Bumped into Santa Claus the other day out at the mall, which was good because there'd been something I'd been meaning to ask him, and I didn't know if I was going to get the chance before he started his yearly spree of breaking-and-entering.
"Why do you want to do the people of Alabama like that?" I said.
Unaccustomed dismay appeared on his cheery bewhiskered countenance.
"What do you mean?" he said. "Why, I just gave the people of Alabama the greatest gift they could ever ask for."
Both of us, it turns out, were referring to the same thing: Nick Saban's pronouncement the other today that he could never see himself anywhere else but the University of Alabama, where he has become almost revered as Bear Bryant himself, lacking only a colorful and appropriate nickname.
(I vote for "Fisheye." Nick "Fisheye" Saban, for his renowned ability to give impertinent reporters the ol' fisheye. Not that there is an actual vote, or ever will be)
Anyway ... Santa seemed to think ol' Fisheye telling the people of Alabama he was never going to leave them was the sweetest gift ever, much better than the year I woke up and discovered he'd left me a Ferrari.
(OK, so it was Matchbox Ferrari. But, still)
I looked at the Big Fella and slowly began to shake my head.
"Are you kidding?" I said. "Hate to break it to you, but you just left a big shovelful of coal in their stockings. You don't ever, ever want your big-deal coach pledging his fidelity to you. You might as well start backing up the moving van the second the words come out of his mouth.
"I mean, think about it. Remember right before Saban came to Alabama when he said there was no way he was leaving the Miami Dolphins for Alabama? Remember when Rick Pitino looked a certain reporter -- OK, it was me -- straight in the eye and said he couldn't see himself ever leaving Kentucky, the day before leaving Kentucky for the Boston Celtics?
"Listen, Santa. I know your heart's in the right place. I know you represent all that is good and kind and charitable in the world. But take it from me, the world's a mean old place. Especially when it comes to coaches who pledge their troth forever to dear old State U."
But now Santa just smiled at me.
"Ah, son," he said. "I know all that. But sooner or later, one of these guys is actually going to be telling the truth when he says that. It's a matter of faith, my boy. And faith -- and the hope and promise that come along with it -- is what the season is all about, isn't it?"
A sudden rumbling laugh; a cheerful little wink.
"Merry Christmas, son. Now go home. Something's waiting for you."
I gave him a sidelong glance.
"It's not another Matchbox car, is it?" I said.
But Santa only winked again.