Dig this: Richard Price on Bear Bryant (from Playboy, 1979):

Because l grew up in a multiethnic environment in New York City, the South has always conjured up some bad news reactions on word-association tests for me: Klan, lynch, redneck, moonshine, trap towns and death . . . lots of death.

As the years have passed, I’ve started hearing some flip sides. There’s the “New South,” with Atlanta as cosmopolitan as New York. I’ve heard that, despite the headline horrors, Southerners get along socially better than Northerners. And that foreign blacks prefer the upfrontness of the South to the hypocritical liberal bullshit of the North.

But despite all my revisionist thoughts, the only good images that have held up in my head are Southern novelists and the University of Alabama football team. The novelists because they are good or great and the Crimson Tide because, like Notre Dame, they are the New York Yankees of college football. I don’t give a rat’s ass about football, college or otherwise, and I’m not crazy about regimentation or bullet-head activities. But I do admire winners.

And as ignorant as I am of the “real” South and football in general, even I know that the man behind the winning tradition at Alabama is a magnetic, scary John Wayne type named Paul “Bear” Bryant. I would see him every few years on a televised bowl game, standing on the side lines, craggy-faced, in that houndstooth hat. I figured he was some kind of coaching genius. I also got the notion that he was somebody I very glad not to have as a teacher in any course I was flunking.