12:42p.m. EST January 7, 2013
This championship game is different.
This championship game, the ghosts seem so alive, they might have their own tailgate party.
Notre Dame wins, and Knute Rockne nods approvingly. The Irish are back where he, and presumably the college football gods, always intended. And isn’t it about time?
Alabama wins, and Bear Bryant doffs a houndstooth hat in gratitude. He, too, once had a title bout with the Irish. He lost.
This championship game, the passion runs Marianas Trench deep.
Notre Dame had applications for 107,000 tickets from donors, and only 17,000 seats to sell. It’s not good when you must say no to someone who writes you checks.
Alabama football is a state treasure, as indigenous and eternal as the cotton fields. “It means the world to our fans,” linebacker Nico Johnson was saying. “We could go to Alaska and play a football game, and they’d be there.”
This championship game, history is not just for the codgers, to rehash over coffee. For the average 20-year-old, last week is too long ago to remember and antiquity is anything pre-Twitter, but these teams feel the push of the past. They must realize the big picture, if only because of the uniforms they wear.
“We don’t play just for ourselves or the coaches. We play for all the Notre Dame players who came before us, and set the stage for us,” said Irish tight end Tyler Eifert.
“You live life to be remembered, and do great things so that you can leave a legacy here when you’re gone,” said Crimson Tide defensive lineman Damion Square.
This championship game, the teams realize they would need as much time to count those against them, as those for them. Notre Dame carries the whiff of endless privilege, sure to antagonize a large audience. An Alabama title would only exacerbate national SEC fatigue. “Let’s face it,” center Barrett Jones said, “people are probably getting tired of us.”
This championship game, the coaches are the doorstep of their own pantheons.
On Sunday, they talked of their youth, and the lessons learned about the value of hard work. Brian Kelly mentioned washing dishes to make spending money in college. Nick Saban remembered pumping gas and washing cars at his father’s service station, dreading the navy blue sedans that would so easily show streaks.
They are now renowned men together at center stage, and if they are alike in anything, it’s how they are following the path of giants.
Notre Dame wins Monday night , and Kelly — “The most fearless coach I have ever been around,” defensive coordinator Bob Diaco called him — can shake hands with Parseghian and Holtz and Leahy and the rest. There are Irish coaches, and there are Irish championship coaches, and only one of those groups gets to be immortal.
“The charge immediately,” Kelly said of his ascension to the Golden Dome, “was to play for championships.”
Alabama wins Monday night, and Saban — “There is no question he is driven to be the greatest coach in the game,” defensive coordinator Kirby Smart said — owns four rings, three with the Tide. He would have every right to be mentioned in the same reverential tones as Bryant, no matter how much he dismisses the very idea.
“Really, there’s no one I know that I would say should even be spoken of in the same sort of circumstance at all,” Saban said of Bryant. “It’s not really about me at all. It’s all about this team, this game, this year, and none of that other stuff really matters from my standpoint.”
But it does matter.
This championship game, the new age of hyperventilating spread-out offenses – Generation TD – is on holiday. These are teams who claim to cherish traditional ways and traditional means.
“They like to keep it old school around here,” running back Eddie Lacy said of Alabama.
“It’s a little bit old-fashioned in the sense that this is about the big fellows up front,” Kelly said of Monday night.
This championship game, there is not the slightest doubt as to the mission, the aura, the reality that Monday night carries a meaning far, far beyond Sun Life Stadium. One reason these teams are here is that two coaches were able to get two locker rooms of athletes to understand the responsibility that comes with their helmets, to dream of it and work for it and make it happen.
“People expect greatness of us,” Notre Dame receiver TJ Jones said.
“It can hurt you,” Johnson said of the mantle to carry at Alabama, “or it can make you.”
This championship game, the echoes will bellow through the future, because every football memory lives on at Alabama and Notre Dame football, and that counts triple for titles won, and lost.
“If you start thinking about legacies, you just get caught up in a body of work, and this game is just not about a body of work,” Jones said. “It’s about one game, one night, and two teams.
“Your entire legacy is based on how you finished.”
So finish it, already. This championship game, Alabama wins, with defense, title game savvy, and Saban. Tide 17-10.
Nick Saban was born on October 31st, 1951 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Saban
October 31st, 1951
10 + 31 +1+9+5+1 = 57 = his life lesson = A real heartbreaker. Don’t cry for me.
October 31st, 1951
10 + 31 +2+0+1+2 = 46 = his personal year (from October 31st, 2012 to October 30th, 2013) = Making history. It’s about time.
46 year + 12 (December) = 58 = his personal month (from December 31st, 2012 to January 30th, 2013) = Time out. Half time. Overtime. Give me a break.
58 month + 7 (7th of the month on Monday January 7th, 2012) = 65 = his personal day = Worldly success. On top of the world. Making it big time (or, blowing it big time).
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