Saturday, November 5, 2011

Smashmouth Football: Clash Of The Unbeatens


Tonight at 8 p.m., the “Game of the Century” will be played at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.  The sold out 101,821 seat stadium will be filled to overflowing with a sea of Houndstooth and crimson and chants of “Roll, Tide, Roll” as the No. 1 LSU Tigers collide with the No.2 Alabama Crimson Tide.

Richard Durrett is predicting a Bama victory.  Ty Duffy believes “Alabama does not need to run over LSU, but they need to run. Their line kept the ball moving against two excellent run defenses, Penn State and Florida. They must do so here as well. Look for Alabama to use misdirection, screens, whatever it takes to get Trent Richardson the ball in space. Having the ability to go both by people and through them, he’s lethal with a head of steam. If Richardson wants to pass Luck in the Heisman race, this is his opportunity.”

LSU Head Coach Les Miles offered this, “I'm excited about the chance to play a great program like Alabama and it's our job to make sure that we honor them by giving our best effort on Saturday. Games like this—this is what college football is all about."

My dad lived and breathed Alabama football.  Just before Christmas 1975, I found out that Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant was signing copies of his book, Bear:  The Hard Life and Good Times of Alabama’s Coach Bryant.  I decided to go there and get The Bear’s autograph for Dad as a Christmas gift.

Ever the stalwart fan, Dad knew that the 1975 Sugar Bowl contestants had been selected and that Bama would face the vaunted Penn State Nittany Lions.  Because I spilled the beans about The Bear’s book signing, Dad wanted me to ask him if the Tide would come away winners.

I was a mere twenty-three years old way back then.  As I stood at the back of the very long line, the living legend seated at the table did not look to be larger-than-life.  But as I got closer and closer to the man, I began to realize just what a formidable countenance he had.

Finally, it was my turn to request that Coach Bryant sign my copy of his book to my dad.  As he was writing, “To Bill, All the best.  Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant,” I screwed up the courage to ask him if the best team in college football would win the Sugar Bowl. 

The memory of what happened next hasn’t dimmed in my mind in the thirty-six years since it occurred.

The gravelly-voiced, 6 ft. 3 giant of a man rose from his chair, reached out his hand to me and said, “Young lady, you tell your daddy that Alabama is going to New Orleans to beat Paterno’s team on New Year’s Eve.”

I am here to tell you that his hand swallowed up mine.  I looked up as he spoke; much like a small child looks up at his mom or dad, until I finally saw his gentle eyes.

Alabama was victorious by a final score of 13–6.

This game with LSU is reminiscent of the glory days of The Bear.  So much is riding on its outcome.  Fans in Alabama are certain that the Tide will whip the Tigers.  LSU fans are just as certain the Tigers will scratch and claw their way to victory.

All I know is, when victory for the Crimson Tide is in hand, I will be chanting in front of my TV along with the mighty throng at Bryant-Denny, “Hey Tigers!  Hey Tigers! Hey Tigers!  We just beat the hell outta you!”

And dad, watching the game from Heaven above, will be happy.  I wish The Bear and dad were enjoying the game together.

3 comments:

  1. I grew up a Bear Bryant tide fan too. Good to see you post again.

    ReplyDelete
  2. @Randy-g,

    I've been sick for a long while with pneumonia. I'm on the mend though.

    Roll Tide!

    ReplyDelete
  3. My dad was an LSU fan through and through but he loved Bear Bryant too and we also had that book in our house, although not signed.

    This brought a tear to my eye remembering my dad and "meeting" yours.

    SO glad you're back!

    And hey, that was a hard fought, tough game and as far as I'm concerned they both won. If not for those missed field goals, that game would never have gone to overtime. I suspect there will be a rematch!

    ReplyDelete

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