By J.M. Comer
Reports of Auburn’s death have been greatly exaggerated.
Sorry about the cliche phrase. But it’s very apt.
Today I’d like to poke a sharp stick at the sports columnists at al.com, excluding those at The Huntsville Times (I adore the sports staff there) and Tommy Hicks at the Mobile Press-Register (who seems to have a level head). I have no idea what The Anniston Star, the finest paper in the state, has been writing because they charge for their Web content. Booo!
The Auburn Nation and Coach Tommy Tuberville have been picked on and prodded all season long. I’m poking back. I’m not seeing this week the whole “The Tide Has Turned,” “ships passing in the night” and “shift of state power” malarkey that accompanied the “editorial insight” the last time one team won and the other lost two weeks ago.
Here are a few examples that have been stirring anger in my brain for the past few weeks.
Paul Finebaum, Sept. 11 “Has Tide Turned Already?”
“In time, there was some concern that Saban’s program would slowly inch closer to Auburn through excellent recruiting and play on the field. That’s no longer the biggest concern for Auburn. Instead, some sense the Auburn program will close the gap very quickly. Usually, that’s what happens when a program is stuck in reverse and close to spinning out of control.”
Paul Finebaum, Sept. 15, “Certitude wanes on the Plains“
“So it’s not that surprising that Auburn fans were in panic mode after the near-miss to Kansas State and completely freaked following the loss to South Florida. Auburn fans can talk until they’re blue and orange in the face about how great South Florida has been in recent years, but few care. They still lost to South Florida!” [— Blogger’s Note: South Florida is ranked #6 in the AP poll.]
Paul Finebaum, Sept. 18, “Tuberville Needs Quick Turnaround“
“Let’s face the facts. Auburn has one game that matters in the remaining nine regular-season contests — Nov. 24 at home against Alabama. A win against Alabama and some of the sewage spillage can be cleaned up. A loss and all the typical Tubervillian excuses will go on deaf ears. Excuses work in the first year or two. Not in a head coach’s ninth season.”
“Oh, a big win on the road against Florida or LSU would go a long way toward changing the direction of the program. However, the chance of either happening is about the same as Saban being hired back next year by the Miami Dolphins.”
… “So, has Alabama already passed Auburn without even taking a shot at ending the five-game losing streak?”
I save the best for last. The silliest. Is Kevin Scarbinsky an understudy for Finebaum or something? He should be embarrassed. Sept. 15 “Tide, Tigers pass in the night“
“Write down the date. In ink. Bright red indelible ink. Circle it and don’t forget it.”
“Sept. 15, 2007.” [— Blogger’s Note: Sorry I’ve already forgotten.]
“The day everything changed.”
“The day the Tide and the tide turned.”
… “Guess what? At Alabama, the skies above are clear again. At Auburn, the eagle has landed. He’s been benched in favor of Chicken Little.”
“This was the day Alabama banked on when it hired Saban and Auburn, in the deep, dark recesses of its mind, has feared ever since.”
“This was the day Alabama became a contender again and Auburn, which started the season under the radar, fell off the map.”
… “Hey, Auburn. Shouldn’t you at least play a game against Alabama with Saban on the sideline before you concede the state to him?”
Hey, Scarbinsky. I know it’s your job to comment on the season as it unfolds, but this jumping to conclusions and crowning of Saban four weeks into the season is sickening. I know it’s fun to write about your new pretty play thing, but enough is enough. I want to know: Now that Saban has lost two games in a row, where is the unyielding criticism that Coach Tuberville experienced after two losses? Is it because one of Auburn’s losses was to Mississippi State? But one of the losses was to a good South Florida team now ranked #6 in the country!
Alabama this week has lost to an unranked Florida State team. Where’s the criticism? Nowhere. None. Zip. Is Bama getting its money’s worth? How was the playcalling?
The Birmingham News has got to be loving Saban. It could sell thousands of daily special editions such as an “In-depth Study of 10 Items Found in Nick Saban’s Wastebasket This Morning” if it wanted to. “Is Coach Nick Saban Getting Enough Fiber? His Gastroenterologist Tells All!”
Also, I understand why some columnists end up writing unenlightened copy some days — they are on a tough deadline oftentimes. They have to churn out a column and have it turned into their editor mere minutes after a football game ends. What’s Finebaum’s excuse? A game is played Saturday. He doesn’t have to turn in his column until Monday night for Tuesday morning’s edition.
I don’t know why I’m tip-toeing around it, this is a straight on attack of Paul Finebaum’s columns on al.com. And I hate to do it, because I’m wasting Web space, but the man has influence over the state of Alabama.
I have no idea the things that have been said on his radio call-in show because I refuse to listen this year. I know that the pressure is going to be on Tuberville this season because Finebaum likes to pit one school against the other or one school’s fans against the coach. Saban gets a pass. Attacking Saban this season would probably result in physical harm for Finebaum. This year Coach Tommy Tuberville will be under “THE ALL-KNOWING EYE” and short of an SEC championship CTT is on the hot seat.
Or, it could be like yesterday’s column by Finebaum. The gist: “Auburn fans, Tuberville is going to leave you for College Station! He hates his situation at Auburn! He doesn’t love Auburn! Remember what he did to Ole Miss? Re-mem-ber?!?!?!?!?!”
Finebaum’s source? “The Sporting News”? Texas A&M boosters? Gene Stallings? Who knows?
That column set something off in me. The column is full of crap. Horse crap. Sun-ripened, fly-circled pony patty!
This stuff sells papers. It feeds into his radio program, filling the airwaves with fear, distrust and anger. It expands and multiplies and infects.
Laugh at it. That’s what I’ll plan to do. And I suggest you do the same. It’s yellow journalism. Sensationalism. Tuberville is his target this year and Finebaum’s got nothing to point to this week after a spectacular game against Florida.
He’s got to write something. Fill those column inches. Spin! Spin! Spin!
As a stark contrast, I would point to a fine reporter and employee at The Huntsville Times, Phillip Marshall, and what he wrote last night in his insightful blog, Tracking the Tigers. “Auburn is home for Tuberville.” It makes sense.
Something one of Mr. Marshall’s peers lack because sense usually stands in the way of Paul Finebaum and a tall tale.