Skip to main content
Original Issue


Frank Deford's article on Coach Paul (Bear) Bryant is excellent ("I Do. Love the Football," Nov. 23). As a native Tennessean now living in the North, I have always been fascinated by the extraordinary importance of college football in the South. It is a phenomenon that many Yankees just don't understand.

Deford's description of the phenomenon—from the fashion-magazine outfits worn to the game to the top-rated coach's show on TV—and the sociohistorical reasons for it should help even the most uncomprehending outsider see more clearly what is at stake on Saturday afternoons in Tuscaloosa. It is the Civil War refought, the military heritage relived, the Southern general returned to life, the Southern woman returned to her pedestal (grandstand) and the Southern identity reasserted. True, some black men have now gotten into the battle, but history never repeats itself in exactly the same way.

The Bear's larger-than-life reputation obviously says more about the admirers than the man. Deford's explanation of what the myth means is as valuable as a shelf of books on "the mind of the South" for anyone who wants to understand the relationship between Southern football and Southern culture. And he discussed the myth without losing sight of the man.
Ithaca, N.Y.

A Bearologist myself, I thank you for the article on Coach Bryant. However, not only is Alabama one of the winningest teams in college football today, but it would also receive the "best mannered" award if such an award existed. There's no showboating on a Bryant-coached team. Nor will you see an Alabama player argue with an official or question a call, fight or taunt opposing players, or take part in any activity that would direct attention to the individual rather than the team. If one word could sum up the qualities of Coach Bryant, it would be "class."
Huntsville, Ala.

I greatly enjoyed your article on The Bear, but I hate to see you refer to him as old. Down here, we're hoping he'll live forever.
Eclectic, Ala.

Pity us poor Alabamians. It seems as though every time we start to think that maybe we're as good as almost anyone, along comes some kindly intellectual such as Frank Deford to put us in our places by gently reminding us that we are backward, bigoted, nose-picking morons.

What a startling revelation it was for this dim-witted fan to learn, via The Word of Deford, that the real reason I've been worshiping Bear Bryant and Alabama football all these years is because the South lost the Civil War and Bear is our "triumph, at last"...our "justification." Wow! Heavy stuff.

How the author managed to jumble so much sociological horse hockey into an otherwise mediocre piece about The Grand Old Bear is, well, naturally, beyond my comprehension. But, say, you don't suppose ol' Frank is still a bit light-headed from those 25 beer-commercial takes (LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER, Nov. 23), do you?
Cropwell, Ala.

The article was tasteless and biased. The campus in Tuscaloosa is beautiful. Frank Deford must have had his eyes closed when he drove down University Boulevard and passed the buildings that surround the Main Quad. Coach Bryant relieves himself just as everyone else does, but journalistic discretion should have ruled out the vivid urological description. And why, why did Deford have to rekindle memories of the early 1960s? Is nothing sacred?

A man has broken a football victory record at Birmingham's Legion Field with thousands of people attending and having a good time. The Crimson Tide gave a tremendous performance, the Million Dollar Band played superbly and the cheerleaders provided spirit leadership. Why? Because people in Alabama love football and Paul Bryant is football. Please let Alabamians and football fans everywhere enjoy the moment without snipes and barbs. The only positive thing about your treatment was Coach Bryant's portrait on the cover.
Tuscaloosa, Ala.

You Yankee heathens still look down your long noses at us Southerners, and now you've gone too far! You sent one of your peddlers of paganism down here, infiltrated our midst, just like Judas, and then not only betrayed one of our own sacred cows but in general just blasted the whole state of Alabama and the Southland.

Frank Deford's article on The Bear, etc., was the most ungodly piece this man of God has ever laid eyes on. Yes, it hurt the South and Alabama, but even more than that, it revealed the true prejudice that resides in the arrogant hearts of a few die-hard Yankees.
Faith Chapel of Huffman

P.S. The South will rise again, and when we do, the first thing we'll burn is the Time-Life Building in Rockefeller Center.

We don't consider Bear Bryant a god, but we do consider him one of the alltime great football coaches. Frank Deford evidently interviewed a couple of illiterate, boorish people—"Birds of a feather..."—but he didn't interview the average person from Alabama or his article wouldn't have been so anti-Bryant and anti-Alabama. If my husband renews his subscription to SI, he will do so from his allowance, not from our general bill-paying fund.
Bessemer, Ala.

Please cancel my subscription as of the Nov. 23 issue. The article about Paul Bryant by Frank Deford is the most vilifying and insulting piece of garbage I've ever read.

There's one thing Frank Deford forgot on his trip through the South that, unfortunately, Sherman didn't: matches.
Midfield, Ala.

SI has done a number on the Environmental Protection Agency (SCORECARD, Nov. 16). But this time the magazine must be charged with an error. In explaining EPA policy on fighting pollution through "nonconfrontational" methods, SI says that a certain paint company—with whom the EPA negotiated a cleanup settlement in California—was really pushed into action by a threatened California lawsuit. This implies that EPA's three months of negotiation were not a factor in the settlement. This is incorrect.

When negotiating with industrial polluters, EPA always reserves the right to take the company to court to secure cleanup. However, by not doing so in this California case, the EPA saved American taxpayers thousands of dollars in court costs, and cleanup efforts began at least a year earlier than they would have if normal court procedures had ensued.

Since SI's editorial appeared, EPA has made two other "nonconfrontational" agreements on cleanup sites where industry will pick up the tab and again save much time and money for everyone. That's three agreements in six weeks—a pretty good score for the President's EPA team.
Office of Public Affairs
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Washington, D.C.

•SI disagrees. In the case of the paint company, the lawsuit—which, as SI reported, was brought by the California Department of Health Services—wasn't merely "threatened." The paint company was dropped from the suit only after it agreed to aid in the cleanup. Moreover, SI never implied that the EPA's negotiations weren't a factor in the settlement, but argued that "moral suasion alone" wasn't the determining factor in reaching a solution, because a lawsuit had been filed. SI noted that the EPA retains the right to take companies to court to secure cleanup, but opined that a threat to do so had little credibility coming from a "nonconfrontational" agency. More important, the American taxpayers have not necessarily been saved their thousands of dollars in court costs and cleanup efforts in California. The paint company acted alone in reaching a settlement; some 36 other individuals and corporations notified as "responsible" by the EPA didn't respond. The EPA's enforcement division says its investigation is ongoing.—ED.

As an environmental protection specialist employed in an EPA regional office, I thank you for your environmental report. However, the situation within EPA is much worse than SI imagines. In the face of drastic budget cuts and administrative actions that in effect take the teeth out of the watchdog, EPA personnel are leaving faster than residents from a hazardous waste site.

Ex-EPA professionals can find jobs in the industrial sector, usually at twice the salary they were previously paid, but in the long run the American public will lose. Clean lakes and rivers to swim in; wildlife areas for the observer and the sportsman; safe, clean air for the athlete: these are things that the American people are entitled to and that our children and their children deserve. How can we sit quietly and let environmental damage occur that we may never be able to correct?

If you should choose to print this letter, please do not publish my name or address.

Letters should include the name, address and home telephone number of the writer and be addressed to The Editor, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, Time & Life Building, Rockefeller Center, New York, N.Y. 10020.