Perhaps James Franklin should smile more when he’s joking. Maybe he should pause after delivering a punchline and allow time for laughter. If he had done so earlier this week, maybe everyone who saw the video of him referring to Alabama’s Nick Saban as “Nicky Satan” would have ha-ha’d and realized it was just a big ol’ joke.
Now, we didn’t think he was firing a particularly vicious shot at Bama’s coach, we just couldn’t figure out — still can’t — his purpose for saying he would outwork “Nicky Satan” while speaking at a Georgia high school’s banquet. Why not just say he would outwork Nick Saban?
Whatever the reason, the comment made news on sports sites across the country. And Franklin said yesterday that he dialed up Saban once the video clip of his comment started to spread. He must’ve been worried that Bama’s coach wouldn’t get his grand jest either:
“Obviously, tremendous respect for Coach Saban. I just got off the phone with him. Tremendous respect for them. I’ve got tremendous respect for what they’ve done. Everybody is chasing them. The guy has won three or four national championships.
I was really talking about the work ethic that he has a reputation for, and that we’re going to outwork them. I made a joke. And in today’s society with all the media and social media and people with tape recorders and things like that, that doesn’t come off that way. I know people have tremendous pride in Alabama and their fans are fanatical, so I understand. But it was a joke, and I didn’t mean to offend anybody.”
OK. So Franklin pretty clearly has “tremendous respect” for Saban and Alabama’s program. But to blame the media for this? Hold on a second.
Franklin wasn’t captured surreptitiously by a cell phone camera or a Nixonian tape recorder hidden in the rostrum before him. There was at least one television camera with at least one WMAZ-TV employee in the room shooting video of him. If he didn’t think his comments could/would be broadcast then he’s still got one or two PR lessons to learn. Like: TV cameras usually suggest that something will be televised.
As for Alabama’s fanatical followers, what does that have to do with Franklin’s joke? Media outlets from well outside the Yellowhammer State ran with the story because it’s not often one coach calls another coach “Satan.” In fact, if Saban had called Franklin by a name it would have gotten just as much if not more press. So this really had nothing to do with Tide fans (though they are fanatical).
No, this comes down to a silly joke. A joke that drew no laughs judging from the sound on the video. And it was Franklin’s silly decision to make the silly joke.
Whether it’s calling another coach “Satan” or suggesting he chooses his assistant coaches based on their wives’ looks — another knee-slapper — Vandy’s coach needs to figure out what will and what won’t start folks talking. Better yet, maybe he should just stick to football and leave the smarm to pros like Steve Spurrier. Only good things have been said about his football program since he’s been in Nashville. The same can’t be said for his jokes.