Thursday, June 21, 2018
Colleges

Alabama Crimson Tide fans: Bear, Saban … enough said

"On the sixth day God created football, and on the seventh day he rested. Roll Tide." Pretty sure that's the way the scripture goes. At least in the Bible Belt.

Listen, we Southerners are all about faith and football. Church-going ladies may let a few words slip on Saturdays that would shock their Sunday school classes the next morning. (Love you, Mama.) And those same ladies will be praying for the health and happiness, or at least measured grumpiness, of the Big Guy. That'd be Nick Saban.

"Dear, Lord, please give Coach the patience to deal with Lane. He means well — though you do have to wonder sometimes about how he was raised —and he deserves a ride back on the team bus this time. He'll be south Florida's problem soon enough. Bless his heart."

Four national titles — soon to be a fifth — in 10 years, 118 wins and five SEC titles with Bama make Saban the closest thing college football has to a deity these days. And this fandom knows all about coaching royalty.

In 25 years at Bama's helm, Bear Bryant never had a losing season and was responsible for a whopping six national titles. Also, he gave us houndstooth, the greatest pigskin pattern in existence. Creamsicle checkerboard overalls? Plastic hog hats? No thanks. We keep it classy.

Why wouldn't we revere our coaches, especially the greatest two of all time, who are responsible for two distinct dynasties?

Yes, we are a tad obsessive about our college ball (though rumors that we baptize babies in Tim Tebow's tears are false; we ran out ages ago). When there's no pro sports teams in your home state, that's the way things go. At birth, you have two choices: Alabama or Auburn. Good or Evil. Choose wisely, future family inheritances may be on the line.

We are fiercely loyal to the Bear and his legacy, perhaps a little too loyal at times.

Gene Stallings, one of the infamous Junction Boys, was the last good coach with ties to Bryant. Want to know why Bama fans are perfectly fine with 10-0 scores and defensive battles? Just watch that 1992 title game against Miami. Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torretta's backside became well-acquainted with the turf. George Teague ran down a sprinting receiver and stripped him of the ball. In stride! Didn't count, didn't matter. Chills.

Then we endured some lean years. "Hide the houndstooth in shame" lean.

Poor Mike Dubose. He was once the pride of Opp, Ala., population of 6,000 or so. Had a sign and everything. The sexual assault allegations didn't do him in at Bama, but a 3-8 record in 2000 sure did. And that sign? Relocated to the local landfill.

While we're proud of our 16 national titles — Don't contradict us on that point. We're the fan base that throws mean tailgate parties and right hooks. Just Google "2014 Sugar Bowl, mad mama brawl" — we do remember the struggles and NCAA sanctions. Phil is still banned as a baby name in the state. Watch your back, Fulmer.

If "lean" years now mean a 10-3 record and no national title, well, we've earned the right to be a little arrogant. Not Ohio State or Notre Dame arrogant, mind you. Those folks think the sun comes up just to hear them crow.

We'll still feel a little kernel of pity for our opponents. The Washington Huskies are, what, 14-point underdogs now? Bless their hearts.

And if you don't like the Tide's dominance, well …

Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer

Give 'em hell, Alabama!

Traci Johnson is the Tampa Bay Times' college football editor. She once dated an Auburn fan for years (so many, many long years) and finally ditched the "Yea Alabama!" ringtone at work — but only after Gator fans complained.

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