This is an opinion column.
Today was a big day in Alabama history. It was St. Nick’s Day, the Sabanversary. It was the 12th anniversary, in fact, of the hiring of coach Nick Saban at the University of Alabama.
A dozen years. Oh what a dozen years.
You know what happened in that time. Saban dragged Alabama back to the peak of the college football mountaintop and planted its flag there in stone. He put up ten bowl wins, six SEC championships and five national titles – with a chance for another one Monday.
But Nick Saban’s impact on Alabama is bigger than that. It’s bigger than his gargantuan, highest-public-employee-in-the-U.S. salary. Bigger than Alabama economic impact, bigger than spurring Auburn to raise its own level of competition, bigger than giving the state of Alabama something to be proud of at a time it really needed pride.
In 12 years at Alabama Nick Saban showed the state and the nation the secret of his success: The Process.
You know it, if you follow Alabama at all. It’s the philosophy that puts more value in the journey than the destination, that focuses on details rather than results, that preaches harder work in the best of times, and more understanding in the worst of them.
Unless the worst of times are lapses of effort, or preparation, or concentration.
Nobody knows The Process like Alabamians. It has rubbed off on them like truth, and they hold to it with a faith that only a gaudy winning percentage can back up.
They believe that if you take care of your job the winning will take care of itself.
They believe it is critical to invest in your program. Everybody gets that now. You pay your assistants well, you build the best facilities, you spend the money to give your program and every one of your players the best chance to succeed.
They understand that sometimes even your best players need a little spanking (right AJ McCarron?), but sometimes those who struggle the most need compassion, and education, and a little understanding.
The proof is in the championships. And nobody knows it like Alabama. Twelve years of Nick Saban is like an advanced degree in The Process.
If only the state of Alabama would do that thing that sports is supposed to do. If only everyone who follows every Saban move could see The Process as a metaphor for life and work and government and recognize it as more than just a game strategy. It’s a philosophy, and nowhere would it be more applicable than in Alabama, and especially Montgomery.
Every play. Every day. Every way.
In football we laugh at those who claim “We want Bama!” In life they laugh when they hear Alabamians say “Thank God for Mississippi.”
Because as a state Alabama does not invest to make every player better.
Because Alabama government, over a long period of time, has determined it is easier to accept mistakes than to correct them.
Because the state does not attend to details, in health or education or infrastructure or crime, that lead to victories.
Because state politicians have a history of shortcuts that put them in prison instead of the end zone.
And because of those things the state of Alabama cannot recruit the best players, to government or industry or the arts. Not without paying them a boatload in benefits that ought to be illegal.
Alabama has had 12 years of Saban’s process, and the state has seen 12 years of results.
It’s on us, now. Perhaps we need a spanking.
John Archibald, a Pulitzer Prize winner, is a columnist for Reckon by AL.com. His column appears in The Birmingham News, the Huntsville Times, the Mobile Register and AL.com. Write him at email@example.com.