Wednesday, November 21, 2007


From Mobile Press-Register columnist Neal McCready today:
Nick Saban said he saw it coming.

How clairvoyant. I wish he'd said something. I would have caught the first flight to Las Vegas, taken the 24 points and laid a bundle on my alma mater.

While I would have listened, Saban's warning would have primarily fallen on deaf ears. Many Alabama fans, as the Crimson Tide's $32 million man is learning the hard way, have an aversion to the truth.
We've learned that despite the considerable hype and the worshipping adoration of his followers, Saban isn't some omnipotent football god who can reverse the fortunes of a struggling program merely by showing up. We've learned that despite the absurd comparisons to a coach from a bygone era, Saban can't take his and beat yours and then take yours and beat his.
For myriad reasons, the regional and national college football landscapes have permanently changed. Alabama, like many other programs around the country and in the SEC, is still wandering in the wilderness a bit, searching for a comfortable spot to settle down. Shoot the messenger if it makes you happy, but all the bullying in the world doesn't change the truth in the message.

Of course, the truth hurts sometimes, especially when you refuse to open your eyes to see it.
A bit of background is in order here. McCready, who attended Ole Miss and graduated from Louisiana-Monroe (back when it was Northeast Louisiana), hosted a drive-time sports call-in show on Mobile's WNSP radio up until last Wednesday, when he was unceremoniously fired by programming director Tim Camp.

In an email sent to other journalists afterwards, McCready said, "While the ownership of the station has not spoken to me about the situation, I was told that I wasn't pro-Alabama enough," and went on to say, "I knew some Alabama boosters down here who were advertisers on the station were applying pressure to the Johnson family [the owners of WNSP], who are huge Alabama fans and boosters in their own right."

Camp has denied that accusation, but admitted in the same breath that he was responding to advertiser complaints by firing McCready. WNSP has reportedly suppressed callers complaining about McCready's firing over the last week, and a number of other sports writers who'd previously done call-in work for WNSP's shows have resigned in protest.

The whole fracas is interesting for a couple of reasons. Number one, it illustrates the UAT fan base's weird insistence on having smoke blown up its collective hindquarters at all times, particularly by the local media. Second, it's a sign that the old red (neck) guard of boosters is actively trying to intimidate the media in Alabama, and specifically in Mobile (hmm, why there in particular, I wonder?).

If so, that kind of buffoonery certainly isn't new. For decades, negative stories about Alabama football were spiked before they could see print in the state papers. In 1991, I knew personally about one very damaging story regarding an Alabama player that a reporter for the Birmingham News had chapter and verse on--but it never saw print. That kind of thing Just Wasn't Done in the days when a very few people controlled an even smaller number of media outlets.

What the guys trying to bully McCready and his colleagues don't seem to understand, as McCready notes in a different context above, is that the world has changed. Leaning on a radio station owner or depending on a "friendly" sports editor or publisher won't kill a story in the 21st Century. And if you try the old bullying tactics these days, you're just going to draw attention to yourself and cause more trouble.

I thought all intelligent people knew that. Then again, we're not really talking about intelligent people here, are we?

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