This was the truest — and most prescient — of all the myriad slogans on T-shirts being peddled at Monday night’s BCS National Championship here. Hint: The shirts were crimson, the unmistakable blood-red of Alabama football.
I’d Rather Be Good Than Lucky, they read.
Oh my but their team was all of that, the Crimson Tide were. They were good, very good, so good that Notre Dame was left needing every bit of that fabled luck o’ the Irish and more, but it was nowhere to be seen or conjured.
This was men against leprechauns.
Alabama 42, Notre Dame 14.
Both teams were known for rugged, excellent defense. One showed why.
The story wasn’t the Fighting Irish falling short in trying to mint the school’s first national title since ever-distant 1988, no matter what they think in South Bend.
The story was Bama continuing its recent dominance and fashioning a modern-day dynasty — with a second consecutive national title and a third in four years.
“I get chills thinking about it,” said winning quarterback AJ McCarron.
The Tide. Rising, rising, rising …
Here, in particular, the story was the sight few South Floridians wished to see, and that was a smiling coach Nick Saban — about as euphoric as he gets — swept off in a sea of players, triumphant, the emperor of the kingdom, Tuscaloosa.
If Saban got chills thinking about it, he wasn’t letting on.
“We have a 24-hour rule on celebrations,” said the taciturn coach.
In the closing seconds Saban had been drenched with a Gatorade ice bath that soaked the back of his shirt. Red, of course. His team was lavished with sonic idolatry by celebrating Tide fans while Irish backers sulked from the place, perhaps damning the abject failure of all of those four-leaf clovers, not to mention that offense that Saban’s defense so thoroughly controlled.
Later Saban would gently lift the crystal-football trophy above his head like Mustafa lifting his progeny in The Lion King.
As midnight neared the stadium PA system blasted Sweet Home Alabama.
It had been a sweet night, Alabama.
The crowd of 80,120 set a Dolphins Stadium record. Come to think of it the ambience reminded me of a Dolphins home game, other than the big-stage stakes, the teeming sellout and the electric feeling in the place.
Notre Dame fans had the better of the decibels early, but that changed fast. Saban’s guys mashed the mute button on the Irish side.
College football’s dream matchup turned out to be what must be regarded as one the colossal letdowns in recent memory.
Alabama made it so. Notre Dame didn’t have a choice.
Saban had been asked it in the buildup to this game a question more pertinent now than before. Did he deserve to be mentioned in the same conversation as Alabama’s legendary former coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant, of the houndstooth hat.
“I wouldn’t agree with that at all,” he’d answered, politely, prudently.
Alabama senior linebacker Nico Johnson said: “To win three out of four, that’s something special. Coach Saban won’t let us say ‘dynasty’ but I think I can say that now, it’s a dynasty.”
Saban also deflected all the dynasty talk afterward, only remarking about the “extreme amount of enthusiasm and positive energy” enveloping his program. (But, at least he almost smiled while saying it. I think.)