Goodbye, Nick Saban. You just announced your retirement. Twelve minutes ago, to be exact. I don’t mind telling you that I cried into my Pabst Blue Ribbon.
I can hardly see the keyboard because my eyes are so blurry.
I was on my front porch. My neighbor was doing yard work next door. My neighbor’s wife, Melissa, burst from the front door and shouted to her husband, “Nick Saban just announced his retirement!”
Her words reverberated throughout the whole neighborhood. Leaf blowers stopped. Distant lawn mowers quit running. A commercial airliner made an emergency landing at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth. A kid fell off his bike.
“You’re kidding,” we all said.
“Shut your mouth!” someone shouted through tears.
A few nearby neighbors suggested that this was fake news. There was no way Nick Saban could retire. We told the bearer of bad information that she was full of a substance common to most barnyards and hog pens.
Then I read the news article on my phone. Nick Saban. Retiring at 72 years old.
Listen, I’m just one fan, standing amidst 50 gazillion Crimson-clad football fans. Some of whom are far more rabid than I am.
I know one fan, for example, who has gone so far as to tattoo the face of Nick Saban over his left nipple. The caption reads, “Roll Damn Tide.”
But I hope Nick Saban knows what he meant to the common football fan like me.
He came to the University of Alabama when I was 24 years old. I was just a kid. Skinny. Without much ambition. I was a devout Alabama fan, which meant that I was accustomed to losing.
At the time, our team had a lot in common with the common household mosquito. They couldn’t stop sucking.
But then Nick came along. He arrived after a long drought for Alabama’s athletics department. After our Gene Stallings years, we wandered in the desert. We had Mike DuBose, Dennis Franchione, Mike Price, Mike Shula, and just when life couldn’t get any worse, we hired Joe Kines.
I remember watching Alabama lose one weekend, under the leadership of Joe Kines. My cousin looked at me and said:
“Why did the United States Post Office recall their University of Alabama stamps? Because people couldn’t figure out which side to spit on.”
It was that bad.
But then Nick arrived. I’ll never forget it. The year was 2007. Suddenly, our university had a contending team.
I had only been married a couple years. Football was the main event of my week. Usually, my wife and I spent weekends at my in-laws’ house watching her parents sleep in recliners while Alabama became skidmarks on the field.
But when Coach Saban came into our lives, riding a white horse, bearing the Sword of Truth, the world changed. Kids started believing in Santa again. Elderly Alabama fans started buying green bananas again. Eli Gold found Jesus.
In his 26 seasons as a collegiate head coach, Saban has broken more records than anyone else known to the human race. His Alabama teams have won eight SEC Championships. He has 10 SEC titles, to go along with seven national championships (2003 at LSU).
He is the reason my father-in-law is buried with an Alabama lapel pin on his breast. The reason why four of my cousins are wearing U-of-A hats in their caskets.
He is just a man, I know that. But he is also the reason why I can proudly say, no matter what uncertainty our team faces next…
Roll Damn Tide.