There's a light through a yonder window breaking, Eastways. The pilot has extended the landing gear. "The morning tide has raised the capes of Delaware." Whatever phrase you prefer, be it a variation on the coming of dawn at the end of a long night or the final stages of an arduous journey, use it. It's apt. Practice has started and real football is on the horizon.
What was missing from this year's off season odyssey was the litany of voices doing their best siren imitation to lure our beloved dark lord to all manner of not-Tuscaloosa based football programs. There were no Texases. From the pros, there were whispers, but only that. No one claimed to have heard from a cousin that has a friend who works in the front offices of the insert-NFL-team-here. Airplane tracking websites must have noted the profound drop off in hits originating from the southeast.
I'm sure that we will hear whispers again in the future, but my times of actual anxiety over holding on to Nick Saban are done. I've made it through the rain. I kept my world protected.
One year minus a week ago today right here on these electronic pages we posted an interview with Monte Burke, author of Saban: The Making of a Coach. If you missed our Q&A, you can find it here. He's insightful, witty, and a clear and lively writer. That comes through in the interview and book alike.
Last Tuesday Burke's Saban biography was released in paperback with a new afterword by the author. He was kind enough to send us an excerpt:
Perhaps when all is said and done, Saban's ultimate decision to sign a new contract and stay at Alabama after the tumult of the 2013 season will be viewed as the resolution to a career-long conflict. Just maybe, it would end up being the last time he felt underappreciated, and the last time he felt any yearning to start over and save a different program.
Saban is entering his tenth season at Alabama. Roots have taken hold. His kids and their families live in the state. He has moved his mother nearby. Terry is comfortable and happy and has made deep and lasting friendships. Saban is a partner in a Mercedes dealership outside of Birmingham. He made $7.97 million in 2015. He'll turn 65 during the 2016 season and is now among the oldest coaches in major college football.
Near the end of the 2015 season, Saban's name popped up on the coaching rumor mill, as it always does. This time, the focus was on NFL teams. Saban was mentioned, most prominently, as a possibility for the Indianapolis Colts and the New York Giants, two organizations that had pursued him in the past. Both teams possessed something that Saban had lacked during his time in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins: A good quarterback (Andrew Luck of the Colts and Eli Manning of the Giants). This time around, though, the rumors and talk seemed halfhearted at best.
Alabama trustees and boosters say they noticed something different about Saban in 2015. "His edginess remains. He's still intense. He has not mellowed in any respect," says Angus Cooper II, the emeritus trustee. "But he is more settled."
At this point, Alabama powerbrokers wouldn't want Saban to change too much, anyway. "Sometimes we sit around and joke and say, ‘Wouldn't it be great if Nick could relax a bit? We should get him some counseling,'" says one prominent booster. "And then, inevitably, someone will say, ‘No, hell no. If he became normal, we'd lose three games a year.'"
Like the rest of you, my first thought after reading the above was that I should have it printed on an index card, laminate the card, smear the non-printed side with crazy glue, dip the glue side into finely broken glass, let the glue set, and use it to dry the tears of other fan base's members as they finally accept that Saban is here to stay. But that might jinx things.
Instead, I'm practicing my smug smile. It's not perfect yet, but I wouldn't be out of place at an organic food convention.
So football is nigh. We're nearing the light at the end of the tunnel. The orchestra is starting up the fat lady's number. Our long national nightmare is coming to an end. We've turned the final corner and hit the home stretch. Her water broke. Zeno says we're halfway home.
But we aren't there yet. Plenty of free time left to read Burke's book; now softer, cheaper, and with more words.