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Pants Aflame

Those touchy-feely sports writers. Some of them write about games their entire careers and never grow up, trapped in a kiddie-land -- with free buffets and sandwiches at stadiums stretching across the great expanse of America -- forever. That's the only way I can explain their disillusionment at the Nick Saban departure to Birmingham, like kids who really really believed in the man from the North Pole before the rug was pulled out from under them. The Miami Herald's Dan Le Batard calls Saban "greasy, dishonorable and coward," a "failure," "loser" and "gasbag."

Done yet, Dan? Nah. He throws in weasel, quitter, amateur, snake-oil salesman, slimy, on and on.

The Sun-Sentinel's Dave Hyde goes down the same road, but keeps his head about him, noting that coaches routinely lie to reporters. True that. He also brings up Pat Riley's lie -- that he's leaving because of his hip problems instead of the fact that he can't, he can't, he can't stand losing (The Police wrote his theme song). But then he commits a cardinal sin: Hyde writes that he's not so much disillusioned by what Saban has done to him, but what he's done to Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga: "Lie to us? Join the club. Lie to the boss who was your personal ATM card and


vacation planner? You've got to be colder than Antarctica."

Does Hyde have any idea of the kind of cold-hearted, scandalous, dishonest things Huizenga has done in his day to build and keep his business empire? Read up on him Dave, he's sort of part of your beat after all.

Thank goodness for Don Shula, an avid Pulp reader (okay, maybe not) who took my line of thinking: Who wanted the guy anyhow? The ever-sturdy Sentinel scribe Harvey Fialkov reports, in perhaps the only truly sane story on the matter, Shula's clear-eyed response (when he wasn't being cajoled by Le Batard): "My reaction is that Saban in two years was 15-17. I don't think that will be any great loss. The bottom line is he didn't do the job that he was hired to do here."

Ultimately Saban did the team a favor: He stepped down from the mess he created. Another year would have likely only prolonged the obvious conclusion: Saban doesn't belong in the NFL.

But I wondered: How would the Birmingham media handle the Saban stink emenating from South Florida? I checked the Birmingham News and found this lead story by Ian R. Rapaport. Here's about all it said about it:

"From the beginning, Huizenga knew Saban might leave for a college job. Most NFL contracts include a no-compete clause that would prevent a coach from leaving for a college or pro job. Saban and Huizenga negotiated to allow Saban to leave for a college job without penalty, according to a source familiar with the arrangement."

Well, gee, finally a dose of reality. The controversy wasn't about his inglorious exit from South Florida -- who the fuck really cares, you know? -- but the hugeness of his four-year $32 million contract. The newspaper also had this history of Alabama's pursuit of Saban.

Then I went to the Birmingham Post-Herald and found this. The home page includes a picture of the newspaper staff over the caption: "Goodbye Birmingham, and thank you." I had forgotten that the newspaper went out of business last year.

Now that newspaper's sports writers really had something to be emotional about.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman