While college football isn’t exactly a matter of life or death in Alabama, it is about as close as it gets during the fall of each year. As we all know, the University of Alabama won the BCS National Championship game last month, making it three straight for my state. Alabama won the title in 2010, as Auburn University did last year. Alabama totally dominated LSU in the Super Dome matchup on January 9th, leaving no doubt about the Crimson Tide being the best team in the land. This made it six consecutive national titles for the SEC.
To say that Alabamians have become accustomed to winning championships in football is perhaps an understatement, but in fact it’s a reality. We have certainly had our share of titles over the years. Football dominates the news during the fall in Alabama and much of what happens each weekend revolves around football. Our universities do everything possible for their teams to be in the hunt for the National Championship each year. The teams enjoy tremendous support from their respective fan bases. We pay our coaches extremely well. Auburn and Alabama head coaches have salaries in the multi-million dollar range. Few consider the salaries to be excessive and I suspect the coach at each school earns his pay.
I am a huge football fan and enjoy a winning team as much as anybody. But I have to wonder if we don’t have our priorities a little bit out of kilter when it comes to the big picture in Alabama. Consider the fact that our state ranks fairly low in a number of other areas, all equally as important as football to the people of our state, and it becomes quite evident that we have neglected those areas. Perhaps we should take an objective look at our priorities and make a few changes on the non-football side of the ledger.
Let’s suppose we began placing the same priority on our state’s public school system as we do on football, starting at the earliest stages of a student’s involvement with the system. If ever we were willing to do that, lots of lingering problems in Alabama would be solved, both for the short and long range. I seriously doubt that we would ever again hear any of our politicians saying “no new taxes this year or ever,” which has been a common theme for political candidates and office holders over the years. Our state has failed to progress as it should have because of misplaced priorities and a lack of long-range planning. Let’s take a look at a few of the areas where we have fallen short:
• Nobody can truthfully say that we have ever made public education our top priority and we have suffered economically and socially as a consequence.
• Even though we have made industrial development a fairly high priority in Alabama, the level of emphasis there pales in compassion to our zeal for winning a conference or national championship.
• A football coach at Auburn or Alabama who fails to win will soon be soon shown the door. But we allow some politicians to hang around even though they contribute very little to our state’s economy or to the state’s general well-being.
• Another prime example of neglect concerns our highways in Alabama. We ride on roads in our state, including our interstates, which are in bad need of maintenance and repair. There are even bridges that are considered to be very dangerous.
• We have school buildings that are in a sad state of repair in many counties.
• It’s a sad fact that we don’t pay our teachers on a basis comparable to other states in this part of this country. Instead, we allow politicians to attack teachers in order to score political points.
• Neither do we pay police officers a decent wage, even though they put their very lives on the line for us every day.
• Our legislature passes laws – such as HB 56 (the ill-advised immigration law) – with little thought or concern as to how it will affect our state.
All of these areas of concern should rank much higher on our list of priorities. Perhaps it’s time to make something other than winning football programs our top priority in Alabama. Football could still reign as “King of the Hill,” because it will never slide very far down on the list of priorities in Alabama. But let’s try making the essential functions of government our top priorities on a permanent basis and then see what happens. There can be little doubt but that public education is the place to start. Once we get our priorities in order, starting with education, we can still celebrate football championships and that’s good. But we would also be celebrating other top-level achievements in Alabama.
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