Please Don’t Kill Me, ‘Bama Fans: On Swagger, Nick Saban, and Social Media


Nick Saban is the Wolf of SEC football, but the country watched as he—like Jordan Belfort of Wall Street—fell from his mighty, gold throne yesterday evening.

Saban, the head coach for the University of Alabama’s football program, suffered disappointment (perhaps, second only to the time his daughter was sued by a sorority sister for physical assault over a Facebook post). His great Crimson Tide (smirk here) went out with a whimper, not a bang, losing the Allstate Sugar Bowl game to University of Oklahoma’s Sooners.

This loss comes after an entire season during which Alabama was considered one of the best teams in college football—at least, by Alabama fans if no one else. Prior to yesterday’s game, the match-up seemed to skew in favor of Tuscaloosa’s good ole boys. Both teams were 11-2. However, Alabama was ranked third in the nation while 11th ranked Oklahoma has a roster of younger, fresher players who have not yet had time to cultivate their skill.

In other words, Alabama should have been well on their way to nabbing the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) title, which is one of the highest honors in college football. Instead, Alabama lost 31-45 to Oklahoma after several embarrassing moments that probably left viewers wondering if Saban forgot to put on his glasses while writing plays.

A.J. McCarron—the Tide’s Golden Boy Quarterback, who is a fifth-year senior and was one of this year’s finalists for the Heisman Trophy—was intercepted twice. McCarron had become an SEC household name after winning 36 out of the 38 games he has played, losing only the last two at the very end of his career. It certainly didn’t hurt his Big Man on Campus hype that his girlfriend Katherine Webb is a supermodel and former Miss Alabama. She accompanied McCarron’s rise to fame, becoming an Internet sensation and the stuff of dreams for football-loving coeds and creepy sportscasters everywhere. On the other hand, Oklahoma’s freshman quarterback Trevor Knight has had little experience. Before the game, sports analysts questioned his ability to face Alabama’s older, more weathered team. However, he managed to score four touchdowns, cinching the victory for the Sooners.

David loaded his slingshot with pebbles and aimed it at Goliath’s head, hardly daring for anything short of a miracle. Surprising to all, the latter came crashing down in one fell swoop.

Today, while many remaining Alabama fans hang their heads in shame, some cling onto hope. Though their team is no longer in the running for the BCS title, fans claim that Alabama will be back and better than ever next season.

Ah, roll, tide, roll.

That’s the old Alabama hubris a nation of football lovers has come to know (and dislike) so well.

It is this sense of overconfidence, this attitude of unforgiving swagger that makes Alabama one of the most polarizing college football teams in the country. Either you roll with the Crimson Tide or you fight against its choppy waves. Usually, there is no middle ground.

This is a team that knows it is good.

It has shown that it is good in the past with a series of difficult wins and hard-earned titles. Its coaches and players are unafraid to speak up and tell the world what they have to offer. But many of those who fall outside of its fandom have wanted desperately to see it fail, at least once—which made the Sooners’ victory sweeter for more than just their own fans. And with social media so readily available in our pockets and at our fingertips, the ability of those who weren’t just pro-Oklahoma, but anti-Alabama to voice their opinion seemed magnified with every tweet, every status, and every hashtag that came flooding out of the digital gates. Last night—and indeed, even into this morning—was schadenfreude at its most virulent.

Alabama is an exceptional team with talented players and a solid coaching staff. Without a doubt, it will make a comeback next year. However, if Saban and his band of merry followers have learned anything after the lackluster finish to their season, it is that the best strategies involve less mouthing off and more hustling.

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