Monday, January 30, 2012

Breaking the Huddle

I can NOT believe I missed the SAG awards Sunday! It was such a crazy day and I totally forgot they were on! Our little emergency room visit kind of threw us all off kilter but we did watch two incredible documentaries on HBO when things finally settled down.

The first documentary was on Integration in the SEC (football). This was all a little before my time and, being a "Yankee" I will admit what little I know about the Civil Rights Movement I learned in a high school class or from news snippets. This documentary was a fascinating look at how sports played an important role in the movement. There was a lot of pressure on these young men to represent their race in a positive light and each victory on the field was considered a victory for all African-Americans. These were very brave young men (and women) and I had absolutely no idea that Alabama had an all-white football team until 1970. 1970! Insane.

The following article doesn't not portray Bear Bryant in a positive light and accuses him of not using his power as the head coach of Alabama to do more for African-Americans (simply amazing to me that the masses look to their sports heroes to be their moral compasses -- i.e., Paterno. But that's a rant for another day.). That is the writer's opinion and I am in no way, shape or form trying to smear Bear Bryant's legacy. I only post the link because it details the HBO documentary better than I can. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and I think Bear Bryant did the best he could based on the political temperature in the South at the time. I think if he had just went out and recruited a bunch of African-American players and threw them onto the playing field he would have had a race riot on his hands. He needed to introduce the concept in such a way that Alabamaians thought it was their own idea. Baby steps. And that's why he invited USC to Legion Field.

The next documentary we watched was on Joe Namath. Interestingly enough, while we were watching the Integration documentary I asked Cosmo if Namath was at Alabama while all this was going on and quickly did the math in our heads (1969 NY Jets Super Bowl victory minus a couple of years for college). Namath does talk about when he first arrived at Alabama, how his teammates gave him a hard time because he was a "Yankee," how he didn't understand what segregation was all about, and about the history making day when the two black students tried to register for classes. You could just hear the pride and excitement in his voice when he talks about Vivien Malone walking into the building. He was rooting for her. I think this was an excellent story about a simple kid from Beaver Falls, PA and they did not hide from his alcohol issues. He was from a broken working class family, he wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed (couldn't pass the entrance exam @ Maryland), caused a lot of mischief when he was a kid and just lived his life to the fullest and went along for the ride. My favorite part of the whole 90 minutes is when his older sister referred to him as a PIA --- Pain in the Ass.

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