Are Alabama Fans Nuts?

A lot of the commentary following the (long overdue) firing of Mike Shula has featured statements of varying degrees of intensity to the effect that the Alabama fan base is: a) greedy b) stupid c) spoiled d) ignorant or e) all of the above. They either state or imply that we didn't give Shula a fair chance to prove himself, and that as a result of fan pressure and our desire to win, the job is less attractive than it once was.

My answer is in two parts, taking the second first. A coach who wants to go where there is no pressure to win isn't the guy I want running our team in the first place. I want someone who will get up early, stay up late, get mad when he loses, and change things that aren't working. I want somebody who eats, breathes, dreams (on those rare moments when he does sleep) and lives Bama football. I want somebody who will be as upset as I am when we lose a big game (and somebody who won't let us lose the little ones any more!) instead of telling us "we're close."

As to the first part, there's really only one answer: 0-19. That's our record when we trailed going into the fourth quarter. Well actually, there are two anwers. 2-14. That's our record against the four strongest teams we play every year--Auburn, LSU, Tennessee and Arkansas. It should go without saying that none of those wins came in this, Shula's fourth year at the helm. How much more evidence does it take? Five years? Six? Ten?

Mike Shula was a very good quarterback for Bama. I enjoyed watching him. He is, by all accounts a good man. No druken binges in strip clubs to embarrass the school. He works hard, and has good character. All of those things are wonderful traits for your friendly local banker or insurance salesman. They don't make him a good head coach.

So to answer my title question, yes of course Alabama fans are nuts. Fan is short for fanatic after all. My son is not named Bryant by complete coincidence! But calling for Shula's ouster is completely rational and well-supported by a considerable body of evidence.


New Bama Head Coach

With Mike Shula fired, the talk now turns to who will be the next head football coach at the University of Alabama. I think we can dismiss several of the names floating around without much work.

Nick Saban is only in his second year with the Dolphins, and they're on a roll. Sure it would be nice to have a proven winner, but he's done his time in the college ranks, and it seems highly unlikely to me that he's going to give up the pros to come to Alabama. Lots of talk about Steve Spurrier too...those who want Bama to actually use our offensive talent would be happy with that, but it's hard to see him as a good fit for the tradition of the Tide. (At least we wouldn't be scoring one touchdown per game!)

Then there's Bobby Petrino. If he's tired of being with a very good team that doesn't get taken seriously becuase of the conference he's in, Bama might be a good fit. The reported bad blood between him and Tuberville could be another incentive. I like Petrino because he's a proven head coach. It would be a horrible mistake to drag in another guy for on-the-job training. We've had enough of that for a lifetime.

Shula Gone? Sounds Like It

It hasn't been officially confirmed yet, but the Tuscaloosa News is reporting that Mike Shula has been fired. Apparently the final straw was not his miserable performance on the sidelines or his inability to motivate his players, but his insistence on not firing ANY of his assistants, especially Dave Rader.

While loyalty is a valuable and honorable character trait, it should not be confused with blind stubborness. If that is indeed the reason, then Mike Shula will have been fired for the same thing that kept him from being a successful coach--unwillingness to change what wasn't working.


Thanksgiving Meditation

They (whoever "they" are) say that 38 million people are traveling for the holiday weekend...I care about two. The kids are coming home from college for the first time since we dropped them off back in August--which feels like years ago, even though it's only three months. I can't wait!

Every single American has enough blessings to spend the whole day giving thanks (would that we were such a nation), but I am grateful for my family. For more than twenty years, Brenda has encouraged, helped, edited, and otherwise improved both my work and my life. I could not imagine living without her...she is, to borrow a line from Ladyhawke "my last and best reason for living."

The two great kids coming home make their parents so proud. Their attitudes and actions are both exemplary, and I can't wait to see them! Hurry up American, get them here already would you!


Fire Mike Shula Now (Part 6)

It's time for Mike Shula to go. (Yes, I know I've said it before, but he keeps on proving it again and again.)

What we saw today against Auburn was EXACTLY what we're going to get as long as he's the coach. We're going to be a lethal combination of clueless and gutless on the goal line. We're going to keep trying to run the ball up the middle when we've already proved we can't. We're going to be horrible at clock management and time out use. We're going to lose to our main opponents. (Shula is 0-4 against Auburn and LSU!) And most disheartening of all....

We've now trailed 19 times entering the fourth quarter in Shula's four years as coach. We have yet to win one of those games. Stop and read that again. Never. Not once. No comebacks! And that doesn't even tell the whole story. You see it gets worse--we lose when we are ahead. In fact, four of our six losses this year have come in games in which we had a lead in the second half.

And that's why Mike Shula needs to go. He can't coach his team to hold a lead...and he can't coach his team to comeback when the other team has one. The pride and poise and character and conditioning that once carried Alabama to many memorable come-from-behind wins...including the ones Shula QBed, like the 85 Iron Bowl, are not there now. That comes down to coaching. And that's why if Bama wants to win, it's time (past time) to fire Mike Shula.


Party Faithful, Meet Bus

From the insightful Peggy Noonan:

What is the first thing men do when they're drowning? They save themselves. With the waters rising on every side the president will attempt to re-enact his first and most personally satisfying political success when, as governor of Texas, he won plaudits and popularity for working hand in glove with Democrats. He accepted many Democratic assumptions--he shared them, it wasn't hard.

The White House's reaction to the recent election was, essentially, Now we can get our immigration bill through with the Democrats. That was a clue. I suspect the president will over the next two years do to Republicans what he did to Donald Rumsfeld: over the side, under the bus and off the sled. (emphasis added)

He doesn't need them. They're not popular. They're not where the action is. He'll work closely with Democrats, gain in time new and admiring press--"Bush has grown," etc.


The Folly of Teaching a Political Party a Lesson

Many conservatives openly hoped that the Republicans would lose the elections last week because they (correctly) perceived the party's apostasy from the conservative agenda that put them in power in the first place. Out of control spending and the institution of massive new entitlement programs were not supposed to be the result of Republican control of both the White House and Congress. But that's what we got. So a lot of people either stayed home or voted for the Democrats to "teach them a lesson."

That is utter folly. It won't work. It can't work. And the evidence is already mounting (for those who still need convincing). Rather than taking their time and determining a direction, the remaining Republicans in Congress are rushing to hold new leadership elections, apparently to put the same kind of people who ran the train off the track in the first place. Now President Bush has picked the laughable Mel Martinez to head the RNC. Talk about a sharp stick in the eye to conservatives who care about immigration. And pitching Rumsfeld overboard in the matter he did (for Heaven's sake, if you're going to fire the man, do it in time for it to still matter!), President Bush has showed his willingness to cave to the Dems in a way that bodes ill for the next two years.

I wasn't happy with the lack of output during six years of Republican control. They got so much less done than they should have, and they pushed through a lot of very non-conservative junk. There have been good moments, but on the whole it was a huge missed opportunity. But most of those who remain after Tuesday's massacre haven't learned anything from the loss.

Oh yeah, one more thing. A bunch of people talk like it's automatic that in two years, the GOP will regain control. Don't bet on it.


The University of Alabama Is Run by Idiots

I've been calling for the firing of Mike Shula for weeks now. And nothing in last night's loss to LSU changed my mind. Yes, the play calling was (a little bit) better...I liked the on-side kick (although we didn't move the ball after)...but the problems were still exactly the same. Move the ball between the 20s and fail to score in the red zone. Yuck.

But I have little hope that the school is going to do anything. This week, those blithering idiots decided to sue Daniel Moore. Now if you don't know Bama football, this won't mean much to you, but Moore's artwork of famous plays by the Crimson Tide is legendary in the South. His painting of Cornelius Bennett obliterating Steve Buerlein of Notre Dame called "The Sack" hangs in the Bear Bryant museum. He has painted the outstanding plays that I remember so well. But apparently he's doing too well at it--and now the school is suing him (despite giving him a sideline pass for two decades!) for violating their "intellectual property."

I don't think there's enough intellect in the Athletic Department to convince a judge of their case. And I hope they lose. Frankly, I'm ashamed and embarrassed of "my" school. Roll Tide--but get us some leadership first!


Thank You Veterans

According to a news report I heard on the radio this morning, there are 14 living veterans of World War I (the war to end all wars they called it then). The youngest is 106! They were in uniform 88 years ago tomorrow when at 11:11 on 11/11, the guns fell silent. They, like all the men and women who have worn the uniform of our nation and risked (and often paid) so much for our freedom deserve our thanks and gratitude.

Falling as it does on a Saturday this year, Veteran's Day will receive even less notice than usual. And that's a shame. Tomorrow, take a minute out of watching Alabama's worthless coach get us whipped in a yet another game or whatever else you have planned for the day and give thanks for...and to...genuine American heroes. God bless the members, current and past, of our Armed Forces.


A Perfect One Sentence Election Summary

This is why I really hate James Lileks (and also why I read him every day!)--he's so stinking good as a writer. In a single sentence, he captures the entire essence of the meaning of the 2006 election results:

If I were an Iraqi I wouldn’t necessarily be booking a spot in the line to the embassy roof, but I’d be checking price and availability.

In Which I Struggle against the Destructive Tendency to Blame the Voters

I am struggling with the results of last night's elections...and no, not just because I was so spectacularly and completely wrong about what was going to happen. When I heard the news report that according to the exit polls, 70% of the voters said Iraq was very important to them, my first thought was "What's wrong with the other 30 percent?"

Frankly I have a hard time believing that people went to the polls and put in power a political party that is not serious about fighting and winning the war on terror. Part of the reason that I was so far off is that I wanted to believe people could see through the rhetoric of the "cut and run" Murtha-Pelosi-Dean-Kerry crowd and understand the consequences of putting them in power. But blaming the electorate is an unproductive and even destructive tendency. So the way I see it, there are two possible explanations for the results:

First, it is possible that we are not really engaged in an existential struggle with an enemy committed to our destruction. Clearly many people do not see Islamic terrorism as a long-term, virulent threat against our nation and our freedoms. Surely Churchill must have felt the frustration I feel with these folks in the mid-30s as he tried in vain to warn of the consequences of the rise of Hitler.

Second, the Republicans simply failed to make the case that there is such a war going on and/or that they were serious about winning it. This explanation (I believe) better fits the known facts. The President has done a poor job of presenting the need for the war, a poor job proclaiming the progress in the war, and a poor job of laying out the alternatives to victory. He and his political party paid the price.

This explanation further resonates with me because even many Republicans I know are not persuaded. In fact, some intelligent friends of mine (and much better election result predictors!) don't really see any difference between the two parties and don't mind the outcome. And if we failed to make the case to our own party, we can hardly be surprised when the other side didn't see it.

The replacement of Rumsfeld with Gates (yet another retread from Bush 41) is clearly an attempt to signal "message received" whether it began prior to the returns or not. Whether it will help us win the war is an open question.

So that leaves the Republican party a big task...but also a big opportunity. For with the Dems in control of Congress (and they will be--the talk about "too close to call" isn't going to change the results in the end) their ideas will now be competing for acceptance in the marketplace. They will no longer get to argue that anything is better than what we have now without putting forward an agenda of their own. What that agenda is will go a long way to determining if the shift in power if temporary or long-lasting.


It Tastes Just Like Chicken

Well, having had a heap of crow for a midnight snack, it looks like that's going to be on the menu for breakfast as well (and probably lunch and dinner for the next several days too). The polls were (pretty much) right, and I was wrong. The Dems have already grabbed the House, and history says the Senate switches too.

Given Allen's incredible shrinking lead in Virginia, ditto Talent's in Missouri, and Burns in Montana, that seems very possible. I sure ain't staying up to watch. There will be plenty of time for that tomorrow.

As for crow, it tastes just like chicken!

Cognative Dissonance

The exit polls are junk. In fact, they're almost a carbon-copy of 2004. Remember those? The ones that sent people into either a panic or a premature celebration...the ones that had Bush losing Pennsylvania by 18 (he lost by 2) or Florida by 1 (he won by 5). These aren't any better. I don't know what the media consortium did to "fix" them, but if Rick Santorum loses by 15 points, "May I live a thousand years and never hunt again."

I still don't know what's going to happen. But I do know this--what's been leaked so far is just as worthless as yesterday's polls. The ONLY poll that matters will be revealed here in a little while. Then I'll know whether I'm celebrating or eating crow.


Final 06 Picks

Maybe I'm crazy (wouldn't be the first time). I know I'm not using any controlled substances. I do have a preferred outcome. Discounting for that, here's what I think is going to happen tomorrow. The Democrats are going to be weeping, wailing and gnashing their teeth. The Republicans are going to be laughing all the way to the bank.

The Senate stays Republican. Range 54 to 56 seats. Yep, I think the Republicans are going to run the table. They currently hold 55 seats. I think they will net losing no more than one, and, if the stars are aligned, they may even pick one up--net.

The House stays Republican. Range--a loss of 8 to 11 seats net. (The Dems need 15 to take over.) There are a few incumbents who deserve to lose. Yes, Mr. Sherwood, I'm talking about you. No one is talking about Republican pickups, but even in 1994 four Democrats won Republican seats. I know 1994. 1994 was a friend of mine. And 2006, you're no 1994.

Why am I walking so far out on the limb with these predictions? Simply put, I do not believe the polls. I think the assumptions are wrong, the turnout models are wrong, the likely voter screens are totally screwed up, and the decline in response rates has rendered polling problematic. I think the press is telling us what they want to happen.

I may be all wet. I may be eating a plate full of crow. But that's what I think. We'll find out soon.

UPDATE: Just to make it clear, I am not saying the Republicans deserve to win. There's a whole lot of nose holding going on when I vote for them. They have fallen down on the job in too many ways to list in one post. It's just that the alternative--Dean, Pelosi, Murtha, Kerry--is too dangerous to even contemplate. I don't buy the whole "two years in the wilderness will teach the Republicans a lesson" line of thinking. There's a real shooting war with people who want to kill us going on. We can't afford two years right now.

UPDATE #2: Welcome Hugh Hewitt and Townhall readers. Please feel free to take a look around (if you've voted...otherwise get off the computer and go vote!) and kick the tires.

It's ALL about Turnout

This year's results, like those in all non-Presidential election years, will all come down to turnout. Who votes determines who wins. Look at these numbers from early voting in Broward County--a county, by the way, with a huge edge in Democratic registrations (from the Sun-Sentinel):

Countywide, 12.5 percent of all voters have voted with 8.4 percent by early voting, 4.1 percent by absentee. That includes 12.7 percent of the total registered Democrats in the county; 13.4 percent of the registered Republicans in Broward; and 7.7 percent of the third-party voters that had cast ballots by Monday.

I call your attention to two things. 1) Tell me again how enthused the Democrats are and how discouraged the Republicans are. It's conventional wisdom, but it's dead wrong. These predictions of massive Democratic gains are based on that model...which so far does not match available evidence. (But why let facts get in the way of a good political storyline?) In Broward county, Republican early/absentee voting is running almost 10% ahead of Dems! (That's not votes--that turnout percentage, but if a trend like that holds...) Yes, it's always dangerous to extrapolate from small sample sizes, but real world facts and pundit opinion are not lining up.

2) Those polls that are showing a large segment of "independent" voters are worthless. They may or may not be accurately reflecting what the voters think, but as a tool for judging the election results, they have ZERO value. These people, especially in an off year, just don't vote in large enough numbers to matter.

I'm saying it again. There are (I think) going to be some hugely surprised people by this time tomorrow night.

VERY Interesting

Nobody knows what's coming tomorrow, but there are signs here and there that it may not be what the Democrats and the media (there I go being redundant again) are expecting. Before we get too excited, there are also signs that the Dems will gain control of at least the House and possibly the Senata. As noted at the beginning, we just don't know.

Here are two straws in the wind from Michigan. 1) Late polling from one firm puts the race at 3 or 4 points (both governor and Senator) compared to others showing big leads for the Dem incumbents. Is this a break like the one that carried Engler over the top in 1990? (Or Do-Nothing Debbie in 2000?) Don't know. 2) The GOP in Michigan is bragging about their absentee vote farm program. They ID'd about a million people who showed signs of being Republicans but who were "low propensity" to vote in a mid-term election year. 62% of the absentee ballots received by the state are names from that list! If the GOTV effort on election day in Detroit/Wayne County falls short (and there is bad blood between the governor and the local people) this could be the upset of the night. Virtually everybody is giving this one to the Dems as a hold. If the Reps could steal one here, all bets are off. (Hat tip to Polipundit and Slate)

Stay tuned.


One More Thought on Ted Haggard

In 1983, there was a scandal in Washington (shocking right?) involving Congressmen and pages. Two men, one Republican (Dan Crane with a girl) and one Democrat (Gerry Studds with a boy) were found to have been involved with underage pages. (For what it's worth, Crane's political career ended, while Studds served 12 more years...and people say there's no difference between the parties. Hogwash.)

My father and I were watching the news when Crane called his press conference to confess his immoral behavior. With his wife at his side and tears in his eyes, he recounted and expressed regret for his conduct. My dad said, "I don't know how much pleasure he got, but it wasn't worth that!" I've never forgotten that statement. If more people thought about the consequences of their actions, there would be fewer public disgraces.


I Don't Like Mike

The University of Alabama, the players, and our fans deserve better than we're getting from Mike Shula. There is no excuse for losing at home to a 2 and 7 team. There is no excuse for losing to a team that has lost 23 straight conference road games. There is no excuse for failing to score an offensive touchdown. There is no excuse for poor clock and timeout management. There is no excuse for not having your team ready to play. There is no excuse for NEVER--not once in four years--having come from behind in the fourth quarter to win a football game.

Once again, Mike Shula has demonstrated that he does not know how to be a top-flight football coach. It's (past) time for him to go. Mal Moore should fire Mike Shula now--I don't mean at the end of the season. I don't mean at the end of the week. I mean fire him today.

This team should not be 6 and 4. The only reason we are is because of failures of the coaching staff. The talent is there to win...we just need the leadership to get the job done.


At the Risk of Being Cynical (Not that it's Ever Stopped Me!)

The timing of the disclosures about the alleged moral failings of Ted Haggard are intended, just as the Mark Foley emails (spread by Democratic operatives and held by ABC for MONTHS!), to influence the election next week--specifically by depressing the turnout of Christian voters. This tactic worked superbly for the Dems in 2000 with the George Bush DUI leak the weekend of the election. Hundreds of thousands of Christians did not go vote, and as a result, Bush lost the popular vote and nearly lost the White House. (If you ever pray, you should get down on your knees every night and thank God that Al Gore was not President on 9/11...and I mean that with complete honesty and sincerity.)

I don't know whether all of the charges are true. Haggard has apparently admitted to at least some of them, and resigned his position at his church and with the NAE. But the Denver TV station that broke the story had it for several weeks according to their account. Think they just "happened" to decide they had enough backing for it yesterday instead of say next Thursday???

The sad reality is that, as the prophet Nathan said of King David, when believers sin, we give God's enemies cause to drag His name in the dirt. And in the grand scheme of things, that matters a lot more than the outcome of a few close political races. That said, I would urge every reader to go vote anyhow. Haggard isn't on the ballot...and his sinful behavior shouldn't cause you to shirk your responsibility as an American citizen.


Would You Buy a Used Slander from this Man?

John Kerry slandered the troops. No, not in California a couple days ago...thirty plus years ago. He proclaimed his fellow Vietnam vets to be war criminals "reminiscent of Genghis Khan."

So pardon me for not believing his "apology" for this one. I think the only thing he's sorry for is that he got caught in a gaffe--which is politician speak for mistakenly telling the truth. The impact of that one statement on the coming election may be enough to pull the Dems back from the brink of victory. If so, how fitting that it would come the mouth of the millionaire-marrying undistinguished loser they themselves put forward as their standard bearer in 2004.


Six Days Out, Here's What I Know

I don't know what's going to happen in next Tuesday's elections. (I don't think anybody else does either...and that's the point of this post.) There are enough opinion polls floating around to choke an elephant--and given the results of most them, that may be what ends up happening. But...the way I see it, there are three possibilities:

1) The polls are right, and the GOP is heading for a loss that, while not disastrous by historical standards, will cost them control of both houses of Congress.

2) The polls are close, and Dems will gain enough seats in the House to take over, and come close enough in the Senate to basically put the place into gridlock.

3) The polls are off, and the evil genius Rove and Chimpy McBushitler are going to pull a rabbit out of the hat that will result in much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth (not to mention lawsuits and claims of vote fraud).

I still for some reason think the polling is screwy. Looking at the sampling rates and the sample sizes, I don't trust them. Maybe the Reps are blowing smoke, but the turnout operation is in high gear, and may just be enough to turn the tide. Maybe not. Who knows?

Here's what I know for sure:

1) I will be happy to see the end of political ads. They are running back to back to back much of the time here in Oklahoma. And frankly, in my professional opinion, almost all of them stink. Is there no market for creativity in political ads?

2) I will vote. Unlike some of my friends, I haven't given up on the process. Every time I get disgusted what politicians, I remember my Dad serving in the Army and get off the couch and do my (very small) part to preserve the freedom he paid for.

3) President Bush is not going to lose. Hint for the donkey types--he ain't on the ballot. Now does he have an enormous stake in the outcome? Of course. But he isn't running. And he won't be in 2008 either. Get some new material guys...and maybe a plan for the future. You might be able to win this time by being the un-Repubs, but it won't work twice.