Saturday, February 20, 2010

Winter Olympics....Just not for me

The ratings may be good for NBC, but its not because I'm watching.

Ever since Rocky Balboa planted the seeds to end the Cold War between the Soviet Bloc nations and the United States with his famous speech after defeating Ivan Drago in a battle for the ages, the Olympics, specifically the Winter Olympics, have lost their luster. No more Russia vs U.S. in any event is must see TV because of the difference in the Communist vs Capitalist ideologies. Those days are long gone and not coming back in the near future. China vs U.S. is a possibility, but China needs another consistent summer Olympic medal count like it did in Bejing in 2008 to make this happen.

Let's face it, NBC is not appealing its coverage to the male demographic, basically middle aged men which I now classify myself in. The focus on figure skating night in and night out is just not something I'm gonna sit and watch. Maybe if Vern Lundquist was still covering the action like he did for CBS back in the day, I'd watch just to hear some classic Lundquistisms or butchered names.

The reality is NBC is appealing to the housewife demographic and they are getting good numbers for their programming. Its a smart move on their behalf because they are getting that fringe viewer to watch by appealing to storylines surrounding skating. Odds are the husband is already interested because its the olympics, its sports on network television during the week, and he grew up watching it, so like yeah honey let's watch the Olympics. But a closer look at the actual primetime coverage should leave the male viewer disappointed.

The other events you could take or leave. Snowboarding, Luge, the numerous types of skiing, etc. just aren't cutting it. The Lebron James-Carmello Anthony duel the other night or weeknight SEC Basketball is more appealing to me.

Of course the summer olympics are different. You have your basketball games which are intruging in watching the NBA players representing their different countries, track and field is always interesting and even the swimming it too. More events, better storylines, broader appeal I guess, but as for Vancouver 2K10, I'll continue to take a pass.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Doesn't she deserve one too?

(This was written over a year ago and I still stand by it)

The she I am refering to is Alabama Gymnastics Coach Sarah Patterson.

The item in reference is a statue of Patterson outside of Coleman Coliseum.

All four coaches who have won national football championships at Alabama prior to 2009 had statues erected of them in the Walk of Champions pathway that leads to Bryant-Denny Stadium. Because he was such a forward thinker, athletic director Mal Moore created a fifth area for a future statue that will now belong to Nick Saban.

Works are already in the way for the Saban statue to be finished prior to the kick off of the 2010 season. But my question is what about Sarah Patterson? Doesn't she deserve one in front of Coleman Coliseum?

The numbers don't lie about Patterson's success over her 32 years as Alabama's only gymnastics coach. She started the program from scratch arriving from Slippery Rock in Pennsylvania and has built the Tide into one of the top 3 programs in the country her entire career.

4-national championships (make that 5!)
7-national runner-up
6-SEC Championships (make that 7)
24-NCAA Regional Championships (now 26)
25-top six finishes (now 27)
27-consecutive years that Alabama has qualified for the national championship competition (now 29)
238 All Americans
21 individual National Champions
3 time SEC Coach of the Year and 4 time National Coach of the Year

Impressive eh? Notice we haven't even mentioned the academic and All-SEC recognitions yet! Nor have we said anything about beating Auburn 99 (now its like 102, but who's counting?)times in a row!

But what is more remarkable is that Patterson started with nothing. Coach Paul Bryant hired her to begin women's gymnastics in the late 1970's, which was a result of the Title IX movement. She's built the model program in the nation, one which others pattern themselves after (no pun intended). More SEC schools are adding gymnastics and they are trying to follow Alabama's lead.

It is routine for Alabama gymanstics to draw over 12-13,000 fans for their home meets on Friday nights. Patterson has marketed her program just as well as she coaches it. The vast majority of the ticket buyers are not the same people you see at football and basketball games. Darkened arenas, disco ball, firework introductions followed by ticket deals marketing to families are part of the key to her success. She's created future generations of fans that will sustain the program as long as their is continued success. She gets out and markets her program. She's media savvy, as she has always been willing to let anyone come and shoot practice, no matter if its ESPN or some student journalist working on a story for the campus station.

(Side note: How fan friendly is UA gymnastics? Several girls from my daughter's gym team went to the SEC championships in Birmingham a few weeks ago. One of the parents had emailed Coach Patterson about possibly meeting the team at the meet. Unfrortunately, the email was not read until after the event, but all of the girls that attended the SEC meet received personalized autographed posters from the entire team this week, which of course is now a National Championship poster!)

While local meterologists were warning people to stay home Friday night because of some unpercedented snow throughout Alabama, Patterson was on the Paul Finebaum Radio Show ensuring everyone that the meet between the #2 Tide and # 6 Florida Gators would take place that evening. Despite warnings to stay home, over 12,000 fans filled Coleman despite the fact that ESPN was also broadcasting the meet. You can bet their will be another 12,000 or more this Friday too.

As sad as it is to say, one can make the argument that gymanstics is really the #2 sport at Alabama, ahead of basketball and baseball. Name another school that could make that argument for gymnastics?

The sport has grown so much (thanks to Patterson) that the SEC has moved the Gymnastics Championships away from campus locations for the last decade, letting places like Nashville, Birmingham and Duluth, GA host the event. This year it moves to Jacksonville.

Alabama had football tradition before Bear Bryant, Gene Stallings and Nick Saban arrived at the Capstone. It didn't even have a balance beam before Patterson arrived. Now it has a state of the art practice facility, a $35 million dollar renovation to Coleman Coliseum and the top program in the country.

Now all we need is that statue outside of Coleman...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

2009...The greatest season in Alabama Football History

Hard to believe but its been a month since the Alabama Crimson Tide rolled to their 13th National Championship in sunny California. What an amazing season 2009 was, with in this writers opinion culminating in the greatest season in the 118 year history of 'Bama football. Notice I did not say greatest team, thats open for debate, although this years squad would easily be in that discussion too.

Their are numerous reasons why this was the greatest season ever, including the many firsts that the program established in 2009. Among the things Alabama accomplished for the first time was Mark Ingram bringing the Heisman to Tuscaloosa. Ingram made one of the greatest speeches in Heisman history, straight from the heart. It was a once in a lifetime event watching Ingram make his speech on the jumbotron of Coleman Colesium with close to 15,000 other fans.

From a team standpoint, the Tide became the first program to ever defeat 10 teams with a winning record in one season. They were the first to ever place 6 players on the All-American team. It was the first time 'Bama won 14 games in a season. Nick Saban became the first coach in the modern era to lead two teams to the national championship (LSU 2003 & 'Bama 2009). It was also the programs first win over Texas.

On the way to the National Title, Alabama defeated the previous four national champions (Texas-2005, Florida-2006 and 2008, and LSU-2007).

The 14 wins included games against traditional rivals Tennessee and Auburn, but the way Alabama won those games was unbelievable. In both games, their were tense moments where I'm sure the Vol and Tiger fans were about to feel the joys of victory only to have their hearts ripped out in the final seconds, like when Harrison Ford ripped the heart out of that guy in one those Indiana Jones movies. Trust me, Vol and Barn fans are still steaming about the one that got away.

I think the final reason that this season will be considered the greatest ever by an Alabama football team is because it came full circle and brought closure to the dark ages. Winning the BCS title in the Rose Bowl stadium became that final link for generations of fans from the early 'Bama titles that were won in the Rose Bowl, before the Big 10 and Pac 10 blocked other schools from going to Pasadena. It was more significant because of where the game took place.

Finally, the last decade began with such promise but was filled with such disappointment. The 2000 campaign began with 'Bama entering the decade at #3, opening the season in the Rose Bowl against UCLA. While I was their getting sun drenched and watching Freddie Milons go untouched for a punt return touchdown 3 minutes into the game, the rest of the game like the decade was downhill from there. What a long trip back from La La land that was, so much so that I did not venture to another road game until the 2008 season.

Through the disappontments of the decade (3-8 in 2000, 4-9 in 2003, 6-7 in 2006), the numerous coaching changes (Dubose, Fran, Price, Shula and Saban) the near misses (4th and 19, excruciating OT losses to Ark, LSU amd UGA, OU losses) and numerous embarrassing losses (UCF, La. Monroe, Hawaii and UNI) it looked for a time like we were destined to become a mediocre program like Ole Miss has been since the 1960's.

But that all began to change when Nick Saban came to T-Town on January 3rd, 2007. The Process began to take back the State and then the Nation. Unlike George Bush, we are not premature when we say Mission Accomplished!

No other team in the history of Alabama Football can match the accomplishments of the 2009 squad. In due time, people will grow to appreciate this team more and more in the coming years.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Gameday Superstitions and Rituals

You know its true. Admit it. The success or failure of your teams ability to win a game is dependent upon your supertition or ritual that you complete before every game. You single handidly can affect the game and the mood of millions of others by partaking or forgetting to wear that lucky jersey, hat, jacket or eat or drink the same thing before, during or after a game. Some people will say you're crazy but you know your doing your part to help pull the team through to victory.

I'm sure their are a ton of Colts and Saints fans that have been wearing or doing the same thing for every sunday for this year or years past because its what they've always done. Tomorrow will be no different. Trust me, I should know.

I've been known to wear the same outfit whether I am coaching a game or watching one of my favorite teams time and time again based upon the success that we've had in previous games or years.

For instance, for the past two years I have always worn a # 28 Javier Arenas jersey, houndstooth baseball cap, khaki shorts/pants and a pair of nike coaches sneakers that were given too me for every Alabama game. I purchased the Javy jersey three days before heading to Atlanta to watch the Tide dismantle Clemson at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The rest they say is history because whether watching at home or being at a game in person, I was attired in the same outfit, except on two occasions!

The first was the 2008 SEC Championship game. I had a basketball game that evening and had to leave in the middle of the first half to get my team ready to play in the Elmore County Torunament Championship. Of course, the Tide ended up losing while I was watching us hoist a championship trophy in the air (this was not a total loss because the red dress shirt and tie I wore that night ended up going 10-1 on the way to a 20 win hoops season, with the lone loss being our last game during that run! check my profile pic). The second was the night of the Sugar Bowl as Utah dismantled Alabama in New Orleans. Agian, I had a basketball game that night and won (yes, I was wearing the red dress shirt and tie).

No gameday outfit = 2 losses.

Gameday outfit = Alabama 26-0. No outfit = 0-2. For the record, I've retied the Javy outfit after 'Bama's 2009 National Championship.

Of course, these rules apply to coaching also, as I mentioned with the red dress shirt during basketball season. That year we went a combined 7-1 in area games winning the area championship. The one game we lost, you guessed it, I was attired in something else.

I have numerous other traditions for other teams and sports. I always wear the opposite color the Celtics are wearing during playoff games. Green for the home games and white for the road games. Its customary for me to shave my head on gamedays when I'm coaching. For years coaching junior high football, I've worn a pair of black converse sneakers that after 5 years, were on their last leg of staying together. Over in Georgia, we ended up going 27-5 winning a couple of championships in those bad boys. I broke them out again in 2008 after I found them in my storage unit when we moved back to Alabama and we went 8-0 in 2008. The Black Cons have since been retired due to tears in the lining.

Of course, there are somethings I don't wear anymore. I have an Alabama pull over that I literally never saw them win in person in football or basketball wearing that thing. Their were some games that UA was a heavy favorite and they still lost. I'd tempt fate trying to get that jacket in the win column (because it was so comfortable to wear) only to have the improbable happen time and time again. Same in coaching, I have some dress shirts that were sent to the back of the closet due to losses.

So when Super Sunday gets here tomorrow, rest assured many Colts and Saints fans will be involved in these shenanigans. Its a time tested ritual for many and tomorrow may become that defining moment for some of these traditions, win or lose. And like analyzing a game, some might analyze what they did or forgot to do correctly to help their team win.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Signing Day is here.....

For some people in early February, they get excited for Punxatawney Phil. Goundhog Day is such a great event for some that they actually made a movie surrounding it.

For others, that Christmas in February feeling revolves around National Signing Day, where grown men will live and die with the decision that some 18 year old is making to attend college. For the Recruiniks who follow this stuff year round, they live for this.

For the uninformed, some signing day rituals usually include grown men sitting at their computer all day constantly hitting the refesh button to get updates of the young men who have agreed to play football at their school. I bet the Gross Demestic Product for some states, especially in the South, drops by several points. Another tradition is hearing how great all of Georgia's recruits are, but yet no one can understand why they can only beat Florida once a decade or so with said recruits. Last and certainly not least, we'll be sure to hear how great the Notre Dame recruiting class is, a top 10 class for sure, but yet we'll see them stuck in mediocrity, losing to football powers Connecticut and Navy over the next four years and ask, what happened?

Much like the NFL Darft, this is an inexact schience. The reality is that the majority of these kids, usually 50% at each school, never pan out due to injuries, grades, lack of playing time or maybe they just aren't as good as advertised. But we never really hear about the ones who don't make it, just the success stories. Alabama's national championship team only had 13 seniors, the majority of which were not highly recruited. Star cornerback Javier Arenas only had offers from Florida International and Alabama. I guess he chose wisely.

Other parts of the country will pay this signing day fiasco little or no attention, and thats fine too. You never know who is going to pan out into a future star.

On a side note, congrats to my SEHS basketball players Rodney Davis and Terry Fuller who are planning on signing letters of intent tomorrow to play college football with the schools of their choice. Good luck men!