We live ever at the whim of our muses and my schAUdenfreude1 demands this: the Sugar Bowl was the best game all year that I didn't get to see. Thank God it's on hulu. I may yet go view the game2... or I may not. My angry blood demands I revel in their losses, but it loses the forest for the trees - every yard forward a crime. Like a good horror movie, it's hard not to wince even when you know the good guys will make it out3, somehow.
And in a season of bizarrity and bafflement, it was damn near the perfect icing on the hat.
Like Jerry, I don't buy the Andre-Smith-ruined-Bammar-durr argument. Andre Smith didn't play on defense. And while his absence was worth more than a few of those eight glorious sacks, and even given that there is undoubtedly bleedthrough from the offense's morale to the defense's, I don't buy the idea that a well-coached defense will implode when the offense struggles. Nick Saban's built a strong, well-coached defense. A strong, well-coached defense that got snockered by some angry Utes. Not only did they not show up, they never really made it into the stadium.
Did you see the Rose Bowl? Did you, like I, witness the irreverent stomping of Paterno's proud lions? The first half was pure misery, an embarrassment. Penn State's beleaguered cornerbacks were breaking their own ankles on the turf of Rose Bowl Stadium and Sanchez was hurling the ball all over them, hammering the seams in the cover 3 with impunity. But things changed. "Now is when USC always puts the hammer down," the bantermongers drooled. They mocked JoePa's simple halftime advice: go play Penn State football. This, we were told, was the sign of a doddering old fogey, a shell of a coach who tottered down from the press box to peddle his mealy-mouthed sentimentality. A man long past the proper arc. Once again, the bantermongers got it all wrong.
Don't get me wrong - I don't mean to claim that significant adjustments were made by the coaching staff. They were. But Penn State started playing the game. And made the second half a real contest. So yeah, scoreboard and all that, but Penn State playing Penn State football was the clear victor of the second half. Had they played the entire game with that gusto, we'd have seen a different outcome in Pasadena.
Seems that Bama wasn't able to make the same sort of mental, emotional, and physical adjustments. Arenas being given credit for blowing the special teams wide open, the Crimson Tide couldn't even fight the Utes to less than a draw after a disastrous first quarter. By report, the Utes dominated their opponent in every phase of the game. So while Penn State got their fangs out and fought back hard against a more highly-regarded opponent simply by playing Penn State football, Bama couldn't dig out of their hole - hell, couldn't even dig.
Where was Bama football then?
Where was their vaunted tradition, the legacy, the swagger of the storied past? Perhaps, like their mammoth left tackle and Saban's pride in his lip-bustin' line of red elephants - like those less-than-worthy scholarship players in the year of their oversigning - like those 115 years of vicious, hatchet-exhuming, face-spiting hatred for our beloved tigers...
...perhaps it was merely relinquished. And the soul of the squad gone with it.
1 schAUdenfreude(n): glee taken by Auburn fans in the failures of Alabama in any and all realm of life, which to an outside observer may find unsettling. Frequently it commands me and I embarrass myself.
2 My darling fiancee has call later this week. Maybe then, if I can bear to see them make a first down.
3 Actually, the demons don't always get what's for. The 2008 Iron Bowl ended something like this.