By Alex Norman
Schadenfreude: Pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune.
There was a lot of schadenfreude taking place last week in Knoxville and… well, just about everywhere in the world of college football.
When Alabama fell to Clemson 35-31 in the national championship game, it set off wild celebrations in South Carolina of course… but that didn’t mean others weren’t going to get in on the fun.
At Auburn, they rolled historic Toomer’s Corner with toilet paper. Normally that’s a tradition reserved for Auburn victories but they found just as much reason to party because their most bitter rivals were denied yet another national title.
Social media was filled with brand spanking new “Jordan Face” gifs and jokes were made about “2016 National Champion Alabama” t-shirts being sent to Senegal.
There are few things in life that bring people together more solidly than the failure of a dominant team in a big game.
The 1980 USSR hockey team. The 2005 Southern California Trojans. The 2011 Miami Heat. The 2016 Golden State Warriors. These were teams that saw their championship dreams end in spectacular fashion, and the wide majority of sports fans was giving each other a virtual high-five.
The 2007 New England Patriots were despised for the “spygate” rule violations. Losing in the Super Bowl and missing out on a perfect 19-0 season was pure bliss for sports fans.
But we are talking about Alabama here, so let’s dive in a bit deeper.
For the past 10 years Nick Saban has built a joyless machine hell-bent on destroying everything in its path. His talk about the “process” makes building a football team sound like using an assembly line to build a Model T.
Sports are supposed to be fun, but Saban approaches every minute like he is getting a root canal. Ever see him smile? It hardly ever happens and when it does you’d think that those muscles were controlled by remote control.
Now, you can’t argue with the success. Four national titles and 5 SEC championships over the past decade is a historic run. But at what cost? Saban famously said that during the lead-up to one of the national championship games he was miserable because that was taking away from time he could have been recruiting.
So even at the highest level, there is no joy in Mudville.
Unfortunately for Tennessee and the rest of the SEC, this is what you have to deal with. The Vols have the misfortune of playing Alabama every year. It has traditionally been a streaky series and these days the Crimson Tide has the upper hand. The Vols have lost 10 in a row to Alabama, and only twice over the past decade (2010, 2015) did they have a real chance to win the game.
The news isn’t much better for the other 12 teams in the conference. Last season Alabama went 14-1. The second best team according to record? Tennessee and Florida tied at 9-4. The Crimson Tide beat the Vols 49-10 and defeated Florida in the SEC title game 54-16.
The gap between Alabama and the rest of the Southeastern Conference has never been as wide as it is right now.
So honestly? Any Crimson Tide loss should be celebrated because it doesn’t happen often.
And as long as Nick Saban is running the show, it will stay that way. His record in Tuscaloosa in 114-19. That includes a 7-6 mark in his first year so since 2008, Alabama has gone 107-13!
People forget, but Tennessee has been to the mountain top of college football, and is historically one of the top 15 programs in the country. Vols head coach Butch Jones has his faults, but he has rebuilt things to the point where fans are upset with a 9 win season (they’d have built a statue for such an accomplishment a few years back).
Tennessee will win the Southeastern Conference title again.
It just might not happen until Saban retires.
So take your joy where you can get it.