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Decoding Nick Saban at SEC Media Days

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Getty Images

The day after baseball’s All-Star Game — i.e., today — is commonly regarded as the least eventful day in sports. For the first time since Opening Day, there’s no MLB action slated to occur; the NBA free-agency circus has come to a screeching halt; Wimbledon is over; and NFL training camps have yet to open. As such, the SEC has shrewdly scheduled the increasingly absurd spectacle of SEC media days around this annual lull. And because some fans (read: me) have nothing better to do than sit around and watch largely bland press conferences, SEC media days has morphed into a full-fledged viewing event, complete with grandiose State of the Program addresses from each head coach.

Adding to the (admittedly dubious) entertainment value of SEC media days is the indisputable fact that Alabama coach Nick Saban despises the event. In fact, I didn’t realize it was possible to hate something as passionately as Saban hates talking to the press each July. Saban’s unmitigated disdain for SEC media days outweighs even his aversion to the spread offense, which is saying something. But since Saban is contractually obligated to feed reporters platitudes about the season to come, he always goes through with it.

Today was Saban’s turn at the podium, and he treated us to the usual assortment of coachspeak and endless, Cruzian filibustering. Let’s translate what Saban said (WSS) into what Saban actually meant (WSAM).

[Opening statement.]

WSS: “The one thing that I will miss is I’m usually up here responding to some barb from Coach Spurrier, who is no longer with us and is retired, and probably playing a lot of golf.”

WSAM: Ding dong, Steve Spurrier’s dead! Or, more likely, he is at Arby’s.

[More opening statement.]

WSS: “I think that we all sort of stand up here and talk about, you know, our team. And if the truth really be known, anything that I’m going to say about our team, because you all have seen spring practice, you know who’s coming back, you know who graduated. You already have what the issues are relative to the challenges that we have to solve for our team. So, I’m going to sit up here and very seriously talk about our team, and everything I’m going to say about our team, you’ve already written about. You’ve already written a story about. Somebody in this room has already written a story about what I’m going to talk about. But you’re going to be serious and I’m going to be serious about talking about it again. That’s the way we do things.”

WSAM: Mick Jagger is a great entertainer. Can we just listen to Exile on Main St. and dispense with the formalities?

[Even more opening statement.]

WSS: “We have a new defensive coordinator, Jeremy Pruitt, who was with us for five or six years prior to going to Florida State, where they won the national championship when he was defensive coordinator, and did a really good job improving Georgia’s defense. And he knows the system.”

WSAM: You think I care about losing Kirby Smart to Georgia? Well, you’re wrong. This is my defense, and our defensive coordinator is basically a glorified errand boy.

(Fun fact: According to the good folks at ASAP Sports, Saban’s protracted opening statement was a whopping 1,860 words.)

Question: What consistent themes … did you identify in the losses to Ole Miss the last two seasons?

WSS: “Ole Miss has had really, really good teams. They’ve done a really good job against us … we had five turnovers last year. They played on a short field and scored a lot of points. Made a couple big plays that, you know, we didn’t defend very well. Had some breakdowns in the secondary.”

WSAM: Sorry, I’m too busy identifying the consistent themes in my four national championships here to worry about Hugh Freeze’s regular-season heroics. Next question, bitches.

Question: How has Lane Kiffin improved you as a coach?

WSS: “I’m sorry?” (Saban actually said this, and it was glorious.)

WSAM: Are you fucking serious? Lane has improved my Bitmoji skills, and he’s made me a more suave person. But let’s be real here: I was a great coach before Lane joined our staff, and I’ll be a great coach after Lane leaves to take some crap job in the AAC.

Question: O.J. Howard had a record-setting performance in the championship game. Do you foresee an expanded role for O.J. this season?

WSS: “O.J. has been an outstanding player for us and a very unselfish guy … he’s definitely someone who is a threat and should be developed as a threat in our offense.”

WSAM: Did you even watch the national title game? Yes, we will obviously use this freaking guy more in our offense.

Question: Nick, a few years ago you were very passionate about your dislike for no-huddle offenses because of concerns about safety for players and fatigue. The past couple years you have kind of changed … How difficult is that for you to make the decision to kind of go somewhat in a different direction but still incorporate some of the things that you do?

WSS: “For us to not use those plays is a disadvantage for us … even though we may not philosophically agree that this is the way football was meant to be played.”

WSAM: The no-huddle offense is an affront to our sport. Not as much as Jim Harbaugh is an affront to our sport, but still — trash. Let’s move on.

Question: We’ve seen a rash the last couple years of … NFL players stepping away from the game … Do you expect some kind of trickle-down effect to the college game, especially since most of the players you recruit have professional aspirations?

WSS: “I think that’s a decision every individual has to make. I think that in all that we do, everyone comes to a point, a station in their life, where they look for new challenges or want to do something different, or maybe they are a little tired and not as motivated.”

WSAM: Can someone fetch me some Little Debbie oatmeal creme pies? While you’re at it, grab me a bottle of Coca-Cola.

Question: Following up on O.J. Howard, what does he do best as a tight end and how close is he to reaching his potential?

WSS: “O.J. has improved and developed as a blocker each and every year, which, being an athletic guy, sort of a taller, thin-bodied type guy, that has been a challenge for him. But he has worked so hard at that and improved dramatically at that to be [a] very effective blocker. And I thought last year was his best year in that.”

WSAM: O.J. Howard again? Really? This damn press conference is costing me a precious day of recruiting.

[Closing statement.]

WSS: “Even though I get sort of blasted sometimes for how I sort of view the press, that’s not really the case. I really appreciate what you do, because you promote our game. You promote our student-athletes.”

WSAM: You guys are the worst. Why are you all here? Seriously, don’t you have anything better to do? Now please excuse me as I go talk to Paul Finebaum.

WSAM: Goddammit.