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The last ride of Bear and Billy - ESPN.com

Billy Varner was Coach Bryant's longtime driver/assistant/bodyguard. He's 76 now and the effects of a stroke have severely affected his memory. ESPN writer Wright Thompson has penned a very moving account of Varner's struggles which becomes a metaphor for the fading memory of Coach Bryant and the cost of his legendary status among Alabama fans. I don't agree with Thompson's final assessment that the truth about Coach Bryant is in danger of being lost due to a desire to preserve some kind of God-cult. That's partly because Coach Bryant was always a man in complete control of how people perceived him and not hesitant to use it for his own ends. The truth about him was always tough to pin down and contradictions were an essential part of his nature. Moreover it seems farcical to posit that just buying a piece of houndstooth apparel blinds you to the humanity of a man by default, as the writer seems to suggest. Still, there is no escaping the fact that the number of people who knew Coach Bryant on an intimate basis are dwindling fast and the memory of him is being lost apace. If nothing else, this piece is worth reading to remember that.

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