As college football season rolls to an end, I always think back to years past and memories of how things used to be.
There was a time before cable TV, ESPN and the Internet when you only had about five television stations to watch on your non-flatscreen HD TV.
The time frame was the early 1970s and for my family, a tradition on Sunday in the fall was watching the college coaches’ programs.
This was the one time we broke protocol and were allowed to sit in the den and eat on TV tables while we watched TV. The process required a bit of technical innovation as the shows came on WGST, channel 17 which was a UHF station that required you to unhook your VHF cable that ran to the outdoor antenna and hook up the rabbit ears. A few triangulations and a bit of foil and the picture was perfect.
The year would have been 1972, and the first show to come on was Johnny Majors and Tennessee. Like all the shows he would show game film and review the game played the day before. Next came Shug Jordan of Auburn, followed by Vince Dooley of Georgia and Bill Fulcher of Georgia Tech. But it was the last show that was the real entertainment for the evening.
Even if you didn’t cheer for Alabama, you still looked on and revered Paul Bear Bryant and, in the South, he was the king. For today’s folks, believe it or not, there was a king before Saban. On Sundays at 8 p.m., he commanded the television screen and, in his own gruff fashion, reviewed the game.
Charley Thornton was his sidekick, and the show would always open with The Bear promoting his sponsors, Golden Flake and Coca-Cola. He would open the chips and pour them into a bowl and then open up a bottle of Coke.
After a few minutes of talking about the game, the film was on and it wasn’t just the highlights. It was every play including kick-offs and extra points. There were two lines that I always got a kick out of when he used them and are the lines I always use to this day when describing Coach Bryant. As he was a defensive-minded coach, he loved nothing better than to see a play where his defender dealt the opposition a good lick.
“Now that’s a bingo,” was the expression he used.
Alabama was running the Wishbone during that time and had a fullback by the name of Johnny Musso. Musso was over 200 pounds and was big for a running back, at that time. As Alabama would near the goal line for a score, the Bear would start by saying, “When you’re down on the goal line and you’re in the bone, you give the ball to Musso.”
Next play on the film, touchdown Musso.
The days of coaches shows are over since by the time Sunday rolls around, all the games have been commented on and gone over repeatedly. But there was a time when things were simpler and a time when Bear Bryant was for Sunday nights.
Richard Proctor, born in Newnan, recently moved back from Denver, Colorado, and is an avid college football fan as well as a published author.