Absurd And Tragic

Alabama Football Coach Nick Saban meets with reporters three days each week during football season. One is after each football game. He has a press briefing at midday on Monday. And he has a final pre-game session each Wednesday following practice.



The Wednesday night session usually draws only the 10 or so Alabama beat writers and perhaps an internet site reporter or two, a radio reporter, and no more than one or two television reporters.

This Wednesday, the night before Thanksgiving, was expected to draw an even lighter than usual turnout despite the fact it is Auburn week. Many reporters—like real people—planned to be with family. Instead, it was a larger than usual crowd, particularly from a television standpoint.

The reason for the extra attention was a Nick Saban comment at the Monday Alabama briefing. Most of those in attendance Wednesday had also been in Tuscaloosa Monday, and in conversation prior to Saban's arrival Wednesday night it was a consensus opinion that Saban had not been comparing Alabama football losses to national tragedies.

As everyone who follows Alabama football now knows, on Monday Saban pointed out that Americans had been galvanized to action following the bombing of Pearl Harbor that precipitated United States entry into World War II and the terrorist attacks that resulted in thousands of American deaths in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. He then said that Alabama's football team had suffered bad losses and suggested the character of the team would surface as it faced the adversity.

Some made the leap that Saban had said Alabama's loss to ULM was equivalent to 9/11.

Saban didn't wait for any questions about the Monday statement.

He said, "I don't know if you were going to ask me about this or not, but just to address it: I certainly meant no disrespect in the comments or analogies made on Monday.

"I'm sure there are better ways that I could have put it. But the message was a simple message that when people are faced with adverse situations that positive change in togetherness -- a sense of spirit -- can result from that. Sometimes the spirit of unity occurs in difficult times. That was the message."

Saban then addressed a situation he called "a hundred million thousand times more important than a football game."

He said, "There is a situation in our family. A former player here, Siran Stacy, is fighting for his life. We want all Alabama fans and supporters to have thoughts and prayers for his family. This is a difficult situation."

Saban said that Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore is in Dothan with the Stacy family. Moore was an offensive coach when Stacy was a Tide running back. Stacy's wife and four of his children were killed in a Monday night traffic accident. Stacy and his three-year-old daughter remain hospitalized.

Saban said, "I know that our people will rally around and provide help for his family in this terrible tragedy."

The closest thing to a question about Saban's Monday comment was whether "extraneous distractions" during the week appeared to have any effect on the players.

Saban said, "I haven't had any player say anything to me about anything other than focusing on getting ready for the game. That's certainly what we've devoted our time and attention to -- trying to get our team ready. Everything that we say to them every day is to try to get them to keep a high level of intensity, a sense or urgency, so they can go play intelligent, good football, and that they are well prepared for that.

"And we're responsible for that. I take responsibility for all this. If you can't get guys to do the right stuff and they aren't out there to play, they're responsible for that, but we're responsible for that, too. Regardless of what you tried to do in the game, if it didn't work, you're responsible for that, too."

And Saban had another analogy. He said, "If a teacher has every student in the class failing the subject matter, you can say you've got a bunch of bad students, but something is wrong with the teacher, too."

The coach said, "We all are responsible for this. We're all here to support the players, we try to be positive with them, but they have responsibilities and obligations, too. We all have responsibilities to do it right so we get it right."

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