Within the context of the Civil Rights Movement era, “Rising Tide” provides a detailed and engaging account of how Bear Bryant and Joe Namath joined together at the University of Alabama to take commercialization of football to a higher degree in building the program to a national powerhouse.
Co-authors Randy Roberts and Ed Krzemienski provide a rich tapestry interweaving race and football in the south, the sport’s commercialization and the relationship between a coach fighting ethic scandals in his return to the university and the recruiting of a “cocky Northerner” from a Pennsylvania mill town. Overall, the narrative comes across in a compelling and impartial tone.
Presented in more or less chronological fashion, the authors use some colorful anecdotes. For example, a series of recruiting trip vignettes shows how nationally-sought after high school phenom Namath learned very quickly the ways of eliciting perks from college recruiters.
There’s also Bryant, serving as the coach at Texas A&M at the time was rumored to be heading for Tuscaloosa long before he actually accepted the job and he was very unhappy with the media coverage of the rumors. Nevertheless, when The Tide had their coach and QB in place, the school’s gridiron fortunes were on the rise (though the school would be one of the last football teams in the country to become racially integrated).
If you want to learn about how the Tide really began to roll starting with the Bear-and-Joe Willie Show, “The Rising Tide” is the one and it does so by putting the subjects at the intersection of athletics and politics and culture.
The 1965 Orange Bowl, their final contest together, was the first nationally broadcast, prime time college fotball bowl game ushering in a new era.