Bama—isms; A New Fact, Four Old Myths That Were Facts


We may have to wait until the first offensive snap against Wisconsin Saturday night to find out who the starting QB is. Coach Saban always jokes in press conferences that when his wife, Miss Terry as he calls her, comes to practice at supper that night she tells him who the starting QB will be. He never says if he follows her recommendation, or that if he just adds on to the size of the doghouse in case he becomes one of its two occupants.

Speaking of dogs, I don’t even think Coach Saban tells his dog. You know how it is with dogs these days, they’re all over Facebook, playing the piano, singing, doing tricks, even talking. And that talking bit is why Coach Saban would exclude his dog from knowing who he has in mind to first step out on the field Saturday night. Can you imagine Coach Saban’s dog announcing Bama’s starting QB on Facebook?

Now let’s drift back to the past, and clear up what some people, to this day, consider a myth. It was no myth, it was fact. The sinking sofa in Coach Bryant’s office. Somebody should have found out who made it for him, because I’m certain he didn’t walk into a furniture store and find it. You have to remember this was before memory foam, and all the fancy knowledge that exists now that could have made it work, because work it did, even in those days.

Coach Bryant would be sitting at his desk when the football player entered his office, and he would invite him to sit on the sofa. Now the sofa just didn’t suddenly sink to the floor, even with the heaviest of linemen. It was a gradual occurrence. And you can bet Coach Bryant had in mind what he was going to say, timed out perfectly with what seemed to be a segmented sinking of the sofa, the most important point when the football player’s rear end was about six inches from the floor, and the football player staring up at a still sitting Bear, who at that time looked to be about 9 feet tall. If Bear really wanted to drive home the point, he stood up, and became about 12 feet tall

When the talk (lecture, if you prefer to call it that) was over, the football player somehow struggled to his feet, staring all the time at Bear, because sometimes Bear’s demeanors were heavier than his words. By the time the football player was finished looking at Bear, he turned around, and the sofa was back to normal, almost making him think the sinking sofa was his imagination.

After a while, the football players compared notes, and knew the sofa did indeed sink, but they weren’t about to ask Coach Bryant about it.

Then there is another myth that was fact. Coach Bryant would take those winding steps to the top of his tower. He could get a much better overall picture than from the sidelines or even on the field, watching the play develop from behind the offense or defense. Everybody just about conceded it was fact he went up in the tower. Where the confusion happened is the fact he came down out of the tower when he saw a player doing something he shouldn’t be. Sometimes the players didn’t know the guilty player, and did their best to hide behind each other. They would have sought shelter behind the bleachers, but that provided little safety. One or two of them probably tried to sneak across the street to Solomon’s for a quick roast beef sandwich (delicious with a Kosher pickle) except they didn’t know if they were the guilty party, and thought they should stand around just in case.

The trip from the tower was most often because a lineman did not block properly on offense, or didn’t avoid the block on defense. Coach Bryant would get down in a three or four-point stance across from the player. The poor player didn’t know whether he should dump Bear on his rear-end, or just go through the motions. He certainly didn’t want to hurt the old fellow. That was settled one day when Bear reamed out a particularly huge lineman, and then got down in a four point stance across the line from him. The player was revved up after the reaming out, and decided this was game day, and Bear was the opposing lineman. When the snap was called, the player charged Bear, and not only dumped him on his rear end, but Bear rolled over backwards and wound up on his knees. The football player thought he (the football player) was dead and just didn’t know it yet. The players didn’t dare help Bear to his feet. Bear managed to get up, walked over to the football player, got right in his face, and said, “That’s what I’m talking about.”

Here’s an internal myth that was fact not a great number of people knew about. When they had team meetings, the assistant coaches might be carrying on some light conversations with the players or maybe tossing around a joke or two. When they heard those firm steps coming down the hall, one likened them to the sound that a wrecking ball would make if dropped from the top of Bryant-Denny stadium to the concrete below, the room became totally silent. You could hear a pin drop, and if that pin dropped, it better have a good reason for dropping. The players were ready for some serious football talk. They never could out guess Bear though, and the psychology he employed. He came in one day, and the players were ready for some serious x’s and o’s on the blackboard. He didn’t say a word, put on his glasses, pulled a newspaper article out of his pocket, read about a heroic effort by someone, took off his glasses, and left the room without another word.

Here was somewhat of a myth about Bear, that he only cared about football, and the players’ ability to play football. The fact is that he probably cared more about them after football than during the time they were playing. He was most proud if a player succeeded, and came back to visit practice. Bear rolled out the welcome mat. I remember our son was still in law school, but came out on the practice field one day. Bear spotted him, and said, “Here comes that Philadelphia lawyer,” Bear’s face beaming like he had just won another national championship, for in his mind, a former player’s success carried that kind of weight.

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