Orson did a tremendous piece on how Coach Bryant’s passing gave him a glimpse of his father (who Orson describes as slippery). It was a beautiful and well-written entry and enjoyed (at least if you judge by the comments) by most who read it. While it focused on Bryant’s passing and the impact it had on his father it was not, at its core, an article about football, most especially Alabama Football or their bitter rivalry with Auburn.
While it did take a while, it became an argument between rival fans in the comment section and I admit that I got caught up and entered the fray. It started when a frequent poster who identifies himself as TIGERinATL took a shot at Alabama fans and their “living in the past” attitude. Several, including myself fired back. Those retorts cheapened the spirit in which the post was written and I apologize for doing that.
What it did was make me want to clarify, not justify, my feelings about the legendary coach. And after all, I am the only one I can speak for.
I remember Coach Bryant. I remember him on the sideline and on his TV show and I remember pulling up next to his car on our way home from greeting the team as they returned, victorious, from State College, PA in 1981. It was a big surprise to look over and see him there, his hat pulled low; he was obviously worn out after the day events. It didn’t stop me from waving and a very gracious Mary Harmon returned my wave and I am sure that I smiled for a week after.
The week before he died my mother saw him on campus(she was in grad school) and when I asked why she didn’t get me his authograph she replied, “he looked tired and I didn’t want to bother him.”
I was in the 4th grade. When one of the parents came in and gave us the news I thought it was a joke. When the truth sunk in I was devastated. Most of my school went to the lunch room and watched coverage of the funeral. It was surreal. Like thefirst time I can remember Alabama losing (to State in 80) I just couldn’t believe that it had happend.
The point here is not what Coach Bryant really was; he was a man, nothing more nothing less. What he contributed or took away from I’ll leave for other, wiser people to debate. For me he was the epitome of winning and he was larger than life. He gave people in this area a lot of pride in their state, their school, and themselves. If for no other reason he deserves to be remembered.
I made a comment below Orson’s post that if we are wrong in remembering dead people that have done much for us and by us I mean me, then we should start taking monuments and memorials down in our Capitol. I do not pretend that Coach Bryant stands up with the ranks of Washington, Jefferson, or even Kennedy but that doesn’t mean he should not be honored. See, those men were not perfect, none of them. But they each did something great.
No matter how many times Auburn beats Alabama in a row or how “delusional” you feel we are, the fact that Coach Bryant meant a lot to me, and many many others will not be cheapened by your comments.