There's something a little impersonal about it all, this frenzied interest in college football.
This guy's looked good. That guy needs to improve, and this other guy is out with an injury. The hardcore fan eats up every detail available from the practice field, while the casual fan might identify a player better by a jersey number than his actual name. Both see players through the same gridiron lens. It's about the scoreboard, and there's nothing inherently wrong with that.
Fan is short for fanatic for a reason.
On Sunday, Alabama coaches Nick Saban, offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien and defensive coordinator Pete Golding took rapid-fire questions about all the depth-chart nuts and bolts that have nothing to do with what players think and feel, until Golding was asked about his February DUI arrest.
Then, things got personal.
He emphasized the trust that was broken between a leader and the young men he guides. The awkwardness that fills the void trust leaves behind when an adult who reminds them to make the right decisions off the field fails to do so himself.
Golding had to reach the names, not the jerseys.
The hearts and minds, not the X's and O's.
The arrest came the morning following National Signing Day in February. It was 1 a.m., a one-hour violation of the nothing-good-happens-after-midnight-rule that Golding's, boss, Saban, has been known to utter from time to time. How did it change, if at all, the opinions of seniors who'd known Golding since their arrival on campus, or the incoming freshmen whose ink was barely dry on scholarship papers? Youngsters tend to be forgiving, and for many players, Golding likely received an immediate show of support. For others, perhaps for any whose families have been DUI-impacted, it might come slower.
That's what Golding, or anyone in the position of setting a constant example for others, must assess.
"Anytime you're in a leadership role in anything you do, you've got a responsibility. Every day we talk to our kids about making good decisions, that there are consequences for making bad decisions. And I made a very poor decision that affected a lot of other people than just myself. And it was selfish," Golding said. "And it opened up a lot of emotions for a lot of people, because people can be affected by making that decision. And I was wrong, and I've got to suffer the consequences for it."
Golding met with the team the following day, and began trying to rebuild the bridge.
A coach's job is to get the very best out of each player, but the most sacrifice comes from the player's end -- in effort, in discipline, in every sprint and rep and demand that comes under 100-degree August heat. Most players will do it all and more for a coach they trust; not so much for one they don't.
Golding's challenge this offseason has, by necessity, been as much about regaining the respect of the players he leads as watching any film or shoring up personnel packages.
It's not easy, nor should it be.
Golding displayed a keen understanding of that on Sunday.
"I've done a lot of things in my life, obviously, to adjust what I do to become a better person for it, as a father, a husband and a coach. When I told the team, I met with them that next day. I said, 'Look, man, I can tell you anything I want, but I've got to show you,' " Golding said.
Entering his fifth season on Alabama's staff, Golding has plenty of competition to evaluate on the field – at cornerback, and inside linebacker, and elsewhere. None of that matters more, however, than his efforts to reach past what's on the field. Past the jersey numbers and the depth chart, and into the dynamics of his relationship with the players.
Reach Chase Goodbread at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @chasegoodbread
This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Pete Golding rebuilding Alabama football players' trust after DUI arrest