But it’s not a rant about Alabama football, even though as a Tennessee Alum I loathe any mention, glimpse or other indication that a team, university, fans and alumni of a school in Tuscaloosa exists. It’s also not a rant about Nick Saban. The man obviously knows what he’s good at and has turned it into what appears to be a satisfying career. It’s not even a rant about the oh, so obvious product placement on the podium that almost makes me want to gag wondering how much cash Coke, Red Diamond Coffee and Dasani (also Coke) flashed in order to have their products in such plain view. (And let’s not overlook the subtle fact that Mercedes Benz does NOT manufacture microphones, but their logo is front and center beneath the windscreen of that mic.)
This rant is about the obvious – to me anyway – “BIGGER” issue. Football is a game folks. And no coach – certainly not one who coaches at a place that is SUPPOSED to be an institution of higher education – is worth $93.6 million dollars. This rant is solely – and completely – laser focused on this news as a clear indication of why our culture and society is at risk. If it’s true – that where our heart is, there our money will be – then this little tidbit in today’s news shows us clearly that our values are so screwed up that they may be beyond redemption.
A few years back I made the decision that I would never again attend in-person a football game here at my Alma Mater’s stadium. That was because I had just learned that the University of Tennessee had just spent over $200 million on renovating the place (Something that is now under way again just five years later with a “new” total of $340 million.) This price tag to upgrade the stadium just happened to coincide with the news that U.T. was deleting 75 academic majors from it’s course catalog, for the stated reason that they couldn’t afford them anymore.
We can’t afford to teach students and train upcoming professionals in various disciplines… But we can afford millions – hundreds of millions – on stadiums, these semi-professional sports programs, and coaches that in no world nor universe could ever be worth $93.6 million, whether his name is Saban, Bryant, Neyland, or even Robinson. (Which isn’t really a fair comparison; Eddie Robinson never made anywhere NEAR the money Saban, Kirby Smart, Jimbo Fisher, Dabo Swinney or others do today.) THAT’S my rant: We can afford practically anything and everything – except what’s actually important.
I’ll leave you with this to ponder: When – looking back through the lens of history – it became apparent that the Roman Empire was in decline and it’s fall almost certain; the devotion to, appeal of, and sensational attention to the “games…” Whether gladiatorial bloodsport games much like football has come to serve for us, the bizarre and despicable ways people were executed for amusement, or just those “cake and circus” events that served to divert attention from the very real problems facing the empire… to the extent these “games” took over center stage of people’s attention and values, one could see both causation and correlation to the ongoing systemic failure that would culminate when the Celts and Goths overran the northern borders and began the violent dismantling of what had been the world’s pinnacle of civilization.
Has football, coach’s salaries, stadium improvements and the veritable flood of money devoted to a kid’s game become the very same “canary in the coal mine” for our culture? Hmmm…