A Little Psychology from Coach Bear Bryant. The players were always trying to figure out Coach Bryant’s next move. I’m not sure they ever did.
It was not your typical football Saturday afternoon. Bama had lost the Saturday before.
On Sunday afternoon after that mind-numbing Saturday, the players were huddled around the TVs in Bryant Hall trying to get an indication of what to expect that coming week, as Coach Bryant munched on Golden Flake potato chips and drank a swig or two of Coca Cola on his TV game review program.
Whether Bama won or loss, Coach Bryant would normally throw out a slight compliment or two, and then launch into a litany of wrongdoings on the field. I’m not quite certain he had time for any compliments on this day. I believe the host on the show was Charley Thornton, and I’m not sure Charley had time to interject any continuity into the program as he normally did.
I don’t think Coach Bryant objected to whether the players in Bryant Hall used their imaginations to prophesy what was about to happen on the practice field.
What about running up to Birmingham and back twice during the week? A mere 200 miles, give or take 5 or 10 miles, but what difference does a mile or two make when you’re having fun?
What about going out to practice, and practicing into the night until the night became the next day?
What about wearing practice jerseys that said, “We thought we were football players”?
None of those would happen, as the practices for the week intensified. Intensified is a comparative term. When you came in from practice as they had done in past weeks with their tails dragging, and they came from this week’s practices every day with their tails dragging, how could you say these practices were worse than prior practices?
But the players knew Coach Bryant well enough to know he was still up to something, which could have made for lively speculations when the players were not around the coaches.
On this Saturday, my family and I had circled a portion of Bryant Denny, walking toward the players’ entrance to the stadium. We had passed two parked luxurious Greyhound buses.
I don’t remember who Bama was playing that Saturday. If it was an SEC team, the buses had brought the team from the airport to the stadium. If it was a non-SEC team, the buses were probably the total transportation for that team from their home base to the stadium.
It was about time for the Alabama team to come from the Coliseum to Bryant Denny, a total distance of seven or eight blocks. The players no doubt had considered that Coach Bryant would have them jog that distance, and parade in front of the fans lined up to greet them. Not exactly a glorifying moment for the players or Bama football.
Up the street came two city buses. These were not ordinary city buses. These had to be city buses that Coach Bryant had gone to the city bus graveyard, picked them out, and had them resurrected. Well, sorta. Both belched enough black smoke out the tailpipes to equal Tuscaloosa’s federal allowed pollution through 2095.
One bus, with obviously broken springs and shock absorbers, leaned severely to the left as you looked at it coming up the street. The bus behind leaned severely to the right for the same reasons. When I say leaned, I mean like those on the high side, unless they had a firm grip on something, slid unceremoniously to the low side, and the gathering on the low side resembled an unopened can of sardines.
When the buses stopped, Coach Bryant was first off. I’d like to say he stepped down to the curb. That would be incorrect. The bus was so low on that side, he had to step up to the curb.
The players followed behind him single file, and where that file from the first bus ended, the single file from the second bus followed directly behind.
There was no momentary meet and greet fans and family at the gate entrance as there normally was. It was mum and glum.
I would not have wanted to be the other team that played Bama on that Saturday afternoon.
The players did not want to find out what Coach Bryant would be up to again.