There have been many bad arguments tossed about in the wake of Alabama’s loss to Ole Miss two weeks ago and their struggle with Arkansas this past week. A common thread among them has been the principle of reductio ad absurdum, or reduction to the absurd. The most egregious offenders have been head coach Nick Saban and starting tackle Austin Shepherd.
Reductio ad absurdum is a logical fallacy wherein an argument is taken to a ridiculous level in order to invalidate the premise. The most glaring application of the idea comes from Austin Shepherd when he stated that “Everyone (fans) wants us to win 60-0, and that’s just not possible,” on Monday.
On the surface, Shepherd is absolutely correct. No team in recent memory has won every game 60-0. Several teams, including the 2011 Tide and 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers, have been a cut above throughout most of their games, but not to the level of 60-0.
Going deeper, though, Shepherd showcases the reductio ad absurdum fallacy because he takes fan expectations, in many cases far milder than 60-0, and invalidates all of them by painting the entire fan base as unrealistic. Not only is that completely over-the-top, it is also blatantly unfair.
It is tough to blame Shepherd when he takes his marching orders from Nick Saban, and he’d just done the exact same thing minutes beforehand. The rant directed at fans during his Monday press conference featured the phrase “It really, if you want to know the truth about it, (ticks) me off when I talk to people that have this expectation like they are disappointed that we only won the game 14-13 and in the way we played.”
Cue the record scratch sound bite.
This is the same coach that has said “dominate” in some form or fashion so much that it lazily scrolls across reporters’ foreheads as they’re working. This is the same coach that wants his team to “make their *** quit.”
Two questions. How is giving up 9-19 third down conversions dominant? How is amassing 227 yards to Arkansas’ 335 “making their *** quit?”
Answer to both: reductio ad absurdum. The rant reduces a multi-faceted problem to a single facet, and in many ways, tries to dismiss it. The whole rant put the onus on fans, and their expectations surrounding the team. Never mind that those expectations had been created in no small measure by the man who was now blasting away at them.
The worst part about this is that by using reductio ad absurdum to try and justify away a problem, it has only made the absurdity of the situation that much more apparent. Long-time, logical (that being a sometime problem) Alabama fans want to win all the time, one point being as good as sixty. For goodness sake, the fan base will take the win. But Bama supporters were not so much disappointed in the margin of victory, as they were in the sloppiness and mistakes that were made, and the problems they foretell for the future if they are not corrected.
Another of Nick Saban’s patented buzzwords is the “Process.” It has brought Alabama to dizzying heights over the past seven years. Isn’t it time to embrace that “Process” once again?