If you step outside for a moment and listen closely, you may still hear them celebrating in northern Mississippi. Hell, if you just get on Twitter you can see it, quite literally. (Someone should remind them they have another game this Saturday versus a top-ranked opponent.)
Following a recent loss to the Ole Miss Rebels — who at the time were ranked 11th in the nation — there are questions looming as to whether the Alabama Crimson Tide is nearing the end of an era. A dynastic era. The loss would be Alabama’s third in seven games. And third straight versus a ranked opponent.
Now, that may sound cringeworthy — “ranked” — but none of those teams were ranked lower than 11th. There was Auburn (4th), Oklahoma and Ole Miss (who’re both ranked 11th when they defeated Alabama). Thus, it’s fair to determine that the Crimson Tide were defeated by fairly formidable competition.
Alabama gets every opponent’s best game; a game versus the Crimson Tide is their Super Bowl. I must admit, nonetheless, that as a lifelong Alabama fan — especially in the Saban era — I find a jeopardizing amusement in defeat. It’s like a nationally observed holiday when Alabama loses a game. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anything like it. Of the three aforementioned losses, two of them happened on the road, causing the opponent’s fans to storm the field at the conclusion of the game. Think about that for a second: a team held to such a mythological standard, that it incites near riot-like celebrations into the souls of thousands immediately following its defeat. Pretty neat stuff.
But here is where I must bust gloating bubbles. Did you really beat Alabama, or did Alabama beat themselves?
There’s this belief within the organization — instilled by head coach Nick Saban, himself — that when the Crimson Tide loses a game, it’s more about what they did to defeat themselves, then what the opponent did; and rarely is that theory debunked. Take the 2011 season for example: when Alabama lost to LSU in the regular season, the general consensus among coaches, players and fans was that Alabama beat themselves.
I believed that with my entire being. So when it was determined that the two teams would rematch in the BCS National Championship Game that postseason, I knew the end result would be different. I remember declaring that “Bama will blow LSU out in that game,” at my barbershop — I was laughed out that barbershop. But I had the last laugh, Alabama won the game 21-0.
You see, there’s this element that Coach Saban is always fighting against his program: complacency. Sometimes you achieve a goal, and then achieve it again.. and again, and at some point you begin to believe that success is automatic. That you no longer have to work for it. And when you succumb to that belief in life you wind up with a loss.
There’s a quote by golf great Jack Nicklaus that states, “Confidence is the most important single factor in this game, and no matter how great your natural talent, there is only one way to obtain and sustain it: work.”
For the players of Alabama, it is critical for them to understand that Alabama Football was built on hard work and perseverance. All the success is a result of it, and the program can only sustain continued success if all parties involved continue to put forth the effort that has made ALABAMA what it is today: the standard.
It’s no different than what Coach Saban said prior to the 2010 season, when he addressed the team at Bryant-Denny Stadium, “I know it’s hard out there, nobody said it was gone be easy. It wasn’t easy ever before, either. It wasn’t easy gettin’ where we are. We ain’t givin’ it back.”