Nick Saban and the Future of Alabama

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Do you know what would throw the Senate race between pedophile Roy Moore and Doug Jones into an absolute tizzy? It would turn the race upside down if Alabama head coach Nick Saban were to speak out on behalf of one of the candidates. It might also mean a complete and utter withdrawal of corporate participation in the state's economic life. There are precedents for this sort of economic catastrophe.

Given the economic backlash against discriminatory legislation passed in North Carolina and Indiana, many Alabamians -- "mainstream" Republicans alongside the chronically thwarted liberals -- are bracing, if Moore wins the election, for what Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox told me could be a "catastrophic" blow to state commerce and self-esteem, notably to the 24-karat "brand" of Alabama's second-best-known celebrity, the Tide's coach, Nick Saban. As Saban further assumes the Christ-like mystique of his walking-on-water predecessor, legendary football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, after Alabama's ascension to the playoffs for the national title -- and as Tuesday's electoral crossroads gains scriptural meaning nationwide -- a natural question arises: What would Saban do?

Saban is resolutely apolitical and not even from Alabama. He takes over eleven million dollars in salary each year and is the highest paid public official in the state, by a country mile. If he were to speak out before Tuesday's special election, it would probably throw the race to Jones if he were to endorse him; it would also bring down the scorn of the entire nation if he were to endorse noted child molester Roy Moore.

Well, don't worry Republicans. You're not getting anything out of Saban:

Among the more crushing regrets of Alabama's heartbroken liberals is that Bear Bryant didn't translate his bulletproof popularity into moral authority and move the state to the right side of civil rights history in the 1960s. If the Ghost of Winningest Coaches Past were to visit Saban this season, I suspect he might urge his heir to think bigger than his own crowning legacy, a stadium full of houndstooth apparel, honoring his signature hat.

Local sports reporters haven't broached the legacy thing with this coach, although columnist Joseph Goodman says Saban could "influence the race with one sentence. He wouldn't even have to endorse anyone. He could just ask, 'What's best for the future of Alabama?'" But Goodman, a Birmingham native, points out that Saban is from West Virginia. And "to really care about dysfunction in a state like Alabama when you make $8 million a year," he told me, "I think you have to be from here." 

Saban, who actually will be paid $11.125 million this season, declined my invitations to discuss leadership and "the awful responsibility of Time" outside of 60 minutes on Saturday. So, it remains up in the air whether the coach, come Tuesday, will get a senator he can be proud of when he and his team take the field on New Year's Day -- or if he'll be left the high priest of a pariah state.

It's true what they say--not all heroes wear capes. And not every highly-paid football coach has the guts to do the right thing. We live in an age of disappointment and, every day, we see the abject failure of our elites in all walks of life, and there isn't anything we can do about it.

If Moore wins, the State of Alabama should become a pariah state, one where no one in their right mind would want to spend corporate dollars on anything. It's not a question as to whether or not organizations like the NCAA will have to take a side after Tuesday, should Moore win. It's a question of how damaging a nationwide boycott of the state would be and whether or not it would compel anyone to do the right thing.

If you remember what happened to then-Governor Mike Pence in Indiana, you know that the state's incredibly shortsighted anti-gay law cost the city $60 million dollars in revenue before it was overturned in a matter of days. If the same pressure were applied to Alabama, all hell would break loose. The question is, would someone like Saban be forced to speak out and take a side if the NCAA threatened to stop permitting Alabama and Auburn from competing?

Given how this year has gone, I'm not betting on anyone doing the right thing for a good long while.