By: Chris O’Brien
Andrew Grillo sent me a text on September 1st with one simple question:
“Alright, prediction for tonight’s game?”
The game: Alabama vs. Michigan. Background: Grillo is, and has always been, a huge Michigan fan. At the time of the game, he was starting dentistry school at U of M. The good friend response would have been an optimistic, “I think U of M has a chance to win this.”
My response: A brutally honest, “Alabama: 42-17.”
Did it feel good to send? No. Was it eerily accurate? Yes.
This is how you pick an Alabama game. Throw out the sentimental stuff. Ignore the underdog story lines. Don’t factor in your friendships. Just close your eyes and picture the pure anger on Nick Saban’s face, not after a blown assignment, but post-Gatorade bath; the same moment every other coach dreams of happening at least once in their entire career.
If Saban can’t even enjoy the Gatorade bath, think about how pissed he must get over every little mistake in a practice. Now picture that anger boiling over for an entire month of practices. Now picture his team losing. Impossible right?
Winning doesn’t even interest Saban anymore. He’s grading himself against perfection. His players are terrified to look up at the scoreboard as if one little glance will result in down ups, bear crawls, tire throws, whatever the basketball wind sprint equivalent is in the football world. The result is a team that hits you just as hard up 30 as they would down three.
Having said all that, there I was last night sitting on a Red Line train heading back to my apartment thinking, “You know what, I think Notre Dame could actually win this.”
My logic was non-existent. It consisted of: I was a Notre Dame fan for a couple Charlie Weiss bandwagon years. I went to Ireland last summer. My last name’s O’Brien. Alright, let’s get some Guinness, throw on a green shirt and get into this.
I put the Guinness in the fridge and the next thing I knew Roll Tide was up 21-0. The game was over before the Guinness was cold.
I was ready to turn the game off, but Brent Musburger was on absolute fire. Easily the moment of the night came when the camera panned over to AJ McCarron’s girlfriend and ol Musburger called it like he saw it.
“You quarterbacks, you get all the good looking women. Whoa!”
“AJ’s doing some things right down in Tuscaloosa!”
“If you’re a youngster in Alabama, start getting the football out and throw it around the backyard with pop.”
This is just good, wholesome, old man’s meat and potatoes advice. We like to think life is more complex, that we live in a different era than the one Musburger grew up in, but look at the age old evidence:
- McCarron is Alabama’s starting quarterback.
- McCarron dates that girl.
- Quarterback = hot girlfriend. Equation solved.
To back up his point, Musburger later brought up Johnny Manziel’s “wow factor” with a subtle hint to his life off the field. What did he mean? Google “Johnny Manziel’s Girlfriend.” I can’t wait for the Manziel vs. McCaron game next year. Musburger might pass out by the coin toss.
For those of you who watched the game without having your Twitter feed open, you are definitely missing out. Sort of. Well, not really, but it does add like an extra bit of barbeque sauce to your sports viewing sandwich. See, Twitter for sports is like a drunk ESPN who’s finally thrown credibility out the window. Anything goes and any story is fair game.
For instance, a big story emerged about LeBron James. Apparently the King had started following McCarron’s girlfriend’s Twitter feed. This, of course, started trending. It gets interesting because LeBron stopped following her shortly after. Or did he? What message was he trying to send? I don’t know, but it’s trending so I’ve got to read a few dozen tweets from complete strangers and then figure out why kids are cutting themselves for Justin Bieber.
I picture ESPN viewing Twitter like a McRib sandwich; they know they shouldn’t, they know it can’t be good for their health, but get late enough into the night and nothing else is open… well then maybe you throw a few reporters at the LeBron following McCarron’s girlfriend story.
Alabama looked awesome, Musburger was on fire and most middle aged women have a strange crush on Kirk Herbstreit. This interaction happened in at least 25,000 households last night.
Wife: I like Herbie.
Husband: (silently sips beer)
Wife: Herbie’s cute.
Husband: (sips beer again, rolls eyes)
Wife: I mean he’s stayed in really good shape–
Husband: Whew, hot-diggity-damn! Look at her! Amen Musburger, Amen! Son, let’s go outside and toss the ol pigskin around.
Wife: (rolls eyes, silently sips Mike’s Hard Lemonade)
The main thing I took away from last night’s game is a deep concern for the future of any fan outside of the SEC. Why the hell did we push for a playoff?? We had a perfect system. Think about it. Alabama. LSU. Georgia. Florida. Auburn. Texas A&M. South Carolina. They’re all lumped together. We were safe! We had these schools gerrymandered away into one conference and could hold onto the realistic hope that once every five to ten years they would all beat up on each other to the point that no team would have less than two losses. This would give the rest of us in the Big Ten, the Big Twelve, Pac 12, Notre Dame, all we had to do was go undefeated and the chance at a title (against another non-SEC team) would be ours.
But a playoff? Look at what we’ve done. This will guarantee an SEC team will always be in the mix. Always. Expanding the playoff? Great, let’s put in a few more SEC teams in case Alabama has an off day.
The BCS system, as currently constructed, may have had its flaws but those flaws gave flawed teams outside of the SEC a sparkle of hope. We had the chance of roping the party off from the SEC, or at least reserving one secure spot for us to go to the party and get beat by multiple touchdowns. You stretch this thing out to 16 teams and we may never again see a non-SEC coach receive a Gatorade bath.
*Check out my debut book Medium Rare over on Amazon and stay tuned for more sports, fiction and life writings from various authors here on this site.