College Football, Bear Bryant and "Roll Tide"

John ArmstrongPersonal

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.