Exactly 5000 days ago, the lightly regarded, unranked 5-6 UL-Monroe Warhawks went into to Tuscaloosa in Nick Saban’s first season at the helm of Alabama and handed the Tide its third straight loss.
The game was easily the most pitiful of the Saban era, as a dispassionate ‘Bama squad turned the ball over too much, didn’t run the ball nearly well enough, and let the ULM popgun attack strategically move the chains. The Warhawks hemmed in the Tide return game, even as Alabama’s special teams disappeared — PJ Fitzgerald had his worst day in a crimson uniform, Leigh Tiffin missed a field goal. And even the steady John Parker-Wilson also had one of his least efficient games in an otherwise underrated career. There were multiple injuries, multiple suspensions, and an Alabama team that showed up thinking that a name on a jersey wins football games.
Though Saban would be pilloried for comparing that game to Pearl Harbor, it was another phrase that he coined thereafter that has become a staple of Alabama football under his tutelage: Don’t waste a failure.
And waste it, Alabama has not.
In the 5000 days since, the world has seen a lot; it has undergone a lot of changes.
- The US elected its first black President, and is now running under that guy’s Vice President
- In between Presidents Obama and Biden, the US elected Donald Trump, becoming its first President without political experience since Gen. Dwight D Eisenhower.
- Gangam Style became the first YouTube clip with 1 billion views.
- Twitter was born.
- December 2012 came and went...and the world did not end.
- The iPhone had just gone to market. Its 6.1 million sales were meager compared to the 2.87 billion that have been sold since — and the 217 million that were sold in Q4 2019 alone. That helped Apple became the world’s first trillion-dollar company.
- A rare full solar eclipse blanketed much of the US sky.
- The Women’s Day March in 2017 became the single largest demonstration in US history.
- The Syrian civil war began; it embroiled no fewer than 11 nations; the war ended; and in the interim it spawned ISIS, and saw their defeat.
- In 2007, Xi Xinping was an ambitious second-tier member of the CCP, one who became embroiled in a political catfight with former PRC Premiere, Jiang Zemin. Not only did Xi prevail to become First Secretary of CCP, but he would later become China’s President. Since that time, he has erased term limits, rapidly militarized East Asia, staked territorial claims to the land or seaspace of 17 nations, weaponized the South China Sea, oversaw an economy that went from 11th to 2nd in the world, and expanded his powers to become the globe’s most influential dictator since Mao Zedong.
- The US ended long-running military engagements in both Iraq and, most recently, Afghanistan — the latter being the longest war in our nation’s bellicose history.
- The Royals, both young men at the time, went from swinging party kids, to married with multiple children — and Prince William’s marriage to Kate Middleton became the most-watched wedding in history along the way...until his brother, Prince Harry married US actress Meghan Markle and that became the most watched wedding in history.
- Just 20 weeks after that ULM loss, Bear Stearns collapsed — the largest failure of a financial institution in global history. It would be a harbinger, as the planet plunged into its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Almost 8 million American homest were foreclosed upon. Official unemployment briefly reached 10%, but it was estimated that at the height of the crisis, almost 40% of Americans were unemployed or underemployed — and many jobs that did return, came back paying significantly lower wages than previously.
- The “gig economy” was born — a rapacious 1099 independent contractor scheme which externalizes all costs on society and workers, while dodging licensing, insurance, and much legal liability. As of 2017, 36% of Americans were gig workers.
- Gay marriage would be legalized in Obergefell, half a decade after that loss.
- The ACA would be promulgated, pass both chambers, and then would survive three substantial Court challenges, and appears to be embedded as firm US law.
- The first black hole was imaged.
- Space-X and Tesla had just been born, but many felt these Musk creations were decades away from realizing marketable products. Now, Musk’s Space-X Dragon Heavy has been approved to be the heavy launch vehicle for humanity’s first Marshot, and Tesla hit its 1 millionth vehicle sold last year, helping to usher in an era of EV vehicles that has seen even the venerable Ford motor company aim for an all-EV fleet by 2030.
- A global pandemic hit, which we are still in the middle of the second major mutation and third overall major wave. In the US alone, almost 600,000 have died; tens of millions have been sickened; and the worst global economic collapse since the Great Depression followed (yes, another one). Though the rebound has been gentler, it is one of the few documented demand collapses on record, and the first of the post-Keynesian MMT era.
- The University of Alabama had exactly zero Heisman winners in its first 115 years. Since that loss to ULM, the Crimson Tide has had three Heisman winners, a Heisman runner-up, a 5th place finalist, and two third-place finalists.
- Alabama has had 77 total first round NFL draft picks — Nick Saban put 39 of them into the pros.
- Alabama had 38 consensus All-Americans before his arrival. Since that loss, Alabama has produced 49.
- Alabama had never produced a Biletnikoff winner in School history. It has produced two since then.
- Alabama did not have a player drafted in the 2008 NFL draft. Since then, Alabama has produced 106 total picks, with half being selected in the first and second round.
- Alabama had produced just three first-round pass-catchers in its long history. It has cranked out 8 since that loss.
- Since that loss, Saban has produced: all 4 Maxwell winners; its sole AP Player of the Year; all 3 Walter Camp winners; both Bednarik winners; 50% of the Lombardi winners; its sole Nagurski winner; 2/3rds of the Unitas winners; all 3 Remington winners; 50% of its Thorpe winners; its sole O’Brien winner; 75% of its Butkus winners; 5 of 6 Outland winners; and so many more.
- In the last 14 years, Alabama is 170-23 on the field (89%), with 14 bowl appearances, 8 SEC West titles, 8 SEC championships, and 6 national championships. And every single Alabama team has spent all or part of each season ranked No. 1 in national polls, and every single player recruited that stayed for at least three seasons has won a national title.
And, since that game, Alabama has not lost to an unranked team...5000 days ago.
That is what is meant by not wasting a failure.