Saban’s ‘media rant’ was message for Alabama fans and their expectations

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Google “Saban media rant” and you’ll get 102,000 results. The results are spread widely across the years, in stories and video, on different subjects.

The most recent rant, that wonderful bit of Nick Saban Theater on Monday at his weekly press gathering, was benign by comparison. Play it out to the finish, he even laughed at himself about being “half-fired up.”

Here’s a little secret I can share after covering much of the Nick Saban Era at Alabama and having been on the other end of those scornful looks, like I was a waiter who dumped the whole appetizer course in his lap.

Despite the scolding, he cares about as much about what the local and regional media report as he does who wins “Dancing With The Stars.”

Standing there next to that million-dollar Coke bottle – wonder what name it had on the label? — it may have seemed Saban was trying to put the media in its place.

Nick Saban

Nick Saban

“I said the same thing as when y’all buried us last week, aight, and all that. It really doesn’t matter what you think. It doesn’t really matter what you say. And I’m hoping nobody on our team is playing for you. I hope they’re playing for each other and their team and what they want to accomplish and not what you think because that’s not certainly what I’m doing,” he said.

He was ranting at the media, yes. But he was delivering a message to the Alabama fan base and his players.

Saban isn’t unaware that the Tide’s loss to Ole Miss sent spirits spiraling downward among the Bama fans. There was a sense of doom, with such a difficult schedule ahead. A playoff invitation seemed remote.

Then, suddenly, with the domination of Georgia, spirits were sky-high.

Few coaches I’ve covered have the obvious disdain for the media or can be as bullying and brusque. (To his credit, few can be as enlightening if the subject matter entertains him.) None has mastered as well the art of using the media to deliver his sermons to the masses. So often, those sermons are on the topic of expectation.

As ESPN analyst Danny Kannell said the other day, “What he’s dealing with are expectations (from fans) that are unreasonable.”

Even if you heard his rant, you likely didn’t hear the question. It was innocent, totally non-confrontational and, in fact, was the perfect set-up for him. It was simply about “fluid expectations,” considering the bounce-back from the loss.

The rant was quick to spread throughout national media, as others have been. You don’t get 102,000 Google results on “Saban media rants” coming from this state alone.

Most of Saban’s media critics have never met him, never seen an Alabama game in person, never been on the other end of his tirades. But they have seen him in action. They have built up a dislike for him, whether from the disingenuous nature of his departures from LSU and the Miami Dolphins to YouTube clips of a Monday presser to reputation.

Perception is a reality when it comes to what a talk show host in Fargo or a columnist in Fresno think about Saban. I’ve been guilty of similar. I never met or interviewed Barry Bonds but I made up my mind he was a jerk. I’ve only been around Alex Rodriguez in group interviews, but I want to reach for the Purell just to see him on TV.

Saban has become that sort of polarizing national figure. So we’re guaranteed to see more of his rants on the national networks, more of them on the internet, more people more gleefully sharing them.

Who’d a thought it? Alabama’s football coach, right there along with dancing kittens and cute babies as viral video entertainment.