Saban’s Bus

Getting the Right Guys on the Bus (Alabama Spring Football Practice – 2019)

“Mediocre people don’t like high-achievers & high-achievers don’t like mediocre people. My goal for spring practice: get the right guys on the bus. Get them in the right seats & get the wrong guys off the bus.” Nick Saban via Tweet on The Coach Tube 7/20/19.

John Fraim


Perhaps the greatest coach in all of sports today is the Alabama football coach Nick Saban. Many know of his exploits on the field with the Tide. Yet fewer know about the simplicity and poetry of the way he sees the world today expressed much in the quote above. Those riding on his above “bus” are of course the Alabama football team as it heads into a new season of battle.

The challenge for coach Saban is to determine who stays on the bus and who gets off of it. His goal is to get high achievers on the bus and mediocre people off of it. (Of course one must understand that “mediocre” by Saban’s standards mean the top 10% of college players in the nation). The shifting continues as the team bus heads into a new season and its perennial run for the national championship.

Saban believes there are what he calls “high achievers and mediocre people” in life. Apart from believing in these two groups of people he attempts to separate the high achievers from the others on the team. Achievement is physical in many ways, but it is also mental. Saban does not seem fixated on putting together his best athletes. All the players who come to his team are the best athletes from their states. He deals on the highest of high levels with the players he influences to come to Alabama and have him as a mentor in life and sports. More than the physical attributes (that most of his players have) Saban to me is a master psychologist and motivator of actions in people sometimes beyond what they feel are their own limits. He really wants his highest achievers on the field during the coming season for Alabama. Not necessarily his best athletes.

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Like almost everything today, Saban’s comments have political implications in that it sees the world in terms of two groups of people: the “high achievers” and “mediocre people.” In effect, his comments go against the standard memes running rampant that declare a world of mediocracy rather than achievement. In this world, there are no winners or losers but only victims of a system. It is a world where every kid deserves a trophy.

One wonders whether Saban might be given some political label by identifying with “high achievers” rather than “mediocre” people? Has this become a genuine political division today? A division separating a grand swarth of groups in our nation?

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Part of being a great coach like Saban is to create just the right analogies or metaphors for the times. Perhaps this is an attribute of all great coaches? They see the world in much less complicated ways than most see the world today. The world is reduced down to the simple symbol so many of us know. A bus that is heading down the road towards a new season of football.

So, as much of the nation fights-back-and forth today, the bitter daily TV shootouts between Fox and CNN, MSMBC as well as all the daily columns and radio talk shows. All of this two-sided battle is consuming. Add to all of this the efforts of social media that make sure the focus is on the back-and-forth battle rather than anything outside of this battle. Going nowhere. Yet perhaps nowhere is a legitimate place to go as a goal or strategy. In the direction of going nowhere.

Outside all of the above, Saban runs his bus down the road, heading for spring camp. The bus image conjured up by a master communicator. Everyone knows about being on a bus. You’re going somewhere.

In many ways, it is part of the brilliance of Nick Saban to have simple ideas like a bus going down the road towards the goal of spring football camp.

masterful coach like Saban has these types of for these types of images like a bus are the things that put inspiration in members of his football team. Pulling people onto the bus and taking people off the bus. As Saban notes in his Tweet, his goal is to “get the right guys on the bus” and “get them in the right seats.” And, to also “get the wrong guys off the bus.”

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Perhaps the bus could be a metaphor for America at this point in time?

We’re all on this bus, all of us Americans. A recent book by Harvard professor creates the environment this bus exists in it seems to me.

The name of the professor is Shoshana Zuboff and her book is The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. She sees our world as under surveillance rather than a world of freedom once promised by the Internet. (See her site at In the book she documents intense efforts at manipulation of the population through alogrhythms on the Internet.

Now, not so much as a tool we use but rather as something that uses us. Something, some presence that watches us all the time. Though little home gadgets like Alexa. Through our cell phones. Our choices on streaming service. This Internet presence creates online worlds and environments around what it observes through our digital actions. In all of this, each of our worlds seems more and more molded around us to what we search for on Google what we purchase on Amazon. What we watch on Netflix.

And on and on. Zuboff has written an important book about an environment rather the content within this environment. An interesting book using the tools of media ecology in many ways. For the first time, capitalism is connected in a convincing way to the act of surveillance. One’s world becomes increasingly insular and insulated from others by the creation of these separate digital worlds by the Internet.

While Saban’s bus streams down the road towards spring camp, I’m reminded of another interesting book Amy Webb’s book The Big Nineabout the nine major tech corps in the world who will create the future of AI. Three are in China and six in America.

Webb argues that we are in a global-struggle with the Chinese to own the global future of AI. This is the true technological challenge we have today more than anything else. The struggle involves war between the three great Chinese AI corporations and the six great American AI corporations. The Chinese companies move with the precision of army troops towards a common, communal shared goal. The American companies (under no government control) each wildly pursues their own agendas without much interest in teaming up with others.

In many ways, this might offer a modern battle between capitalism and socialism on a global scale. It seems that socialism comes out the winner most often on the international stage. Is this perhaps part of the reason that “internationalists” or “globalists” don’t like “nationalists?” Webb argues that there will be a coming battle between China and America to control the future of artificial intelligence. The government is setting one common goal for this in China while American firms fight amongst themselves while the government stands down.

This grand international competition is perhaps the best argument yet for creating more government control in the high-tech part of America’s economy. Yet, control by who as it is becoming increasing obvious that Congress has little understanding of the tech industry.

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In many ways, it seems to me, America needs to keep the image of Nick Saban in mind when moving forward into the world. That is, the image of all being on some bus moving towards training camp and a team that we could make or be tossed off of.

That is, the great image of Saban’s bus and his Tweet of getting the right people on this bus. This bus is moving forward towards the goals in spring camp. This is the bus Saban writes about in his above Tweet.

It is a bus that attempts to attract the high achievers from the mediocre in life. It is a dynamic bus, though, and people leave the bus as well as come onto it.

Yet there seems no united American effort to create AI similar to the united effort of the Chinese to create AI today.

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Except for Nick Saban and his bus perhaps. It rumbles ahead towards the upcoming training camp and Saban constantly searches out those high achievers amongst the young men he leads into a season of football. He sees his job as separating the high achievers from those who are mediocre. (But of course, Saban only gets all of the high achievers in the nation so the job of deciding needs to go inside the minds of the athletes as much as their outward physical statistics. This task presents itself to Saban probably more than any other big-name coach in the nation as his athletes are all pretty incredible based on their outward, physical characteristics.

In some ways, I wish that our American tech companies and their battle against the Chinese to own AI, might be controlled by a coach like Nick Saban rather than the back-and-forth actions of our politicians. Someone who is moving forward on some bus, taking people onto the bus and kicking others off the bus. Such a dynamic setting. No one gets a free ride on the bus to training camp.

Yes, I wish we had someone like Saban at controls as we head into battle with the Chinese over the future of AI. In other words, control from some central source. I wish it had some overseer. The government to me seems like a terrible overseer. Why not put things under the control of a great coach? After all, if an actor and a businessman can become president, then why can’t (shouldn’t) a coach become president?

And, what an incredible president a great coach might make. (Perhaps some of our greatest presidents have been coaches?) Not just any coach. Rather, the greatest coach of one’s time. A coach like Nick Saban. If anyone can make a distinction between “high achievers” and “mediocre” achievers, it is Nick Saban.

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In many ways, Saban has separated out two groups in life that Ayn Rand suggested in her 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged. In Rand’s novel, the producers in life are separated from those who do not produce. It’s somewhat of an unfair analogy to relate Saban separating those who produce from those who don’t produce. In his Tweet words he separates “high achievers” from “mediocre” achievers.

One wonders if a symbolic relationship exists between the two extreme points on our spectrum: producers and consumers. Of course, we are all both producers and consumers at various times of the day. However, one wondered if these two symbols – producers and consumers – might represent the key symbolic battle between political forces in America.  Offering a far greater metaphor of what is going on in the world than dumb. Old-fashioned titles like Democrat and Republican parties. Progressive and Liberal.

The symbolism of consumption and production are all around the media environment these days. One of the leading genres in all of pop culture today is based around the consumption symbol or genre of hero/heroine in a story. The consumption members of culture are seen as mass invaders, their minds gone through some zombiesque infiltration.

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It doesn’t seem far-fetched to suggest that a few produce much in our culture. As a group that might be called “few.” A few own the wealth of the world and a few produced the food of the earth. The tie between wealth and food production has never been looked into in any serious way.

The characters in Rand’sAtlas Shruggedseems closer and closer to the world today. All of the political labels of people today. Is it not as it has always been a battle between the haves and the have-nots. The changing digital technologies of our modern world continues to add interesting twists and interpretations to who are the haves and the have nots in culture today.

So many things hide under big words in our culture.

Such as that big word called emigrant.

In effect, of course, we are a nation of immigrants. We need to understand this and to thus understand why the concept of immigration is much more than one of the main differences between the Democrats and the Republicans. There is a feeling for this word in all Americans who have immigrated or come to this nation from somewhere else. This is the entire nation it might be argued. So, of course, the word is a big word with much emotion attached to it.

* * *

The word American emigrant has possessed a varied history over the years. The work and production of immigrants was seen throughout America in the early years of the nation.

Over the years, the term immigration came to mean more consumption from immigrants of the benefits and products of America than production to create them, the situation with the immigrants that built America.

In other words, the powerful word immigrant, a word felt to be a part of all Americans, is hijacked by political parties into standing for a symbol of all that they can stand behind.

In a similar way, the image of a political icon is hijacked during a political investigation. (See our Figurehead story idea)

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All social and political systems might best be understood better if viewed from the unique perspective of the two elements (symbols) of productions and consumption, the two activities of life. Looked at in perspective of the use of the word immigrant.

There are past immigrants who produced and built the nation.

And, there are current immigrants who are mainly consumers who want to take rather than build the nation. The word immigrants or emigrants goes through this change as all words do through their history of usage. Once the word meant producers and now the word mainly means consumers or takers from culture.

Nick Saban mentions “high-achievers” in his Tweet above. But novelist Ayn Rand might label these high achievers as the “producers” in the world in her famous novel. Those that achieve or take action in the world to make things happen. Those who do not wait to have things happen to them?

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The grandest definition of this type of person in culture today in many ways is Alabama football coach Nick Saban. Among all of the celebrities of current culture, Saban is one of the few who calls out producers from consumers on his entire rostrom as he heads towards a new season of football battle.

One of the things I immediately snap out of the air of the above is that Saban has a two-sided view of the world. A Darwinesque worldview. This view is that the world is divided into winners and losers. The winners give enengy to a culture. The losers take energy from culture. One is a producer. The other, that popular meme of a vampire, a living dead beast, first expressed in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Refined over the years. Yet, the original idea never refined in it’s brilliance.

And I wonder in times like this. We have had actors for our presidents. We have had business people. Why not consider future Presidents coming from the ranks of coaching?


(It’s another sign of our insulated worlds today. We seldom hear about important Twitter groups out there. Why not a guide out there – a site to the links of other sites of social groups on the Internet. A rating of strong member or not of this group. There are many important Twitter communities out there today. One is Coach Tube at on Twitter where Saban’s comments were first posted. After going to the site, appreciate it if our readers made some decision by letting me know what you think)

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