I was in South Carolina last weekend, college football country. Clemson vs. Georgia was all anyone cared about unless you counted the local high school game and they cared even more about that. I went to a general store and found these vintage Bear Bryant bottles of Coke on the shelf. They sold fried peanuts at the store, salted pork, pickled eggs and fireworks (there was a sign on the door: "Fireworks, No Smoking, Please"). But even in South Carolina, Alabama football has its place.
Thought of that when I read "A Good Kid," Ray Glier's story over at SB Nation Longform:
This is why football is so important in Alabama.
Otties William Brewer III, a good kid, failed algebra his freshman year at Southern Choctaw High School, which meant he was ineligible to play for Coach Jeremy Noland at the start of his sophomore year, which meant Otties William Brewer II, his father, was not happy.
Mr. Brewer was not happy because William, who everyone called "BooBoo," was now missing football practice. Even though BooBoo was not even officially on the team, to his father, being ineligible was the same as quitting. William still needed to be out there, his father said, to learn the essence of playing football, which is discipline, teamwork and resolve. The elder Brewer, who drives a truck and looks like he could flip one over, wanted the grit and perseverance that football requires to rub off on his son. He wanted his son to be part of the team, part of something larger.
He ordered William to march into Noland's office and request some football-related duties. Noland agreed and made William a team manager. He became the guardian of the water bottles, so precious during practice in the August steam, the young man who would carry the footballs out to the field, and the guy who would scamper for ice whenever one of the Indian players turned an ankle. William, who likely would have played center, was also ordered by his father to pay attention to formations and what plays were called and learn as much football as he could without actually playing. There was always next year.
William was an enthusiastic member of the Southern Choctaw Indians right up until he died at 12:03 a.m. Sept. 3, 2011.