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When it was a game

By Staff
Jim Grammer, Guest columnist
*Editor's note: Jim Grammer will be contributing a weekly column based on his experiences in sports in the past. Grammer is currently the principal at F.E. Burleson Elementary School and played for Alabama during the early 1970's.
The tower in the middle of Thomas Field, where legendary football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant observed practices, still stands today.
It is considered a relic of those great days of college football at the University of Alabama, and many feel Coach Bryant was the first to use a tower to oversee practices. Actually, that's not true.
Frank Thomas, the Alabama coach of the 1930's who coached Bryant, was reported to use such a tower. It was a simple wooden structure that stood when the practice field was located where Mary Burke and Martha Parham student dormitories are now situated.
There was one factor about Coach Bryant's tower I'm not sure figured in to the whole equation of other coaches.
That was, if you were one of the players, or even one of the assistant coaches, you wanted him to stay up there on that tower.
If he came down those spiral steps, you better believe he was coming down for a reason and someone was to get chewed.
It was true, the assistant coaches were more afraid of Coach Bryant than the players, but if you were a player, you better hope he wasn't coming down off that tower after you.
One particular incident when Coach came off the tower sticks in my mind because he was coming after me and all the other guys who made up the 1971 offensive line. Players like Jim Kapf, John Hannah, Buddy Brown, Jimmy Rosser, Jim Simmons and David Bailey.
A week or so before, Coach had announced in one of our meetings that some members of the clergy in the Tuscaloosa area had been out to watch practice one day. Coach said they were very disturbed by some of the language they heard used by both players and coaches during practice.
For those of you who don't already know, these practice sessions could become rather brutal and the occasional obscenity was fairly common.
No, very common.
Anyway, Coach installed a system of fines. Some words would cost a player a whole dollar, while more severe vulgarities could run up to two dollars. He even had a manager who would snoop around to different drills, holding a clipboard and listening for the slightest term or gesture he could give a fine for.
Things seemed to be getting some better, but there was the occasional slip of the tongue. Most just resorted to a loud indiscernible sound rather than letting out a curse word.
Then came that dreaded moment – Coach was coming down.
We were having a pretty lousy practice. It was hot, and we were wallowing around like pigs in the mud. Coach had all he could stand.
He unhooked the safety chain at the top of the steps and came down.
In a strange twist, he ran toward a manager, the one who acted as the "tattle-tale," and began yelling.
He told the frightened manager to put him down for $27.50 and came straight for us.
I'll leave it to your imagination as to what he said to us, but believe this, there was no more wallowing around. And believe this – Coach Bryant got his money's worth.