HOOVER, Ala. — The hordes were in the lobby with footballs, sharpies and unrequited love for their coach and that was not unusual at southern-fried SEC Media Days for Alabama and Nick Saban.
What was unusual was the word Saban used when speaking to the media Wednesday.
You don’t hear that word coming out of Tuscaloosa very often.
And in a league where a coach who lost four games (not naming names) stood up at the same podium Monday and said he didn’t consider his season a disappointment, Saban’s comment (sure to be coming to a T-shirt near you) shows just where the expectations are at one school in America and one school only.
“I don’t want to waste a failure.”
First of all, that quote is a beauty. It set the tone for the offseason and set up the opener against Florida State. Alabama, which came within a second of claiming yet another national title last season, = failure.
Sometimes you have to be delusional to be successful. You have to be able to look at 14 wins as coming up woefully short when all around you coaches and fan bases are celebrating nine-win seasons and Music City Bowl wins.
You have to be so respected that you feel disrespected.
“A lot of people still don’t respect us,” said wide receiver Calvin Ridley. “They’re not afraid of us. You hear a lot of things — Alabama’s not Alabama.”
Um, well, actually Alabama is Alabama and the Tide will be our pick to win the SEC again and could very well be the preseason No. 1 team despite losing an all-star team to the NFL.
You want disrespect, go talk to Jim McElwain. You know, the coach you hung half-a-hundred on last year.
Respect is hardly Alabama’s problem. In fact, it’s so difficult to find problems with the Tide they had to make their own last year, firing the offensive coordinator in between the two most important games of the season.
That was part of the failure.
Don’t waste it.
“You can learn so much from losing,” said offensive lineman Bradley Bozeman. “You do something wrong and you win, you don’t realize exactly what you did wrong. You’re kind of held up in the wind.
“You lose, you see every single detail. You can’t help it.”
Great. Just what this league needs. A more focused, angrier Alabama team.
“We needed that loss,” Ridley said. “We have a chip on our shoulder.”
It would be a sexy pick to not pick Alabama this season. After all, the Tide can’t keep reloading forever, right? There has to be a season where Saban and his staff made some mistakes in recruiting or injuries devastate or turnovers become the norm. Right?
Maybe Saban gets the first 15-yard penalty for being five feet on the field arguing a call and it costs Alabama a game. Maybe the Tide loses that opener to Florida State and it deflates the team’s confidence.
Maybe Saban’s 11th Alabama team is just too darn young.
“This is going to be one of the youngest teams we’ve had since 2012,” Saban said. “It’s going to be a challenge to replace those guys.”
You remember 2012.
Alabama lost once that season — to Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel by five points —- and won the national title, throttling Notre Dame in the championship game.
That’s what they have come to expect in Tuscaloosa.
Not the heartbreaking ending of last season.
“We’re definitely using the motivation, and we’re not letting small things slide,” said defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick. “That’s the reason we lost last year because we let little things slide towards the end of the season and the championship game. We lost because of small details.”
Naw, Alabama lost because of DeShaun Watson. Alabama lost because it’s college football. Alabama lost because it can’t have everything.
I mean, now the Tide has a another motto for bumper stickers and GameDay signs.
I’m not sure it’s up there with “Champions of Life” or “War Eagle” or “Anchor Down.” It probably won’t make a media guide cover like Kentucky’s “Let’s Go To Work”, Missouri’s “Show Me” or Arkansas’ “Uncommon.”
But “Don’t Waste Failure” has a unique ring to it.
If you ask Bama fanatics, they have a better one.
“Don’t Get Used To It.”
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.