College Football Playoff: Needtobreathe's Bear Rinehart talks about his band's Alabama-Clemson divide
Here’s a dilemma: You’re the lead singer of one of the biggest bands to come out of South Carolina. And you also happen to be named after Paul “Bear” Bryant.
When Clemson plays Alabama in the College Football Playoff’s national title game Monday in Tampa, who do you pull for?
“I’m an Alabama fan — I have to be, because I was named after Bear Bryant,” said Bear Rinehart, singer for Christian-tinged alt-Americana rock outfit Needtobreathe. “But I grew up pretty much Clemson. I could hear the games from my house growing up. So if I had a second favorite team — and I would say I definitely do — it’s been Clemson.
“I went to the (national championship) game last year, saying, This may be the only time in my lifetime I ever get to see these two teams play. I was completely torn. And of course, I have to go again this year, because it’s happening again this year.”
Needtobreathe — whose 2016 album Hard Love debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard albums chart, leading to their first big U.S. arena tour last fall — may not be widely known as huge celebrity sports fans. But a game like Alabama-Clemson draws out their claws.
William “Bear” Rinehart and his brother/guitarist Bryant “Bo” Rinehart were raised in an ardent Crimson Tide household — hence the names “Bear” and “Bryant," in honor of the legendary Alabama coach. Bear was a successful athlete, playing wide receiver for Furman University in Greenville, S.C., about 30 miles east of Clemson. His college quarterback, roommate and best friend was Billy Napier, who is now the receivers coach at, you guessed it, Alabama.
“It’s fun to cheer on somebody that you know that well,” he said.
But there’s a lot of Clemson in Needtobreathe’s blood, too. Bo actually attended Clemson, and when the brothers went to last year’s national title game in Arizona, they sat side-by-side in competing colors —Bear wore Alabama red, Bo wore Clemson orange. This year, Bear is coming to the game in Tampa with Needtobreathe bassist Seth Bolt, who’s also a big Tigers fan. “He will not sit on the same side of the stadium as me,” Bear said.
His prediction for the final outcome? That’s a tough one.
“I do think it’s going to be a good game,” he said. “Last year, I thought Clemson was the better team. I just thought Alabama happened to play a better game that night.”
This year, he likes the Tide to prevail in a high-scoring game, something like 38-35. But he wouldn’t mind being wrong.
“I couldn’t be happier for both of those teams, and I won’t be sad either way, to be honest with you,” he said. “I think it’d be great if Clemson would win one, because Alabama’s had enough. But I will be there in Alabama gear cheering them on.”
-- Jay Cridlin