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Don't Be One Of Those Saban Haters

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Expressionless, head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks on during pregame warmups. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.
Expressionless, head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks on during pregame warmups. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.

Every day for breakfast and lunch, this guy has the exact same meals. He says the lack of those decisions saves him important minutes in the day.

When he’s around, he’s unsocial, ignoring pleasantries and rarely noticing conversation, let alone jokes. He neither drinks nor does he partake in celebration.

This guy works a job like a mesmerized maniac until a bigger, better one steals his attention and writes him a fatter paycheck.

Do you hate this guy? Remember, hate by definition is intense. The widespread hatred of Nick Saban, the methodical Alabama head coach who eats two Oatmeal Pies every morning, doesn’t enjoy grandeur and jumps to a new job if he sees victory and dollars, is irrational if not absurd. 

We hate Saban because he doesn’t smile, and we think that means he’s taking success and happiness for granted.

Coaches call him Nicky Satan because he is built with a concrete determination that dominates recruiting living rooms from coast to coast.

The press berates “the devil himself” for legally oversigning and gray-shirting highly rated recruits.

Disgruntled fans in Saban's former haunts hold burning grudges, labeling their former coach disloyal and disingenuous.

All of this, viewed in the public forum, only adds fuel to the Saban-loathing fires. The uninformed fan is bound to be swayed by the discourse, which pigeonholes Saban as an enemy of the sport.

It's simple to replace the "b" with a "t" and be left with Satan. Hatred should not be so simple

Saban shares qualities with other successful coaches, many of whom are revered. Saban’s all-business attitude and lack of charisma is mirrored in championship counterparts Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs and Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots. Yet, Popovich’s awkward media relationship and Belichick’s consistent scowl often are lauded as character and considered part of the winning formula.

Why not also Saban’s ways?

The sole difference between Belichick/Popovich and Saban is that Saban has lacked loyalty. Saban always has had options. Whether it is the NFL or a higher-paying institution, he's a man on the move because he can move. If Belichick and Pop had the option to move up, they'd drop everything. The two Hall-of-Fame coaches are at their professional peaks. The only step is down. 

There are, of course, people who dislike or hate Belichick. Not so much Pop. There are plenty of reasons for that.

1. Belichick is in a larger market. Never underestimate that in sports. If it seems like you hear more about the Patriots, it’s because you do. ESPN knows its audience and caters to it. Saban's doings also are magnified under the immense microscope of the public eye. While Tuscaloosa isn't a big market, Alabama football carries the biggest of fandoms. Compare that with the Spurs, for example, the best team in the NBA right now. Can you name their starting five?

2. Coaches matter more in football. Despite his value, Popovich, and other NBA coaches, are complementary to the players — in terms of media coverage, popular opinion and many times, reality. There are more recognizable coaches in the NCAA right now than the NBA. 

3. Belichick cheated. Or at least his organization did, and we even gave it a name: Spygate. It was the final slice haters needed to scarf to have a whole hate pie. Now, in a barstool argument, Belichick opposers have a tangible, rational argument to dislike the man.

For Saban, what is it? While the rules bend under his control, they don’t break. His players are clean, even if he doesn’t know all their names, and more than a few graduate. He wins, showers and then gets dressed the following morning to win again.

He is built to win. He's a robot with the objective of victory and he doesn’t sugarcoat it. He follows his winning program precisely. If you aren’t living up to his demands, he’ll let you know about it then and there. Cameraman be damned. 

Instead of admiring that kind of attention to detail, focus and follow-through, it’s considered rude — like rudeness has relevance to a man paid millions to win a 60-minute game.

Our perspective is so off, we can't see that Saban’s is right on. The coaches that fill newspaper inches with clichés have their slice of the market. Embrace diversity and respect a coach who tells us how it is, even though it’s the first time we’ve heard it.

If you’re like me and you prefer your coaches with charisma, nobility, self-deprecation and maybe a touch of BS, get over the hate. Saban’s style doesn’t match mine, but that is far from hate. He’s the greatest college football coach in the land, and he didn’t get there by adhering to the standards of faceless others calling him the devil.

He got there by not budging. Deal with it.