Saban's Comments and BCS Both Prove Baffling

By John Feinstein
Special to
Tuesday, November 27, 2007; 11:55 AM

There was certainly plenty to talk about in sports this past weekend. Arkansas beat LSU and Missouri beat Kansas, jostling the BCS standings yet again. The Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos managed to lose games they couldn't possibly lose. There were so many college basketball games on television that even Dick Vitale may have seen enough. The Boston Celtics are 11-1 and some of us can only wish that Red Auerbach was here to see it.

And yet, sadly, it is impossible not to begin today with one of the worst people in all of sports -- and this takes in a lot of territory -- Alabama football coach Nick Saban.

Saban is the highest paid coach ($4 million a year) in college football, having taken the Alabama job last winter after categorically denying he was leaving the Miami Dolphins.

Okay, coaches do that. They shouldn't do that but they do. Saban was failing miserably in Miami, he had already proven he could win big in the Southeastern Conference and he was clearly someone who was meant to coach at the college level where tyrants are applauded as long as they win.

Alabama finished the season 6-6, losing its last four games after coming within a play of upsetting LSU (Saban's old team) when the Crimson Tide was 6-2. At that point, even after the LSU loss, Saban was being treated the way he likes to be treated: as the savior.

Then came losses to Mississippi State and Louisiana-Monroe. That's not a typo, Alabama, coached by the savior, lost to Louisiana-Monroe at home, in the stadium named for Bear Bryant.

A few days after the ULM loss Saban, who can't stand the media, spoke to the media. In talking about the losses to Mississippi State and ULM he brought up 9-11. And Pearl Harbor.

That's right, in talking about two lost football games he brought up 9-11 and Pearl Harbor. In Saban-world, those were "catastrophes." So too were the back-to-back losses in football games. Saban went on to say that catastrophes could be turning points in history and this "catastrophe," would be, he hoped, a turning point in the history of Alabama football.

Okay, let's just say this: NO ONE should be allowed to mention catastrophes in which thousands of people died when talking about football -- or any sport. Not ever. And certainly not someone who is working at what is supposed to be an institution of higher learning. What kind of message is he sending to his players? If he makes a comment like this in public, what in the world is he saying to his players behind closed doors?

And yet, there has been no outcry coming from the President's office at Alabama, no discussion of Saban being fired or even being asked to apologize. Saban did put out a statement -- through his PR people of course -- "clarifying," what he said. Some things simply can't be clarified. If you listen to the tape there is no taking it, "out of context," or misunderstanding what he was saying. He put two lost football games into the same sentence as 9-11 and Pearl Harbor.

A couple of months ago the right wing media become apoplectic when a liberal organization took out an ad criticizing the leader of the American forces in Iraq. How, they screamed, can you be critical of the man who represents the men and women who are putting themselves in danger every day in Iraq?

Where are those people right now? Why aren't they screaming about a football coach comparing lost football games to thousands of lost LIVES? Where is the perspective?

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