Crimson Tide

Posted by Ellen

It was a thousand and one years ago yesterday that the Viking Cnut (aka Knut, Knud, or Canute) was crowned King of All England. 

Cnut was a wise and good king, or so they say, but he is best remembered for something he didn't do. Briefly: it was told of him that he had his throne placed in the surf at the seaside, where he held court in his robes and crown with full royal regalia. He ordered the tide to go back out, but the tide didn't obey. "See that?" said Cnut, more or less. "I'm not the one who really runs things around here."

It never happened; the story is a bit like the legend of George Washington chopping down that cherry tree, in that it first appeared long after Cnut's death in the moralistic writings of a clergyman.

But what's the moral of the non-event? The usual interpretation, even to this day, is that Cnut was an idiot with delusions of grandeur, who badly needed a reality check with respect to the powers that be.

But the intended lesson, according to Henry, Archdeacon of Huntingdon, who first wrote the apocryphal story as a poem in the twelfth century, was that King Cnut knew from the start that no edict of his could turn back the tide. He was a wise and good king. His courtiers, on the other hand, were brown-nosing fools who expected way too much from him–in other words, they were getting on his nerves. He staged a little demonstration to remind them that even the King of All England was a mere mortal who had his limits.

Which brings us to tomorrow, January 8, when a pack of hounds from the realm of Georgia will attempt to turn back the Crimson Tide of Alabama in a sporting contest established to determine the collegiate football champion of all America.

Cnut couldn't do it. Can the Dawgs of Georgia? We'll find out, won't we. Roll Tide.

Posted by Ellen

After Alabama won the Peach Bowl last Saturday, Ringo Starr apparently tweeted this picture of himself, along with the text "Roll Tide peace and love."

Ringo has been a Bama fan for thirty years now, thanks to his friendship with Fred Nall Hollis, a multimedia artist from south Alabama who uses the single name Nall professionally. The two met in 1986, when Nall rented a house he owned in the south of France to Ringo and his wife, Barbara Bach. They got to talking about the artwork hanging in the house, and then Ringo asked Nall if he would teach him how to draw and paint.

The art lessons continued off and on through the 1980s and '90s, and in recent years Ringo has launched an art career of his own, working in digital media.

Nall has painted two portraits of Ringo, who has become active in the work of Nall's foundation. The foundation focuses on helping artists and art students recover from addiction and create new sober, artistically vital lives for themselves.

One of Ringo's drumsticks sits among the paintbrushes in Nall's Fairhope studio.

The picture below, "Inside the Barn," is a recent creation by Nall.

For those among us who haven't been paying attention, the Crimson Tide face off against Clemson next Monday for the national championship.  Peace and Love!

Posted by Ellen

Alabama punt returner and cornerback Javier Arenas made a prediction in early December, about a month before the Tide defeated Texas in the Rose Bowl to claim its first national championship since 1992. "It will be," he said, "an extravagant moment."

Only he wasn't talking about taking a shot at the national title. He was referring to the commencement ceremony scheduled for Dec 12, when he would receive his college degree with a major in public relations, after just three and a half years at Alabama. In addition to completing heavy courseloads and winning national recognition on the football field, Arenas won awards for public service in Tuscaloosa, working with children in local schools and hospitals.

The only competition he lost was his race with his brother, who played football at Nebraska, to become the first college graduate in the family. His brother graduated last spring. "I'm second, but it's still a great honor," Arenas said. "From no one in our family graduating from college to now two college graduates--I'll take that any year."

Despite being one of the smallest players in Division I college football, at just 5-9, Arenas's football statistics ranked him high on the top-ranked team in the nation. Before the championship game, his total punt-return yardage was just a few yards shy of the national NCAA career record; with just one or two half-decent returns at the Rose Bowl, he would be able to set a new all-time record. But Texas wasn't taking any chances; every kick was directed to the part of the field farthest away from Arenas, even if it meant kicking out of bounds. He will leave Alabama still ranked as only the second-best punt returner in history.

Now, after last night's game, Alabama has the championship, its 13th in school history, and Arenas's teammate Mark Ingram has the Tide's first Heisman Trophy. Meanwhile, Javier Arenas, an all-American who almost certainly will be drafted early by the pros, has his degree. "If football doesn't work out," he said, "I'll be fine working in my field."

That's the way all college sports stories (and all cowboy movies) are supposed to go. Sometimes life imitates mythology.

Posted by Ellen

All five Stein boys touched down in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a few days ago and claimed the beachhead for the Crimson Tide. That's not very hard to do in Tuscaloosa.

The occasion was the premier social event of the year, on New Year's Day, the wedding of Neely Sims and Damon Ray.

Posted by Ellen

Please forgive me for writing here about Alabama football--just this once, I promise, at least till next year.

Some people don't like football. And even among those who do like football, some don't like Alabama football. All I can say is: better luck in your next life.

Nobody doesn't like Terrence Cody--Mount Cody--the unheralded defensive lineman from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College who showed up for practice in Tuscaloosa weighing 400 pounds. Off the field, they say, he's a gentle, teddy bear sort of guy, who likes cartoons on TV and sleeps on Spiderman sheets. On the field, he's not gentle; Alabama's defense is ranked number one in the nation, and on that defense Cody has participated in more than his share of tackles and sacks. Last Saturday, he saved a close game for the Tide by blocking two field goal attempts, including one in the final seconds of the game.

But Mount Cody's value to the team doesn't really show up in the formal statistics. Basically, he is so big and strong that the opposing team will need two guys to contain him. This double-teaming gives his teammates a numerical advantage; because of Cody, somebody else is wide open to make more tackles and sacks.

Last Saturday, Tennessee put two guys on Cody, the Sullins brothers, identical twins who are big, strong, experienced offensive linemen. They each weigh something like 275 pounds. Cody has trimmed down a bit; even at 400 pounds he had moves, but now at 365 he can almost run. Still, he outweighed either of the Sullins boys by a good 90 pounds. Several times during the game, double-teaming didn't work to stop him; he would swat the first guy out of the way before the second guy showed up to help--and when Cody gets moving, it might take three or four guys to stop him.

Bama has a number ofl exciting players, including defensive linebacker Rolando McClain, who seems to be a football genius, always guessing right about what the other guys are going to do with the ball. On offense, there's the ridiculously fast receiver Julio Jones and the running back Mark Ingram, a sort of zombie runner who won't stay dead.

But last week was all about Mount Cody. Here he is, number 62,  blocking a kick., Notice the Tennessee player lying down in front of him, number 69--that's one of the Sullins brothers, just trying to do his job.