Nick Saban and his Alabama football team arrived in Miami on Wednesday to play Notre Dame in one of the most anticipated championship games ever in South Florida.
For Dolphin fans, Sabans return to the scene of his overblown crime is as good an occasion as any to take a fresh look at the man we love to loathe, the man at the center of this much-anticipated title fight.
Water cannons shot arcs of spray over the Delta team planes as they landed. Dolfans, if in charge of the arrival, might have ordered the cannons aimed squarely at a deplaning Saban.
Well, South Florida, it is time to finally bury Nick Satan.
I mean that with benevolence, not malevolence.
It is time we moved past the past, beyond all of his old deceit and our stubborn animus. Past all of the stuff that makes so many of us look at Saban even now, years later and still want to conjure feelings so close to hatred and apply that devils nickname that fits so neatly.
I say it is time to forgive Saban his clumsy departure from the Dolphins.
Do more than forgive. Appreciate what he has accomplished, what he has become, since he moved on and we felt jilted.
I am being serious with all this, by the way, in case your incredulity gives you doubts.
First, Saban, around this time of year as 2006 swung into 2007, made a career decision that was justifiable at the time even though we were too enraged with betrayal to see it.
And that same decision, in hindsight, looks smart bordering on brilliant. Genius.
To say it worked out for him ranks in the understatement category with saying Mark Zuckerberg made a buck or two off Facebook. Saban is favored to win his second consecutive national title and third in four years for Alabama.
A statue of him already has risen in Tuscaloosa, where he is the diminutive coach grown to Brobdingnagian stature.
Second, the way he left Miami wasnt all that heinous to begin with, come to think of it, and his recent remorse over any hurt feelings seemed pretty genuine.
On Dec. 21, 2006, Saban was finishing up his second season with the Dolphins when Alabama fired Mike Shula and rumors immediately leeched onto Saban. After several days of insistent pestering from the media, Saban at last said, infamously:
I guess I have to say it. Im not going to be the Alabama coach.
Thirteen days later, he was introduced as the Alabama coach.
He was not the first man in major sports to bend or manipulate the truth, to lie outright, to dramatically change his mind or to do some combination of all those things.
I have covered sports, and coaches since newspapers were dropped on lawns by pterodactyls, and I can testify very few coaches will hesitate to look you in the eye and say whatever suits their best interests.
Saban has since said he said what he said simply to shut up the media and erase the distraction from his teams mind at the time. After the Dolphins season ended and Alabama contacted him, things changed. Things happen.
Besides, Wayne Huizenga, then the Dolphins owner, had hired Saban (from Louisiana State) with the understanding Saban would be free to leave at any time if he found he missed college coaching. To this day Huizenga and Saban maintain a great relationship, even as most Dolfans continue to rather obsessively vilify the man about whom Huizenga ostensibly the man most betrayed never felt an ounce of ill will.