The late football coach Bear Bryant made a television commercial for the phone company in Alabama some years ago. The script called for a very brief appearance by the Bear, who was to pick up a phone and simply say, “Call yore mama.” When the camera rolled, he picked up the phone and said, “Call yore mama.” Then he paused for a second and ad-libbed, “I wish I could call mine.”
The Bear offered to do it again and follow the script, but the folks from the phone company wouldn’t hear of it. Perfect, they said. And when the commercial played on television around Mother’s Day, the phone company did a record business.
Bear Bryant left his mama on the farm in Moro Bottom, Arkansas back during the Depression and went off to college with all his belongings in a paper sack. He became a world-famous man, and by the time he retired, he was the winningest college football coach in history, with a fistful of national championships.
His name was synonymous with athletic excellence. But he would always tell you that he rules he lived by were the ones he learned at home with his feet under his mama’s table. He would always tell his players to perform on the field in a way that would make their mamas and daddys proud. He figured if you could play on Saturday and look your mama in the eye on Sunday, you had done all right.
I’ve always believed that if we’re lucky – and smart -- we don’t get too far from our raising. There are lots of good mamas and daddys, and they send their children off into the world with qualities that last. The first things kids want to do is to be independent, untie the apron strings, kick off the traces, make their own rules. But oh, how often we find ourselves coming back to what we had to begin with. Faced with difficult decisions, we wonder deep down inside what mama would say. Could we look her in the eye on Sunday morning?
Bear Bryant had it right. I think he called his mama long after she was gone.