Nick Saban's Mayoral Endorsement Crowns Summer of Scandal for SEC
It used to be that summer in the south meant you only had to worry about players being arrested. (Tennessee's bar brawl, among others, helped take care of that quota.) But this year, in the midst of the longest, hottest summer on record, a summer so hot that even old school southerners who grew up without air-conditioning took to wondering how they ever survived without it, we've officially become a hot mess down here.
Don't believe me? What do these four objects have in common with the SEC: red panties, misspelled season tickets, a reporter's Florida hat, and a photoshopped mayoral endorsement? I'll tell you: Every single one of these objects has built upon the next to prove that the SEC has zoomed beyond the NBA into the top spot for most post-satire sports league in America. No matter what absurdities you think of, the SEC is going to find a way to top it. What's more, when you hear the details but don't even know the schools, you know exactly where it happened in advance. Yep, it's come to this: you can't even satirize the SEC anymore.
You might not have heard about the latest of these totemic objects yet. Which is a shame, because it might be my favorite. One of the six mayoral candidates in Bessemer, Ala., claims that Nick Saban endorsed her campaign. Her proof? A photo of her standing next to Saban at a golf outing. There's just one problem. The picture is photoshopped and the candidate replaced Saban's wife with her own image. Beneath the photo, the following endorsement appeared. "Nick Saban fully supports Dorothy 'Dot' Davidson, and thinks she would be an excellent mayor for the City of Bessemer."
The best part about the photoshopping? The fact that you can still see Saban's wife's brunette hair rising above the black hair of the African-American woman photoshopped beside him. Not to mention that the photo clearly features two images taken at different times. The mayoral candidate might as well have photoshopped herself in present day next to Bear Bryant in 1974. (At this rate, it's only a matter of time until the Bear offers a post-death endorsement for someone in Alabama politics. Book it.) But when the Birmingham News uncovered that the endorsement was entirely made up via a statement from the University of Alabama, the campaign's response resembled kabuki theater with a side of grits.
Quoth the article:
"Davidson, when contacted about the campaign ad and photo on Tuesday afternoon, at first said the image of her and Saban together was real and taken about three weeks ago. However, when presented later with a 2007 photo of Saban and his wife that appears to be the base photo onto what Davidson's image was added, the candidate acknowledged that her image was digitally added to the 2007 photo.
"They said we could do it this way," Davidson said.
I absolutely love the idea that Saban has eschewed endorsing presidents, governors and congressmen, but felt compelled to throw his weight into the mayoral election of a Birmingham suburb.
Except, you guessed it, that was false, too. It turns out that the campaign manager, who claimed his daddy was friends with Saban and the endorsement was given on a golf course, actually lied. The power of Nick Saban's endorsement, even when an awful fake, was just too much for him to resist.
It used to be that most Southern men lied to gain women or money. Now we lie to claim a head football coach likes us.
These four stories taken together, a post-satire SEC, represent the culmination of a conference on top of the sports world. Win four football national championships in a row and your arrested athletic director can ask a cop to drive him to a motel after name-dropping his title with Georgia while holding a woman's red panties in his hands. (See: Evans, Damon.) Walk out on an NFL team after leaving a note in the locker room and have people still embrace you in Arkansas and you can come to feel that it's actually disrespectful for a woman to wear a Florida Gators hat at your press conference. (See: Petrino, Bobby). Manage to win a national championship and you can shrug off the overrated niceties involved in spelling your opponent's name correctly on a season ticket. (See: Alabama, University of).
So drunk with power is the SEC that the principal figures around the league are behaving like drunken louts. (Sometimes, as in the case of Evans, they actually are drunken louts.) Trust me, we've never had an absence of self-confidence down here. Every SEC fan is nodding. But do you doubt me? Find an SEC fan within the footprint who has ever believed that we aren't the kings of football. But now it's different, now there is no doubt the SEC is king and we're all behaving like the family in the "Beverly Hillbillies," which got rich off oil found while hunting.
We've been good before, but we've never been this filthy rich and this damn good at the same moment.
It's only a matter of time before we build multi-million dollar habitats to house our mascots.
Wait, that happened a decade ago?
Maybe it's better that Texas schools aren't in the SEC after all. Can you imagine what would happen if you mixed the present SEC cockiness with Texas oil money? Good Lord, it would be like Dallas on steroids. (Also known as the Cowboys.) I keep picturing an entire conference filled with millions of miniature Buddy Garritys, the fictional Dillon booster from "Friday Night Lights." Can you imagine how entertaining this would be? Can you imagine how terrifying this would be?
Hell, we may already be there even without the Texans.
Yep, it's a brave new world down South. We've always had a chip on our shoulder about disrespect and now we can't even find a single person who disrespects us. What then, to bide the time in the long, hot summer while our conference and coaches are doing the backstroke in television billions?
With outlandish and absurd misbehavior.
Nero fiddled while Rome burned. In the SEC, we just claim that Nick Saban once used the fiddle and sell it for a million dollars on eBay. But amidst all the claptrap of summer misbehavior is an ominous lesson. In the years immediately after Michael Jordan retired, the NBA's excess peaked. The league was at its height of power, but the product had declined. Slowly, inexorably, the NBA came down to earth, the satire became too poignant, the excess, to a large extent, dried up. Will the same thing happen in the SEC, at the height of our powers have we already begun our decline?
I don't know, maybe nothing has changed at all, just more people are paying attention to us now. The south, after all, has always embraced its eccentrics. (Every southerner has a completely insane relative whose insanity is considered an endearing trait. This is not a joke.) All we know for certain is that we're storytellers down here and no region of the country takes greater delight in the absurdities of our people. We're fascinated by eccentrics and excess, always ready to die from laughter. The result? Eventually, we can forgive just about anything. With the rise of the SEC's profile, suddenly our insane relatives are on view for the entire country and we feel, once more, a bit like we should be passing out cultural guidebooks to the rest of you, visitors to our strange land.
Yep, the football power has skipped directly over our rednecks and gone completely to our sweat-drenched white collars. And as the summer of 2010 winds down, I'll leave it to y'all to vote, which totemic object most symbolizes the SEC's summer of excess?
Consider this a vote for the red panties of Georgia.
Woof, woof, y'all it's exactly two weeks until football time in the SEC. And for the league office, it can't come soon enough.