Nick Saban Could Never Love Me

“Well, it’s no trick to make a lot of money, if all you want is […]

Michael Sansbury / 9.9.13

“Well, it’s no trick to make a lot of money, if all you want is to make a lot of money.”  –Mr. Bernstein, Citizen Kane

By writing this—perhaps by even thinking this—I am putting myself and my family in great danger. You see, I live in Alabama. In Alabama, as you might have heard, people take college football VERY seriously. People kill trees, they even kill each other, and they worship their coaches like gods. In Alabama, there is only one god (maybe) above Nick Saban. And Nick Saban takes football more seriously than anyone else.

Last season, only one team beat Alabama in football: Texas A&M, led by Prodigal Quarterback (and Heisman Trophy winner) Johnny “Football” Manziel. On Saturday, Alabama faces A&M again, this time on the road, after having a bye week to prepare. In honor of that game, this is the first of a three-piece series about Nick Saban, the Gospel, and me.

While I have never met Nick Saban, I have a conflicted relationship with him. I love college football, and Saban routinely savages my favorite team. As a citizen of Alabama, I often wonder how much better the state would be if it focused its energy on education (We’re not 49!) rather than football (We’re number 1!).

But my real beef with Nick Saban has to do with me. You see, Nick Saban is known for his devotion to “The Process.” Here’s how he describes it:

“Well, the process is really what you have to do day in and day out to be successful,” he said. “We try to define the standard that we want everybody to sort of work toward, adhere to, and do it on a consistent basis. And the things that I talked about before, being responsible for your own self-determination, having a positive attitude, having great work ethic, having discipline to be able to execute on a consistent basis, whatever it is you’re trying to do, those are the things that we try to focus on, and we don’t try to focus as much on the outcomes as we do on being all that you can be.

“Eliminate the clutter and all the things that are going on outside and focus on the things that you can control with how you sort of go about and take care of your business. That’s something that’s ongoing, and it can never change.”

It is unquestionable that, by following The Process, Nick Saban and his teams have been able to achieve enormous success. I suspect that, if we all followed The Process, we could succeed as well. And that’s what bothers me. I wish I could follow The Process. I wish I could care only about being all that I can be and not about the outcomes. I wish that the journey was more important to me than the destination. I wish that my positive attitude and my work ethic could struggle free of my human weakness.

Sadly, it can’t. And, because it can’t, I strongly suspect that, if Nick Saban ever met me, he would have to reject me. I don’t see how he could ever take a person like me seriously, at least without circumventing the Process which he holds so dear. The Process, after all, stretches beyond football and stands in undeniable judgment of my unshakable weakness and lack of discipline.

Fortunately, I don’t have to be strong and disciplined. I don’t have to follow a process. I am justified, not by my ability to win national championships, but by my faith. In other words, I’m banking on the fact that God loves me, even if Nick Saban never could.


Even if The Process has no effect on my salvation, could it make me a better person? Click here to find out in part two.