There might have been some magic, or at least some Superball DNA, in those baseballs that kept flying out of Minute Maid Park in Houston on Sunday night. But at least a couple of times during the record-setting home run barrage, the cause was simply a pitcher who was worn down by a long season trying to get a straight fastball past one or another of the sport’s best hitters — with predictable results.
The same thing happened at the University of Alabama on Monday when a reporter tried to sneak a changeup past the premier press-conference slugger in America today: Alabama coach Nick Saban.
There was nothing wrong or untimely about the question from the Montgomery Advertiser’s Duane Rankin, who knows his way around a press conference. When he asked for Saban’s opinion about the initial College Football Playoff poll, Rankin, like everyone in the room, knew that Saban would turn it around and launch it to the bleachers — and he did. But there are times when you ask the question anyway, just to see whether it lands in the parking lot or the trees.
This one made the trees.
“I could care less about a poll,” Saban said. “What significance does a poll have right now? All we’re talking about right here is the challenge of our season, and where are we going to be in the poll if we don’t play well in the next four games? So I’m focused on the next four games. I could care less about the poll. You won’t see me waste any time watching TV or (asking) who is 1 and who is 2. It doesn’t really matter. What really matters is how you play the rest of the season.
“But I appreciate you asking so I could get that off my chest.”
Saban’s answer, as his answers often are, was true in two ways. First, where he stands on ground level, any distraction is — you guessed it — “poison.” (He didn’t limit it to “rat poison” this time.) He’d indicated earlier that LSU, a team that annually lines up and battles the Crimson Tide toe-to-toe, might increase the focus and decrease the outside distraction factor. He just doesn’t want to take any chances.
Saban probably wasn’t thinking on a more cosmic level about the first poll, but his answer applies as well. What possible difference does it make at this point if Alabama is No. 1 or not? A million words will be exhaled if Georgia is No. 1 and Alabama is No. 2 — certainly a possibility, although I’m not sure why Alabama’s win over Florida State is discounted and Georgia’s win over an even more dysfunctional Florida team is getting such love. Regardless, there will be few (if any) analysts who will point out the obvious. Only two possible outcomes exist if Alabama and Georgia are the Top Two teams this week. Either one (or both) loses a game before the end of the regular season, and the whole picture changes, or neither one loses and then guess what? They play each other in Atlanta before the final poll, which will settle the whole thing.
I’d stop short of saying that the average fan will be “poisoned” by the contrived debate. At this point, most have a healthy hot-take immunity. But Saban was dead on about what a poll in October means — not a lot.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.