"Shop Talk" is essentially soft propaganda. Every aspect of it is choreographed. You can tell by the topics of conversation that make the final cut -- how much nicer the Alabama facilities are today than they used to be, the pitfalls of social media, and how the thought of transferring from Alabama was never an option no matter how hard it got -- instead of the types of conversations you usually have when you get together with ex-teammates -- the time Johnny Houndstooth was so hungover he puked on himself after a morning workout, or the time Coach yelled so hard he accidentally hocked a loogie onto that freshman's face -- that you're watching propaganda.
But that's perfectly fine. That's the entire point. Every video that every football program in America puts out is soft propaganda, and "Shop Talk" is no different. Actually, it's different in one important way: It's better than just about anything else out there. In fact, "Shop Talk" is Alabama's newest recruiting weapon.
The conceit of it is simple: three ex-players sitting around talking about the good old days. But the final product effectively boils down the entire Alabama experience into one 17-minute video. Think about the message Alabama puts in front of recruits here:
A) Our facilities are as good or better than any other place you'll visit.
B) Our former players went on to accomplish everything you want to do. The stars of this episode are Julio Jones (a national champion and a first-round draft pick), Ryan Anderson (a national champion and an NFL draft pick) and Eddie Jackson (a national champion and an NFL draft pick).
C) Oh, and our coach isn't as mean and scary as you've been told.
This third point is the most crucial and effective one. "Shop Talk" shows Saban in a light we don't often see. He smiles! He laughs! He's just like you and me! Everyone knows Saban the Drill Sergeant. "Shop Talk" shows you the other side of him, Saban the Proud Father Figure. In fact, the conversation ties an effective link between the two: Yeah, Alabama may be harder to survive than other places you can go, but it's worth it in the long run.
This passage from Saban sums that up:
"The thing that I don't get to say much that makes me feel the best, even about winning games or anything else, is that all you guys that played here over the last 11 years that I've been here, everybody likes coming back," Saban says. "That's the most important thing to me, that you guys enjoy coming back."
"That means you had a great experience here, you liked the people here, you appreciate some of the people who helped you here, you come back to help the next guy. And that spirit sort of makes it special. I never really get to say that much but it is something that makes me really, really feel good as a coach that you guys feel that way because everybody out there says how hard it is and all this stuff, but really there's a sense of accomplishment and pride that everybody that is really kind of a neat thing."
Part 2 of Episode 1 comes out next Wednesday. If I'm a coach recruiting against Alabama, I'm thinking about pooling my money with the rest of my competition to see if we can contract some Russian hackers to shut this whole thing down post haste.