The pause at the start of Nick Saban's questions is delicious. They are just getting the mike to him, of course, and that requires the poor SEC mike lackeys to run halfway across a ballroom. It still seems like the entire room is terrified of him, and collectively taking a step back to volunteer one unfortunate soul to ask the first question.
You can tell when he's about to go off in grand fashion ahead of time. There are warning signs. When asked about Mike Slive's proposals for reforming college football, he started...pausing...and...measuring his...words. He did this when asked about the expectations for the 2008 season after Alabama destroyed Clemson in the Georgia Dome to start the season, shortly before turning blood red, decimating everyone in the room by stripping the paint off the walls for two minutes, and then peering up and quietly muttering "I bet y'all are scared to ask me a question now" to three or four tittering and terrified reporters.
From the first question on Friday morning, as Saban spoke in front of a freshly polished Alabama helmet with the number 12 on it, it was all too apparent he was riding a fine rage high fueled by his intolerance for bullshit and the sugar rush from one or two hastily consumed oatmeal pies. Doug asked him a question about superconference expansion. Saban swatted it out of the air before it flapped its wings twice, saying "I haven't even thought about it" and moving on to the next question When asked about preseason polls, he said "You all in this room are a lot smarter than we are as coaches, because I could never pick the winner of the SEC" with a look of undisguised contempt on his perpetually sunburnt face. He was asked where the quarterback competition stood. "It doesn't stand anywhere," he answered, channeling your bitchiest middle school grammarian with ease. His greatest disdain came during a question regarding Mike Slive's proposals for reforming the SEC's academics and scholarship foibles, when in the middle of long and simmering answer Saban looked out at the room and said "I know there's nobody in this room interested in writing about positives." Please note that no one disagreed with him on this point.
But like any domineering husband, he's just good enough on the comeback. He geeked out talking about Alabama's defense, less of a 3-4 than a flexible set capable of playing nickel when it has to while rushing linebackers of the edge for pressure, and got animated in the positive sense when outlining his offensive philosophies. (Surprise! He likes balance, and believes big plays on the perimeter are crucial.) In his opening statement he thanked Taylor Swift for donating to his charity, and if you ever assumed you would be able to put Nick Saban and Taylor Swift in the same sentence, you may now collect your winnings because that did in fact happen. ("Why you gotta be so mean?" "SHUT UP AND RUN TEN YARDS AS HARD AS YOU CAN LITTLE WOMAN.") He laughed with an old LSU beat reporter when he asked if Mike Slive acted like a dictator, a question Saban effectively laughed off because seriously, if anyone would know good dicatorship it's Saban. Slive doesn't get in the Prop 40 admissions queue at Nick Saban's Dictatorship School. He did smile, but then again, so will a Komodo Dragon if you hang a dead horse's leg off a tree.
He then finished the press conference by thanking the media. He seemed genuine in doing so. He always does, thus completely the yearly act of Saban acting like the abusive husband the media never had. He beats us, sure. But only because he loves us, baby.