Bear, Shelby, and 2022 primary
It’s inadequate to say Paul Bryant is revered in Tuscaloosa. A main thoroughfare through campus bears his name. A university building is named after him. And, of course, there’s a statue of him in front of the stadium that also features his name. Even after his death, his legacy lives on in the student section that’s filled with kids wearing houndstooth hats whose parents weren’t even on campus to see him, even though his fedoras were plaid.
Coach Bryant, known to the collective college football universe as “Bear,” dedicated about 25 years of his life leading his alma mater to gridiron glory to the point where, when asked what would happen if he quit coaching, he replied, “I’d croak in a week.” He managed to make it a few more weeks after retiring before ultimately passing away.
I imagine it has to be hard to step away from something you felt gave your life purpose. We’ve seen it in other legendary coaches such as Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden. The allure of spotlights and headlines had long worn off for these idols, but they were tied to something they felt was bigger than themselves and they saw what they did not as an occupation but as a service to others. Bear, Joe Pa and Bobby weren’t just integral parts of their university’s communities, they are their identities even long after their passings.
This can also be seen in politics. There are men and women in elected office who gain power based on seniority. In turn, they wield that sword to the benefit of their constituents. Their power grows and they become integral to the success of their fan base. In turn, the politicians become larger than life, thereby being harder to replace.
This phenomenon is nothing new. Robert Byrd was a senator of West Virginia for more than five decades. Upon his passing, then-West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin appointed someone to Byrd’s seat who would eventually be replaced by Manchin. Arizona Senator John McCain was replaced by Jon Kyl who then vacated the seat and Martha McSally was appointed to replace him. McSally was later defeated by former astronaut and Democrat Mark Kelly.
Now it’s Alabama’s turn to replace a legend, as powerful U.S. Senator Richard Shelby is looking to hand the reins of power to one of three contestants: Katie Boyd Britt, Mo Brooks and Mike Durant. Ideologically, there are no real differences between the three. They all love Trump more than other two and want to push his “America First” agenda as far as possible. If Trump’s agenda is your only concern then write their names down on three slips of paper, ball them up, and randomly draw a name because they’ll all do the same thing.
But let’s boil this down another way: if Richard Shelby is Coach Bryant, who’s coming after him? Let’s examine the candidates.
Katie Boyd Britt: Gene Stallings
Gene Stallings is one of “Bear’s Boys” and KBB was Shelby’s right-hand woman so the comparison starts there. Stallings had experience before coming to Bama, and Britt has some leadership experience coming into this race. Yes she was his chief of staff but she also lead the Business Council of Alabama, which is more of a fiscal conservative group as opposed to your social conservative groups. Coach Stallings had experience before coming to Tuscaloosa too. It wasn’t the most encouraging résumé but he was cut out for the job. And what he brought to the table wasn’t flashy or loud but it got the job done. I see KBB doing the same: she won’t rock the boat and should (keyword: SHOULD) be reliable.
Mo Brooks: Mike Shula
Shula was an emergency hire that most, if not all, of the fan base talked itself into loving. It made sense in theory: a former Bama QB who had experience coaching offense in the NFL. Brooks has served at various levels of political office, so you’d think he’d be prepared for the Senate. But as Shula was best suited to be an assistant, Mo is best suited to be a representative because he’s more dedicated to playing a part instead of rising to the office. You can do that in the House; in fact, I’m pretty sure it’s encouraged there. But Mo’s legislative track record pales in comparison to the number of appearances he’s made on Fox News. Like how Shula used to get mad on the sidelines, Mo’s TV appearances are what he’s known for instead of accomplishing any results.
Mike Durant: Mike Dubose
I appreciate Durant’s military service and I recognize his entrepreneurial spirit, but he’s unfit for this role. Political outsiders are ill prepared to legislate because of how the political system is structured and a lone wolf can’t do anything but make noise. But Durant’s absence on the campaign trail and refusal to participate in debates aren’t encouraging when you’re looking for someone to step up and lead. Likewise, Dubose wasn’t fit for leading a college program. Also, both men have sex scandals in their past.
So there you have it. It’s hard to follow a legend so I don’t envy any of these candidates. And remember, this is just my opinion. Feel free to think differently. Just go vote for who you think will serve our state the best.