Dad's sports career was cut short
Jim Grammer, When it was a game
There's a story about Coach Bryant that tells of how he played in the first football game that he ever saw. As the story goes, he took the only pair of shoes he had and screwed spikes into the sole and played for Fordyce Redbugs when he was just a country schoolboy in Arkansas.
That particular story has always stuck in my mind because the same was true for my dad. When I was just a little fellow, way before I knew who Bear Bryant was, my dad would tell us boys how he went out for the football team when he was growing up in the little coal mining town of Brookwood.
He told of ruining his only pair of shoes by screwing spikes into them and getting one heck of a whipping from his father for doing it. He, too, played in the first game he ever saw. Of course, 30 or 40 years after the fact had inflated his opinion of himself as far as football playing goes, he must have been pretty good at it because some of the Alabama coaches reportedly talked to him about playing there.
My dad never played at Alabama. In fact, he never graduated from high school. Circumstances forced him to have to go to work so the family could survive. Then came military service. In short, he was one of those people that Tom Brokaw wrote about in his book, The Greatest Generation, that generation of Americans who are now grandparents and great grandparents. Those who endured the depression and fought and won the greatest war in history, but still I can't help but wonder what would have happened if the fortunes of fate had been a little different.
It's strange how fate plays a great role in our lives and leads us in different directions. I think if not for the desperately hard times of the 1930s, my father would most likely have finished high school instead of having to go to work in the coalmines to help feed his family. In doing so, there would have been a good chance he could have went to Alabama and played football, which is just down the road from Brookwood. If he had, he would have played on the same 1934 and 1935 teams with Paul Bryant. From there, who knows what would have happened.
But then I think, if fate had been different and his life had taken a different path, then maybe he and my mom would not have married. And, if they had not married, then I wouldn't be here. So, forget about fate, I'm darn glad things turned out like they did.