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Shackleton said the first and most important element of group survival was to keep morale up. Shackleton put this into practice during his Antarctic escapades by organizing soccer matches for his men on the pack ice, and by allowing them to date seals so long as they made no promises or babies. Most of the men, being British, honored their agreements. The stiff, formal manner of the seals surrounding Elephant Island to this day remind locals of that British sojourn a century ago, especially when they wear bowlers as they are wont to do.

The assembled miserable denizens of visitor's section NN6 in Bryant-Denny Stadium followed Shackleton's advice.

For instance: Alabama could use some more pregame montages. A coked-out Oliver Stone clearly consulted on their pregame, because Alabama's pre-game montage is preceded by its own pregame montage, which in itself has five successive pregame montages. All of them are set to the theme for Requiem for a Dream, and half feature Bear Bryant narrating solemnly over the footage. 

None feature Bear Bryant becoming hooked on heroin and getting electroshock therapy, and that's a shame since it was a really important part of his life.*

*Are we imagining, right at this instant, the persons responsible for the playcalling in the Florida game getting electroshock therapy? Preferably administered by us while playing not the theme from Requiem for a Dream, but instead to the theme music from The West Wing? While we're singing out the box score to the first half as the lyrics? Yes, yes we are.  

Alabama should add a solid hour to two hours of pregame montages in front of these montages, and charge admission. We decided this could be done with movies, which for a nominal fee and with some fairly easy digital tweaking would feature Bryant himself. The version of No Country For Old Men featuring Bear Bryant as Anton Chigurh would be reviewed by the Birmingham News as "The finest and most uplifting comedy ever filmed." 


There were other ideas. They distracted from the wreck of a game happening three hundred feet or so below us. Watching games from the upper deck feels like you digest everything at a clinical but still delayed distance. The effect is one of watching football on cough syrup: crowd movements and cheers aren't synced up, everything but the play itself feels delayed, and still there's a kind of precognition you have from up on high that other don't. They can't see the safety overplaying the run fake, but you can.

The effect is not a good one in a blowout, especially when you can see the proverbial runaway baby stroller of a play rolling into the semi-truck traffic of the counterplay. We watched a lot of strollers roll into traffic in the first half of Saturday night's game at Bryant-Denny Stadium. They were all Florida's. 

There were other ideas. Our favorite came from watching the Alabama Million Dollar Band perform. We were sitting with a fellow former Gator band member, and he noted that though the value of our currency has changed drastically over the years, the Million Dollar Band continued to embrace a foolish fixed currency value at exactly one million dollars. At current valuations and with inflation, a steady thirty seconds of internet research revealed that if allowed to float as currencies should the Million Dollar Band would at 2.91% be the $12,482,601.16 Band Today--and that's IF you didn't hand over the money to George Soros or another canny currency trader at any time in its history. 

It was brute, negative football. Watching from up high you could see the safeties flex into the plays before they happened, little dots of Crimson meeting Florida Blue at every point. It was exactly like every other game we'd watched Florida play on offense since the 2008 SEC Championship Game: a series of eleven tangoes arranged so that at any point on the field one defender was matched up with one offensive player. Good offense dislodges these romantic moments: it takes those dots and puts them in space alone and unpaired. Good football offense is bad tango. This was excellent tango, and bad football offense. 

The breeze kicked up a little bit. It was in the sixties because the weather really does wait for months to pass by on the calendar before politely adjusting itself accordingly. We kept running through ideas. The best proposal for a halftime show to end all halftime shows was what we called "The Black Sabbath Spectacular." You would not actually play Black Sabbath. instead, the announcer would say, "Today, the Gator Band/whoever honors the month of October by playing Earth Wind and Fire's "September"! 


Then the band would play Chicago's "Look Away" while making a formation that looked like a game of Frogger. 

The announcer would come back on the mic, and say "Now, please join us as we honor our nation's fighting men and women as the Gator Band/whoever plays Lee Greenwood's classic "Proud To Be An American.' Feel free to sing along as soloist Tremaine Blembley's beautiful melody salutes our soldiers." 

There would be no soloist. The band would then launch into Chicago's "Look Away," and march in formation saluting the film Human Centipede. 

For the finale, you'd introduce a stirring rendition of Hoobastank's "The Reason." Then you would play "Look Away" a third time, and give no instructions for shape, form, or even proper methods of exit from the field. Ideally you'd also fill the band's seats with spectators, and send their buses home for additional effect. You have to weed out the resourceful from the helpless somehow, band directors of the world. 

Sometime in the third quarter it was widely agreed that this would be the best halftime show ever. 

Everything was designed around making you screw up first, a simple but effective wager that your opponent would jab, and then you countered, and then your opponent was on the mat spitting up teeth and talking long distance to imaginary interlocutors in Shanghai without the use of a phone or other wireless communications device. They called screens, because you were going to overrun them. They called simple, one cut runs with brutal blocking. If they didn't break one way, they took one simple cut and went the other way. You didn't need anything fancy when your opponent willing stuck his member in the bear trap each time. 

They played like they didn't even like football: like it was a job with three or four simple, clear-cut rules. All the work had been done beforehand: the tendencies, the formations, the technique. The simple plays were executed with scalpel-sharp precision. The patterns were calmly nodded at and countered. On five wide sets defensive backs stood their ground, since the ball was going nowhere deep, nowhere close to deep, and would in fact be parked on a route somewhere in the three to five yard range (provided that the qb was not sacked, rushed into a bad throw, or otherwise beaten within an inch of his life.) On run plays no fakes were respected since they did not merit respect, but were faked anyway.  


It was so efficient you might think Alabama hated football, and wanted less of it by turning a potentially competitive game into a suffocated and forgone conclusion. They might have hated it if they hated boredom. The only thing of any real consequence that happened in the second half was John Brantley getting the shit knocked out of him scrambling unsuccessfully for the first down marker. They might have hated it because those who excel at what they do hate easy things because they are boring and a waste of time.

This was both easy and boring.  

At one point the discussion turned to the best method of abducting someone. Some of the conversants were medical professionals, so they knew what they were talking about when they said that chloroform was too unpredictable, and injection too dodgy to do in a hurry. If you were going to really kidnap someone--someone like an offensive coordinator, or quarterbacks coach, or any member of a sputtering offense's coaching staff, for instance--you'd be better off subduing the subject first by sheer physical force and then administering narcotics, sedatives, or whatever other type of drug you'll use to put the subject down. 

We voted for the gigantic sack first. This was met with some apprehension due to the danger of suffocation. Gigantic net? No, not unless you were going to carry the net like a butterfly hunter and outfit the victim-to-be in a gigantic butterfly costume, and then we're not being serious now, are we? Then we've crossed over into absurdist comedy, and thus disrespect the work of professional kidnappers and abductors the world round. We may have settled on a compromise involving: 

  1. Wrapping the victim rapidly in Saran Wrap
  2. Throwing them in a cement mixer filled with those multicolored plastic balls you see in a children's ball pit
  3. Letting them marinate in there for the duration of the trip to [DISTANT PLACE] 
  4. Heaving them out like an uncut roll of abducted human sashimi in [DISTANT PLACE] 
It wasn't the most practical, but it was certainly the one we liked the most. 

Failure really can be fun provided you have the right attitude and a complete lack of involvement with the failure itself. Take Saturday night, or the past year and a half with the Florida offense. You know logically that this is something you have nothing to do with, no control or sway over, and little besides a general consistent bleat in the din of general public opinion. You are excepted from this statement if you are so wealthy you can write checks to build things at Florida without feeling them too much.  

You also know that there is no way, websites be damned, that Urban Meyer will fire Steve Addazio, or limit his playcalling privileges, or anything else that might calm the rabble calling for his head despite a general downward trend in production. This is the man who helmed the program while Meyer was in limbo. This is the man who landed this year's recruiting class, perhaps the best one to ever come to the University of Florida. He's lost two games as an offensive coordinator ever.

When the critiques are made, there will be that (for the moment) irrefutable stat to lean back on as a counter. in truth, it is a very persuasive one, even if everyone knows that as long as it's Nick Saban versus Steve Addazio in a chess match in the SEC, it will be Saban who calls check mate first while Addazio asks if the dildo-looking piece goes sideways, forward, or is it really made of delicious marzipan that he can eat? He will never beat him as an offensive coordinator in a situation where talent is equal (which with all respect to both sides, it is: blue-chips across the two deeps and matched with excellent strength and conditioning.) 

You have no control, and in a moment of remembering some kitchen wall copy of the Serenity Prayer you remember the bit about accepting things you cannot control. When Florida ran a screen that looked like an invisible moped accident, we thought this. When we ran John Brantley to the short side of the field on an option he would never, ever keep in any billions of probable realities, we thought this. It would have made us feel better if the Serenity Prayer worked. It also would have made us feel better if there were a shred of hope of this changing, but there isn't. They should point this out in the footnotes of the Serenity Prayer, but unfortunately David Foster Wallace is not its author. 

Toward the end you run out of ideas and people to bounce them off of in a blowout. The clock wound down. Alabama courteously ran the ball to kill the remaining useless minutes left. Leaving before double zeroes is the only superstition we have about football games: you don't leave with time on the clock. Consequently we have spent a lot of time sitting by ourselves at the end of games. The gentlemen in front of us left, but said they wouldn't mind taking part in the impromptu discussion group again under better circumstances.  

We concurred. "Got to keep morale up. Shackleton's first rule of survival in the Antarctic."

"What's the second rule?" they asked. 

"Get the fuck out of the Antarctic." 

Did we mention we were really pulled over by a policeman after this game, after we found out that Georgia lost to Colorado, and after Texas lost to Oklahoma, and after we watched Les Miles DO WHATEVER THE HELL THAT WAS against Tennessee? He was an Auburn fan, the other team in Alabama with a win streak against Florida. It was 3:30 a.m. or so, and we still had an hour go to before we would be anywhere close to home and bed and waking up and figuring out how relatively bad our disaster had been. He let us off with a warning since we had obviously been through enough, because when calamity strikes, there are two steps to survival, and he wasn't going to stand in the way of the second and most vital part: getting out of Alabama, which might as well be the Antarctic for Florida in the 21st century.