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Nick Saban: Robot or Not?

Time to answer the age old question.

Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

There is a podcast called "Robot or Not?" where affable host Jason Snell and stickler for precision John Siracusa debate whether things are or aren't robots. Below is the transcript from an unaired episode* tackling once and for all whether or not Nick Saban is, in fact a robot.

*Made up entirely by me


Jason: So John, I wasn't sure if you were actually going to do this one with me.

John: I don't follow sports as closely as you do, but the links you sent me helped.

Jason: The question today is about the University of Alabama head football coach—that's American football, not soccer, for our international listeners—Nick Saban. Is he a robot?

John: I think you're being facetious with this one, so I'll humor you and play along.

Jason: I'm glad.

John: A cursory look at his Wikipedia page shows that he has a documented birthday, a wife, and children. He also has an employment contract with the university, and that indicates that he has a valid Social Security number.

Jason: All true.

John: So I think we can safely say that this Nick Saban person is a human being. Or, at least, was a human at one time.

Jason: Ooh, "at one time". I like where you're going with this.

John: There are a number of reasons why people accuse him of being a robot. He seems to be fairly humorless. He doesn't smile often, and I will admit from the pictures I saw that his smile is off-putting. It doesn't look like a normal smile.

Jason: No it does not.

Photo credit: Marvin Gentry -- USA TODAY Sports

John: He also never stops working at his football job, putting more time and effort into it than a regular human being who needs to sleep and interact with other humans would, and I think there was some kind of actual football thing that you mentioned in the Slack before we started that you should cover here.

Jason: Yes, well, he is known for coaching defenses, but his defenses seem to struggle against offenses with players who can improvise like Johnny Manziel or offensive schemes that use misdirection.

John: What you're saying is that when the rules are strictly defined, he can succeed like the chess-playing artificial intelligences or AlphaGo, but he breaks down when there is disorder.

Jason: Yes, just like you'd expect from a robot.

John: Or just an AI. Anyway, in recent years the only food he's been documented as eating is Little Debbie... what is it? Is it an oatmeal something?

Jason: Yes. Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies I believe is the official name of them.

John: There certainly is not enough nutritional content in those things to keep a human being alive. Also, he always seems to have a Coca-Cola bottle for promotional purposes at his press conferences, but he's never been seen drinking it.

Jason: So are you suggesting that Nick Saban actually is a robot?

John: Not exactly. Though there are people who call him a robot, a lot of people don't call him a robot. He is around other people at his job, he talks to his players and their families, he does interviews with sideline reporters, all of this without the majority of people believing he is a robot.

Jason: I know where you're going with this.

John: This suggests that if his insides have been replaced by machinery and circuits, he has a very believable outer coating for his skin.

Jason: And hair too.

John: Well, his hair color isn't believable for a 64-year-old man, and that can be faked with a wig or something. But if people who are up close with him don't think he's a robot, then it's likely his skin is organic.

Jason: And that puts us is cyborg territory.

John: Yes. I think we can say that if Nick Saban isn't just a human being, then he would be a cyborg. Even though sufficiently advanced technology for him to be a cyborg is the stuff of science fiction and he's definitely just a human being.

Jason: But not a robot either way.

John: No, not a robot.