TAMPA, Fla.—Rankman awoke early to his Thursday alarm and hopped on two Southwest flights heading south east, only to touch down in Tampa hours later to learn Alabama and Clemson were playing Monday night for the championship of college football.
Wasn’t last year’s title game in Arizona good enough?
Now that was a game to remember, as much as I can remember it. What I recall mainly is Alabama Coach Nick Saban calling a surprise on-sides kick in the fourth quarter to keep the ball away from Deshaun Watson and Clemson’s offense.
It was a terrific, brilliant and totally out-of-character call that helped clinch a thrilling Crimson Tide victory. After the game, one corner of Saban's mouth appeared to rise higher than the other to constitute what has largely been accepted since as a "smile."
But here’s the thing: don’t expect that on-sides kick to work again on Clemson, right?
Rematches are almost always a bad idea--even if this one couldn’t be prevented after Alabama and Clemson won their national semifinal games…again.
This is different than Liz Taylor marrying Richard Burton a second time—that was a choice.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
Of course there exceptions to every rule: Godfather II was a worthy sequel to Godfather, but Porky’s 2 was no match for the original.
Rocky, in 1976, was a great movie that only failed to keep its promise:
Rocky: “Ain’t gonna be no rematch.”
Apollo Creed. “Don’t want one.”
Yes he did, and yes there was.
Unless you have kin at Alabama or Clemson, however, it might be hard to work up a lather over Monday night’s do-over at Raymond James Stadium.
I can’t imagine large title-game gatherings in places like Santa Ynez, or Port Arthur.
This sort of reminds me of Alabama vs. LSU II in 2011, the game billed as: “The Game the BCS Made You See!"
LSU had already slugged out a 9-6, overtime win over Alabama in an SEC West game that set modern football back 100 years.
LSU went on to win the SEC title but Alabama, without winning its division, got the second BCS spot ahead of Oklahoma State.
That title game, played in the Sugar Bowl, felt like supersized SEC tailgater sponsored by Piggly Wiggly.
History will reflect that LSU barely bothered to want to play Alabama again. The Crimson Tide dominated the second game, not allowing LSU’s offense to cross mid-field until the fourth quarter.
I hope I’m wrong about Monday. I hope Clemson is so hell-bent on revenge it makes for must-see television.
But don’t bet on it. Chances are the game won't match last year's interest or intensity.
My favorite rematch story comes from 1996, the day after Florida State scored a dramatic, late-November win over Florida in Tallahassee.
I kept the front page of the Tallahassee Democrat’s Sunday sports section. I got it laminated and it still hangs on my office wall. The headline “WAR” was bigger than anything I’ve seen run across the top of a newspaper since Pearl Harbor.
The boys in the graphics department even dripped blood off the mast head just to show you how close to death these two teams had come.
Anyway, the next day, at his weekly Sunday media breakfast, Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden wondered out loud, “We won’t have to play them again, will we?”
Yes they did. A year before the BCS was formed, Florida and Florida State were forced together again in the Sugar Bowl. The game became a national title match after Ohio State defeated Arizona State in the Rose Bowl.
Florida won the rematch-- Steve Spurrier’s only national title--in a game that wasn’t nearly as compelling as exciting as the first game in Tallahassee.
I have no front page of the second game hanging in my office. If it did the headline would have probably proclaimed: "SKIRMISH!"
So, what can you do?
Alabama and Clemson arrived here Friday and are set to face off against the press in Saturday’s obligatory media day.
Some of us have already worked out our hard line of questioning.
Hey, what’s new since last year?
Ok, great, see you guys Monday.[/membership]