My friends know that I am a die-hard Alabama Crimson Tide fan. I attended the University of Alabama before I transferred to Wheaton College in 1969, where I have spent the remainder of my adult life. But Crimson Tide fever has never left my system. Each fall I try to find a way to see the Tide play football in person. (I also find a way to see every game on television or record it so I see it later.) This year I will be on campus for homecoming weekend, October 6, for a game versus Houston. I have four tickets and will enjoy a weekend like few others. With Nick Saban as the new Tide coach better days are most likely ahead for my Big Red Elephants.

One of the problems at Alabama, since Bear Bryant died, provides a parallel lesson for churches and similar groups that seek to work as a family or team. After the departure of the famous Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant no one could follow the legend, no one. Fans could not get over Bryant and coaches had no chance No one should have even tried to be like Bryant frankly but this is human nature. Yes, Gene Stallings won a championship but then left to care for his family, a great move by a Christian man who is one of then most decent people you will ever meet. But then the team and the whole program fell on hard times, even into a bitter probation period that stripped much of the dignity of one of college football’s greatest programs away. Those days are over. New beginnings are about to take place. I believe, without any serious doubt, that Coach Saban will win. I am so sure of this, based upon his record as well as his focus and strong personality, that if I were a gambler (I am not) I would wager on it. Most of the Tide faithful do not expect a Top Ten team this year but most if us believe this is not far away. We do expect to see a much better team that plays harder and longer than those of recent years. We do believe that this fall college football will be fun again in the Crimson Nation. As I consider the fact that college football is only six weeks away I can now say, “Let’s get it on. Fall practice begins in just days. ‘Roll Tide.’”

Speaking of Coach Bryant, and everyone called him that with respect, there are so many stories (and quotes) from and about this man and his coaching that make sense of life in general that I will share just one today. Bryant once said: “It’s not the will to win that matters, everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.” Bear Bryant got it right. Those who prepare will ultimately succeed, whatever their endeavor. Christians do not just show up and win because they have a lot of faith. They have to prepare.

I have a great story about Bryant’s attitude toward little people that we all meet along the way in life but I will share that one later. For now I will simply add that I learned a great deal from this man and still count it a great joy that I personally met him while I was visiting campus (my high school senior year) and actually considering coming to the University as a freshman that fall. In fact, meeting him made me want to attend Alabama all the more.

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  1. Jack Isaacson July 25, 2007 at 9:57 pm

    All you need to know about the Bear is to know about the “Junction Boys”. He was a disgrace to Texas A & M and left a mess when he moved on to Alabama. The school was on probation his third year at College Station and couldn’t even go to the Cotton Bowl, even thought they had won the SWC title.
    The Junction Boys is the name given to the “survivors” of Paul “Bear” Bryant’s 10 day summer football camp in Junction, Texas beginning September 1, 1954. The ordeal has achieved legendary status and has become the subject of a book by Jim Dent and a television movie produced by ESPN.

  2. John H. Armstrong July 27, 2007 at 11:41 am

    Jack, you are only partially right and quite obviously you want to blame Bryant for the mess that followed at A & M almost entirely. He is not a candidate for sainthood I admit but Dent’s book is not accurate in several ways according to the guys who actually played for Bryant at Texas A & M. These are the men who went through the experience. They loved him and defended him. Further, the ESPN movie was vastly overstated as the discussion following it demonstrated. In my world ESPN stands for “East-Coast Sports and Programming Network.” They hate everything related to Alabama. They have covered their misfortunes in the past twenty years with a sharp edge time and time again. In hiring the hiring of Saban they cut no slack at all, generally playing only the negative side of the story.
    If you want to read a highly acclaimed and award winning biography of Bear Bryant, that is honest and not filled with hagiography, then read The Last Coach, one of the best sports biographies of recent vintage. Non-Bama fans agree, having read the book in large numbers. And the author is not a Bryant-defender in any sense of the word.

  3. Jack Isaacson August 30, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    Soon to be a major motion picture.
    Shoulkd be a good one.
    September 1970
    The battle did not take place at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Bull Connor did not preside over the scene. George Wallace did not stand in the way. Instead of a riot, a fairly played football game took place between the University of Southern California Trojans and the University of Alabama Crimson Tide, on a sweltering hot late summer night at the venerable Legion Field.
    The Good Lord, as they say, works in mysterious ways. He picks ordinary, often flawed people, among them sinners, prostitutes, tax collectors and adulterers, to be his prophets and disciples. On this night, God’s vessel would be a young black football player from Santa Barbara, California named Sam “Bam” Cunningham.
    Subject of the documentary TACKLING SEGREGATION from CBS/College Sports TV (
    Jack Isaacson

  4. John H. Armstrong August 30, 2007 at 10:55 pm

    I did not know a film was being made. You make me hungry to see it. Thanks for the information. Having lived through this era I know the impact this had in the Deep South.

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