It’s the media. Yeah (sigh), the media.
It’s a real easy target, like referees, only the SEC office frowns on coaches blasting referees. Nobody likes the media, and nobody seems to care if a coach goes all Mike Gundy on it.
We heard Saban bristle during his frustrating first season at Alabama.
Then came glorious seasons in 2008 and 2009, and we didn’t hear it much. Even as 2010 devolved into a disappointment for Alabama fans, Saban didn’t nick the media so much.
This offseason, though, he’s baaaaack.
Saban said media buzz about oversigning prompted SEC commissioner Mike Slive and league presidents to enact the 25-signee limit at the league’s spring meetings, over the objections of Saban and other league coaches.
It’s the darned media that misfires on injury rumors, prompting Saban’s threat to go bogus on the Internet, just to mess with them.
During his Fan/Media Day news conference Sunday, Saban dinged media over speculation on Blake Sims’ role with the team. It seems someone committed the sin of extrapolating from what little viewing time media gets at practice.
So much “misinformation” out there, Saban says, and “I feel sorry for our fans.”
Oh yeah, the fans (sigh).
Fans like the guy in the “I hate Auburn” shirt at SEC Media Days. Saban lectured him from the podium, prompting the man to say he’d gone to church and found out God didn’t approve.
It also prompted angry Alabama fans to call Paul Finebaum’s nationally syndicated radio show and express their disappointment — not at the guy in the T-shirt, but at Saban.
Maybe Saban’s lecturing the “I hate Auburn” guy triggered a bad memory or two.
It was fans, Saban said, that helped to create something short of a winning mentality before Alabama’s Sugar Bowl loss to Utah, a bitter end to Saban‘s breakthrough second season in Tuscaloosa.
It was fans, Saban seemed to say, who got the Tide’s eyes off the prize in 2010.
“This whole year, everyone around us has been very concerned about the results that the team gets in comparison to what was accomplished a year ago,” he said after a critical loss at LSU. “And I think that that has not been the best thing for the development of this team.
“They have become too result oriented, and we’ve never really ever developed to become as good of a team as we can be.”
So, bad fans!
No, wait a minute — bad media!
Media makes a more convenient target. A coach and fans can unite over bashing the media like little else, so there! The media is so bad that Saban now feels sorry for Bama fans.
That works well, at least for a little while, but the most sure way for Saban to keep Bama fans worshiping at the statue is to not have another disappointing season.
He needs to get things back on that only-getting-better trajectory he had for his first three seasons, which saw Alabama go from 7-6 with a loss to Louisiana-Monroe, to 12-2, to undefeated national champions.
Or maybe Saban could get things on a staying-great trajectory.
After winning the 2009 national title, Alabama spent the first six weeks of the 2010 season at No. 1 in the polls, yet didn’t win anything. It lost to three of its four toughest opponents.
Alabama fans suffered the indignity of seeing Saban’s team surrender a 24-0 lead at home to Auburn.
Saban has certainly earned enough good will from Alabama fans to withstand all of that. Tide fans might get mad at him these days, but they’re nowhere near ready to stay mad.
But how might they feel if disappointment in 2010 becomes back-to-back disappointments in 2011?
They’re talking another national championship around here, after all. That Alabama-Oklahoma showdown for the title has a book-it feel.
But has anyone noticed that Alabama will have a new starter at quarterback — maybe two — whose blind side will depend on a new left tackle?
Has anyone heard Saban say that Alabama lacks dominant players on the defensive line, the other position football people always say is key to winning championships?
This season could turn out to be another disappointment, and then whom to blame?
Media being media, they’ll probably blame the coach.
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.