Asking which championship you prefer is kind of like asking if your left lung or right lung is your favorite, but I think it's still a fun question to pose. There are a lot of pros for both, which we will briefly look at below:
2009: This championship has a lot going for it in terms of history. It was Alabama's first national championship in 17 years, which needless to say went a long way in restoring dignity and stability to a program that had gone through two sex scandals, four losing seasons, general mediocrity and had seen a revolving door installed in the head coach's office since 1992. Another big plus to the 2009 championship is that we finally got a win against Texas. We're still a dismal 1-7-1 against them all-time, but we won it when it really mattered.
Another big plus for 2009? Mark Ingram winning the Heisman Trophy. We've all been guilty of saying "We don't care about the Heisman at Alabama, we care about national championships." While I've said that many times myself, and ultimately believe it to be true, we all cared A LOT about him winning that trophy. I know I did, as did the bar full of Alabama fans where I watched that erupted when Ingram's name was announced from the podium.
Last, and certainly not least, it's that we went undefeated. 14-0. SEC Championship. National Championship. We had dramatic wins over rivals Tennessee and Auburn that required blocked kicks and last second heroics. We finally defeated Tebow and did it in a thoroughly convincing fashion. It was also our first appearance in the Rose Bowl since the 1945 season. We were finally able to truly sing, "Remember the Rose Bowl we'll win..."
2011: It's funny what a difference a couple of years can make. By the start of the 2011, Nick Saban had the program firing on all cylinders. The team was 36-5 in the last three years and had a national championship, conference championship and two division titles under its belt. We'd gone from wandering in the desert under Shula, Franchione and DuBose to being led into the promised land by Nick Saban. At the 2009 championship celebration Saban famously uttered, "This is not the end. This is the beginning." It was a great thing to say at a victory celebration and while we all knew the potential was there for it to be true, we couldn't say for certain that it would ever prove to be true in terms of actually winning another championship.
Despite an early season QB controversy, things looked bright early on when sophomore QB AJ McCarron led the team to victory in a massive first road test as a starter against Penn State in Happy Valley. A really solid Arkansas was thoroughly dismantled in the SEC opener and the blowouts just kept on coming with a 28 point victory over Florida in The Swamp, a shutout of Vanderbilt (aided by some early season footAIDS) and an absolute humiliation of Ole Miss. Despite a sluggish first half against Tennessee, the 31 point margin of victory is what will be remembered when this season is looked back upon by future generations. And then came THAT game. A defensive grind in Tuscaloosa between the #1 and #2 teams in the country. It ended 6-6 in regulation. A disastrous overtime possession later and Alabama falls from #2 after losing 9-6 at home in overtime to
now #1 LSU. The team that dismantled anyone and everyone was now on the outside looking in. "Damn. It's going to be the best one loss, no trophy winning team ever," a lot of people said.
And then the unthinkable happened: undefeated teams started dropping like flies: Oregon, Stanford, Boise State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State. We were granted a new lease on life largely in part to disastrous place kicking. We became fans for a day of Texas Tech, Oregon, USC, Iowa State, Baylor, TCU and others. Alabama didn't sit idly by and mope after the loss. They kept churning out wins: a lackluster win on the road at Mississippi State avoided a hangover loss and a struggle with I-AA Georgia Southern and their triple option set things up for us to go into Auburn with one loss. Alabama absolutely dominated on The Plains, but Auburn hung around longer than they should have due to a kickoff returned for a TD and another easy TD off of an Alabama turnover deep in Crimson Tide territory. In the end though, Alabama blew them out of the water and retribution was theirs for the 2010 loss and the "NEVER AGAIN" motto rang true.
Through a dramatic string of losses and extremely nerve-wracking voting process regarding the various polls that factor into the BCS formula, Alabama was selected as the #2 team in the country and would face LSU for the BCS national championship in New Orleans. We had to endure all sorts of garbage from the media: "Does Alabama belong since they already played LSU?" Other fans cried foul and cursed the SEC. Mike Gundy acted like a spoiled child instead of with the dignity of a millionaire leading an emerging BCS power. The backlash against Alabama saw Trent Richardson's Heisman hopes dashed. He was leading in the polls and then he was a distant third after Alabama was chosen over Oklahoma State to play LSU.
So, while the 2011 season wasn't as perfect and storybook as 2009, it had way more drama about whether we would even be in the game or not...and when we were selected, we had to endure insult after insult about being selected. The team answered in the best fashion imaginable: a resounding 21-0 beatdown of the #1 and only undefeated team in the country. We had our redemption, we shushed the naysayers.
Lastly, and certainly not least, never has a football season held such importance for the state of Alabama given the events of April 27th. Hundreds of Alabamians (and 50+ from Tuscaloosa alone) lost their lives that day. The state was battered, bloodied and limping and it seemed as if things would never be normal again. Even taking the field on September 3rd against Kent State went a long way towards normalizing life in Alabama again. Football was back, things would get better.
2011 was all about redemption. Losing against LSU and never giving up. Clawing your way back into position to win. And of course, having a city and a state whose spirits were down lifted by a bunch of guys playing a game. Mother Nature may have won the battle that day in April, but our spirits as a people certainly won the war. January 9th was merely our victory party as a people, something the people of New Orleans sadly understand all too well themselves.
Two championships, two compelling stories. Which was more satisfying for you?