Last night the No.2 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide topped the No.1 ranked LSU Tigers in the BCS national championship game that was almost as boring as the original matchup, touted as “The Game of the Century,” between the two powerhouses back on Nov. 5.
Though the feat by Alabama came as no surprise – considering they were favored despite losing to LSU 9-6 in overtime two months ago – I was certain since the day I watched the two play on the evening of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships that Alabama would redeem themselves on Monday, Jan. 9.
For a second, just forget about all the bickering over the BCS system and who should have squared off in the championship game.
This was Alabama’s year.
Not because of their defense, which shut out LSU in the 21-0 victory. And, certainly not because of Alabama’s field goal kicking, which was abysmal during the original SEC matchup, with Cade Foster missing three field goals for the Crimson Tide on Nov. 5 and Jeremy Shelley (who set a bowl record with five field goals last night) having a field goal attempt blocked that same game.
This year was Alabama’s year because of what happened to Tuscaloosa almost one year ago.
Some people, including a stubborn friend of mine, find what happened behind the scenes last April in Alabama unrelated to the big game last night. But, as a writer and avid sports fan, I believe it is one of the most important factors.
The world of sports has this uncanny ability of producing truly great and inspiring stories if you look beyond the surface, and in the case of Alabama, there is certainly no exception.
In May of 2011, Lars Anderson published an incredibly moving article in Sports Illustrated on the devastation of Tuscaloosa after the most destructive tornado in Alabama history tore through the University of Alabama’s college town, killing 41 people, and around 350 total in the South. Several athletes at the university were affected by the destruction, including junior starting longsnapper, Carson Tinker, whose girlfriend died in the disaster.
Because of this, before the football season ever began, Alabama had set themselves up not for the “Game of the Century,” but perhaps the “Story of the Century.”
A story of redemption and perseverance.
But as the football season progressed, it became not only about the devastation of the twister, but also redemption from Alabama’s loss to LSU during the regular season; redemption from the terrible field goal kicking that game; and redemption from Alabama neither winning nor making the SEC championship in 2011.
After knocking off the No.1 Tigers last night, Alabama completed the storybook finish. The final AP poll showed the Crimson Tide the indisputable new No.1 in football, with an astounding 55 first-place votes to LSU’s one.
I’m not an Alabama fan, nor an LSU fan, nor an SEC fan for that matter. But deep down I wanted Alabama to win. I was rooting for the story, one that will likely capture the heart of America (minus the heart of some LSU and Auburn fans) through an overplayed segment on ESPN narrated by none other than Tom Rinaldi.
As a sports fan, how can I not cheer for the underdog? The broken down, beaten down team who was physically very strong this year, but emotionally distraught after all they had gone through.
You may think sports are irrelevant to the big picture, but I believe, and insist, sports are a great teacher to the world.
Whether you played little league, high school or college athletics, I guarantee you have been taught many a great lesson from sports because you were forced to triumph over adversity, taught teamwork, persistence, to build strength and endurance, and maybe even had the chance to accomplish the unthinkable comeback.
Sure, after the game, the king and the pawn go back in the same box, as they say. Some would argue why should the outcome of a sporting match make any difference? Why should the winner of the BCS championship hold any significance?
Sometimes, it doesn’t. Sometimes Goliath prevails in the end. That’s why there’s always another game, another season, another championship the following year.
There’s always that second chance to redeem yourself. That chance to show that the hard work, focus and blood, sweat and tears paid off in the end.
I stand by my opinion that some of the greatest stories ever written were written about sports. But, it isn’t the story with the box score or the play-by-play of the game. It’s the story that digs deeper past the actual event and into the very principles sports teach about the incredible obstacles we can overcome.
Last night, Alabama took back the reign of college football by conquering its difficult past to build a better future.
And, in doing so, the team wrote the ending to a story that began with sadness and defeat, and concluded with an undeniable lesson on perseverance and redemption.