A lively chronicle of how the 2020 Crimson Tide became Nick Saban’s “ultimate team.”
Was Alabama’s Crimson Tide in 2020 the greatest team of all time? The squad went 13-0 in a pandemic year, scored a combined 107 points against SEC powerhouses LSU and Florida, crushed Ohio State in a National Championship Game 52-24 in a contest that wasn’t even that close, and followed it up with another top-rated signing class.
Nick Saban called his boys the “ultimate team,” but it wasn’t just because they kicked the ever-living hell out of everyone on the football field. It was because the team leveraged a power and influence born of Southern pride to push back against a hateful legacy of racism that a populist president was exploiting to divide the nation. At a time when Americans needed real leaders in the face of so much hate, the sports world answered the call and fought back for the soul of the country.
In the summer of 2020, the Tide players left their training facility and, led by their celebrated coach, marched to a campus doorway made infamous sixty years earlier by another political demagogue and showed what people can accomplish when they fight together for a just cause in the name of unity. The most powerful force in a state crazy for college football had chosen to make a stand and replace George Wallace’s “Segregation forever!” with a different message, written by one of the players: “All lives can’t matter until Black lives matter.”
There have been some great football teams through the years, and they all deserve respect. But here’s what we know for sure: They all would have been appreciative of what this Alabama team represented, and proud of what it accomplished. The Crimson Tide in 2020 captured something special that moved it beyond the conversation of best ever, and into the place reserved for most important of all time.
Joseph Goodman was an industrial painter, like his father, before pursuing a career in journalism. To break into the business while in school with a young family, he commuted from Birmingham daily to work at small-town Alabama newspapers. After stints at the Jasper Daily Mountain Eagle, Cullman Times and North Jefferson News, Joseph was awarded a fellowship at the New York Times. He respectfully declined to cover high school football for the Miami Herald. Joseph then covered the Florida Gators and the Miami Heat as a beat writer for the Herald. He returned home to Alabama in 2015 to work for the Birmingham News, his hometown newspaper. He is now the sports columnist for the Birmingham News, Mobile Press-Register, Huntsville Times and AL.com. Joseph was born in Mobile and raised by Irondale. His lifelong best friend is Kevin “Skinny Bandit, aka El Flaco, aka Bryant Get Me Something Cold to Drink” Jackson. Joseph is married to Sarah Goodman, who encouraged him to write from the beginning. They have known the love of three children. This is Joseph’s first book. It was written in the Jesuit tradition.
"Alabama football might be a larger unifying force than Jesus in some parts of the south. For three hours on a Saturday the state stops spinning. Joseph flawlessly dissects the people and the catalysts for this phenomenon and flawlessly walks us through the one thing that unifies every fall in Alabama. Win or lose, football is religion. On Sundays we pray to Jesus, on Saturdays it's Nick Saban."—Roy Wood Jr., The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
"Covering Alabama Football over the years, you discover early on the importance of ‘team’ to Nick Saban. In a year filled with so much strife, seeing the 2020 Crimson Tide come together to win in the most unpredictable of seasons inspired so many Alabama faithful. Goodman’s focus on the significance of togetherness through adversity is something that can ring true for us all."—Laura Rutledge, ESPN/SEC Network Host & Reporter
"If David Foster Wallace was from red clay country and liked football instead of tennis, he might have approached Goodman’s gonzo-lashed prose. An outstanding work of sports journalism that far transcends mere sports. Roll Tide."—Kirkus (starred review)