Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Bear

He stood leaning against the goal post, his eyes surveying the practice drills unfolding in front of him.

Every now and then he'd take a drag on an unfiltered Chesterfield cigarette. He was wearing a suit, of course. And that houndstooth hat.

I'll get shot for saying this in the heart of Big Orange Country, but I loved Paul "Bear" Bryant.

The late Alabama football coach was a man in the best sense of that word. Yep, he was vulgar, rough around the edges, maybe a bit too concerned with winning.

But he had grit. He valued good things, too, like hard work, discipline, honesty and toughness.

He'd get to the office before the sun came up and usually put in a 16 hour day. He was color-blind in an era when the state's governor was standing in the schoolhouse door, trying to prevent black students from attending the University of Alabama.

And he was one hell of a football coach.

Bryant was criticized even in that era for being too tough. His training camp at Junction, Texas, back when he was the first-year coach at Texas A&M, was something straight from hell. Two-a-day's in the blistering summer heat. Little water. Little rest. One player, tackle Bill Schroeder, almost died from heatstroke.

But remember now, this was different time. Bryant told his players he was preparing them for life.

"When you have two kids and a wife to support and you're sick, you'll get out of bed and go to work," Bryant said.

I watched an ESPN documentary on the old coach earlier tonight. Seeing images of Bryant walking across the field wearing that suit and hat made me wonder where that kind of ethic has gone.

Tennessee has been plagued with a bizarre string of off-the-field incidents the last few years that would make the Miami Hurricanes proud. Head coach Phillip Fulmer says he's cracking down. He dismissed freshman Lee Smith earlier this year, days after Smith was arrested for DUI. He's brought back old pal David Cutcliffe to both resurrect the offense and restore discipline.

It is an overdue move. The Vols have a long tradition of running a clean program. Tennessee's best coach, Gen. Robert R. Neyland (the man Bear Bryant could never beat), would turn over in his grave if he knew about some of the recent incidents surrounding the team.

Course, he'd also turn over in his grave at the fundamentals the 2005 team lacked, but that's another story for another day.

Coaches don't wear suits and ties on the sidelines anymore. It's a different era now. Suits and ties went out not long after The Bear did.

Time marches on.

But the mystique of the suit, tie and houndstooth hat endures. So, too, do the values for which they stood.


Blogger Brian Hornback said...

Excellent post.

It is O.K. to love a Coach of an opposite team, I respect the mind and ability of Steve Spurrier, do I pull from him against TN. No. But, against everybody else, YES. He has a great coaching mind.

Bear too had a great coaching mind.

8:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bear Bryant perfected recruiting violations, If You check, you will find that about every assistant coach under Bryant that went on to be a head coach elsewhere, that school was placed on sanctions for recruiting violations.

7:58 PM  
Blogger Dewayne said...

as Senor Bright would say...

he was a crook!!

11:07 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home