to myself that perhaps it wasn’t Saban’s ego and arrogance that led to his lying. Maybe—and this is just speculation on my part—he was being respectful as a coach/employee by not disclosing any disfavor he may have had at the time with his bosses in Miami. After all, he was here only two years and, obviously, must have wanted out. Maybe that was his goal and in order to achieve it he had no choice but to maneuver around the truth a bit. I have no idea. But it’s a different perspective than I originally had of the situation.
So, where’d this all this come from so suddenly last night. Well, following Alabama’s impressive performance, I watched the usual post-game interview with Saban about his big win. The man totally credited his team with the win—not himself, not once, never. He said repeatedly how proud he was of the players—not “my” players but “the” players—and how much they—not him—deserved this honor. As I watched I felt this was not the same man who deserted Miami in the middle of the night. I don’t think the two personalities mix and the one I watched last night is perhaps more representative of the real Nice Saban.
Well, okay, I think I’ve undergone a change in attitude. I was wrong. I misjudged you, Nick Saban, and I apologize. You are one hell of a football coach and your teams, especially the current one, certainly confirm that!