I am a college football fan. Watching the Alabama Crimson Tide play is like reading a good book. You won’t know the outcome until the last page.
Through the years, I have supported them whether they had a winning season or not.
When I lived in South Carolina, Saturdays were reserved for watching the Tide roll.
Since I moved back to Alabama, Saturdays are spent with my brother and sister-in-law watching our favorite team. We scream, jump up and down, and eat good food. It’s the perfect family pastime.
Alabama played Mississippi State this past weekend. The team was coming off a tough loss to LSU.
Watching them come alive after the previous loss was great. They looked and played like they had bounced back into a winning routine.
Tua Tagovailoa, the quarterback, who had been sidelined recently with an ankle injury appeared to have recovered and was throwing like the champ he is. Coach Saban had called the quarterback a warrior for his efforts on the field during the LSU game.
A few minutes before halftime, two Mississippi players caught him as he threw the ball away and he went down under them. He didn’t get up. The silence was sickening.
Tua would be helped up by Alabama medical staff. It was evident he could not walk, and blood covered his face which reflected obvious signs of pain somewhere in his body. He was carted off the field and everyone said a silent prayer that his injuries weren’t too serious.
An Alabama orthopedic surgeon issued a statement later saying Tagovailoa suffered a dislocated hip and would be out for the rest of the season but was expected to make a full recovery.
The revelation that he would recover was such good news. But then the blame game began.
Social media trolls and sports analysts began pointing fingers at Coach Nick Saban for allowing Tagovailoa to be in the game when Alabama was winning.
Some of the accusations included claims that Alabama was jockeying for a position in the College Football Playoffs and would play an injured player to win. Others accused Saban of allowing him to play to enrich his pockets if Alabama went to the playoffs. The mean ones even blamed Tua himself, saying he was greedy and just wanted to improve his stats to become a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.
Most college football coaches allow their starting quarterback to play the entire first half whether it is a blowout or not. What happened to Tua really was a horrendous accident.
College football is a rough game, but it is also a money maker. It is the game where you are only as good as your last championship and wins are taken for granted. That is the unedited reality.
Tua was reportedly set to sign a pro contract in April worth $25 million guaranteed. He was one of five candidates being considered for the Heisman Trophy, which is a big deal to a college athlete. He was also considered to be one of the top draft picks in the NFL.
Last year, the top NFL draft pick signed a 5-year contract worth $35.2 million including a signing bonus of $23.6 million. The second-round pick would get $33.6 million and even the third-round pick received $32.6 million. That’s a lot of reasons to play.
Football is a very physical game. Players get hurt, careers thrive and sadly some end. Yet young men keep signing up for it. You don’t have to be a psychologist to understand why.
The pressure is about to increase on these young men.
The NCAA announced recently it will begin the process to allow college athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness. Scholarship athletes have previously not been allowed to profit and if they tried to do so, they faced sanctions.
Alabama’s football future immediately became sports fodder. One analyst stated that our season just got “murkier.” Another claims the loss of Tua will loom over the rest of our season and we now become the underdog in the game with Auburn with no hope of playoff chances.
Tua’s injury was one of those moments that remind us how painful and devastating the game can be.
Tua tweeted to his fans from the hospital. “Thank you for all the prayers and well wishes. God always has a plan.”
Those overpaid sports analysts don’t know jack about Alabama football and its fans.
We have been champions in the past and we will be champions again.
Right now, we are more concerned about a young man who gave us his best Saturday afternoon and suffered the consequences.