Rheta Johnson: Thankful for a nervous Saban

November 30, 2013 7:41:42 PM

Rheta Grimsley Johnson -

 

FISHTRAP HOLLOW -- I rarely watch those "news" videos the Internet pushes, the ones where you are force-fed a couple of advertisements before you reach the meat. 

 

This one, however, said, "Nick Saban Goes Off on Reporter," and so I had to see. The week before Auburn plays Alabama, I like to work myself into a competitive lather. 

 

At a press conference before Alabama was to play Chattanooga -- yet another homecoming game for the Tide -- a sports reporter who probably makes a few hundred dollars a week had the temerity to ask trillion-dollar-contract baby Saban how he thought his quarterback looked on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Talk about your softball questions. 

 

Saban slammed the reporter, told him he didn't know what he was talking about. "Do you think all I do is sit around and read magazines? You should come and follow me around a week," Saban said. Then the hack would know, the coach insisted, how he only watches the Weather Channel for 10 minutes in the morning to see if the practice will take place indoors or out. Then he's done with current events and all about important business. 

 

Like getting ready to battle Chattanooga, I presume. 

 

And so, as unlikely as it might seem to faithful readers of this column, I am thankful in this season of thanks for a Nick Saban video. The man is edgy, in his full jerk mode. 

 

Auburn may not win every time, but I'm thankful to pull for a team that perennially makes Alabama nervous. And I'm thankful to pull for a team that never lets you leave till the end of a game.  

 

Winning every game, every season, makes fans complacent and bored. 

 

Unlike Saban, however, my life doesn't revolve around football except for one week a year. I'm grateful for other things, too. 

 

Corny, I know, but I'm thankful for real books, the kind that you don't have to turn off during take-off. I'm reading "Salvage the Bones" by Mississippi native Jesmyn Ward, and poetry by David Atwood, who might not be as famous as some poets but whose imagery stays with me. He writes of the "prodigal spruce," the Christmas tree that arrives once a year and gets our full attention and inspires celebration.  

 

I'm also grateful for the satsumas from the little tree my father fussed over for years before it bore citrus. And the pecans that litter his yard. 

 

I am thankful for new friends, like Gale Laird, the generous master gardener who told me what plants work well and where exactly to plug them in the blank yard on the Coast. And old friends like Marie-Lou Verdier, whose visits from Paris somehow make New Orleans more magical than it normally is. When she bops into a room with her newest French haircut and expressive dark eyes, the energy level of the Big Easy is boosted.  

 

I am grateful my two old dogs, Boozoo and Hank, are hanging in, feeling a few aging aches, but game nonetheless. Whenever I'm disappointed in people, I think how lucky I've been in dogs. 

 

I didn't make a long voyage this year, but I'm thankful for a host of shorter trips, including one to Sylacauga, Ala., where I saw fine Italian sculptures in the library. Rick Bragg told me recently that Sylacauga had that state's first Kentucky Fried Chicken, which definitely is a Bragg-ing point. 

 

I am sincere in my thanks for readers like you, who these days must go to a lot of trouble to find a newspaper in a box on a street in cities that think they don't need them.