When you have a football coach capable of shocking NFL players, the cynics of sports-talk radio and the sports bloggers of the Internet, too, it might be the start of something big.
Or maybe it's just another football coach in it for himself and no one else -- the perfect hard-ass coach for hard-ass times in a country all about getting the hardware and not about the humans who get it for you.
Of course we're talking about Nick Saban.
The scene of our story: the 2005 Miami Dolphins training camp. The guy who was there: ex-Dolphin Heath Evans. Where we get to hear it: an interview with Jorge Sedano on Miami sports-talk station The Ticket, as related on Sports by Brooks.
During the interview, Evans was asked by Sedano to describe Nick Saban at Dolphins training camp in 2005 when Saban was in his first year as Miami’s head coach and Evans was a player on the squad.COME TO think of it, I'm shocked that people are shocked. What's the difference between Saban, now the Alabama football coach, and the Wall Street investment bankers who step over the convulsing American economy to collect their thoughts and decide what's best for the firm's bottom line . . . and theirs?
SEDANO: Give me an example of something he did to someone while you were there that made you shake your head, you’re like, ‘That stuff doesn’t work here’.
EVANS: Well, the first day of two-a-days. We had about a three-hour-plus practice in the morning in that south Florida sun. You guys know what it’s like down there in late July, early August. And then that night we had another practice under the lights, if I recall I think it was about from 6 to 9.
Jeno James, our best offensive lineman at the time, comes in and collapses after practice, uh, vomiting all kinds of stuff that would make a billygoat puke, eyes rolled in the back of his head. Myself, about four other lineman are trying to carry him from the locker room, to the training room.
Obviously it’s a moment of panic, everyone, you know, we don’t know if this guy’s, you know, gonna die, I mean, the whole deal. But he’s so big and sweaty and heavy that we actually have to set him down in the hallway between the locker room and the training room.
Nick Saban literally just starts walking in, steps over Jeno James convulsing, doesn’t say a word, doesn’t try to help, goes upstairs, I don’t know what he does. But then obviously they get Jeno trauma-offed to the hospital.
Saban calls a team meeting about 10:30 that night, comes down and says, ‘You know, the captain of the ship can never show fear or indecision, we’ve always gotta have an answer, and so I had to go upstairs, that’s why I walked over Geno like that, I had to collect my thoughts and decide what’s best for our team.’
And I’m thinking to myself, I think along with Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas and Yeremiah Bell and all these other guys going, ‘Did he, does he really believe what he’s just saying?’ He showed no human emotion for one of his best players. He literally stepped over him when four or five grown men are trying to carry Jeno to the training room.
What's the difference between Saban and any number of CEOs of American corporations, who make about 300 times what the workers they're about to lay off make?
Saban's behavior is just the distilled, small-enough-to-grasp version of the kind of crap from which we've been averting our eyes for a long time now. The macroculture of America sometime near its fall is too all-encompassing for us to comprehend -- much like the proverbial blind men, each one of them running his hands across a different part of an elephant and "seeing" vastly different things.
The erstwhile coach of the Miami Dolphins stepping over the convulsing body of one of his star players to go "collect my thoughts and decide what’s best for our team" is small enough -- and personally callous enough for us to recognize a deeply self-important, self-involved, self-serving and self-deluded man.
In other words, Saban's exactly the kind of guy we're happy to put in charge of a college football team of impressionable young men, ages 18 to 23. The kind of guy Alabama is happy to have a statue of outside Bryant-Denny Stadium. God knows LSU loved him . . . until it didn't.
Then again, it's amazing the things we're willing not to notice so long as there are games to win and money to make. Ask Penn State.
P.S.: Oh . . . and there's this:
SEDANO: I mean, are you serious? Well, listen, I know for a fact that people in that office, they weren’t even allowed to look at him, for God’s sake! Like, I heard a story about his secretary telling him he had a nice haircut, he kind of like grunted at her and kept walking. And then someone later, this Scotty O’Brien, that hatchet man that he had, came up to her and says, ‘You’re not allowed to speak to the coach! Don’t you dare speak to the coach!’ Just nonsense that Scotty O’Brien - he had a hatchet man! What coach has a hatchet man?
P.P.S.: And, really, isn't there a discussion to be had in this country about the journalistic responsibility of sportswriters, who often end up "feeding the kitty" with coverage that plays right into the various fan-friendly -- and bank-account friendly -- myths of college and pro athletics?
For example, don't you think that people were talking, and talking a lot, about Saban's behavior around the Dolphins training camp? Don't you think that sportswriters and TV reporters heard some of it? Don't you think that an average reporter might consider that news?
Yes, there's a conversation to be had among (and about) sports journalists -- and others in the press as well -- about what doesn't get reported in the quest to keep people happy . . . and not get frozen out due to telling the public important, yet unflattering, facts about people like Nick Saban.