Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Role of the Tide

If you get Showtime on the cable, I'd recommend checking out the documentary they are running called "Against the Tide." That is a clever play on words, the title.

The football team of the University of Alabama is called the Crimson Tide, a nickname that sprang into use after the underdogs from Tuscaloosa fought heavily-favored Auburn to a 6-6 tie in 1907.  The game was played in a sea of mud down where the red clay earth gets right messy, as anyone who ever saw "My Cousin Vinny" can verify.

As anyone who was around in this nation before the 70s and 80s can also attest, racial equality, while officially the law of the land, was certainly not in practice all over the South.  My childhood news-watching memory is full of images of redneck governors standing in school doorways to prevent black people from going to school, and federal marshals being sent in by President Eisenhower and President Kennedy.  Still, as the 60s came to a close, Alabama's football team had as many black people on it as the White Aryan Resistance currently counts among their members.

Bear Bryant in his heyday.
As you'll see if you get to watch the show, Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant scheduled USC to come to Alabama and play his team, and he was the least-surprised man in Alabama when the integrated team from Southern Cal doubled up on the Tide, 42-21, thereby proving to the Bama Boosters that maybe it might be time to look beyond the pale, as it were.

The question remains: did Bear do this because he wanted to advance the cause of civil rights, or because he knew it would be the only way to regain national supremacy for his football team?

He took the answer to his grave.

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