Like Ricky Roma, I subscribe to the law of contrary public opinion... or at least the law of contrary Paul Finebaum opinion. Basically, I assume that everything Finebaum says is garbage, and that the complete and total opposite should be immediately embraced and adopted.
Therefore, when Finebaum says Tennessee-Alabama is no longer must-see (HT: CFR), I take solace in the fact that the Third Saturday in October is in fact every bit as important as ever. Finebaum sez:
At his news conference Monday, Saban was asked the usual laundry list of questions relating to the rivalry, such as what about playing "Rocky Top" at practice?
Saban looked totally bored with the question and struggled to say anything about the storied rivalry, other than the usual boiler-plate. In a way, it was embarrassing to hear how little Saban seemed to care about this once relevant rivalry. He might as well have been talking about Alabama playing UT-Martin or Chattanooga.
So what happened to this rivalry?
Nothing happened. It's just a coaching tactic: some treat rivalry games like they're everything, some like it's just another game. Saban has obviously chosen the latter.
[Aside: I fully believe Finebaum knows this, I believe Finebaum is artificially trying to create discussion as he so often does -- why else would he state that this game is meaningless and then spend 1,000 words on it, were it truly meaningless, he'd let that stand on its own -- and I feel a little sheepish about the fact that I've fallen for it. For all that I hate about Finebaum, he is a master at two things: pacifying and irritating an audience, sometimes simultaneously. I should suffer this fool no longer and move on to something else, but I've been drawn in... and so I beat on, boat against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the present.]
Where was I? Oh, yeah, the next stupid thing Finebaum says is this:
Three years ago, there were death threats and national security issues. Tommy Gallion, the Montgomery attorney, was on radio and television as much as Fulmer and Mike Shula. [yes, moron, 'cause
you kept putting Gallion on radio -- CFAJ]
Two years ago, there were still issues for Fulmer as he was making his first appearance in Bryant-Denny since it was revealed he had ratted out Alabama to the NCAA.
This time, I think Fulmer could walk into the busiest restaurant in Tuscaloosa the night before the game and nobody would care.
Yeah, no. Fulmer is still public enemy #1 for Tide fans. In fact, remembering this week just how much the Crimson faithful hate Phil makes me completely regret any doubts I had about the man a month ago. Just the sheer annoyance that Fulmer causes Alabama fans is worth keeping him around for another decade, 39-point losses to Florida or not.
I've heard more buzz and more demands for tickets for the Western Carolina game this year, Saban's debut, than for this one Saturday in Tuscaloosa.
I need two tickets for the Tennessee game, says a guy in front of the stadium. Will you take four?
StubHub tracks and ranks college football rivalries by the average price of tickets being sold on their site. At the time of this posting, Tennessee-Alabama tickets are going for $255 on average (about $75 more than the average price last season), making it the fifth most sought-after college football ticket of the year. Next.
Still, the days of Alabama measuring its manhood by Tennessee are long gone. After all, this is a Tennessee club that lost 59-20 to Florida a month ago. This is a program that was 60 minutes away from putting Fulmer on the shelf until the blowout over Georgia. That's how fragile life is these days on old Rocky Top. That's how unpopular the Great Orange Pumpkin has become in the autumn of his career.
The preceding passage is most likely Finebaum doing that irritating and pacifying thing I mentioned earlier -- this cheap shot at Fulmer follows several paragraphs that run down Alabama's current team. But it could be seen as evidence of how out of touch Finebaum really is. Yes, the frustration with Fulmer was at an all-time high after the Florida game, and could be quickly rekindled if things sour in the next six weeks. But so far, these Vols of October have not been the Vols who played those first four games. And when Finebaum says "both teams control their own fate, to a degree," he's just wrong. Both of these teams control their destiny outright... for now. The loser will not, and that's why this game is huge (in addition to the regular trappings of the Third Saturday in October).
Finebaum ends his article by asking for an alarm clock so he doesn't miss kickoff. Me, I'm leaving my house at 6:30 Saturday morning headed to Tuscaloosa. But I'd be happy to give you a wake-up call, Paul, and we can discuss just why this game is so special a little further.