Friday, January 11, 2008

Conversation with a Hog Fan: A Study in Fanhood

The following is a set of E-mails with a good friend of mine from college who is a big Hog fan. Here goes…

----------------- Original Message -----------------
From: III (that’s ME)
Date: Dec 12, 2007 1:45 PM

Gotta get your thoughts on Bobby Petrino.

Are you happy with him?
How long do you think you’ll keep him?
What do you think of him as a person?
Do you think he will bring a championship to Arkansas?
If so, how long will it take?

----------------- Original Message -----------------
From: Original Grubb
Date: Jan 7, 2008 1:11 PM

I’m not thrilled with the hire but I think it is a bolder step for the program. One of the board members said something about how the past business model had been 8-4 and that the new business model is a REAL national championship.

I think the hire is immediately good in a couple of areas...namely the PASSING GAME. Which has just continued to get worse and worse and worse.

I think he has to stay at Ark. for at least 4 years to improve his “jumping” image.

I don’t know what to think of him as a person. I think the way he left Atlanta was not ideal. However, that is the business. In the past the Falcons have fired coaches quickly just like most NFL franchises.

I think he should have offered to stay and finish the season, and maybe he did and maybe they said “don’t let the door hit you”. I don’t know. It does seem like what the players wanted though, like it was a SPLIT that was going to happen anyways. In terms of betrayal. I think what Coach FRAN was the WORST. I think Saban was worse, ONLY because he specifically denied not only interest but in ever TAKING the BAMA job. Then he did it. I have no problem with him leaving the FINS for BAMA (though I am a FIN fan) but rather in how he did it.

I do not like how ESPN bashed and bashed him, but that was one thing and then mocking the UA program is not ok. Nutt was chased off for more than just his record and never proving he could take the NEXT STEP. In the past Arkansas’s expectations were just that of being 8-4. Only once in 50 years should the razorbacks be a top 5 team. Yet you look at Kansas, Rutgers, Boise State, Wake Forrest....other programs with similar excuses...small state, no big talent base???? Yet other programs have success. Still it was the DRAMA. The way he mishandled the recruiting and treatment of players, his wife’s involvement in the email and texting and the continual lack of a passing game, and the moral character issue of how he unfairly treated players...someone did DWI and a started was patted on the wrist and the other guy was kicked off the team for GOOD! And again, the inability to develop QB...ala DICK who looks worse as a Junior than he did as a raw 17 year old true freshman when he played at LSU.

I think he could bring a CHAMPIONSHIP to the HOGS but I don’t see it in the next two years. The talent is not all GONE but it is sparse. Pending Felix coming back. The schedule is killer. Play Florida and Texas the next two years plus the regulars of the west and South Carolina at Carolina. The year after that along with the SEC west and Florida, there is Georgia, and Texas and Texas A&M. So 2009 is a bad bad bad year.

The defense is sooo gross though.

And another thing about coach P. that I don’t think I’ve expressed yet is the concern over how he left the sitcha in Louie. Did he leave a bad pile for the new coach to step into in terms of OFF the field problems or...was he the GLUE that was keeping things stable? I don’t know.

----------------- Original Message -----------------
From: III
Date: Jan 11, 2008 12:01 AM

I love studying fanhood. Its one of my hobbies. And it’s fascinating to hear you talk about Petrino & Arkansas. You almost sound like an Alabama fan talking about Saban! Its hilarious! The similarities:

1) Common hatred for ESPN
2) Remarkable ability to forgive prior sins
3) Having to defend shoving the old guy out the door by…
- a) Having to share insider-type info to back it up
- b) Not settling for mediocrity
- c) Pointing to chronic problems that were never fixed
- d) Claiming that that our program & our “folks” are misunderstood by the national media.

I’m not making fun of you. I promise! I’m just pointing out how similar the logic, rationalization, & propaganda is.


As far as the “coaching sins” deal, here’s my take. As long as we live in a world where the two winningest coaches in Division 1A history are perennially on the hot seat, I refuse to fault coaches for looking after themselves by pre-empting their own dismissals. There’s a double-standard that exists here. Organizations & G.M.’s can give their “vote of confidence, still fire a guy, & get away clean, but Nick Saban can’t do the same. Organizations & G.M.’s can fire a coach midseason without repercussion, but if a coach leaves the team midseason he’s quitting on the team.

I understand the point of view that a majority of the nation holds about these two coaches. I just think its biased in favor of “fanhood” of the team. Why should a coach care to be loyal when it will never be shown to him? And this reveals a lack in character in coaches? Sports writers need to get off their sanctimonious high horses. Either that, or NEVER take a better job with a higher salary. When did upward mobility become taboo in our country?

That said, I think Petrino is gone from Arkansas in 3 years time. And Saban will be gone from ‘Bama in at least 5. These men are not settlers. Why would either of us expect that they ever will be? If your MFT studies taught you anything, I’m sure you learned that the best predictor of future behavior is past performance. I think Saban will rebuild Alabama just enough, but will not stick around to suckle off his success—he never has. Petrino will be looking for a new job every offseason—he did just that at Louisville according to Pat Forde (who covered him as a beat writer at that paper before moving on to ESPN).

I do agree with you that Fran is the slimiest one of them all.

Saban is putting together a scary ‘08 recruiting class. If he continues to stack this caliber of class year after year for several years, like he did at LSU, I won’t care whether he stays or goes. Looking at everything right now, I think the Tide re-emerges on the national scene in 2010 with enough flashes of brilliance between now & then to keep our loony fanbase satiated enough.

FWIW, I think Saban is an honorable man in a dishonorable profession. Underneath the veneer, he is a shy boy from West Virginia who doesn’t know how to deal with so much attention. From just listening to his press conferences each week, I can tell that he is a wise man who has keen insight in coaching & human nature. I’m telling you: this is no snake-oil salesman. He’s the genuine article… unless he is the most sociopathic, Machiavellian liar that I’ve ever heard of. I just don’t buy that he could be. I don’t think he could have the level of success that he has if he was. He’s a “Do the Right Thing” kind of guy who could only get what he wanted (having his cake & eating it, too—finishing the job in Miami while wanting to be back in the college game) by doing the wrong thing. I’m sure it will haunt him for the rest of his natural born days, but there was no other way around it.

I’m with you in not knowing what to think about Petrino.

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