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On Top of the Tornado

24 Jan

The other day, the Atlanta Falcons won the last football game to be played in the Georgia Dome. Since then, tornados have swept through Georgia. These stories brought to mind an experience from nine years ago. A tornado hit the Georgia Dome, and I was there. This is a post I wrote several years ago about that night.

SBI: A Thinning Crowd

Storms swept across Tennessee today and left some destruction in their wake. Tornado warnings and watches were all over as the map turned green, orange and red. Thankfully, not much happened around my house, but it reminded me of a time that I found myself on top of the tornado. This tornado to be specific:

In 2008, my girlfriend of the time and I traveled to Atlanta for the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament. We hit the afternoon session to see my favorite team, the University of Tennessee, win a close game. As it ended, fans from all of the teams filed out of the Georgia Dome in anticipation of the night session and more excitement to come. However, we had other plans. Dinner reservations at the restaurant on top of our hotel, the kind that slowly turns so patrons can get a panoramic view of the city. After dinner and a…

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Miracle at South Bend

10 Nov

This story took place 25 years ago today.

SBI: A Thinning Crowd

While reading this blog, some of you may have realized that I am a fan of the University of Tennessee. However, I am not just a fan. I am a fanatic. As a certified fanatic, I have been lucky enough to attend numerous football games throughout the country. I don’t know how many games I have attended. The best way to describe it is to say that if there has been a game played over the past 38 years, then chances are good that I was there.

Bunches of games have been forgotten, but a few, both wins and losses, stand out. One of those is the 1991 game against Notre Dame. It has gone down in Tennessee history as the Miracle at South Bend. Tennessee fans throughout the nation remember that game and have a story that goes along with it. However, my story is a little more…

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Conversation With a Legend

1 Nov

A few days ago, Curly Putman passed away. He was a citizen of our city and a songwriting legend. A few months ago, I wrote about a conversation I had with him.

SBI: A Thinning Crowd

This past Saturday, I was visiting my parents when their neighbor pulled up in a golf cart. I went out to talk with him and noticed a couple of fishing poles in the back of the cart. He wanted to spend some time fishing in the pond behind the house.

We talked for a few minutes, and he talked about the beauty of the land around us. I thanked him and told him how much I liked the farm from which he had just moved. I told him that I remembered my parents taking me on Sunday drives when I was a kid and how we used to drive by his place.

He asked me if I remembered when Paul McCartney lived on his farm in the early 1970s. I was too young to remember that, but I told him that I have heard a bunch of stories about it…

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Pat Summitt – In the Presence of Greatness

30 Jun

Pat Summitt passed away a few days ago. Better writers than me have written about her legacy and her impact on women’s sports. I am not going to attempt to duplicate those articles or try to encapsulate her influence in one blog post. Simply stated, her on-court records may eventually be broken, but her off-court records will stand the test of time.

Pat Summitt took a university with a deep football tradition and turned it into a women’s basketball school. She took Tennessee fans who were proud of their gridiron legends and made them more proud of the Lady Vols. She took a sport that was on the fringes of the sports pages and willed it onto the national stage. She was a force to be reckoned with.

Yesterday, someone asked if I had ever met Pat Summitt, and I was lucky enough say yes. My friend worked as an intern for the Lady Vols. A few years after graduation, we were in Knoxville, and my friend said we should stop by the offices and see what was going on.

First, we went to the football office and met Philip Fulmer, the head football coach. He was riding high. Peyton Manning was his quarterback, and the team was on the cusp of winning a national championship. We walked into his massive office and chatted for a while. However, it did not feel like a big deal. It was like talking to anyone else in any other office.

Next, we went to the women’s basketball office and met Pat Summitt. She was at the peak of her career. She was in the midst of three straight national championships, which would make a total of six. Eventually, she would win eight. Her office was not as palatial, but I felt that I was somewhere special.

Pat was friendly and open. She hugged my friend and made me feel like we had known each other forever. She even autographed a couple of basketballs for us. However, I was in awe and could not say much. Truth be told, I was intimidated. On some level, I did not want to disappoint her and receive her famous glare. I have met a lot of people, but that was the only time that I felt I was in the presence of greatness.Pat Summitt

Through the years, my dad and I have watched a lot of Lady Vols games and a lot of Lady Vols victories. Luckily, I have also been able to attend several. The 1998 NCAA Tournament game against North Carolina comes to mind.

Tennessee was undefeated and playing to go to the Final Four. However, North Carolina had a lead late in the game. It was going to be a disastrous loss. The game was at Vanderbilt’s gym in Nashville, and we had court side seats. It is as tense as I have ever been. Pat was working the officials and got a call that turned the game. My friend looked at me and said, “You’re supposed to get those calls at home.” An elderly lady who was obviously as Vanderbilt fan punched him and said, “This ain’t your home, sonny boy.” She was not at all happy that Tennessee was winning on her court.

Pat Summitt and the Lady Vols went on the win their third straight national championship.

When Pat Summitt announced that she suffered from dementia, Tennessee fans were devastated. How could something like this happen to such a powerful person? When she announced that she would coach another year, Tennessee fans hoped that she would go out on top. That did not happen, but it gave us a chance to do something else.

My wife and I were dating, and we wanted to take her daughter to a Lady Vols game. I got tickets, and we went to Knoxville to watch them play Vanderbilt. Pat was not doing much coaching, but the crowd went wild when she jumped out of her seat to glare at an official. Tennessee won, but there is something better. My stepdaughter can always say that she saw Pat Summitt coach and that she was in the presence of greatness.

As I wrote at the beginning, Pat’s records will eventually be broken, but, in my mind, she is the greatest women’s basketball coach and one of the greatest coaches of any sport of all time. She, along with many others, built a sport from nothing and showed women everywhere what they can accomplish. She also made a bunch of people in Tennessee and all over the country proud to be Lady Vols.

 

Burt Bacharach – One of the Coolest Cats Around

14 Mar

This week, we saw Burt Bacharach perform with the Nashville Symphony. It was a great show filled with the numerous hits that he has written. Unfortunately, we did not get pictures that are good enough to put on the blog. Instead, I will use this picture.Raindrops

That is the first picture that popped up when I Googled “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” my favorite Burt Bacharach song. It is the one I went to the concert to hear, and, luckily, he sang it. At 87 years old, he left most of the singing to a trio sitting by his piano. They were no Dionne Warwick, but they did a tremendous job.

As I said, he sang the song I wanted to hear. Most people know it as the song from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I know it as the song that, for some reasons, fascinated me when I was a kid. I have been told that I sang it all the time. That is strange considering that I still have not seen that movie in its entirety.

Speaking of Westerns, I learned something that the concert. Burt Bacharach wrote “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” which was not used in the movie of the same name. I need to look through the blog archives to see if I wrote an examination of that movie. If not, then I need to do that.

Before the show, a friend of mine kept kidding around and telling me that I should ask Burt about Angie Dickinson, his ex-wife. My friend is a big fan of Angie Dickinson. I did not get the chance to ask that question, but I once wrote a post about her and a few other actresses. My friend should read it.

In my mind, Burt Bacharach has always been the epitome of cool. In the 1960s and 1970s, he was one of the coolest cats around. After seeing him in concert, we realized that he is still one of the coolest cats around.

A Tale of Four Quarterbacks

8 Feb

Last night, Peyton Manning played in what may have been his last football game. A few years ago, I wrote this story about witnessing his first college football game.

SBI: A Thinning Crowd

This week marks the beginning of college football season, which means that I will be driving to Knoxville for another opening game for the University of Tennessee. This made me think about past seasons and other opening games. Then, I realized that it was 20 years ago that the Volunteers had one of their most interesting starts.

In 1994, Larry and I flew to Pasadena, California to watch the Big Orange play UCLA at the Rose Bowl. A few things about that trip stand out.

Our room overlooked Colorado Boulevard, the main route of the Rose Bowl Parade. It is too bad that we were there in September.

The temperature was super hot. It felt more like Tennessee temperatures than what you would find in southern California.

A man and his son brought their luggage to the game. Apparently, they did not have time to go to the hotel. They…

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Super Bowl Memories

6 Feb

Super Bowl 50 is here, and it is special enough to abandon the Roman Numerals. Honestly, I wish they would leave them off forever. The Super Bowl is everywhere. Radio ads. Television ads. Lists of the greatest games. Lists of the greatest players. Millions are getting ready to watch the Super Bowl.

It is during this time of year that I realize how lucky I have been to attend two Super Bowls and that they rank as two of the best.23

Super Bowl XXIII pitted the San Francisco 49ers against the Cincinnati Bengals. The 49ers had Joe Montana, and the Bengals had the Icky Shuffle. My dad took me to the game, and I can remember trying to take in every detail. Unfortunately, a lot of those details have faded away.

The game was played in Miami, at what was then called Joe Robbie Stadium. White tents filled with corporate parties were everywhere. We sat in the corner of the upper deck with Bengals fans. That was good because I was cheering for Cincinnati. Tim McGee, a Bengals receiver, played for the University of Tennessee, and I had to be for him. Besides that, the rise of the 49ers began by beating the Dallas Cowboys, my favorite childhood team. I could never forgive that.

The Bengals led for most of the game, but Joe Montana got the ball with a few minutes left. He drove the 49ers down the field and threw a go ahead touchdown with only a few seconds left. The San Francisco 49ers beat the Cincinnati Bengals by a score of 20-16.34

Super Bowl XXXIV was important for this part of the country. The Tennessee Titans had a miracle run through the playoffs and made it to the final game. For the second time that year, they would play the St. Louis Rams. The first game was a Titans victory.

A bunch of us took a luxury bus to Atlanta to see the game in the Georgia Dome. It was a good thing that the Super Bowl was inside because an ice storm hit the city. Unlike my first Super Bowl, we did not have any tickets and had to find some for an entire bus full of people.

The tickets that we got were scattered throughout the stadium. Club Level. Front Row. Upper Deck. We all paid the same but had to decide who would get what. Someone suggested cutting cards to choose tickets. I cut the wrong card and ended up on the last row of the upper deck. I could almost touch the ceiling.

I remember that Tina Turner performed at the game. I can always say that I have heard Tina in person. However, I have not seen her in person. That is all I remember about the entertainment because the game was the important thing. We were not there as casual observers. We had a stake in the outcome.

The Titans fell behind but made a gallant comeback to tie the game with 2 minutes to go. Then, Kurt Warner hit a bomb for a touchdown. The events that followed have gone down in Super Bowl lore.

Steve McNair led the Titans down the field. On one play, he broke a tackle to complete a pass near the end zone. Timeout was called to set the last play. McNair dropped back and hit Kevin Dyson on a slant across the middle. He was running into the end zone when he was tackled from behind. He stretched out the ball but was stopped one yard short of the first overtime in Super Bowl history.

It was a stunning ending. As Titans players laid on the field, confetti rained from the ceiling. The Rams fans next to me were celebrating as we stood in silence.

We were not upset on the ride home. This was our first NFL season, and we did not realize how it worked. We went to the Super Bowl once and figured it would happen again. However, it has not happened again. In fact, the Titans are not the worst team in the league.

Hopefully, I will get to another Super Bowl, and it would be awesome if my team was in it. That is doubtful, but, without a doubt, it would not be as dramatic as the two I have seen.