ATHENS — College football isn’t the most important thing in the world. Every now and then I feel the need to remind people of that. Now seems a pretty good time.
Not sure if Georgia folks heard about Nick Saban’s comments yesterday in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide’s living legend of a coach was asked what he thought about the results of Tuesday’s presidential election.
“Well, to be honest with you, I didn’t even know yesterday was Election Day,” Saban said. “It was so important to me that I didn’t even know it was happening.”
I’m not sure I believe that. Saban is always spinning that he never is anything but completely focused on whomever Alabama’s next opponent is. In this case, it’s Mississippi State. But he’s also the same coach who has had a public service announcement running on local television the last two years (see below) about the importance of voting. I don’t know, maybe, he wrote his in, or just called the governor and told him what his would be.
Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald actually attempted to ask Georgia’s Kirby Smart the same question at his last local news briefing Tuesday night. However, it was delivered after the question-and-answer session had ended and as Smart was leaving the room. So Weiszer sort of shouted it.
“Not telling” or “not saying” was Smart’s indecipherable reply as he walked away.
Maybe he misunderstood what Weiszer was asking and thought he wanted to know who he voted for. Nothing had been decided at that point. But I’m not going be critical of Smart whether he did vote or didn’t vote. Not in his first year on the job anyway. I understand the pressure these coaches are under to win the next game and every game every week. And if we’ve learned anything about Smart so far, he’s a lot like Saban.
However, I do believe as leaders of young men at institutions of higher education — not to mention being the highest-compensated employees of the state — it is important that they demonstrate the basic fundamental rights of American citizens to vote in elections. What better illustration than for the head coach show up at the team meeting before practice with an “I Voted” sticker on his chest. Then he could tell his players that, if they haven’t voted already, they should hustle over to the local polling station after practice to cast their ballot.
I’ll give Lorenzo Carter credit for making it a priority. He came up for post-practice interviews late Tuesday and politely asked reporters if we could “make it fast” because he wanted to go vote. I don’t mind saying here that all of us, pretty much in unison, said “go vote, don’t worry about us.”
Some things are just more important. Which is the same kind of message Saban and all these other coaches should be sending. Yes, Saturday’s game against Rival University is important. Yes, there’s a lot riding on it. Yes, coaches and schools get paid a lot of money. But we need to keep these things in perspective.
And not just with regard to presidential elections and matters of state importance. I think we put too much pressure on these players sometimes. Thursday, Seth Emerson wrote a nice little piece on graduate transfer Tyler Catalina and how, despite the adversity he has faced and the challenges of playing left tackle in the SEC, he wishes he had another year to play at Georgia.
In reply to the story link on Twitter, a couple of people replied with, “No thanks.” I know they’re just trying to be funny, but that’s just plain mean. Look, the dude answered UGA’s call for help, has busted his butt every day in practice and in class, is clearly the Bulldogs’ best option at the position, and is doing the best he can. If you’re an alum or truly a fan of Georgia, a guy like that needs to be supported, not bashed. It’s not like you drafted the guy and are paying him millions. That’s different.
On a somewhat unrelated note, it has come to my attention in the past week that UGA legend Bill Stanfill is fighting for his life down in Albany. The NFL and College Hall of Fame defensive end fell recently and was in poor health besides. He was recently moved to hospice.
Now in my mind Stanfill belongs on Georgia’s “Mt. Rushmore of Greats,” along with Walker and Trippi and Sinkwich. Nobody has cared more about the Bulldogs or wanted to beat Auburn more than Stanfill. But nobody in that family is worried about that right now. Right now, they need your prayers.
Hey, I realize on Saturday, when the Bulldogs tee it up between the hedges against Auburn, nobody will be thinking about anything but winning. And that’s fine. But in the meantime, in between these competitions, can we try to be civil and keep collegiate sports in proper perspective?
I’d vote for that.