Armchair Talking Head

Bigger and Newer: Is it Always Better?

I damn near cried the first time I went to St. Louis and saw the giant hole that used to be Busch Memorial Stadium. I went to my first Cards game with my Dad there. I learned that it was okay to love a baseball team like a woman there–you have your ups and downs, but you still lover her, dammit. My emotions were similar the first time my Dad and I set foot in New Busch Stadium where a whole slew of new memories have been made, none to top sitting on the first base line with Dad as the Budweiser Clydesdales galloped around the warning track with the 2006 World Series trohpy on opening day. As cool as new Busch Stadium is, something about me misses the old arches atop the old park. I liked the idea of watching Albert Pujols play at the same place my old man watched Bob Gibson hurl the ball. Progress is all good and well, and the topic of old baseball parks and the new-fangled “baseball parks” that focus on fan experience instead of baseball is an entirely different topic.

Credit: Crassic

I had a somewhat similar feeling as I drove down Bryant Drive today for the first time since it had opened post-South Endzone construction. It’s beautiful. It’s worth every penny spent on it. I oohed. I ahhed. I almost rear-ended a sorority girl back a week early for Rush in the BMW her daddy bought her because I was staring out the side window of my beaten down Chevy. A marvel of football, modern engineering, and a testament to the thousands of Alabama boys who have worn the Crimson and White on Saturdays in the fall sits between University Blvd. and Bryant Drive for sure, but I had a different reaction as I turned north on Wallace Wade Avenue.  Just as that street is named for a coach of old (Wade won 3 National Championships at Alabama from 1923-1930), the western side of Bryant-Denny tells a different story. Exposed beams, old but sturdy bricks dominate the view. You can see inside the stadium to an extent, and on game weeks you can often see the inner workings of getting the stadium ready for the 100K plus fans that will fill the seats that weekend. I kind of miss the ability to take a glimpse into the stadium, and the old feeling the stadium used to have. That oldness spoke to the tradition that so many Alabama fans love to talk about. I often wonder as I stand at the urinals tucked under the seats of the student section staring at the wood bolted to concrete and steel keeping us in our seats if the men who built the stadium in the 1920’s, or even people who have worked on it in the years in between, ever imagined the behemoth it has become.

In the changing, fast-paced, dog-eat-dog world of today’s college football, bigger and newer might mean more talented recruits, more fans, and more money. In fact, it might even play a part in the success of the team on the field, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. I do like it, and I welcome progress, but  a little part of me hopes they never cover up the older parts of the stadium.

CFA Kickoff Classic: The Beginning of Less Les in Baton Rouge?
July 29, 2010, 3:25 pm
Filed under: Saban, SEC Football

In his five-year tenure at Louisiana State University as head football coach, Les Miles has amassed a record of 51-15. That’s a winning percentage of 0.77273. That’s slightly higher than Nick Saban’s winning percentage at LSU from 2000-2004 of 0.75000. That’s honestly the only real-life or water cooler head-to-head comparison with the former LSU head man that Miles will likely ever win again.

Nobody, and I mean Nobody in Baton Rouge is enamored with Miles’s work product. Sure he won a national championship in 2007, and I’ll even take away the fact that he largely won that game with Saban recruits. He definitely got some capital by winning that BCS Championship, but it’s clear that his capital has run out. With non-sensical play-calling, and non-sensical public remarks (Did you know the oil spill “affects the ocean”?), the fans of the purple and gold have more faith in Edwin Edwards than in Miles, and if the truth be told, 99% of LSU fans who screamed bloody murder when Saban came to Tuscaloosa would take him back faster than they could say Gumbo.

For the last two seasons, the Chik-Fil-A Kickoff Classic in Atlanta has been a springboard for undefeated seasons for the Crimson Tide. The game has given an SEC Championship Game-like atmosphere at the beginning of the season that served as a harbinger of things to come the Tide’s way.

But this year, the CFA Kickoff Classic has the potential to signal something totally different. If LSU drops its first game to the North Carolina Tar Heels, the Bengal Tigers are likely to become the Titanic and Les Miles is Captain Smith. The once sought after Oklahoma State coach has proven his idiocy in the SEC, and has likely burned any bridges between himself and his alma mater Michigan. Thus, much like Captain Smith, it appears that Les Miles is headed to the bottom of the SEC West ocean with his ship.

Where to Start?
December 21, 2009, 3:21 pm
Filed under: Golf, Hoops, Pigskin, Saban, The Tide, Tuscaloosa

Where to start? So much has gone down since the last time we spoke. That’s my bad, but with another semester in the books I’m free from the chains of the law to write about what I want so…

  • Alabama

The Tide capped off its second straight perfect regular season and is sitting at 13-0 after a dismantling of Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators and headed to Pasadena to play at the Rose Bowl in the BCS National Championship Game vs. Texas. Oh yeah, Mark Ingram brought home the first ever Heisman Trophy for a Tide player to Tuscaloosa.

This program, just three years removed from the shambles of the Shula era is again in the elite echelon of college sports. In just three years Nick Saban has taken Alabama from the ranks of former powers to the current players. The Process, as hokie as it may be, has worked magnificently. Greg McElroy has developed into a dependable QB, our defense may be better than the ’92 D, and our stable of running backs is no doubt as chocked full o’ talent as it has ever been in the history of the program. There’s an empty spot next to Coach Stallings just off University Blvd. and I wouldn’t at all be shocked if it’s filled up when the Tide takes on San Jose State to kickoff the 2010 season.

  • Tiger Woods

Shocker. Highly paid athletes attract fast women. We had no clue! Tiger Woods will be back to golf sooner rather than later (he’s got to pay that exorbitant pre-nup somehow), and we’ll all be the better for it. Tiger Woods has given me someone to hate since he burst onto the scene almost a decade ago, but now I’m his biggest fan. No I’m not pro adultery, I just imagine with Tag Heuer, Gilette, Accenture, Elin and the like dropping him he can use all the fans he can get. 

This story is sad. A family is being torn apart, but the real story here is another deification of an athlete by the media. For almost 10 years Tiger could do no wrong. He was a golf God held to an unmaintainable status not only as a golfer but as a person. Lay off Tiger Woods. Nobody is perfect, and he’s been as close to it on the course as we’ve ever seen in his relatively short PGA career. He’s an athlete, not a role model. (See: Barkley, Sir Charles) Hell, I don’t even understand why he’s taking a leave from golf. If a man’s got troubles at home, what’s left but golf?

  • The Anthony Grant Era Begins

TBD. We’ve looked promising in spots. Only time will tell, but the on the court product is much improved from a year ago. The UCLA high-post is gone and intensity on defense warms my 40 minutes of Hell loving soul. I’m not sure if this is an NCAA team this year, that will all shake out in SEC play but I wouldn’t be shocked to see this team ruffle some feathers in league play and in the SEC Tourney.

I’m going to try to neglect this blog a little less over the break and hopefully the spring semester. Be looking for BCS content, more on the Grant Era, the dawning of the Mitch Gaspard era in Baseball, and I’ll be back when Tiger wins the Masters in April.

Week 1 Thoughts

Well, well. We might actually have a decent football team on our hands here in Title Town.  The first half was eerily reminscent of that “Oh shit what’s happening!?!” feeling (see: Sugar Bowl, 2009), but the Tide pulled it through in the second half.  McElroy really seemed to come into is own, Mark Ingram was an absolute hoss, and the defense is as advertised.  It will be good to have a light next few weeks, but Nick Saban isn’t taking it lightly. Just ask him.

I posed the question of what will be the bigger story, Auburn with a potential loss to La. Tech or Alabama’s match with Va. Tech.  I don’t think there’s any question that the majority of the buzz surrounding college football is coming out of Tuscaloosa this week.  To be fair, I didn’t see a snap of the Auburn game, but it appears they somewhat handled La. Tech.  So I guess that means we have to start calling him 6-19 Gene. That’s such an improvement, right Barn?

I don’t know much about Alabama’s Week 2 opponent Florida International, except thanks to Coach Saban’s presser, #4 is pretty good.

Here’s to a 4 day week, the first weekend of tailgating on the Quad, and returning to Bryant Denny.

2 Days: Never Been So Happy Edition

Damn, I’ve never been so happy to see the NCAA issue a ruling than I was at about 7pm last night when the edict came down from on high (Indianapolis) that Julio Jones and Mark Ingram are clear to play Saturday against the Hokies upon paying restitution for their “improper benefits.”

Apparently, Julio and Mark have already made their payments.  If not however, might I suggest the “Human Fund”?

3 Days: Visual Edition
September 2, 2009, 8:54 pm
Filed under: Pigskin, Saban, The Tide, Tuscaloosa

While Bama fans sit with teeth clenched waiting on an NCAA ruling that may, or may not be coming, I’m comforted by the view I’ll have Saturday.


The view from Section 108

The view from Section 108

I’m not about to guess what’s going on between the two most unpredictable entities in the universe: the NCAA and Nick Saban.  However, playing against the #7 team in the nation without Julio Jones and Mark Ingram is not going to be a pretty thing to watch.  The Tide can still win Saturday, but McElroy will have to be superb in his debut, and Richardson, Upchurch, et al will have to step up and make major contributions in the backfield.  I’m confident that we can keep Tech’s run happy QB Tyrod Taylor in check.  The question will be can a diluted Bama Offense (assuming we’re without the services of Julio and Ingram) be able to move the ball against Bud Foster’s perennially tough defense?  

That’s why we play the game, I suppose.

My Take on the Tide: 48 Hours from Kickoff

In 48 hours, the Tide will begin their 2008 campaign under the Dome in Atlanta.  Before we can talk about where the Tide will go in the second year under the “Nicktator,” we must take a look back at where we’ve been.

In the first year under Nick Saban, the story was “close, but no cigar.”  Every game in the first half of the season seemed to be a nail-biter, minus the Vandy game which wasn’t exactly a blowout either.  The first leg ofthe 2007 season featured a 3 point win over Arkansas, an OT loss to UGA, a touchdown loss to FSU, a near tragic 6 point win over Houston, and a 3 point scare at Ole Miss.  The turning point came against Tennessee.  Everything clicked for the Tide, and everything bombed for the Vols in a 41-17 Alabama win.  When everything was setting up for a late season run off the momentum of the Tennessee win, the house of cards came tumbling down.

A potential monumental upset fell by the wayside against LSU with a 1 touchdown loss.  The wind was completely let out of the Tide’s sail after a demoralizing loss in Starkville, followed by the LA Monroe debacle.  In the Iron Bowl, redemption was almost had, but slipped away by 7.  Even the Weed Wacker Bowl was a close one, with the Tide overcoming Colorado 30-24.

It was a roller coaster that I only survived thanks to Captain Morgan, and Jim Beam.  The old ABC theme, “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” never met a more appropos team.  The close wins were uplifting, the blowout was exhilarating, and the near losses, especially to State and LA Monroe were down right demoralizing.

If the 2008 campaign is to be more successful, the close losses have to go away.  To get where the program needs to be, we can’t lose any more games to cupcakes like LA Monroe, and the annual match up with Starkville Feed/Seed/Lawn Mower Repair and Junior College must be a guaranteed win.  When that happens, then we can talk about having enough in the tank to hold on against the likes of LSU, UGA, and Auburn in the 4th Quarter.

The “process” is well documented, and that’s just what this Saban experiment is; a process.  I think the “easy” games will come with relative ease.  Perhaps contending for an SEC West title is a year down the road, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel sweet Bammers, there’s light at the end of the long, dark, vile tunnel that stretches from DuBose to Fran; from Price to Shula.  The end of the long Bammer Nation nightmare is nigh.  A loss in the game Saturday with Clemson will be an understandable casualty of the “process” to achieve that end. A win in the Georgia Dome, however,  has the very real potential to set that end into motion at a breakneck pace.

It’s football season baby.  Despite the copious amounts of academic BS I’m doing right now, not even my law profs can take my joy away.