Sean of the South: Alabama


Sean Dietrich BoatBy Sean Dietrich

The plane landed in Tuscaloosa at 8:37 p.m. Central Time. Coach Kalen DeBoer deboarded.

He was met with an entourage of photographers and reporters with iPhones. DeBoer’s press conference was scheduled for 1 p.m.

It was a blustery, rainy day in the Yellowhammer State.

Nick Saban retired on Wednesday. DeBoer was announced as his replacement on Friday evening. The former head coach of the University of Washington is about to be applying for Alabama auto insurance.

Kalen is a young name. I went to school with guys named Kalen. I played baseball with Kalens, Justins, Corys, and Brandons.

There was a Kalen in my seventh-grade drama class. He had epilepsy. We weren’t allowed to use strobe lights in our performance of “Cats.”

Kalen DeBoer isn’t much older than me. And so this marks the first time someone from my generation will be coaching Alabama football.

And I don’t know what to think about it. Or how to feel.

Nobody in my father’s generation was named Kalen. A guy named Kalen grew up playing Atari, watching Nolan Ryan, listening to Michael Jackson. Or worse: The Osmonds.

A guy named Kalen owned a Walkman, rode BMXs, saw the final episode of “M*A*S*H,” and learned to “Just Say No” from Nancy Reagan.

All my life, Alabama’s head coach has been either someone from my grandfather’s generation, or my dad’s generation.

Someone old enough to remember Iwo Jima. Or Hamburger Hill. Or the Tet Offensive. Someone with enough gray in his hair to recall Benny Goodman, Nat Cole, or at the very least James Brown.

A guy named Kalen remembers Styx, the Gulf War, 9/11, the OJ Simpson trial, and he probably watched the Smurfs.

Alabama is my childhood team. I was born during the third quarter of Bear Bryant’s Liberty Bowl, in Memphis, Tennessee. I was born directly after a critical touchdown. Peter Kim made the kick. The kick was good.

And I made my earthly presentation. Seven pounds eight ounces of red hair. The doctor was shocked when he saw my unusually large hallux.

A hallux is your big toe. Get your mind out of the gutter.

So I don’t know how to feel about all this. What does it mean? Alabama’s head coach is from my generation. Can we be trusted?

Consequently, who is this idiot in the mirror? The man with white in his beard? The guy with crappy health insurance. When did this man’s hairline start retreating toward the nape of his neck.

When did this man’s middle become soft? When did they start playing his favorite songs in elevators?

When did I start eating supper at 5 p.m.? When did I discover that the volume knobs also turn left? When did flowers start scaring me?

So anyway, don’t get me wrong, I’m glad Alabama has a new, accomplished, head coach. I’m glad he’s here. I’m glad he has lots of enthusiasm.

But I miss the old guys. I miss the trilby fedora hats, the pressed khaki pants, and the sport coats worn on the sidelines. I miss Howard Cosell, Don Meredith, and (dare I say it?) Frank Gifford. I guess I miss my dad’s generation.

And I guess my old man was right when he said “The older you get, the earlier it gets late.”