What a pleasure this was to read! I grew up in the South, in the heart of SEC country, and I lived in Alabama, where Bear Bryant is still revered, from 1991 to 2002. Even with that background, I didn’t really know much about Bryant or the many ways in which today’s game of college football reflects his personality and career. He was an old-school coach who believed that desire was at least as important– if not more so– than pure talent, and both his coaching strategies and the teams he fielded reflected that. He was also a brilliant recruiter; this was probably his most outstanding characteristic.
Barra has written a wonderfully conversational biography, with lots of juicy quotes from Bryant, his peers, and his players. He doesn’t shy away from pointing out some of the more controversial aspects of Bryant’s career (including the issue of whether he could have done more to make the University of Alabama integrate its atheletic teams), but he does so in a fair-minded way. Ultimately, I found the book to be uplifting, not least because of Barra’s inclusion of the devotional Bryant carried in his wallet:
This is the beginning of a new day.
God has given me this day to use as I will.
I can waste it or use it for good.
What I do today is very important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it.
When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever,
Leaving something in its place I have traded for it.
I want it to be a gain, not a loss–good, not evil.
Success, not failure in order that I shall not forget the price I paid for it.
Highly recommended, even if you’re not much of a football fan.