Four years in a row, the sport has given us the happy diversion of a team in our state playing for a national title, and God bless Alabama for it this year. We need the diversion more than ever.
The second-ranked Crimson Tide begins practice Tuesday for its Jan. 7 showdown with No. 1 Notre Dame in the Bowl Championship Series final, and it comes as a nation reels from Friday’s massacre of 26 children and heroic staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
It also comes as our state reels from yet more shootings, including Saturday’s killing of three men plus the wounding of a child and a Heflin police officer, Jackie Stovall.
Oh yeah, the perpetrators – one for certain, the other suspected – are dead.
It’s been hard not to reach saturation and even mental fatigue amid news coverage and social media chatter. Sadly, it’s even been hard to avoid argument, as some stake out positions for a new partisan battlefield.
Is there no sacred place?
We’re certainly not beyond argument in our state, and college football ranks among our favorite arguments. Yours truly sees it in the comments section, any time my ramblings careen astray from one side or the other’s partisan view in the slightest.
Guess who likes football a lot — Jackie Stovall.
First, the Heflin Police Department posted an update on his condition to the department’s Facebook page Sunday morning.
“They took Jackie off the ventilator a few minutes ago,” Interim Chief A.J. Benefield wrote. “The first thing he asked was, ‘Where’s my mom and dad?’ And, ‘Where's my grand baby?’ The second thing he asked was, ‘Did y’all get him?’
“I was happy to tell him yes we did, and no one else will have to worry about him doing anything like this again. Jackie said, ‘Thank you, and I love y’all.’
“Thank you Jesus for our answered prayers.”
Those familiar with Oxford High School football know Stovall, a 1985 Oxford grad, as the father of sophomore defensive back Ryan Stovall.
Jackie Stovall has also been a Yellow Jackets’ stats-keepers since 1994. He’s done it under five head coaches, and his quickly calculated, thorough numbers have saved this scribe time against many a Friday night deadline.
Visit his Facebook page, and one quickly learns that he likes college football. Scroll down, and one sees that he updated his cover photo on Nov. 19 with Iron Bowl art.
On July 11, he shared a picture of an aerial view of Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium on a game night, complete with the slogan, “Where legends are real.”
Like a true public servant, he’s not beyond bipartisanship. On June 10 — a day after ex-Auburn players Ed Christian and Ladarious Phillips were among three people killed in a pool-party shooting — Stovall shared artwork of an awareness ribbon, half hounds-tooth/half blue-and-orange.
The photo also came with a slogan: “Tide Together, All-In, Support.”
Still, Stovall’s preference is clear. Among his Facebook “likes” for 2012 and 2011 is “Alabama Crimson Tide BCS Bowl Game,” so one bets that talk of Alabama’s pending game against Notre Dame will give him a smile as he begins what the Heflin Police have termed a “long, tough road to recovery.”
One also bets that even people whose wounds from the weekend’s life-and-death events are merely emotional could use talk of something else. Around here, what topic tops college football?
As the Tide begins practice for the biggest game of the season, let’s enjoy talk about this titanic clash between two of college football’s most relevant programs.
Let’s enjoy talk of the pending clash between Alabama’s generationally good offensive line and the highly talented front seven of Notre Dame’s defense.
Let’s even enjoy highly speculative, way-ahead-of-facts talk about Alabama coach Nick Saban and the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. It’s football, after all. Just football.
As we try to make sense of the senseless around Christmas time, we here in college football country could use a little football. Here’s wishing Jackie Stovall as speedy and complete a recovery as possible, not to mention lots of smiles amid the coming weeks of conversation about Alabama-Notre Dame.
Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.