How To Avoid Trap At Kentucky

There is an adage in the legal field that an attorney never asks a witness a question to which the lawyer doesn't already know the answer. That would be a nice rule of thumb in Alabama football press conferences, but it's not possible.

There is no way to know the answer to questions put to Alabama Coach Nick Saban. It is wise to have a good grasp of the question, at least. From Day One, the coach made it clear that he puts questions into two categories—good ones and dumb ones. Fortunately, even though he may take a reporter to task for a dumb question, Saban gives excellent information, even to poor questions.

It was a bit of a surprise that Saban, who knows infinitely more football than even the most technically savvy reporter, had no knowledge of our Wednesday question. We didn't know much about it either, but had tried to do a little research.

The question involved the so-called "trap game."

The question was a bit of a ramble, the expectation that Saban would bail it out with his answer. Our feeling was that the "trap game" was one in which a weaker team might defeat a stronger team; the implication of the term was that circumstances—the site of the game, where the game fell on the schedule (such as the week after or the week before a critical game), etc.—could affect the outcome. Did Saban consider it to be true or subscribe to it in any way?

"I don't know what you're talking about."

Ruh Roh.

He's never heard of a trap game?

"I've never heard of a trap game. Explain it to me and I'll give you what I think."

We thought maybe it had been made up by a television sports announcer, but Oprah Lundquist was nowhere around for help. We did smile when we admitted it dealt with "expectations," and finally concluded with, "But if you've never heard of it, it doesn't mean anything."

In reading the Tuscaloosa News later, we were taken aback to learn that the term may have gambling implications. No wonder a college football coach had never heard of the term.

Saban is one of the best at providing information, and he had an answer, even though he had never heard of a "trap game" before Wednesday.

"I really think you control what you do, our players control what they do," Saban said. "So if we're in a trap game it's because we're putting our heads in a trap. And we're putting them in a trap. We're not performing well, we're not prepared to play mentally and emotionally, don't have the intensity, the sense of urgency, the discipline to execute, the mental energy you need to be a good competitor. That's when other people can take advantage of you.

"Anybody we can play can beat us. And on the other hand nobody we play can beat us. It depends on us.

"I guess what you're talking about is the analogy I used when we used to play at Notre Dame. The Gipper talks to the team the night before so therefore you're supposed to lose. If they wear their green jerseys you're supposed to lose. If Touchdown Jesus is doing something you're supposed to lose. But that only affects you if it affects you, if you think that. We won two games at Notre Dame (when he was head coach at Michigan State), so that didn't really affect us.

"Is that what you're talking about? Trap game? So if I went and told the players this is a trap game, and they started believing it was a trap game, it'll end up being trap game.

"But I'd rather them believe if they'll go do what they're supposed to do they'll have the best chance to be successful. And that didn't just start when you showed up for the game. It begins with practice every day, when you prepare.

"I think consistency is one of the most difficult things to do from a human nature standpoint. I think it takes something special to be able to do that. It's a challenge to get it done with your team every week. That's our challenge and that's what we try to do."

Alabama, 4-0 and ranked third in the nation, plays at Kentucky this week. The Wildcats are 2-1 and not ranked. Last week Alabama played Arkansas, a team thought to be up-and-coming on the basis of its outstanding offensive performance against Georgia the week before. Next week Alabama goes to Ole Miss, a team that was ranked in the nation's top five before losing to South Carolina last week.

Some may think this is a trap game. Don't count on it.

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