In any case, I turn on the show, and suddenly am plunged against my will into a spirited discussion about … ummmm … things we’re not allowed to write about in the newspaper. Suffice to say, discussions like these are better kept private.
After over-correcting to ensure I didn’t allow my car to plunge into a ditch on the side of the road, I began to wonder if perhaps I hadn’t wandered off into some alternate universe. I’m almost certain I’m still on Earth, so far as I can tell.
But there’s a reason I’m telling you this: these guys obviously can’t wait for football season to start. And I can’t blame them.
This summer, frankly, has sorely lacked for those in the sports media. The biggest stories involved performance-enhancing drugs (and not the kind they were discussing on the radio), the return of two football players (one a convicted felon, the other an habitual spotlight hog) and the NBA’s version of the Soviet Union (the Lakers) winning a championship in a lifeless Finals series.
Yes, I think it’s safe to say we’re all excited for actual football to return.
And, since most people who write a column about football for a living — do I still qualify? — are expected to make fearless predictions, here are a few related to Alabama football for 2009.
(Note: I’ll do something similar for Auburn next week. Calm down.)
Expectations at Alabama are always high in August — even in years when the team’s suffered through crippling probation and the roster was short on scholarshipped players, Tide fans still expected (at least) a bowl bid from its squad.
But this year they’re sky-high: with a defense that’s rock solid and only nine seniors lost from the ’08 team that won 12 games and earned a BCS bowl berth in the process, let’s say Alabama fans are having visions of championships dancing in their heads.
But, like Debbie Downer, the job of this column is to temper those expectations a little. With that in mind, here’s a completely contrived list of reasons Alabama won’t achieve greatness in 2009.
• Those lost seniors were goooood. Alabama fans spent most of the last three seasons cursing John Parker Wilson; heck, he was even on the wrong end of a booing home crowd in 2007. But at least he was a known commodity. And he’s out.
Same for Andre Smith. Who’s playing left tackle on this team? Has anyone forgotten 2005, when a sieve-like offensive line allowed Brodie Croyle to be pummeled nearly to death?
One more guy whose importance can’t be understated: Rashad Johnson. People who know football — and I’m not one of them, but follow me here — will tell you that Rashad was the heart and soul of Alabama’s defense in 2007-2008. Watching him sprint to the sidelines, receive a defensive call, repeat it to his teammates and then sprint back to his own position (often pausing to position Dont’a Hightower along the way) was truly a thing of beauty for pigskin purists.
So maybe it was only a handful of seniors. But they were important seniors, and Alabama will miss them.
• The SEC got better. Particularly in the Western division, where every team now looks scary at first glance (yes, even Mississippi St.).
Does anyone really believe LSU will continue to slide, or that Ole Miss isn’t a terrifying team (and they get Alabama at home)? What about Florida, who isn’t going anywhere? What if Tennessee pulled a rabbit out of the hat with Lane Kiffin (and they didn’t, but what if they did)?
Alabama snuck up on the majority of these teams in 2008. It won’t happen again.
• The Year 3 dip. This one is harder to describe, but hear me out here: most well-coached programs experience a significant improvement from Year 1-Year 2. This includes Tommy Tuberville at Auburn (division champs in ‘00); Mark Richt at Georgia (SEC champs in ‘02); Nick Saban at LSU (SEC champs in ‘01); and yes, Urban Meyer at Florida (national champs in ’06).
Those same programs, however, experienced something of a natural regression in Year 3. Meyer’s defending national champs lost a whopping five games; Saban’s ’02 LSU team collapsed down the stretch; Tuberville’s ’01 Auburn team did the same thing.
And so it will be no surprise if a similar thing happens to Alabama in 2009, even if it’s only by a game or two.
Even if that does happen, however, I’m just glad to have football back in my life. I think most of you will agree.
Will Heath is the editor of The St. Clair Times. His column on college football will appear in The Daily Home each Saturday throughout the football season.