This post continues a week-long series celebrating fandom with EA Sports.
This could easily be one of the hardest categories of this whole series for me, if only because there are so many players that I love that played on teams that maybe weren't that great (Shaud Williams, I'm pointing at you) or teams that were pretty successful but that I honestly couldn't name you more than a handful of starters on now (sorry, 1996). My gut instinct is to go with the' 92 Tide. They were the first National Championship team that I witnessed and remember (though I was born in '78 and therefor alive for the '78 and '79 titles, memories of them are understandably nonexistent), and Derrick Lassic is still one of my favorite running backs because of that single, magnificent, 135 yard, two touchdown performance.
But as much as I and likely all of you hold that team in utter reverence, I really wasn't old enough or smart enough about the game to truly appreciate what they did. Yes, looking back now at the highlights from that season and watching the '93 Sugar Bowl whenever the stars align just right for ESPN Classic to replay it brings me much joy, but for some reason I don't feel that same connection to that team as I do the '09 squad. Maybe it's just because the memories are still fresh, but in '92 I was only 14 years old and full blown obsession hadn't quite set in. In fact, I'm pretty sure I probably only watched four games that year; UT, Auburn, Florida, and Miami. But last season? I lived and breathed and cherished every last second of that season as if somehow there would never be another snap of college football when it was all done.
That's not to say that I didn't obsess over other seasons as much. I mean, we wouldn't be here spending all our free time writing about Alabama football if it weren't an obsession. But like I said, there just hasn't really been another Tide team during my lifetime besides the '92 squad that could inspire such rabid devotion. As much as I loved the defense we put on the field in '05, aside from Ken Darby and Prothro there really wasn't a player on the offensive side of the ball that I really loved. Same can be said of every other team in between. I loved watching Shaun Alexander and Antwan Odom and Triandos Luke and Kindal Moorehead and Cornelius Griffin and so on and so forth, but they were just great players that were fun to watch on teams that were for that most part unremarkable.
But '09...man, what's not to love about the '09 Tide? Just look at what they accomplished: Ended a 10 year conference championship drought. First National Title of the BCS era. First Heisman winner ever. Produced six First Team All-Americans, the most from any single team in the history of the game. Made Nick Saban the first coach to win a national title with two different programs in the history of the game. Gave Alabama it's first ever win over Texas. And, most importantly, completely validated the hiring of Coach Saban and all the money that was poured into him, his staff, the facilities, and every other aspect of the program despite the whining and protests against it.
In fact, that's likely the biggest reason why I have to say that the '09 team is currently my favorite and will continue to be for a long time: they were the team that validated the faith we all put into Coach Saban and The Process despite all of the media and punditry seemingly aligned against us in the wake of his hiring, the growing pains in '07, and the letdown in '08. Even though we were assured by those who "knew" that Saban was a mediocre coach at best, and that he'd leave in two years, that Alabama was so run down it could never get back to the top and that our time had passed, we all believed, every last one of us, that Alabama would be Alabama again with Saban at the helm, and he and the '09 Tide rewarded that faith in Pasadena just seven months ago. Because this team and its success was the culmination of so much effort, faith, and support from from everyone involved, be it the staff, the administration, the fans, and, most importantly, the guys on the team that bought in and handled their business every single snap, it will take a heck of a lot to supplant them in my mind. Roll Tide.