Has the epidemic of Alabama fatigue, the national ailment of college football, finally come to this?
Four Mississippi State students were arrested Wednesday for breaking into the Mal Moore Athletic Facility complex and absconding with memorabilia — trophies and such, one assumes — for unknown purposes.
Now, let’s not make burglary a laughing matter. It’s a crime and there are consequences. On the other hand, the time frame — right up to the 2:17 a.m. time stamp on security video — suggests contributing factors like “too much beer” and “dumb college prank.” Again, those aren’t excuses, just possible motivation beyond trying to sell a Jim Thorpe Trophy on eBay. It also shouldn’t reflect on Mississippi State athletics.
No one would be more mortified at such behavior than MSU AD John Cohen. So the thick encyclopedia of jokes one could tell at MSU’s expense should remain unopened, as will the issue of whether MSU has an actual claim on the 1941 national championship hardware (if any) that Alabama includes among its plethora of other titles.
The question is, if Alabama is wearing so thin that you’d get on Highway 82 and make a 99-mile drive east to get in trouble, how much is it grating on the rest of the SEC, and the nation? One can only imagine how LSU fans must have dumped on Tuesday when President Donald Trump rubbed salt in the still-aching wound by saying the LSU administration “shouldn’t have let (Nick Saban) go.”
There’s far more to the story than a one-liner, of course, but that doesn’t make anyone in Baton Rouge feel any better about the painful reminder. Auburn, at least, has the solace of a 2017 victory over Alabama, but there’s still that nagging issue of all the big trophies being in Tuscaloosa. The fact some of those trophies are sitting on random coffee tables or stuck in broom closets while awaiting another expansion of a bursting display area doesn’t make any schools with more available space in their case feel better.
All wryness aside, it’s obvious Alabama fans — and the players and coaches — need to prepare for new levels of “Anyone But Them!” this season, perhaps exceeding the previous high-water mark set in 2013, when the Crimson Tide was shooting for a third straight title. Among the many reasons why the “Kick Six” is celebrated in every part of America beyond the local city limits is that it stopped the likely-seeming three-peat from becoming a reality. That can be used as a motivational tool, in small doses. Too much “everybody hates us” from a coaching staff falls on deaf ears after a while, but there are times when it can push a team to a higher level.
Saban doesn’t overuse the angle, but he did allude to it on Wednesday.
“There’s a lot of teams out there that want to beat Alabama, (so) I don’t care what you feel like or whatever,” he said. “You choose to do the things you need to do to be the best player you can be every time you get an opportunity to improve. Consistency in performance is what defines success. If you want to be successful, you need to be more consistent in how you go about doing things. That’s kind of what we are really trying to focus on.”
It’s either that — or hire extra security to hold on to the trophies you already have.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.