Crimson and white loving folks everywhere are celebrating Alabama’s victory over Notre Dame and it has got this non-football-loving chick to thinking about the night, many years ago, I sat in a car and cried because former University of Alabama Head Football Coach Paul “The Bear” Bryant had died.
I know. I know. “Roll Tide” has never been in my vocabulary. I don’t watch the games (unless my husband hijacks the TV). I don’t buy the T-shirts or ball caps. It has just never been a part of my life.
But, on a cold night in January 1983, I remember my heart breaking for The Bear.
I was weeks shy of being 9 years-old and sitting in the car of the parking lot at what was Community Hospital here in Birmingham. My mom darted inside to drop off something for my great-grandmother whose health was failing. She left the car radio on and an announcer was going on and on about Paul “The Bear” Bryant having died.
I didn’t know anything about him. The Bear, that is. My parents didn’t go to Alabama. I didn’t own anything crimson and white, let alone something houndstooth.
A countless number of people called in to share their tearful memories. They all seemed devastated, broken. The more I listened, the more I realized the depth of the loss. He was a hero to many. He was a king to them and a champion-maker.
Then, the DJ played the “Bear of Alabama” song over and over. That’s when I broke down.
That ole checkered hat,
Rock granite face,
Those eagle eyes roamin’ the field,
No football fan alive,
Ever saw the sight,
Whose spine didn’t feel a little chill.
Bear of Alabama – Hero of little boys and their Dads,
Thanks for all the memories and the victories we
We love you and we miss you, Bear.
I sat in the car and cried.
I cried because the whole state was hurting. I cried for the huge void The Bear had left in college football and for the breaking hearts of those who adored him.
I must admit: there’s something very special about The Bear and Alabama football. What they represent blurs the lines of division among us, at least for the moment. When it’s time for Alabama football, people sit side by side and celebrate TOGETHER. Our adoration is colorless, transcends class. It’s the time when the nation sees us Alabamians as the champion among champions and not the cliché country bumpkins they’d like to think we are.
So, in light of what happened on Monday and since it is nearly the 30-year anniversary of The Bear’s death, I am going to let out a big ol’ ROOOOOLL TIIIIIIIIDE!
Way to go, Alabama. I am sure The Bear is proud.