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On the 9/11 Metaphor...

...or why Kevin Scarbinsky should shut his whore mouth.

There's been a lot of condemnation around the country of Coach Saban's

Well, most of the time, anyway.
use of the tragedies of 9/11 and Pearl Harbor in relation to the La-Monroe loss. We usually don't bother responding to things like this since, for the most part, it's typically muckraking journalists and opposing fans ranting with righteous yet laughable indignation and, if you've been reading this blog for more than the past thirty minutes, you know that what journalists and opposing fans have to say is either ignored all together or simply laughed at as the ravings of, well, muckraking journalists and opposing fans. But since our friend over the Joe Cribbs Car Wash, who is usually far too witty and insightful for us to believe he is an actual Auburn fan (I mean, come on man, be a Troy fan, at least we kinda sorta respect them), decided to make this a rallying cry of sorts for the Auburn nation as to why Alabama deserves to lose on Saturday for the comments, I thought I'd respond.

First, a look at Saban's actual words:

Changes in history usually occur after some kind of catastrophic event. It may be 9-11, which sort of changed the spirit of America relative to catastrophic events. Pearl Harbor kind of got us ready for World War II, and that was a catastrophic event.

Now, really, where's the controversy? Are those not true statements? Nowhere did he make any outrageous claims like "losing to ULM is just like/worse than 9/11" or "those sneaky bastards caught us napping just like the Japanese at Pearl Harbor." ESPN, not the most Saban loving institution out there, posted this AP article that notes that fact:

Saban didn't compare the embarrassing 21-14 loss to Louisiana-Monroe to those events, but picked those historical references to illustrate that this could be a pivotal week for the Crimson Tide.

"What Coach Saban said did not correlate losing a football game with tragedy, everyone needs to understand that. He was not equating losing football games to those catastrophic events," football spokesman Jeff Purinton said in a statement to The Associated Press. "The message was that true spirit and unity become evident in the most difficult of times. Those were two tremendous examples that everyone can identify with."

So I'm not really understanding the controversy here. As far as catastrophic events go for Alabama football, La.-Monroe is the absolute worst loss in Alabama history, and if you want to make a point to your team about how positive and drastic change typically requires an event of serious (and often terrible) magnitude, using familiar turning points in American and world history is a pretty good way to do it. Did Pearl Harbor not cause an immediate about face in American foreign policy? Did 9/11 not do the same

Personally, I'm more offended by crap like this.
thing? They did, and an immediate about face is what the Alabama football program needs right now. Would it have been more politically correct for him to have referenced the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald instead, since all we got out of it was a Gordon Lightfoot song instead of an overblown Hollywood production? Or maybe they would have been more comfortable had he used Black Hawk Down to describe the ULM loss. You know they'd love nothing more than for Saban to come out and say "I'm sorry folks, but this is an outright travesty. We thought because we were the Crimson Tide and I'm Nick Saban all we had to do was show up and they'd give us the game, but we were so wrong. So instead of doing anything about it, we'll just go quietly away. Sorry."

But you know what I don't hear? The drunks aren't up in arms over his comments. He referred to this team, program, and even fanbase in the terms of alcoholism, saying that we needed that "hitting rock bottom" moment to really wake up and see the problems staring us right in the face that we have, for whatever reason, chosen to ignore. Alcoholism is a terrible thing, and as someone who has had family members struggle with various addictions, I can tell you that making light of alcohol or drug abuse is something that I do not tolerate. But the example, again, is apt. We've all heard and even believed for years now that Alabama is right there, that all we need is one more season and we'll turn the corner, just one more recruiting class will get us back to prominence, if we can just beat Auburn this year, things will be right again. To that I must say, bullshit.

The Alabama football program is far more fundamentally flawed than any of us thought or dared to believe. Coach Saban warned us about it before the season started, and we wrote it off as poor mouthing. He told us not to expect those championships we keep talking about right away because the foundation hasn't been laid for it yet. We didn't listen. He told us that we were too thin, too small, and too inexeperienced at nearly every position, and instead we focused on the handful of star players we knew were good. He warned us that players had to do things the right way or they weren't going to play, but we thought the only guys foolish enough to get into trouble with the new staff were backups that didn't matter anyway. And now we see guys like DJ Hall going out and putting themselves ahead of the team before Senior Day. We see Terry Grant benched because he won't play like the coaches want him to. We see Lionel Mitchell playing behind both Kareem Jackson and Marquis Maze for not going hard in practice, and he's a far better DB than at least Maze, if not also Jackson. Even Prince Hall, who was going to be a star after a stellar freshman year, was relegated to the bench in the first few games behind a true freshman and a transfer that barely saw the field last year, and is still just another LB in the rotation. And yet we wonder how things like La.-Monroe happen.

I made the comment before the Georgia game that Saban walked into a great situation here because the Alabama program was a quaint fixer upper just

Saban might have known what he was getting into, but we sure as hell didn't.
waiting for the right person to slap on a new coat of paint and update the kitchen countertops. Unfortunately, I was way off base. And who could blame me after the rally against Arkansas? After that game, I'll admit that I was a pie in the sky, ten wins and at least the Cotton Bowl believer. And even after Georgia and FSU brought us back to earth, the UT domination and going toe to toe with LSU still had me thinking nine wins and hopefully the Cotton Bowl. But now we're crossing our fingers that we'll get to the Independence again if we lose to Auburn, and hopefully the Music City if we win. So yeah, that quick flip we all expected might have turned into a nightmare, but in the long run this is quite possibly the best thing that could have happened to us.

So where do we go from here? Well, Auburn. And that's where we find out what kind of players we really have. There's a famous anecdote about Bear Bryant taking his team into the locker room trailing (I forget which game at the moment, so if anyone remembers leave it in the comments), and instead of flying into a rage or ripping into them for sorry play, he shocked them all by being pleased at the opportunity to go back out there and show them what kind of character the players at Alabama had, and how they could go out there and win the game and let everyone know what kind of mamas and papas they had and how no matter how bad things seemed, he knew they had great character and would go back out there, give it their all, and come out winners. So we should be pleased at the opportunity ahead of us. Beating Auburn this weekend isn't about ending a five year skid anymore, or a three game losing streak to solidify a bowl bid. It isn't even about Auburn right now. The SBN Auburn blog Track 'em Tigers did a post the other day about how Saban is playing for his job on Saturday. I'll have to respectfully disagree with him, since it's more important for the members of the team to win than it is for the coaching staff. He's done the best he could with what he inherited, and at times (I'm looking at you, Arkansas and Tennessee) it seemed like he was a miracle worker. But we've seen what kind of character these kids have over the past few weeks and we know that some of them have been found lacking. They need to go out there, focus, and play like Alabama football means something to them, that going out and making their families and friends and coaches and fans proud of them is important to them, and if they can do that, then they've shown that the loss to ULM drove home everything that's been preached at them since Saban arrived. And if they can do that, then they can win. Back to the Joe Cribbs Car Wash, it's clear headed insight like this that makes it one of my favorite blogs to read, even if he does cover Auburn:

But we as Auburn fans--and, it goes without saying, Auburn's coaches and players--are going to have to keep the schadenfreude to the absolute minimum.

Because, first and foremost, the Tide's ULM loss has little-to-no bearing on the outcome of the Iron Bowl. Alabama is still the same team they were headed into yesterday's kickoff: battling-but-undertalented defense, tailback-deficient, explosive-but-turnover-prone in the passing game, without question good enough to win in Jordan-Hare if they play well and Auburn does not. The list of reasons Alabama lost to ULM begins and ends with 1. Motivation and 2. Focus, and 1. Motivation and 2.Focus will not be an issue against Auburn. (Or at least, if they are, there are problems in T-town that go way, way deeper than even losses to Sun Belt teams.)

And that's what we aim to find out on Saturday, just how deep the problems are in Tuscaloosa right now. A win means we're on the right track even with a few bad eggs, that there are enough kids at Alabama who not only want to win, but they want to do it right, that the foundation isn't completely cracked and we can keep moving forward with each recruiting class until we have a team that goes out and does what they are supposed to every day and every down and each player can look over at his teammates and know they're going to give everything they have on that play just like he is. But with a meltdown loss like the one against ULM? Then we might as well dynamite the whole damn thing and start over. Here's hoping for the best. Roll Tide.