Yorgo Sarris/Contributing Writer
Alabama starts its spring football practices on the day I am writing this — the glorious Solemnity of Saint Joseph, March 19, also my mother’s birthday. Tide head coach Nick Saban starts his quest at yet another National Championship while fans of the other teams contemplate: Is football worth it? Isn’t Alabama just going to win again?
The answer is yes, and there’s not a thing in the world you can do about it. An emperor never thinks “that’s enough.” This attitude of infinite effort and refusal of satisfaction is more than good for us Alabama fans. I have enjoyed the dynasty years more than anyone. My only regret is that we have not beaten the Auburn Tigers consistently enough, and by enough points. The games that the Tide has lost I still remember in excruciatingly vivid detail. I know each and every consequential play that has led to the losses, and I can remember exactly where I was watching. The undramatic victories are forgettable, and even joyless.
Is Saban’s philosophy commendable? In sport, yes. He is paid a hefty salary to win, and there is no good in losing a college football game. Alabama fans expect winning, and nothing else is tolerated by us, the most spoiled fanbase of all time. We cannot say we are ungrateful though, as Saban is revered like the Pope in the state of Alabama. But is the philosophy of tirelessly winning a good philosophy for life? Have we taken sports too literally to think it is all applicable to life?
Forgive me, coach, but yes. Life is more than winning; it is about conforming yourself to the good. Saban’s philosophy is not based in traditional Christian thought on the meaning of life. Life is not even about self-betterment, much less lofty achievement. Instead, God’s post-original sin plans for human life is about emptying oneself in sacrifice and service to others. Life is not meant to live for one’s own self, how miserable a life of constant awareness that you need to achieve more would be! The spiel about winning and its process is all vanity — there is no room for humility and service inside of sports. Why do we try to apply Saban’s philosophy to life?
I would say a nasty individualism is at play here. In all the efforts to “be better” in material and skin-deep ways, we forget an ultimate calling to the common good. We misorder the problems of life. Self-achievement must come last; some of the greatest Saints were only notable for their small, often unnoticed contemporary acts of service. Big fame was not on their radar; they won no championships. Their ultimate treasures and trophies were only revealed in heaven, the ultimate Christian calling. A life of service and moral obedience is the true Way. All this to say, sports philosophy only leads to destruction and disappointment in one’s shortcomings. Saban and the winning philosophies of others should never become self-help books. Life is not a process of steps to win, so quit trying to make it one. Nonetheless, I hope for many more years of Alabama dominance, to the prodigious disgust of all Tide haters.