Celebrate The Fourth, A Special Holiday

I previously – almost annually – have shared the story of why Independence Day has a special place in my memory among our many holidays. I wish it was for some noble reason, but it is what it is.

It was my very great fortune to spend nine years working for Coach Paul Bryant in the Alabama athletics department in the 1970s. The gerund – working—is the operable word. But they were glorious years, championship upon championship, great players and coaches, and an overall program that did not embarrass football.

It is the nature of college athletics, which takes up all or part of about 11 months from the start of fall football practice until the final championships of spring sports, that much of the work is on weekends and nights. And holidays. Even such important times as Thanksgiving and Christmas involved activity. We frequently traveled on Christmas Day to bowl destinations.

Sam Bailey was Coach Bryant's top assistant. He was the associate athletics director, and the only one in the department with that title. Each year in late June we would receive a memo from Coach Bailey telling us that the athletics department would be closed on the Fourth of July. It was the same memo each year. In fact, one did not have to be a sharp observer to see that the only change from year to year was that the previous year had been whited out (these were the days of typewriters) and the new year typed in.

As far as I know, not even the workaholic defensive coordinator, Ken Donahue, went to the office on Independence Day. I know I didn't. I made sure that I had finished the football media guide and had it in the hands of the printer before July 4.

I still enjoy the holiday. I don't claim to be a scholar of American history, but I do know that when the War for Independence had ended, the people of this new country felt a need to celebrate on the Fourth of July, the date given to the incredible step of "the colonies" breaking ties with powerful Great Britain.

And we celebrate still. This year the Fourth falls on a Friday, giving almost everyone a three-day weekend. I know that I am looking forward to being with friends and family; celebrating.

I certainly hope that you have a wonderful holiday, whether at the beach or the lake, playing golf or tennis, or grilling in the backyard. Enjoy yourself.

There will be somber admonitions from some to stop and remember those who died for the freedoms we have. I don't think anyone needs to be reminded of that. We will all see the colors this weekend. Red, white and blue will dominate. You'll see flags. And all of us will think on the importance of what has gone before and have thoughts of those who are in the service of the nation and in harm's way today.

Nevertheless, the theme is celebrate. Celebrate the most incredible success of government in the history of the world, the establishment of a republic that not only survived, but became the most powerful nation and the vehicle of emerging democracy throughout the world.

Happy Fourth of July.

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