Doing the Right Thing
News of Kenny Stabler’s “decision” to take a step back and a year off from Alabama’s broadcast team hit the airwaves today, and like a sonic boom the ripple effects spread like wildfire. There were the usual jokes from those who live to hate the University, speculation on how long he would really be gone, and even more speculation on who his permanent replacement would be (should he not return). There was discussion about the abilities of Tom Roberts as a stand in, and talk of the loss in expertise the broadcast would experience by the absence of a proven field general like the Snake.
Perhaps I wasn’t listening at all the right times, but what I didn’t hear today was that this was the right thing to do. Right for the University, and right for a man who obviously has a problem with alcoholism. Alcoholism is a disease that destroys not just the lives of those who partake of “just another drink”, but the lives of those around them. Anyone is capable of a slip here and there, and while I’m not a drinker myself, I can see the danger of having one too many and not knowing it. But with this being Stabler’s third DUI charge, something had to be done.
You can speculate, if you like, who made the decision. Stabler, who (here’s a shock) may actually mean what his prepared statement said today, or the University who felt the need to create distance from a personality creating headlines for all the wrong reasons. I write “it’d be a shock” to believe what the statement said because we have become a society that automatically doubts what is laid before us. If Kenny Stabler needs a year to get his life in order, who can blame him? It is a sobering thought when one realizes they can’t control something like drinking. And if the University was the source of the decision, who can blame them? Sometimes the best thing you can do for someone you love is to create a soft place for them to land but ask them to suffer the consequences.
What was most troubling today is the predictable muck and mire this news stirred up. Was the Run In The Mud so painful for Auburn fans that they feel the need to take shots at him that their defense couldn’t muster in December of 1967? Possibly it is what Stabler represents: the glory years of Alabama football, where dominance was as common as the fight song being played.
Regardless of who did it or why it was done, what happened today was the right thing for all parties involved. Doing the right thing always comes at a price. In fact, a few years ago the University acted and did the right thing concerning a man NAMED Price. Though his very name conjures up a myriad of jokes, who can argue that a seasoned coach hungry to coach at this level would have been more successful from 2003-2006 than the job done by Coach “Sheila” as his players lovingly called him behind his back? Common sideline decisions experienced for the first time by Don Shula’s boy would have been second nature for Coach Price. Maybe he would have had the sense to take Brodie out, up by 31, and do the same with Tyrone Prothro. Possibly he would’ve found a way to stop the bleeding and not let Arkansas erase a 21 point deficit, and figure out a way to twist the dagger in Tennessee before the fifth overtime.
Or maybe he would have done worse. We’ll never know. But on paper, less than three months before the 2003 season began, the University did a very hard but right thing. And we are still paying for it today. Four years of decisions by a fledgling coach contributed to the already poor state of our program (…did we really need to sign 23 defensive backs in four years? A linebacker or two would feel pretty nice right now). But regardless of the pain, or the outcome, doing the right thing is always the right thing to do.
Regardless of what color you wear, set aside your hate and bias just for a moment to consider what it must be like to be Kenny Stabler today. A shell of the hero he once was, his weakness has been exposed for the world to see, and ridicule. I agree his actions deserve the stiffest penalties the law decides to hand him, and I’m glad my family and I didn’t share the road with him on June 9th. But he is still human, and as many of you reading this suffer from the same addiction, or one like it, perhaps you should take a minute to lift up a prayer for him…or maybe for yourself…and do the right thing in your own life. Even if alcohol isn’t your vice, an inability to see the forest for all the trees may be. If you can’t recognize a real tragedy played out before you because it fuels your passion for your team, you’ve got a bigger problem than the Snake.