X and O and More

Kenneth Darby and Ramzee Robinson will be Alabama player representatives when the Southeastern Conference has its Media Days at the Wynfrey Hotel in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover this week. The event has a reputation for not often delivering real news, but it does signal the fast approach to fall football practice.

Barring some unforeseen legal problems, all 12 SEC schools will be represented by the head football coach, one offensive player, and one defensive player. In the main, the head coach chooses established senior players who are well-spoken. Hopefully, they are also interesting. There are four schools represented each day, Wednesday-Friday.

Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula has done a good job in his previous appearances, although it almost seemed mandatory in his first year in 2003 that every reporter referred to him as nervous. Shula is well-organized in his presentation and gives thoughtful responses to questions.

Of course, he gets a lot of practice dealing with the media. No SEC coach has more coverage than the head coach at Alabama.

Everyone will want to hear South Carolina's Steve Spurrier. And he'll deliver a couple of nice lines. But his glib delivery generally provides little insight. Bama fans don't like him, but one of the best at this event (when he comes) is Tennessee Coach Phil Fulmer. He is interesting and informative.

For many years, Alabama was the clean-up event. The conference office had the Crimson Tide head coach on the last day in hopes of keeping attendance high until the end. A couple of years ago the league decided to rotate the coaches on a yearly basis and this year Bama is on the first day, Wednesday.

Shula chose two excellent player representatives. And the Tide teammates were also high school teammates at Huntsville Butler, which is almost certainly a first for SEC Media Days. They are also potential pre-season All-SEC selections, although for some reason halfback Kenneth Darby—a selection of SEC coaches for All-SEC last year—has generally been dropped to second team pre-season this year, including by the same 12 coaches who thought he was all-conference at the end of 2005.

Go figure.

Ramzee Robinson has been making some pre-season all-conference teams and the cornerback will likely be selected by the media at this event. That's because he will make a very good impression. And not just with talk of Xs and Os. Robinson is well-schooled in those, but also familiar with some other letters. G and Q. As in Gentleman's Quarterly, the bible of fashion for men.

Darby admits that he hadn't given any thought to the sartorial side of the event. "I thought I'd wear athletic gear," he said. "But then Bino (Robinson) reminded me that Roman Harper had worn a nice suit last year."

Robinson assured sportswriters that he would have Darby presentable.

One scribe said, "Each year there's a player there who everyone remembers for his clothes."

Robinson scoffed. "That's the guy who is over-dressed," he said.

Not to worry, too much. It would be hard to find a less fashion-conscious crowd than a gaggle of sportswriters, many who will be wearing logo shirts from some previously-covered sporting event. The TV boys will be well-coifed (what sportswriters spend on beer, the TV guys save for hair spray), but as for fashion? Well, you could tell them a Nehru jacket and flowered bell bottoms are in and they'd all be wearing them.

When it all ends Friday, less than 20 per cent of the media will take the trouble to vote on a pre-season All-SEC team and predict an order of finish and league champion.

And barely a week after that, players will officially report for the start of fall camp. After three days in shorts, dress for contact.

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