Alabama reaches status of Patriots
Alabama achieved something that was almost impossible. No, not its two national titles in the last four years. No, not its four straight college football playoff berths.
The Crimson Tide have become the college version of the NFL’s New England Patriots. A dynasty that is both respected and despised by everyone outside of Alabama.
New England has been claiming that top spot in professional sports for arguably the last decade and maybe longer than that.
It’s hard to find anything likable about the Patriots anymore. There’s Bill Belichick, the grumpy, humorless head coach who frequently looks like he has a massive case of indigestion. There’s Tom Brady, the legendary, but loopy quarterback who screams on the sidelines, eschews medical science for quackery and thinks drinking water is like wearing sunscreen.
Finally, there’s Robert Kraft, the hypocritical owner who has no problem when punishments are handing out to other teams, but then whined when Brady was suspended for four games last season.
Finally, it’s the loud, obnoxious, nauseating fan base who despite having five Super Bowl titles in the last two decades and frequently getting calls going its way, still thinks that the league is working against the Patriots.
Those are the faces of New England, and frankly, it makes me cringe with disgust.
If that isn’t enough, the Patriots are known for getting breaks that other teams can only dream of getting. In their second Super Bowl win, a kickoff that went out of bounds led to a game-winning field goal. There’s the tuck rule, which although technically correct, was so obscure that most fans had never heard of it.
The now-fired Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell defying all logic and calling for a pass at the 1-yard line that led to the Patriots’ game-clinching interception. Last year’s Super Bowl had wide receiver Julian Edelman making a miraculous catch to help keep the Pats’ title hopes alive.
Even this year, New England has benefited from such terrible officiating in games against Pittsburgh and Buffalo that if you’re a conspiracy theorist, you’d think the NFL desperately wants the Patriots to be successful. The people, the success and the luck all combine together to make New England the most hated team in the league.
Well, with Alabama’s national championship, the Crimson Tide have reached Patriot status. Nick Saban is just as grim and joyless as Belichick, famously quit after just two seasons in the NFL and is seemingly unaware of anything existing outside of the world of football.
Two years ago, he said he forgot about Election Day (to his credit, he at least voted absentee), but I’m not sure how you can forget about that when virtually every news event in the world takes a back seat that day.
It’s almost as if the world doesn’t exist outside of Tuscaloosa for him. In some ways, that’s a good thing, because you want coaches to be focused on their job, but it’s still worrisome.
One point in Alabama’s favor is that the Tide doesn’t have any blatantly controversial players on their roster. They don’t have a Baker Mayfield grabbing his crotch on the sideline.
However, they have embraced being the villains. Players have also said that they’ve felt disrespected, which is laughable. You can’t feel that way after getting into all four college football playoffs, winning two national championships and also winning three BCS titles. It’s just pitiful to listen to.
Then there are the Tide fans, who are a unique lot. Their passions run deep and sometimes disturbingly deep. The most famous case is Harvey Updyke, who went to prison after poisoning the famous oak trees at Auburn University and also bragged about doing so on a radio show before police figured out who he was.
These fans defend the Tide vigorously when they feel like they’re being attacked, just like Patriots fans, and feel like the world is against them. Some are blunt and scream into their phones during call-in shows, but it’s generally a smug “haters gonna hate” attitude and are dismissive of any team that challenges them for a national championship, even it comes from the beloved Southeastern Conference.
Just like New England, Alabama tends to get the breaks and somehow manages to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Saban’s first title with the Tide came in 2009 against Texas, thanks to Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy leaving with an injury.
In 2012, Alabama got the gift of playing a wildly overrated Notre Dame team that made the BCS championship based on being undefeated with a weak schedule.
And of course, just a few days ago, Alabama somehow managed to win another championship with a 41-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open receiver on 2nd and 26. Now just like the Patriots, the Tide have had some tough moments.
New England lost two Super Bowls to the New York Giants with the help of some stellar play by Eli Manning, while Alabama got dealt the famous “Kick Six” by Auburn a few years ago, an upset by Ohio State in 2014 and a championship loss to Clemson on a last-second TD last season.
However, the thrills of victory are far more numerous to Tide fans than defeat and it gets more frustrating every year.
New England had a firm hold on most disliked football team in the land, but now it has some company. I’m not sure how it’d feel about that, but seeing how similar they are to Alabama, it’d just be like looking in a mirror.
And nobody loves themselves more than the bad guys.
Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.