Alabama Football: No Moral Victories


Immediately after the Sugar Bowl, I got a message from an old friend on social media. “It was a good year and we lost a good game. The sun will come up tomorrow.” He’s right, of course. Although as of now—noon on January 3—the sun has NOT come up. It’s been raining here all year but the weather has nothing to do with football.

I’ve also read many posts about going 12-2, beating Auburn, winning the SEC, doing better than expected, etc. These are all good sentiments but let’s be honest.

Losing sucks.

Alabama football fans are not quick to embrace the idea of a moral victory. Going 12-2, beating Auburn, and winning the SEC are great accomplishments—and we should be very proud of them— but they are not laurels to rest upon. None of those things should define a season.

I believe in positive thinking. In fact, I do a great deal of work in counseling outside of my BamaHammer life. I have often told clients that they can turn their weaknesses into strengths but, first, they have to admit to their weaknesses. I believe this applies to almost every area of life and it applies to football too.

"It’s awfully important to win with humility. It’s also important to lose. I hate to lose worse than anyone, but if you never lose you won’t know how to act. If you lose with humility, then you can come back. – Bear Bryant"

As the  quote from Coach Bryant suggests, losing has a purpose. When you lose, congratulate the winner, wish him well, and learn from the results. So, what can we learn from this season?

• As much as football has changed, it has remained the same. Offensives and defenses come in and out of style. What was old becomes new again as styles change. Teams game plan and emphasize their strengths and mask their weaknesses. When they stray from that formula, they get themselves into trouble.

• We have the best coaching staff in college football but they are not invincible. Alabama had a chance to demoralize OSU with the ball deep in Buckeye territory. Instead of playing to a strength, running Henry to the left, Alabama tried to put a quick dagger in their hearts but threw an interception instead. If it had worked, fans would have screamed “brilliant.” It didn’t work and fans lit up Twitter with “run the ball” instead. We’re all armchair coaches.

• Two or three plays make the difference in most games. Coach Bryant used to say something similar and it is still true. The game had several potential turning points. When you take advantage of them, they change momentum in your favor. When you don’t, the missed opportunities will haunt you with second guesses. When the game was on the line, the Buckeyes did what they were supposed to do. Alabama didn’t.

Fans of lesser programs sometimes call Alabama arrogant. There’s nothing wrong with expecting to win. There’s nothing wrong with believing you can win and thinking you should win. Sometimes, however, the other team believes the same about their own chances. Sometimes, the other team is right.

A lot happens in the off-season. Coaches move around. Recruits commit and de-commit. New schemes are developed and old plays are scrapped. New leaders emerge. College football never really ends.

It was a great season, despite the sad finale. What makes Alabama Alabama is that we never say “that was good enough.” There is a lot to learn from the 2014 Crimson Tide and, rest assured, the 2015 Tide will learn from the process.