As culturally blasphemous as it is for this Alabamian to admit, I am not ordinarily enchanted by sports. Even after Alabama’s miraculous comeback against Auburn in Saturday’s Iron Bowl, I simply sighed in relief and finished giving my five-year-old a bath.

There are times, however, when a sports moment transcends the world of sports itself and my enchantment level turns up a notch or two.

Like last week.  

My husband was listening to Coach Nick Saban discuss Alabama’s 42-35 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks on “The Hey Coach Show with Nick Saban.”

A caller asked Coach Saban how he can get his players to tune out the “rat poison” from the media that the caller believed was distracting the players’ usually stellar performances. The caller then used Alabama’s narrow win over Arkansas as an example of how players can fail to live up to fans’ expectations that they not only win but also win by wide margins.

It wasn’t the kind of conversation that would ordinarily get my attention. Yet, as I listened to Coach Saban’s passionate response, or what has now become dubbed his “epic rant,” my enchantment began.

I was initially enchanted by his respect for his team’s competitors, especially those who must face a powerhouse like Alabama shortly after suffering losses. Coach Saban acknowledged that because those competitors have more to recover from and more to fight for, they always bring their best game. “They’re competitors … They have pride in performance … They don’t just throw in the towel. They work harder to try to get better,” he said.

I was further enchanted by his distaste for those who obsess about covering point spreads in such a way that undermines the value of the game. I listened as he said, “When I came here everybody was happy to win a game. Now we’re not happy to win a game anymore.”  

I became even more enchanted by his understanding of his players as students and human beings — and his refusal to let outside commentary turn them into mere objects of fan gratification. I swallowed hard as he came to his players’ defense, declaring they work “their butt off to be the best they can be, and to get criticized for what they work hard for..., so that you can be entertained, so you can enjoy and have pride and passion for what they accomplish and what they do … Nobody wants to win more than the players that play.”

I was even enchanted by his boldness in summing up the problem of a spoiled fan base, or “all you self-absorbed folks out there that can’t look past your own self to appreciate what other people are doing.”

But what really enchanted me the most about this so-called rant were the principles — the wisdom — buried within it that our own society could use right now.

Competition, hard work, the pursuit of excellence, and winning are all worthy values and have traditionally been part of the American spirit. The pandemic, however, has readjusted so many of our relationships and work habits that our commitment to many of these values seems to be waning. It’s partly why, as of October, Alabama ranked 11th in labor shortages in the United States, in spite of increasing job opportunities.

If we hope to get our society back on track, however, we need to seize the opportunity to evaluate if and why workers no longer find these values attractive and what leaders can do to reignite a commitment to them.

That evaluation could start by considering how well we live up to some of the basic principles found in Coach Saban’s colorful rant.

For example, competition serves as a natural human motivator and, in its proper form, creates a shared culture of professional excellence. It falls short, however, when it is grounded in an unbridled individualism that devalues and underestimates the worth of others.

Engaging in hard work can also be intrinsically valuable when it encourages the use of one’s gifts or skills and builds character, but it can feel exploitive if its value rests solely on what it produces rather than the virtue of work itself.

Pursuing excellence can indeed help uncover one’s highest possibilities, but it can become discouraging if it pushes unrealistic expectations or attempts improvement using destructive, rather than constructive, criticism.

Winning (or success) is certainly worth celebrating when it brings joy and feelings of accomplishment, but it loses its attraction if it is not approached with humility and thankfulness to God, who has made it possible.

Indeed, whether intended or not, Coach Saban’s rant offers a good bit of wisdom for this time.

And as the best coaches often do, he gives even the most lukewarm sports fan something to be enchanted by.

Krissie Allen is a former attorney and English teacher who writes about issues impacting faith, society, and good sense. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to