SBJ/February 28 - March 5, 2000/No Topic Name

Coca-Cola, Golden Flake consider selling tapes of Bryant’s show

Golden Flake and Coca-Cola, longtime sponsors of former University of Alabama head football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant's weekly replay show, will soon discuss selling videotapes of the popular, homespun program that was a Sunday ritual for Crimson Tide football fans.

Seventy-seven episodes of "The Bear Bryant Show" dating back to 1973 are in storage at the Bryant Museum in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Proceeds will go to a University of Alabama-related charity, said Bob Lovell, vice president of marketing for Coca-Cola Bottling Company United, co-owner of the rights to the show with Golden Flake Snack Foods. Both companies are based in Birmingham.

Thousands of fans tuned in every Sunday to watch the mumbling, grumbling Bryant critique the previous day's contest, with constant prodding from co-host Charlie Thornton to keep up with the action, as Bryant would often ramble about seeing a player's parents or a former player at a game.

"They weren't great TV shows by any stretch, and not great theater," said Keith Dunnavant, author of the latest biography on Bryant and publisher of Dunnavant's Paydirt Illustrated, a preseason football magazine. "But they enhanced his mystique and made him real at the same time."

The tapes were donated by Coca-Cola and Golden Flake to the Bryant Museum in 1992 to commemorate Alabama's centennial year of football. Lovell said it took until now to make them available to the public because Coca-Cola United Chairman Crawford Johnson III, a close friend to Bryant, vowed that Bryant's image would not be exploited after his death in 1983.

"Maybe enough time has passed where people can't accuse us of exploitation," Lovell said.

Gilbert Nicholson writes for the Birmingham Business Journal.

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