A belated Bear Bryant education

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Some of you might have to sit down before you read this.

When I was a sophomore in college, my friend mentioned the name Bear Bryant and I innocently asked her, &8220;Who&8217;s that?&8221;

Now before the hate mail and phone calls come flooding in, I knew that Alabama had a legendary coach back in the early days and a winning football team, I guess I just wasn&8217;t entirely sure on the details.

As you can imagine, I was quickly rebuked for my apparently moronic question. &8220;Are you kidding me?&8221; Cheryl said. I can be goofy at times, so I guess she assumed this was one of my moments. But, much to many Alabamian&8217;s disbelief, I wasn&8217;t.

I shouldn&8217;t be blamed too terribly much for my belated Bear Bryant education. Though my mom and dad were both from Alabama and dad played football for Cherokee County High School, they moved to Florida before I was born. He always pulled for the Tide when he caught a game on TV and especially when they played any Florida team.

But there were no Bama fans where we lived to help celebrate victories and console losses and, having no son to instill with football tradition, dad usually watched the games in his den instead of the family room, where I frequented.

Growing up, the teams my school friends talked about were the Gators and &8216;Noles, and I spent my afternoons riding horses instead of learning cheers and dance routines. Until high school, football wasn&8217;t a part of my life at all and college at a private school didn&8217;t generate much more interest. Maybe because so many people relocated to Florida from different places, the pressure to align with one team or another was less compelling than in Alabama.

One thing is for sure now, however. Once settled and working in Shelby County, I have been forced to confront my lack of football knowledge and disinterest. When PAT&8217;s and interceptions are lunchtime conversation everyday, you learn quickly that football is not just a game, but an integral part of Southern culture.

And you definitely HAVE to know about the late great Bear Bryant.