On the first play from scrimmage in Monday's BCS National Championship, Notre Dame stuffed Alabama running back Eddie Lacy for a one-yard gain. Then, the Irish didn't stop the Crimson Tide again.
Less than three minutes into the game, the Tide started to roll. It rolled through the first quarter to a 14-0 lead. It rolled in the second quarter to a 28-0 halftime lead. It rolled all second half to the 42-14 final. By the time the Tide stopped rolling, Notre Dame found itself somewhere off Miami's coast in the Atlantic Ocean puzzled how it got there.
It was easy to piece together. The machine Coach Nick Saban created took every ounce of fight out of the Irish. The Alabama players waited the entire game to dump the Gatorade on Saban. To dump it after one drive, one quarter or one half wouldn't have let the beverage get cool enough. A full title game was the adequate chill time for the red bath. It needed to be cold enough to chill Saban - the icy man who proclaimed a 48-hour rule on his third ring in four years.
Legacy, dynasty and all that jazz. The jazz Saban avoids like the plague. It all was thrown around haphazardly Monday, like the fade passes Brian Kelly seemed determined to have his team complete.
In the gridiron's realm, we see the perfect companions. Saban focuses only on the next snap and the next ring. His discipline and focus are embodied by his players. As the blowout came to the end, quarterback A.J. McCarron yelled at his center, Barrett Jones. McCarron appeared upset at a check by the snapper. Jones shoved him away. Saban stood on the sideline and berated an official. Alabama was ahead by four touchdowns.
Yes, the trickle-down effect that the serious-as-a-heart attack coach is real. The players were playing for perfection. The scoreboard simply didn't matter.
The perfect partner for a man so possessed seems to be the school that employs him. "Roll Damn Tide," the loyalists exclaim year-round. They too are onto the next year, the next recruiting class and the next title run. In Tuscaloosa, the faithful want more and more and more and then some. If ever a man existed who could deliver, it’s the man who brought them three crowns in four years.
That man - the one who wears those goofy straw hats to spring games - is the one they've longed for since the Bear. His crooked expression leaves no room for satisfaction, only obsession. Obsession to beat Auburn. Obsession to win the SEC. Obsession to win the title. Obsession to win the next one and the one after that.
In 37 days between the SEC and BCS titles, some of us got lost. Some of us believed Notre Dame could find a way to beat this machine. Somehow, we thought Manti Te'o could be enough to help stop Lacy. When we saw Lacy break through the Heisman Trophy finalist’s arms like paper mache, things became clear. Crystal clear.
There was no remedy for the Irish in Miami. Nothing could prevent that team from winning that game Monday night. It was simply a mismatch. As other schools' fans watched the game, all they could do is shrug. Sorry guys, it's just what they do.
The difficult becomes routine and the unattainable becomes expected. Perhaps Saban's grip on things is too tight and somehow it will be broken.
Yet, we have nothing to suggest that now. We have the remnants of an undefeated team in pieces to see. We have the dreams of a team watched over by Touchdown Jesus thrown in the gutter. We have the man and the machine and a scoreboard that suggests we haven't seen anything yet.
We knew better than to suggest Saban would lose Monday night. At some point, we lost our tables. We forgot that when the Tide has a month to rise, it gets damn high. Then, the damn high Tide rolls.
Boy, does it ever roll.
Sports are all I know. Writing came naturally. Sports writer by night & sports writer by night. Philosophy major who thinks the unexamined sport is not worth watching. Always for hire, never for sale. I believe that silence is the virtue of fools and I can't hear you.