Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

When our exterminator, Ervin Humes, showed up at the house back in September 2023, he and I did what Alabamians do: We talked football and Jesus, the two forms of Alabamian religion. Ervin enthused over Paul’s hymn to Christ in his epistle to the Colossians, we lamented the state of the world, and we agreed that prayer was our most potent weapon. The football part of the conversation was gloomy. Alabama had lost to Texas and, like all spoiled fans, we were worried. The dynasty seemed shaky, quarterback Jalen Milroe didn’t have the stuff, and we weren’t sure about the defense. We were bracing ourselves for that rarest of Alabama experiences: a mediocre football season.

Nick Saban wouldn’t have it. The coach, his staff, and his players willed the Crimson Tide through ragged victories to a 12–2 season that included a victory over the reigning national champion, Georgia. And he did it with typical daring. After the Texas game, in which Milroe threw two interceptions and completed only half his passes, Saban benched him for the next game, a tough win over lowly South Florida. The shock treatment worked. Milroe developed into a Heisman Trophy contender, darting past defenses and pinpointing bombs. The defense solidified, and skeptics were converted: Bama was in the thick of it yet again. After falling to eventual national champion Michigan in overtime in the national semifinal, Saban called 2023–24 one of the most remarkable seasons in Alabama football history. Evidently he felt it was a good final act. On January 10, he announced his retirement.

You've reached the end of your free articles for the month.
Read without Limits.
Stacked Mgazines
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article.
Purchase this article for
only $1.99
Purchase
Already a subscriber?
Click here to log in.