S ometimes I surprise even myself.

Sometimes, without knowing it or planning it, genius rolls off of my tongue like water over Niagara Falls.

Just such an occurrence happened recently during a conversation with my buddy Paul Finebaum on his radio show. When discussing Nick Saban and his occasional brow-beating of Alabama fans, Paul asked me why Tide fans accept unwarranted scolding from Saban without so much as a murmur about if the rebuke is deserved.

It was never something I’d given much thought to, but in a moment, with my finely tuned brain working at full capacity, the answer hit me: low self-esteem.

Why does anyone take abuse they don’t have to? Why does a wife stay with her cheating husband? Why does an employee stay at a job without a raise in five years?

Low self-esteem.

If you don’t think highly of yourself you don’t stand up for yourself and demand good treatment from your spouse, employer or football coach.

Alabama fans - and citizens of Alabama in general - have low self-esteem.

It’s easy to understand why. All anyone from Alabama’s ever been told by the national media is that the state’s education and health care are pathetic. Alabama’s residents have been lectured to by Hollywood and the New York Times’ op-ed page that the state is a racist backwater and to live in Alabama is to live in a third world country. Alabamians have been told their traditions and beliefs and culture are an endless source of ridicule for the nation’s so called “intellectuals.” A lifetime’s worth of late-night talk show parodies, images of fire hoses and police dogs and stand-up comic jokes about inbreeding and a lack of teeth have convinced Alabamians they are inferior.

Except in one area: college football.

While Alabama’s educational, cultural and social institutions have been belittled for 100 years, Alabama’s contribution to college football, both in Tuscaloosa and Auburn, has been exalted nationwide as a shining example of passion, toughness and success.

People in Alabama have been convinced college football is the only thing the state has to be proud of.

I know that’s not true.

Having lived 10 years in Alabama, but the rest of my life elsewhere from border to border and coast to coast, I know Alabama has a lot more to be proud of than just Bo and the Bear. Unlike most of the “intellectuals” who pillory Alabama, I’ve actually been there. I’ve talked to the people, worked with the people, I know the people and know what they care about. My perception of Alabama extends beyond what I can assume about it from a loft on West 57th Street.

But unlike most Alabamians, I’ve spent the majority of my life outside the state and I don’t carry that born-in low self-esteem endemic to the “Heart of Dixie.” I know residents of Alabama have nothing to be ashamed about because I’ve met people from the rest of the country and I know they’re no better or worse on balance.

People from Alabama think that, but aren’t sure of it. They want to believe they’re the equals of Pennsylvanians or New Yorkers or Californians, but they’ve never been there to find out for sure and damn if they haven’t been told from everyone from Dan Rather to Tony Kornheiser that they’re bumpkins.

Low self-esteem.

Low self-esteem created by a lifetime of being told you’re a hillbilly is why Crimson Tide fans don’t stick up to Nick Saban when he foolishly blames them for why his team didn’t play well in the Sugar Bowl. Low self-esteem is why Bama fans allow Saban to treat them like children. If Alabama football fans had a higher opinion of themselves they wouldn’t allow Saban to chastise them for no reason. They’d stand up for themselves and demand an apology. They’d be able to see through his bullying and have the confidence to push back.

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