Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Sports

Alabama-Clemson: Some sequels are always blockbusters

Ali-Frazier. Federer-Nadal. The "Hellraiser" series ... sometimes greatness year after year just can't be denied. Embrace the CFP.

ST, PETERSBURG — College football's broken record, Alabama against Clemson, plays again Monday evening in that hotbed of Southern football, Santa Clara, Calif.

Anybody need tickets? Anybody? Only independently wealthy or independently demented Crimson Tide or Tigers fans can load up and head west on a week's notice. Most of the other 48 states are yawning. Who wants Alabama-Clemson again? Who needs a third national championship game in four seasons between the reigning dreadnoughts?

I sure do.

Dabo, too.

"Well, I mean it's the two best teams," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said this week. "The objective is to get the two best teams to play for the national championship. Both of these teams have earned that. So, if that's the case, that's good."

Wasn't the two best teams the whole idea behind this College Football Playoff?

Mere Earthlings have had all season to bring down these death stars, but couldn't, again. California might have its faults ­ — the San Andreas among them — but don't blame 14-0 Alabama and 14-0 Clemson for being the two best teams over and over. Got a problem with that? Fine. Go beat them. Dynasties are good for sports, even when they finish each other's sentences.

These two should just sign a home-and-home deal through 2030. Or at least let's find a convenient neutral site, because Alabama and Clemson aren't going away. As I recall, Tampa's CFP title game in 2017 produced a classic 35-31 last-second Clemson win, with "Watson-to-Renfrow" entering the lexicon.

What say Tampa Bay flips with Atlanta, winner gets to be permanent host.

Now, where were we?

In the middle of the greatest short-burst rivalry in the history of sports, that's where. There has never been anything like this in college football history. Other schools have been excellent at the same time — Notre Dame and Army, Miami and Florida State, USC and Texas. And there are sports rivalries out there with more passion and history — Ohio State-Michigan, Yankees-Red Sox, USF-UCF. Well …

But there has never been anything like this. I'm sure that when Nick Saban began constructing a monster in his Tuscaloosa laboratory, he had no idea that Swinney, a former Crimson Tide walk-on, would one day build the Bride of Frankenstein. If Clemson wins Monday, the teams will have split their four meetings in the College Football Playoff title game and won two national championships. There has never been anything like this.

A few words on other great sequels.

Yankees-Dodgers: The original Subway Series saw these two teams dominate baseball in the 1950s, meeting in the World Series four times in five years. It was Yankees might (DiMaggio, Mantle. Berra) against Brooklyn right (Jackie Robinson). Yankees won four of five. Someone named Larsen reportedly had a quality start  in Game 5 of the '56 Series.

Lakers-Celtics: Met in NBA Finals six times during the 1960s. Problem: Russell and the Celtics won them all, mostly over Wilt. Resumed battle in the 1980s, Magic and Bird, three Finals meetings in four seasons, Lakers winning twice.

Red Wings-Canadiens: Only two NHL teams to meet in three consecutive Stanley Cup Finals (1954-56). Gordie Howe and the Wings won the first two before Jean Beliveau and Montreal won to start a record run of five consecutive Cups.

Warriors-Cavaliers: Last year's meeting was a flop — a Golden State sweep — but four consecutive NBA Finals between LeBron and the Warriors —Curry, Durant and company — make this matchup unique. Chances for a five-peat this year: Zero.

Navratilova-Evert: Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova were the two most dominant women's tennis players of their time. They met 80 times between 1973 and 1988, with Navratilova holding a 43-37 edge, inducing a 14-4 record in Grand Slam finals.

Ali-Frazier: They only fought three times, but between that night at the Garden, the rematch there and a fitting brain-jarring finale in Manila, they made boxing history. Final: Ali 2, Frazier 1.

Hundred Years' War: England vs. France. These countries didn't like each other. Waged a series of conflicts between 1337 and 1453 until France's recruiting tailed off.

Eisenhower-Stevenson: Met in consecutive presidential elections, 1952 and 1956, Ike winning both times, 899-162. Stevenson's "Lock her up!" strategy failed miserably.

Hellraiser: Took date to Hellraiser (1987). Dumped me. Saw Hellraiser: Bloodline and Hellraiser: Inferno by myself. Took daughter to see 10th installment in series, Hellraiser: Judgement (2018). Dumped me.

Federer-Nadal: Met 38 times, 24 times in finals, 12 times in Grand Slam finals, Nadal winning nine.

Grand Canyon: Millions of years ago, the Colorado River debuted, but it was just getting started.

Alabama-Clemson IV: Alabama's offense against Clemson pass rush. Alabama's defense against Clemson freshman QB Trevor Lawrence. Hunter Renfrow's 43rd and final season of college eligibility! And, of course, Saban-Swinney, winners gets the trophy, loser begins preparations for Alabama-Clemson V, next year in New Orleans. That is, if planned host Easter Island doesn't come up with enough hotel rooms.

You can go to the ends of the Earth all you want, it still comes back to 'Bama-Clemson.

So, if that's the case, that's good.

Contact Martin Fennelly at or 813-731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly.