As Southeastern Conference schools went down to defeat, or won sloppily, at the opening of the 2016 football season, one of the few teams that showed the sort of grit for which past SEC teams have been famous was the University of Alabama in its victory over the University of Southern California.
You may recall that the game did not start well. One observer observed that the Crimson Tide seemed “befuddled.” Alabama’s first five possessions resulted in four punts and a fumble. Well into the second quarter, the Trojans were ahead 3-0.
It did not look good for the guys in crimson and white.
Then the Tide intercepted a pass and ran it back for a touchdown.
When they got the ball, they scored again.
And kept on scoring until the game ended in a 52-6 rout.
Did someone on the Alabama staff detect a flaw in USC’s strategy and turn it into the worst whuppin’ the guys from California had taken since 1966?
Or did Coach Nick Saban promise his boys that if they didn’t get with the “process,” Sunday would not be a day of rest when they got back to Tuscaloosa? Did this inspire his team to hand the Trojans their biggest season-opening loss ever? Ever!
Or did something else happen to turn a “befuddled” team into a juggernaut that no opponent could hold back?
After reviewing the situation, I (and others) have concluded that what we witnessed was a Tidal response to a USC player kicking a fallen Alabama player in the groin.
Yep, right there in broad daylight, with an official standing nearby, a Trojan went out of his way to stomp an Alabama boy in the family jewels.
Now, there are a lot of things you can do on a football field that you don’t do in a more civilized venue. However, hitting someone you-know-where, especially when they cannot protect themselves, is not one of them. Even among the sort of young men who thrive on the brutality of the sport, that is going too far.
The offending player was ejected.
But that wasn’t enough for Alabama’s 11.
Looking back on the game before and after the incident, it has become apparent to many that what turned the tide for the Tide was the collective anger that came from the groin-kicking.
Enraged, the team went out and kicked something else.
What can we conclude from this?
Obviously, if you want to inspire a team to new and greater heights, one way to do it is to have a player get kicked “down there.”
It follows logically that if a coach can find a way to get a player thusly kicked, he can light a fire under his team and send them out for revenge.
Setting this up would be quite a challenge, but given what schools are paying coaches these days, devising such a scheme does not seem too much to ask — of the coach.
But what about the player who will get kicked?
We all know that young men readily bash each other on the gridiron in return for a scholarship that reflects only a fraction of what their school earns in revenue from the game. But would a young man offer up his private parts for a similar offer?
Or would it take more for him to “take one for the team?”
While considering that, you might want to give some thought to the rule changes necessary to accommodate a player whose sole purpose is to go into the game to get stomped.
Would each team have a “designated kickee?”
While you are pondering that, contemplate the coaching involved. A coach would have to harness the emotions of his players who would themselves likely kick a guy on the other team while at the same time teach the kickee ways to incite those likely kickers to kick. The coach might want to get the school’s drama department involved in working that out.
But wait, perhaps someone already has figured out how to do it.
Perhaps a coach well known for controlling his players and the game has devised a way to accomplish what was accomplished by the U of A.
What if the drama played out on the field was all part of the Saban “process?” What if the “kickee” was carefully coached to play the role he played and Alabama’s players were programmed to respond as they did.
If that is what happened, you can expect in the not-too-distant future the Alabama coach to hold groin-kicking clinics for other coaches.
It might be the biggest innovation in football since the hurry-up offense.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus of History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist and occasional op-ed/features writer for The Star. Email: email@example.com