By SCOOTER HOBBS
Tiger Rag Guest Columnist
I’m not judging anybody, OK?
Nor would I presume to tell any free Americans how to spend their spare time or their discretionary dollars.
That’s between you and your conscience and maybe the Tiger Athletic Foundation.
I’m just saying that it’s neither a moral obligation nor a civic duty to load up the family wagon and trudge into Tiger Stadium for a blasted spring football game.
If you like that sort of thing, fine.
It’s an entertainment option (of sorts).
There’s nothing really WRONG with going. It’s not like you’ll open yourself up for ridicule. If you just want to congregate with buddies and maybe fire up the grill and cook something or if you want to get the kids out of the house and really just need an off-season Tiger Stadium fix, great. Knock yourself out.
Just don’t expect any real football. It rarely breaks out in the spring.
See, for all the cultural advances mankind has made in the last century, a proper and honest deciphering of a spring football game remains a tough nut to crack.
You can dress it up with marching bands, bring in real referees, paint the field and you can even show the blasted thing on television, which means it must be important, right?
But at the end of the day, no matter how you divide the teams up to script whatever you want to happen, it remains, at its core, a game where one team is still — let me say this one more time — PLAYING AGAINST ITSELF.
Which makes for an excellent nap and not much else.
Oh, there’s football stuff going on. But it’s the technical, lab-rat stuff that only the finely tuned eyes of highly paid coaches can discern, and only then after hours and hours of film study.
There’s a fair amount of “teaching” going on, and if you remember nothing else from your college days you know how utterly boring that can be.
It’s not fit for layman fans’ eyes.
And, whatever is accomplished, whatever rumors of phenoms and the tales of their derring-do leak out to the public, the coaches will start changing their minds about two games into the real season when forced to dodge real bullets.
“But at the end of the day, no matter how you divide the teams up to script whatever you want to happen, it remains, at its core, a game where one team is still — let me say this one more time — PLAYING AGAINST ITSELF. Which makes for an excellent nap and not much else.”
But how important is it, really?
It’s so inconsequential that twice I have been asked to guest-coach this foolishness.
Or maybe it was three times. I forget.
None of them were life-changing experiences, although it was kind of cool one year when Glenn Guilbeau and I were entrusted with one squad’s fortunes. We coached great — I did, anyway; Guilbeau was kinda lost — they just played really bad). But Nick Saban not only allowed us to cheat, he openly condoned and verily encouraged it.
Yet how important can it be if a couple of slackers like us were left in charge (well, anyway, we got to wear a whistle).
Presumably LSU will have a spring game shortly.
Fortunately, it appears that LSU has at least backed off its efforts to turn the whole thing into a can’t-miss spectacle.
The school gave it the good old college try for a few years, even tried some gimmicks and non-football entertainment add-ons, and it just wouldn’t take in Louisiana.
Even following national championships. There was one especially awkward moment in the 2012 spring game when the school tried to make a big deal about welcoming the SEC Champions when all anybody could really remember was last seeing them get shut out by Alabama in the BCS championship game.
But spring games had become quite trendy in much of the SEC.
The Bayou State just wasn’t buying into the peer pressure.
Florida had a pretty fair history of getting, oh, maybe 35,000 or so into its stadium. I’m told Auburn had something similar going on.
But, of course, it was Alabama (Nick Saban) that jump-started the mad rush, the near panic among competing schools to prove that their fans were just as blindly loyal (gullible) as the next place.
At Alabama, the spring game is something of a religious pilgrimage, and, with free tickets, it can turn the area surrounding Bryant-Saban Stadium into a traffic jam that post-race Talladega would envy.
The school — well, Nick Saban — regularly threatens to get 100,000 to show up for the silliness. And they’re proud of it.
Good for them. But remember what your mother told you when you informed her that little Johnny down the street was getting a BB gun?
“Fine. If Johnny jumps off a bridge, are you going to jump off of a bridge?”
In other words, case closed.
That’s the way I feel about Alabama and its spring game obsession.
Besides, I suspect that there’s a fairly large fear factor at work there in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama fans have been conditioned to believe that Saban gets information from the secret crimson chips implanted in their ear lobes.
And he knows if they go to the spring game or — more importantly — if they don’t go.
He also remembers who among them packs into the Hoover, Ala., hotel lobby for his appearances at SEC Media Days.
They have their reasons to be suspicious.
One year, one season when the Tide was getting extremely efficient at deciding home games by halftime, school officials (maybe on Saban’s orders?) started taking note of which fans had vacated the stadium by the fourth quarter.
They all got a stern scolding, their true allegiances were openly questioned and many of them were shamed into apologizing and promising never to try to beat the traffic again.
And if that’s the way Alabama fans want to live, let them.
LSU fans never really fell for the spring game foolishness, and, to be honest, I was always fairly comfortable living in a state that knew better. Louisiana fans have shown they know their football and they aren’t easily fooled into believing the charade of an intra-squad game in any way resembles the real thing.
Spoiler alert: I can already tell you what will happen this time.
LSU is going to look like Texas Tech throwing the ball all around the lot, hopefully with precision.
Make of it what you will. They can script these things any way they want.
But, bottom line: Go, if you must, but don’t feeling guilty for finding something better to do.