I am a boxing neophyte. There I said it. I don’t know much about combat sports in general, other than my dad was a boxer in college at Stanford and one of my close friends is a retired MMA fighter, known for his hilarious weigh-in shenanigans. Thus, I learn a little bit from them and fake the rest.
All of that did not stop me from jumping on a plane to Las Vegas though to experience the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor 'Money Fight' in Sin City with my girlfriends. But as I watched the fight a few miles from the actual venue and making a few bets on the fight at my favorite online casino, one thought kept popping continuously into my head...
...this feels a lot like watching Alabama play football.
Interesting, right? As I talked about the fight with my friends, broke it down on-air as a guest at a local radio station the next morning and in our podcast later that night, I tried to flush out the reasons why my mind conjured up images of the Tide.
Here is what I came up with.
Talking the Talk
There truly are no fans like Alabama fans – they are die-hard. Like literally. Most would go to the grave before accepting that another program, team or coach is better or more deserving of being called the best. And they are right. Despite the outcome of the National Championship game last year, Alabama had one of the best college football teams in years, maybe ever. But knowing that and accepting a Tide fan telling you it with fingers in your face, spit flying in all directions and wild eyes staring you down are two very different things. 'Bama fans are imposing, they get their points across through sheer force of will. Which is exactly how McGregor and Mayweather spoke to the media and to each other prior to the big fight. But words only take you so far in life.
Remember when LSU defensive back Dwayne Thomas tried to psych the Tide out before their November 5th of last year meeting by saying the Tigers would "dominate" Alabama? Or when Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace famously said "Yeah, I think we can put points on them, I think we can put points on anybody" in September 2013? Or when Tennessee called them them the "red team" a month later? Each one of those times, the Tide rolled them. McGregor's words reminded me of those teams taunting 'Bama, but in the end it was Mayweather delivering on his promise that claimed the narrative.
The obvious similarity. Mayweather walked away with a minimum $100 million dollar payout while McGregor took home $30 million – that is $3,571,429 per minute from the 10-round bout for Floyd and $1,071,429 for Conor, according to Darren Rovell. Pay-per-view buys have not been calculated yet but the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight did 4.4 million buys and Mayweather-McGregor is expected to have just as many, if not more according to ESPN’s Arash Markazi. And Mayweather walked away with close to $230 million from the Pacquiao fight. Money talks and then money walks.
Now, college football can’t really touch those single-night numbers, but Alabama did report a school-record $164 million in athletics revenue for the 2015-16 season, according to documents filed with the NCAA. The football program itself contributed $103.9 million. A championship season will do that I suppose. Ticket sales and media rights make up the majority of the revenue with contributions to the program forming the third trifecta. (Here is a closer look at how the money comes in.) So really, one could argue that every game, every practice, every fight Alabama has is a 'money fight.'
His patience, his precision, his experience – the dance he does with his opponents. Many mocked his defensive ways in the fight against Pacquiao, claiming that they were not entertained. Mayweather heard them and delivered a 10-round battle against McGregor that appeared genuinely even - until it wasn't.
Alabama plays football very much the same way. Yes, they blow schools out. But did you know that in seven of Alabama's 15 games last season, the opposing team scored first. And in the LSU game, the Tide didn't score until the fourth quarter. Also, in the Tide's 48-43 victory over Ole Miss early last season, they had to overcome a 21-point deficit in the second quarter, tying the largest deficit overcome in the program's history.
My point is this: Mayweather and Alabama operate the same way - patiently and defensively, making them extremely dangerous in the wilds of their respective sports. And don't make me remind you what defense wins... you know.
Both Mayweather and Alabama are entities that we love to hate. And that loving irritation makes them extra - whether it's outrageous cars, insane watches or contracts that read like a screen actor's rider, we can't ever get enough. At the end of the day, it's their money and fame and they can do with it what they will. We devour their shenanigans and tidbits about their lives with gusto, feigning disgust but really we can't wait to see what they do next. For Mayweather, it may be nothing. For Alabama, it might be another national title. Either way, they have successfully associated their brands with winning.
In the immortal words of Alabama head coach Nick Saban: "It doesn't matter what you are ranked until the end."
Sports writer. Avid fan, former player, once-upon-a-time coach, reluctant referee. I do digital media things with my friends. I also jinx kickers. Bay Area born & raised.