The Alabama football team is coming into Commonwealth Stadium to face our Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday and I think many of the football faithful are actually looking forward to the number one team coming to town, myself included. I also was anxious to visit with The Bear and see how he felt about the game.
It's been four years since we last faced 'Bama, meaning this was the first time I had had a chance to chat with our former coach about us playing his old 'newer' team. I wasn't sure how he would receive my visit because I hadn't yet discovered just how he felt when it came to Kentucky vs. Alabama games.
It was seldom that I didn't find him already there regardless of when I stopped by. Would he speak to me or might he even ask me to come back some other time, I wondered as I sat quietly waiting for his arrival. As I sat waiting, I heard a knock at the door. Knock, knock, knock ... knock, knock, knock. I don't think anyone there knows that I visit The Bear (except for maybe Paul himself) so I never answer his door.
"Hello, Bear, are you in there?" I heard a familiar, squeaky voice ask. I smiled to myself as I recognized it was Lou. And just as I assumed that he would never leave without knocking again, he knocked again. Once more he talked through the door and said "Bear, I really want to talk to you about the Alabama/Kentucky game coming up on Saturday."
Uh oh, Lou was there to talk with him for the same reason that I was. What do I do? Then I thought how nice it might be if I could just listen in on their conversation and let them do all the talking. That way Bear couldn't get aggravated at me for bringing it up if he wasn't in the mood to discuss this game between his two former teams. He would obviously just blame Lou. Ahh, yes, I had a plan ... the only problem was that I heard footsteps in the hall and that had to mean that Lou must be leaving.
"Holtz, what do you want?" I heard Bear scream from outside the door. I smiled as I realized he had arrived in time and my plan looked like a go.
"I just wanted to talk a while, Bear," Lou begged.
"Make it quick, Holtz. I've got film to watch and I want some peace and quiet."
"Okay, I will," he said.
As they both entered the room, Bear moved to sit in the same spot he always had, his big comfortable easy chair. I watched, as he removed his signature fedora and placed it on the side table, searching his facial reactions for recognition of my presence. The lack of eye contact convinced me that either Lou currently had all his attention or my being there was not a nuisance.
"What is so important to you, Holtz, that has you pounding on my door?" Bear said with a scowl.
"As you know, Bear, 'Bbbama is headed to Kentucky this weekend. I wanted to ask you how you feel about the ggame." Lou stuttered.
"Lou, for Pete's sake, must you always spit?" Bear said with a smile and gave a wink at me. I then knew he had spotted me and yes, it caused me to quietly chuckle.
Coach, cccome on ... I'm serious." Lou said.
"Lou, I know you and a couple of others"--as he looks at me out of the corner of his eye--"would like to know how I feel about this game. Do I actually choose a side or have a favorite team?" he said reiterating what Lou had asked him.
"Exactly, Bear. That's what I want to know."
You see ... I'm mainly a ball coach. I prepare for the next game, regardless of which team we are playing. They are all basically the same." Bear said. "Just prepare for one, and the next, and so on."
Lou then asked, "Then, how would you prepare for this ggame, Bear, if you were headed TO Kentucky?"
"I would make sure that we come in prepared and ready as a team and I would make sure that the team doesn't overlook the Wildcats. Spurrier was probably looking ahead and he almost let one slip away from him. Had it not been for the lame brain ref that counted the same player twice, that shirtless, barefoot, visor wearing putz may have been looking at a loss."
"Tell me how you really feel, Cccoach." Lou said. "You never were one to dance around the edges with words."
"Lou, it happens a lot. We see it all the time. A big powerhouse overlooks an opponent because the media"--gives Lou that look--"says that one team is vastly inferior only to be outplayed because football is the type of sport that can unfold in many unforeseen ways."
True, true. The any gggiven Saturday philosophy. Yes, Coach, I've seen it happen."
Lou then asked, "Coach, how do you think a new coach today, such as Kentucky's Mark Stoops, goes about motivating a young team when faced with utterly dddominating historical record against a team like 'Bama? 1997 and 1922 are Kentucky's only wins against them and you yourself lost to The Tide as a young cccoach at Kentucky in both 1946 and 1947. You of all people know they are a tough team."
"Yes, I know, Lou, you did not have to remind me of those early games. First, let me ask you this, do you remember New Year's Day, 1980?" Bear asked with a little smirk on his face. "What exactly is your record against the Tide, Holtz?"
"Yes, Bear, of cccourse I remember that game. You've gggot me there but my record happens to be all tied up at 3-3."
Bear quickly spoke up and said, "I certainly have a few more in the Alabama wins column than you do, Holtz."
Lou quickly changed the subject as I sensed he was about to lose another one to Bear and said, "Anyway, just like I've always said, life is 10 percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it. Football is as well but the only difference in football is that 99 percent happens because of your response to what immediately prior to your response happened because of a previous response," Lou rambled.
He lost me with that last sentence. I instantly found myself repeating it trying to get it all figured out. Bear looked at Lou as if he were wondering if he even understood what he just said. I think I'm still tossing around responses and happenings after that statement.
"Lou, here is how I see this situation. Kentucky looked good this past Saturday against South Carolina and the team did not quit. After their young team shook off some first quarter nerves they proved that they are dedicated to showing the fans a different team. Regardless of what you have heard, Kentucky fans want to fully support football. They, like most fans, simply prefer winning all the games and that has come easier in basketball for a really long time. I would say it is the exact opposite scenario at Alabama. The Kentucky Wildcats teams are lucky to have these very passionate fans ... as are 'Bama teams. As far as Saturday goes ... obviously ... the numbers favor the Crimson Tide. But as we discussed earlier, any given Saturday. I've heard there are at least a couple of Wildcat fans that put a lot of trust in the any given Saturday theory," he concluded as he winked at me.
"Fair enough," Lou said. "I guess we will find out on Saturday what both teams bring to the table."
"Right. Move along now, Holtz, I've got things that I need to do today."
"Thanks, for talking with me today, Bear."
I came away from this visit feeling pretty certain about one thing. We knew that The Bear keeps up with the Wildcats by watching our games but apparently he has to be reading what we say too. How else could he have known that one or two of us love the Any Given Saturday philosophy? Who knew that A Sea of Blue was THAT global? I wondered if he pinned himself on hoboat33's map last year?
Thanks for reading. Go 'Cats!!