If youÂ hate the Crimson Tide, it was good to be alive early this decade. Anything that could possibly go right for you and wrong for the TideÂ were as routine as the sunrise.Â A humiliating turn of the century season in 2000 was only the beginning of what would be Crimson misery for the next several years. Preseason #3 turned into a 3-8 season. A glimmer of hope from a coach named Fran turned into embarrassment as he ran away from devestating sanctions. A rival’s fat head coach gloated over our near dead Crimson body.Â The Capstone’s prized football programÂ lay lifeless after the crooked NCAA continued the pattern of selective prosecution. The hiring and firing of a coach who never coached a game blackened Bama’s eye, again. And then, the Shula years, where predictability plus a lack of discipline plus a lack of talent and depth equaled four of the six straight losses to Auburn, as well as more thanÂ a dozen others where we were outcoached, outmatched and outplayed. And winning the fourth quarter wasn’t an option with a roster filled with softÂ players who couldn’t even play special teams on today’s unit.
Yes, if you wore orange, those were good times. Fingers were hoisted. Overtimes were won. Fourth and eighteens were converted. Mid-major programs pushed the Tide around on its own turf. Players publically joked in the media about disciplinary measures. And the once proud face of Southern football sank further and further into Crimson mediocrity. Alabama was gone for good. Done for. Finished. Dismissed to third or worse in the West. The new lords of the SEC were LSU and Auburn vying in the West to face Florida in the East for the crown.
And after Shula was “unfairly” shown the door by his alma mater, nobody in their right mind would want to come to Alabama. Remember that line? Who in their right mind would want THAT job, where unrealistic expectations ruled the show? Our rivals laughed when Spurrier spurned us to stay at also-ran South Carolina. We were the butt of many the joke when the hot Rich Rodriguez played us for more money at West Virginia. And as week after week passed in December of 2006, with no coach (and no prospects thereof) on the horizon, the humiliation grew deeper.
ThenÂ a faintÂ whisper could be heard; one suggesting that one Nick SabanÂ mightÂ be interested in the vacancy atÂ Alabama. Immediately this was dismissed. As one Auburn friend put it, “He’s never coming to Alabama. He loves it in south Florida and is doing what he wants to do…coach in the NFL.” ESPN littered the airwaves and internet with talking heads scoffing at the idea.
Then the plane hit the tarmac in Tuscaloosa.
Aubies everywhere scurried into a frenzy. And if you’re reading this, you know who you are. You said things like: “We’re not afraid of Nick Saban.” Another favorite was, “Check the records. Tuberville owns Saban.” And I distinctively remember hearing one radio caller mouthÂ the words “Bring…it…on.”
Unrest led to relief the first year, as a team littered with trashÂ posted aÂ dismal 7-6 record, and worse yet, a sixth loss to Auburn. Tubby hoisted fingers and ran around the field, representative of the classless trash that is Auburn football. He wore an antagonistic t-shirt (against Bama) on a television interview. And everything down on the plains was gonna be okay.
Twenty-six wins and two losses later, my how things have changed. For if you hate Crimson and went to sleep after the 2007 Iron Bowl, you’re waking up to sheer hell today. Back-to-back regular season undefeated seasons. Game after game of marquee wins on national stages. Back-to-back #1 recruiting classes in the country (with a possible threepeat upcoming). A triple dose of slapping good ‘ole Rocky Top. Back-to-back whippings for our friends down on the Bayou. And back-to-back victories inÂ the game that defines Auburn football, with more most certainly on the way.
But then, there was Florida. Good ole Florida. Afterall, if your team can’t take down the Tide, at least you can depend on Urban Meyer and the wonder boy of college football to get the job done.
Last Saturday, it was dancing on the tongues of every Aubie and Vile alive…just sixty minutes separated them from one of the hardest and loudest laughs they could enjoy at our expense in a long time.
“Sure, back-to-back undefeated seasons, but two years in a row, thanks to Tebow, Bama won’t have anything to show for it!”
I remember having dinner with my wife the evening of the La.Monroe loss in ’07. An acquaintance from high school spotted me from across a restaurant and made her way across the room to sit down at our table. An Auburn grad.
“Tough game today.” She couldn’t contain her joy as the corners of her mouth curled upward and her eyes danced at the opportunity to rub my nose in a humiliating defeat. My wife couldn’t believe how utterly classless this was. This was not a friend. This was simply anotherÂ classless tiggerÂ eager toÂ pour salt inÂ a Crimson wound. But again, this is the norm in the Abarn fambly.Â Sadly, those of her ilkÂ are a dime a dozen.
Today, I’d like to cross paths with that little ole gal. I wonder what was going through her mind as we ran around and through Abarn’s last hope at keeping us from college football’s biggest stage? When Javy intercepted the nature boy, sending Superman on the trail of tears, I wonder what the jerk who held up five fingers in my face in ’06 was thinking. And when the usual characters in the Aubsessed nation look around and realize there isn’t another college team better than Florida to face us in the BSC National Championship game, what does that sick feeling in their stomach actually feel like?
National Champions. Just say it out loud. National Champions. If you’re an Aubie using the internet, you likely weren’t alive in the late 1950’s when that distinction was associated with your program. In a little over a month, your most hated rival will shelve its 13th. Man it stinks being a Bama hater.
Today I ran across another Aubie, merely remarking at how Tebow was shut down. All I said was “When was the last time you’ve seen Tebow beaten like that?” The obvious answer was very, very rarely. Immediately this lost soul launched into a tirade any three-year-old would be proud of, declaring how much he hated Alabama. He hated ’em, hated ’em, hated ’em, so he emphasized. His words were telling; not so much what he said, but how he said them. It was a casserole of frustration, hateÂ and desperation, withÂ sprinkling ofÂ angst and disbelief. I walked away satisfied with the private prison I knew he’ll be living in for the foreseeable future.
Afterall, how could Alabama return to the top of the college football world so quickly? Yes, our rivals’Â worst nightmares are coming true. Once crippled and left for dead, The University of Alabama has risen from the ashes to replace the USCs, the Floridas and the LSUs of the world as the most dominant, relentless, physical program in the country. And as Gary Danielson said it best, Alabama is going to beÂ dominant like this for a long, long time.
And the best part? There’s not aÂ thing anybody in orange can do about it. Welcome back to the 1970’sÂ Abarn, Tennessee and Florida. Just to give you a point of reference, the year is 1973. Enjoy it. I know we will.