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Tide Two-Step: Nick Saban was not talking about Nate Oats; Nick Saban was talking to his team.

Unless you are an Alabama football player, you are not the target audience — whoever you may be.

Arkansas v Alabama Photo by Brandon Sumrall/Getty Images

I’ve been bumping around these parts for the better part of a decade now, and some phenomena never cease to amaze me.

How Alabama special teams cannot be competent in all phases during the same year.

Why multiple University administrators have thought that Coleman Coliseum is an acceptable basketball venue.

Why Greg Byrne in particular has gone out of his way to antagonize students — the same group of nextgen donors that he will be passing the hat towards.

Why anyone in the media actually takes Nick Saban’s more controversial words or spicy sound bites at face value — or why they even pretend to.

Today, I refer to this statement:*

“There is cause and effect when you make choices and decisions that put you in bad situations,” Saban said, via

“Everybody’s got an opportunity to make choices and decisions. There’s no such thing as being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Those are some very interesting words considering the Miller situation. Oats’ handling of it has been ridiculed because, while police can’t charge him with anything, the fact he brought the firearm to the Tuscaloosa location where the shooting occurred led many thinking a suspension was on the horizon.

This is being framed as taking a shot at Nate Oats or a jab at Miller.

It is nothing of the sort. And surely you, the erudite RBR reader, have to know that by now, right?

Those remarks were directed towards the 101 people in his locker room, and those people alone. Ignoring that with respect to Brandon Miller, there is no there there, frankly Nick Saban doesn’t give one rosy red shit about a Nate Oats infelicity of phrase, nor of the University’s non-action on Miller, nor of whether he was suspended or not.

He cares about the actions and thought processes and decision-making of the 85 young men he has offered the opportunity to change their lives, to the parents of those men that he has promised to watch over, and to his obligations as a teacher and mentor to them.

“Tony Mitchell, even if you are clean as a whistle, what in the hell were you doing with someone strapped and trafficking weed?” That is the subtext here. That’s the only subtext. But he wants that message to get through to as many different players, in as many different ways as possible — and with just one unifying narrative: the one he creates.

It’s not a schism.

It’s not criticism.

As I said last night on the Twatters, it’s a carefully orchestrated dance, one where he always takes the lead.

Don’t step on his toes, either.

Nick Saban says something spicy, something guaranteed to move papers or generate #clicks. In return, those remarks are dutifully reported by someone in the press: often many someones in the sports media infotainment complex. Then those stories and thinkpieces and twitter threads permeate the ether osmotically leaching into the ears of these kids, and direct precisely and only those words he wants them to hear.

Call it the Tide Two-Step.

In this case, his words mean nothing more than this: “There are no accidents. You choose where you want to be and at what time and with whom.”

This is about Tony Mitchell, not Brandon Miller — though he is using Coach Oats’ words about Miller to let Mitchell (and 84 others) know that they need to have their ass in the dorm at 9:00 p.m.; that spring break is not Lord of the Flies; that there will be no kicking it at the club; that you ought not waste your opportunity or have your character assassinated because your buddy’s buddy may have beer muscles. That you are to do things exactly and only the way that he wants you to do them, in the manner prescribed by him, and that at all other times of even relative “freedom” you control your environment.

You you don’t get stuck at the end of the day explaining that you really were just at the wrong place, at the wrong time.

That’s Nick Saban’s message here.

The subsidiary point to this piece lies in recognizing the wink and a nod to this kabuki theater too. The more clever ones out there surely know by now that their job is to dutifully report those words Nick Saban wants his players to hear; that his remarks are only ever about the good of his team and the individuals that comprise the 2023 Crimson Tide.

Is there something inherently cheapening about admitting to our part in this symbiotic relationship? Is it verboten? Do we think so little of our audience? Are some of us truly that credulous?

Is this the sports media equivalent of parents agreeing not to tell kids Santa isn’t real? If so, then some people haven’t gotten that memo...and still leave out a plate of cookies themselves

Know this, however: Unless you are a scholarship player on the University of Alabama football team, absolutely nothing Nick Saban said last night was meant for you, directed towards you, or even about you. That means you: Nate Oats, Brandon Miller, RBR Reader No. 378,204, skull-thumping dense SI writer, bad faith hack at regional digirag.

Nor were those words even new; Saban has said them countless times before, though this time he couched them in jarring terms to underscore the seriousness of decision-making and the consequences that could happen. “It’s not just about your decisions, it’s about the decisions of people you hang with, even if you’ve done nothing wrong. Especially if you’ve done nothing wrong.”

There are no accidents...including the very words that he used to drive home that point.

Let’s just admit what we’re all doing here though. Even by writing this story, by explicating a fairly harmless Saban idée fixe, I too am amplifying precisely those words that Coach Saban wants cranked to eleven.

But, at least I’ll admit that Nick Saban is the man behind the curtains moving the levers in Oz, while I’m both Dorothy asking for help, and Toto in on the ruse.

*You’re damned right I’m linking to a subsidiary outlet rather than too. Petty? Sure. But I at least admit my biases.


Were Nick Saban’s remarks "a swipe at Nate Oats."

This poll is closed

  • 80%
    Nope. And people either know it and are trying to stir the pot, are pretending not to, or are actually too dumb to not know.
    (536 votes)
  • 8%
    Yup. Those words were aimed straight at Nate Oats, Brandon Miller, and the Alabama Basketball program.
    (56 votes)
  • 11%
    Honestly don’t know / can’t tell.
    (74 votes)
666 votes total Vote Now