COLUMN: Dear Coach Saban


Dear Coach Saban,

Since I wrote a letter to Kalen DeBoer a few weeks ago and gave him some pointers about the South, I thought it was only fair to drop you a note and give you a tip or two about the strange new world that you are in now – retirement. Since you’ve only been at it about four months, and because I’ve been at it about four years, you may benefit from my experience. So listen up, aiiight?

I realize that although we both call ourselves retirees, there are some differences between us. For example, I have a nest egg, and you have the whole chicken house. Once I was recognized by someone in the local Wal Mart, and you were recognized in the Vatican – by the Pope! (That’s a joke – I think).

Nevertheless, since I’m a bit further down this road than you are, here’s a few nuggets of wisdom that will make your transition easier. 

  1. Don’t forget that acting young is the secret to staying young. We may be older models, but let’s keep the body looking good – even if the motor and transmission are showing some wear. Shoulders back, brisk walk and alert to the environment. Any person with slumped shoulders, eyes on the sidewalk and a slow gait will be perceived as a retiree with one foot in the grave. Clint Eastwood said it best, “Don’t let the old man in.”
  2. That orderly group of people waiting in a restaurant is called a line. Not an offensive line, not a defensive line, just a line. These are people actually waiting their turn to get a table and eat a meal. Join them, at the rear of course, and strike up a conversation with a stranger – you’ll be surprised how enjoyable that can be. 
  3. I’m sure you may be a bit confused about another kind of line. This one is in a supermarket where people check out their groceries. Just roll with it. If you happen to be in a hurry (and now there’s no reason to be), try the self-service checkout. That’s right, now you can check out your own purchases. Give it a try. And don’t worry – someone is always close by to help you out.
  4. It’s incredible how much gas pumps have changed in the past few decades. By now you should know that all you have to do is follow the queues, then insert your credit card and get your gas. It’s kinda nice to pay at the pump isn’t it? And don’t bother with a receipt. Once you get the hang of it, you can advance to tapping your card to pay. We’ve come a long way from your dad’s service station in West Virginia.
  5. This sounds crazy, but think about cutting your own grass. Go get you a top of the line zero turn lawn mower – that’s chump change for you – then turn the key and mow away. I know lots of retirees who find cutting their lawn a peaceful way to create order out of chaos. Afterward, you and your wife can sit on the deck, drink a glass of tea and admire your handiwork. Go ahead and hire someone to do the edging. All that bending over can adversely affect your golf swing. 
  6. Thank goodness that between Alabama and ESPN, you’ll have a couple of nice part-time jobs. The structure will be good for you. My financial planner told me that the key to a successful retirement is to have a reason to get up every day. Well, that, along with a nice-sized nest egg, and we’ve already discussed that. I know this won’t be a problem because I can’t envision you sitting in an easy chair, stuffing your face with Little Debbie snacks and watching “Judge Judy” all day. 
  7. I saw where Miss Terry said it seems like you just came out of a 50-year coach’s coma. There’s something to be said for that. Lots of retirees come out of comas. There’s all kinds: salesmen’s comas, attorney’s comas, manager’s comas, doctor’s comas – any career you devoted your whole life to and excluded everything else, creates a coma, and it’s not healthy. I once worked for someone who told me that I gave 110%, but he wanted 150%. An attitude like that will cause you to miss out on more important things in life. Fortunately, now there’s time to correct that.

Nick, we have to admit that we are in the fourth quarter of our lives. We don’t know what the clock says: it may be early, or we may be approaching the two-minute warning. What we do know is we have less time left than we’ve already lived. And just like a football game, it’s time to finish well. What does that mean? Reconnect with old acquaintances, friends that you drifted away from because life got in the way. Did you do something in your life you still need to apologize for? Do you need to thank someone for something they did or said to you? Do it. Tie up those loose ends. And spend time with those grandchildren. They’re wonderful – kids you can spoil – and then give back to their parents. 

Oh, and play lots of golf. It doesn’t have to be 18 holes. Try going out on the course late in the afternoon to play three or four holes and catch a sunset. I find that invigorating. 

And if you need someone to play with, give me a call. I’m almost always available. After all, I’m retired, too.

Joe Hobby is a barbecue-loving comedian from Alabama who wrote for Jay Leno for many years. Find more of Joe’s stories on his blog: Follow him on Facebook at Joe Hobby Comedian-Writer.