I think Tuscaloosa is a second-tier college town. I think most Alabama fans are delusional, annoying, GED totin', body paintin' embarrassments to humanity - actual students and alumni of the university, though, I'm more than fine with. I hate the general "Alabama is infallible" attitude that permeates that program (Their fans calling Phillip Fulmer a "snitch" regarding the Albert Means scandal, when it was more than clear that Alabama was guilty of whatever it was the NCAA got all pissed about, is the most concise example of this.) in a way reminiscent of Papism*. I hate bandwagonning. I hate how, for the formative years of my college football fandom, Alabama wasn't particulary good at football - I'm talking the Mike DuBose, Dennis Francione, and Mike Shula years here, where Bama was no more competitive than Ole Miss has been under Houston Nutt - yet still managed to win games they probably shouldn't have against the Rebels.
A long rant about overtime losses and questionable coaching and Doyle Jackson would fit nicely here, but you've all heard that numerous times by now.
But - and here's where my ambivalence towards Alabama comes in - I don't so much hate the school, the tradition, Coach Bryant, or the 2010 installment of the Crimson Tide.
See, when teams lost nail-biting, last-minute, questionable games to Francione and Shula led Crimson Tide teams, that was frustrating. Alabama, then, wasn't the football program it had been, nor was it the football program that an estimated 99% of their fans had convinced themselves it was. They were alright, but not at the same level of the LSU, Auburn, Florida, and Georgia teams of those days. They were, at best, the 5th most powerful team in the SEC around that time. And that's when and why much of my frustration and annoyance with the Crimson Tide festered. They were, then, a clearly middle-of-the-pack type of a program, the fans of which had continued to falsely remind everyone of their superiority as they so erroneously perceived it.
But today, I have nary a problem with this team or - I'm serious - Nick Saban.
He may be a callous, cold, sadist, vengeful bastard - a stark contrast indeed from the Houston Nutts of the world - but he's a winner, by God. And, unlike many others who claim such for their program, he does, indeed, go about his winning "the right way." Say whatever you want about oversigning, recruiting tactics, and dismissals Saban has endured a double-standard of criticism for, because that doesn't matter nearly as much as Coach Saban's real value to his program. He coaches well, running simple but highly effective schemes that emphasize ball control, field position, and clock management. He practices and teaches well, having his players always prepared for seemingly any offense. He recruits and trains well and, resultingly, can boast players like Trent Richardson and Dont'a Hightower who are eye-poppingly incredible blends of strength, size, and speed.
So I may not like him, and I certainly don't like his football team, but do I ever respect the Hell out of Nick Saban and his Crimson Tide. They're a damn good ball club and are led by a damn good coach and win not by flash, finesse, or even luck, but by slowly and agonizingly grinding their opponents into a sloppy mush.
And, while I tackle a straw man or two, I know that Alabama isn't invincible, and of course I saw them lose to a very good South Carolina team last weekend. They're not a juggernaut - no program is - but they're certainly the closest thing to it in today's game. Even after this weekend, any rational observer of the sport can tell you that Alabama is still a legitimate national title contendor, loss to Sakerlina or not.
But please, don't let my ambivalence and trepidation quell your vast, deep, complex hatred for Alabama. Hate on, haters. I expect this thread to be an excellent one.
*Catholics, I lub y'all. I just really dig the word "Papism" and needed to work it into a post eventually.