Tag Archives: Basketball

The Lafayette Expedition

17 Jun

Over the weekend, my wife and I visited her uncle in Lafayette, Tennessee. Before we go too far, you need to know that it is not pronounced in the French way. Around here, the emphasis is on the long A in the middle syllable.

I was looking forward to this visit because I had a few questions for her uncle. First, where is the Butler Cemetery? You may remember a few posts back when I wrote about John Washington Butler, the man who sponsored Tennessee’s anti-evolution bill in 1925. He is buried in Butler Cemetery, and I wanted to find it.

Her uncle had an idea where it was, and, after our visit, we went looking for it. Luckily, we found it not far from the main road. The small cemetery sits it a grove of trees between a small house and a cattle field.image-39

We found Representative Butler’s headstone and looked at some of the others. One was a Civil War veteran who fought for a Kentucky regiment. I would bet anything that he fought for the Union.

As we walked around the markers, I wondered how many people realized who was buried there. Butler’s bill sparked a debate in this country that continues 90 years later. Now, he lies in a shady cemetery on a country road.

That was interesting, but I also had some other questions for my wife’s uncle. Next, did he go to school with Rita Coolidge? She grew up in Lafayette before going on to marry Kris Kristofferson. She also broke up Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and sang the theme song for a James Bond movie.

While talking about her, my wife’s uncle said that Russell Smith grew up next door. He wrote “Third Rate Romance” and recorded it with The Amazing Rhythm Aces.

I had a third question for her uncle. Does he ever see Nera White? She farms and lives a reclusive life, but she is considered by many to be the best female basketball player of all time. One of the first women to be inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, she led the Nashville Business College to 10 AAU national championships. In the late 1950s, the US National team won the world championship, and she was chosen the Best Woman Player in the World.

My wife’s uncle is younger than Rita Coolidge and did not know her. He never sees Nera White. However, he lives in an interesting town that has produced some interesting people. I still have the same thought that I had while walking through the Butler Cemetery. I wonder how many people know about those who came before.


Block Party

22 Feb

It finally happened. Somebody blocked me on Twitter. I guess that makes me an official Twitter person. To celebrate this achievement, we are throwing a block party. We are going to have hamburgers, hot dogs and games for all. Never fear. The libations will be flowing. We will also have all kinds of special guests.

This kind of block.Concrete Block

And, this kind of block.Basketball Block

And, who can have a party without this kind of block?Toy Block

It may get really crazy with the arrival of these blocks.Lego

Of course, we have to invite the blockers.Cumberland Football

And a Blocker.Dan Blocker

To keep out the riff raff, we need a roadblock.Road Block

A great time will be had by all. Except for the blockheads who are not invited.

Listeria – Greatest Athletes of All Time

22 Nov

Once again, I went to the magazine stand at the grocery store. That means we have another case of Listeria, and this one is all about sports. Beckett called together a panel of experts and compiled a list of the 50 Greatest Athletes of All Time. With a collection like this, there are always arguments of who does and doesn’t belong. There are also arguments about the order.

However, I did not buy the magazine to quibble over the details. I was curious to know how many of the athletes I have seen in person. That smaller list is as follows.

Peyton Manning (41) – I was at the Rose Bowl when Peyton Manning entered his first college game against UCLA. The starter was injured on the first play, and the backups were thrown into the fray. Todd Helton was one of those backups, but Manning turned into the quarterback of the future. I attended most of his college games and have seen him in the NFL several times.

Jerry Rice (36) and Joe Montana (19) – Super Bowl XXIII saw the San Francisco 49er’s against the Cincinnati Bengals. Both of these guys played in that game, and Montana led San Francisco on the game winning drive as time ran out. My dad took me to the game, and, admittedly, I was cheering for the Bengals because Time McGee, a former player at Tennessee, was on their team.Super Bowl

Walter Payton (30) – I grew up a Cowboys fan, and my dad took me to Dallas to watch them play against the Chicago Bears. It was my first NFL game and my first time on an airplane. I don’t remember what Walter Payton did, but I was happy because the Cowboys won. I was also happy because I saw the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders.

Deion Sanders (29) – Deion Sanders was a two-sport star, but I only saw him play baseball for the Atlanta Braves. Memories of the game are fuzzy, and I have no idea how he played. I just know that everyone was amazed that he could be one of the best players in two professional leagues.

Magic Johnson (17) – My dad and I saw the Los Angeles Lakers play the Detroit Pistons, and it was awesome in many ways. We stayed at the same hotel as the Lakers and stood outside as they boarded the team bus. At the game, we spent one half court side and another half in the owner’s box. The Lakers won, but the Pistons got revenge by beating them in the championship series. Oh yeah, Bob Seger was in the box with us.

Bo Jackson (12) – He is known for football, baseball and Nike Commercials, but I saw him before all of that. In 1985, Jackson and the Number 1 ranked Auburn Tigers came to Neyland Stadium to play Tennessee. Jackson would win the Heisman that year, but he didn’t win it during this game. He only got a few yards and eventually left the game. Tennessee won in a blowout, and Tony Robinson, Tennessee’s quarterback, made the cover of Sports Illustrated.Tony Robinson

Wayne Gretzky (4) – Late in his career, Wayne Gretzky came to town to play the Nashville Predators. Everyone wanted a ticket to that game, and I was lucky enough to get one. He didn’t score any goals but proved he was “The Greatest” by getting five assists. I remember that he set up behind the net and dominated.

Should these people be on the list or placed where they are? I don’t know. I am just glad have the opportunity to see them perform. In the first pages of the magazine, they list 10 athletes who are on their way to stardom. Luckily, I have also seen a couple of them – Andrew Luck and Landon Donovan. Now, it’s time to see if they make the next list.

Let’s Go Peay!

3 Sep

College football season has begun, and it was a rousing start for the University of Tennessee. With a 45-0 victory over Austin Peay State University, they got an easy but much-needed win. Instead of boring you with the details of the game, I have decided to share some information about the opposing school.

Austin Peay State University is in Clarksville, Tennessee, which is not too far from Nashville. Clarksville is known for a few things other than the university. It is the largest city around Fort Campbell, a major military installation and home of the 101st Airborne. Legend states that it is the Clarksville mentioned in “The Last Train to Clarksville” by The Monkees. In another musical connection, Jimi Hendrix was stationed at Fort Campbell when he was in the army.

Wilma Rudolph is probably Clarksville’s most famous native. During the 1960 Olympics, she was the first woman to win three gold medals in track and field.Wilma Rudolph

Rudolph did not compete for Austin Peay. Instead, she took her talents to Tennessee State University and its famous track and field team.

Athletically, Austin Peay State University is known more for a chant by the fans than by what happens on the field. To spur their teams to victory, the fans yell, “Let’s Go Peay!” Obviously, that has a double meaning and gets laughs from other fans. However, it was better in the 1970s when Fly Williams played basketball for APSU. A New York City playground legend, Williams managed to find his way to Clarksville.Fly Williams

When Williams was on the court, the fans chanted, “The Fly is Open! Let’s Go Peay!” It could be the greatest chant in college fandom history.

You may be wondering how a school can get a name like Austin Peay that leads to such chants. Austin Peay was the governor of Tennessee in the 1920s, when the university received its charter. Austin Peay

He signed into law the Butler Act, which outlawed the teaching of evolution in Tennessee Schools. This led to the Scopes Monkey Trial, one of the most famous trials in the history of the United States. Ironically, Peay stated that the law should never be put into effect. While it has been stricken from the books, the debate over the theory of evolution and creation continues well into the 21st Century.

I wonder if the evolution folks chanted “Let’s Go Peay!” when he signed the law.

Hey, Duck! You Should Have Ducked!

30 Aug

A student dropped by my office, and I told him this story. I may as well put in on here, too.

The first rounds of the NCAA Tournament are played in Nashville on a regular basis. We try to get tickets because it is a fun event to attend. You see some great basketball games, and you get to interact with different fan bases. We have seen great upsets and a lot of blowouts. However, one event sticks out that didn’t involve the players.

Several years ago, the University of Oregon played the University of Utah in a first round game. I can’t tell you anything about the game. I don’t know who won, and I have no idea if it was close. I can tell you what happened during one of the breaks in play.

The Oregon cheerleaders were performing a routine in the middle of the floor. Before I go any further, I must say that Oregon has the best cheerleading squad that I have ever seen. I have been to countless sporting events, and no one is better than them.Oregon

That’s also what my buddy was saying as they performed. “Oh!” But, it was followed by a “my!”

Anyway, they were going through their performance when the Utah mascot, some kind of bird, starting walking around on stilts. Apparently, the Oregon mascot, a duck, thought he was getting too close to the cheerleaders. That’s when the duck confronted the bird and motioned for him to get off the court. The bird didn’t budge, so the duck did what any good mascot would do. He grabbed the stilts and started shaking them.

That’s when the Utah bird came off the stilts and decked the duck. The duck retaliated, and, before we knew it, they had each knocked off the other one’s head. The fight was on. A duck with a human head and a bird with a human head were duking it out. This wasn’t some tiddlywinks fight, either. There were some good punches thrown before they started wrestling on the floor.

In the meantime, the male cheerleaders from both squads were bumping chests and about to brawl. (Editorial comment: Male cheerleaders get a bad rap. It looks like a pretty good job to me. On top of that, they have to be pretty strong.)

Before things got too out of hand, security came over and broke up the mascots and the male cheerleaders. But, here’s the thing. The cheerleaders who were performing never broke their routine. It was just like nothing was happening. Maybe, they see this kind of thing all of the time.

In a couple of weeks, I am traveling to Oregon to watch my team, Tennessee, play football against them. I am not sure how good the game will be, so I hope there will be another mascot fight. I think Smokey can take him.

That Senator in the Headlights Look

30 Apr

This afternoon, my brother sent a picture of my nephew with Lamar Alexander, two-time governor and current U.S. senator from Tennessee. Alexander has been a major part of this state’s political scene since the 1970s and ran in the presidential primary in the 1990s. In short, he has long been one of the most powerful politicians in Tennessee.Lamar Alexander

This post is not about Alexander’s political career or about my nephew having his picture made with him. It is about a night that my friends and I had a “run in” with him.

Several years ago, we were driving to Knoxville to watch the University of Tennessee play basketball. My friend Jeff was driving, which is always a little adventurous. He was the one driving when we encountered “The Terror on the Plateau“.

Anyway, we were running late and pulled into the parking lot a few minutes before the game was going to begin. Jeff was whipping through the aisles trying to find a parking place. He rounded a corner at what felt like a blazing speed when his headlights fell upon a man walking from his car. The man turned with that “deer in the headlights” look and raised his hands for protection. Honestly, he looked like the one-armed man in The Fugitive.One Armed Man

Jeff slammed on his brakes and skidded to a stop. The man stood there. We sat there. That’s when I said, ” Jeff, you almost ran over Senator Lamar Alexander.”

When the shock wore off, the senator walked away as fast as possible. We found a parking spot and made it to our seats, where we could see Alexander sitting across the court. A few minutes before the game was over, we noticed that he had left. We assumed that he wanted to get out of there before that madman got back behind the wheel.

Thinking back on that night, I have often wondered how history would have been changed if Jeff had plowed into a senator.

What Is This Post About?

17 Mar

There’s not much going on in my head tonight. No words of wisdom. No original blogging ideas. Heck, I’m not even sure why I turned on the computer and logged into WordPress. It could be that I got tired of watching Star Trek: The Next Generation on BBC America. The episode that just ended saw Geordi turn into an alien. The next episode has Barkley turning into a superhuman. It seems that everyone is always turning into something on that show.

I went to a couple of sessions of the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament this week. My team lost, and the other games weren’t very exciting, either. Probably, the most exciting part about the week was finding myself behind a Fisker Karma. Don’t worry. I also didn’t know what it was, but I looked up the price. Base: $94,000.

The Karma

The Karma

I hope the driver remembers that Karma is a bitch sometimes.

For some reason, Eric Cartman just entered my head.Eric CartmanI haven’t seen Southpark in a long time. Unlike Star Trek: The Next Generation, they don’t turn into different things on that show. They do a lot of funny crap, though.

Oh, there’s this other thing that popped into my head. The Moody Blues recorded an album called Days of Future Past that I have always been fascinated with.Moody Blues

It’s a concept album that takes the listener through the day from morning until night. Each song is about a certain time of day. The album includes Nights in White Satin and other songs, but it begins and ends with poetry. Those poems are what has fascinated me.

The Day Begins

Cold hearted orb that rules the night
Removes the colours from our sight
Red is gray and yellow, white
But we decide which is right
And which is an illusion

Pinprick holes in a colourless sky
Let insipid figures of light pass by
The mighty light of ten thousand suns
Challenges infinity and is soon gone
Night time, to some a brief interlude
To others the fear of solitude

Brave Helios, wake up your steeds
Bring the warmth the countryside needs

Late Lament

Breathe deep the gathering gloom
Watch lights fade from every room
Bedsitter people look back and lament
Another day’s useless energy spent

Impassioned lovers wrestle as one
Lonely man cries for love and has none
New mother picks up and suckles her son
Senior citizens wish they were young

Cold hearted orb that rules the night
Removes the colours from our sight
Red is grey and yellow, white
But we decide which is right
And which is an illusion

So, what is this post about?

It’s about a car that is a bitch to pay for and could be a bitch to drive.

It’s about Eric Cartman, one of the great authority figures of our time.

It’s about the poetry of the Moody Blues.

It’s about needing to write something and just letting stuff pour onto the screen.

Terror on the Plateau

8 Mar

I recently wrote about my battle with the forces of nature while supporting my favorite basketball team. That event took place in 2008, but another event just as terrifying took place the next season.

In January 2009, I headed out with my friends, Jeff and McDonald, to watch the University of Tennessee play basketball against South Carolina. Being a night game, we got a late start and knew that we would have a late night return. We didn’t realize that we would be lucky to get home at all.

After a victory by the home team, we walked out of the arena and into a night that was damp but not cold, the type of night that we had driven through many times. Jeff, who was driving, hit Interstate 40 while we listened to the post game show on the radio. We were all hungry but decided to drive until the show was over. Having done this many times, all of us knew that this would get us to the Rockwood exit and a Ruby Tuesday’s.

We had a great meal before driving off into the night. As we walked out of the restaurant, it was impossible to ignore the fine mist falling from the sky, and I, without realizing it, made a fateful decision. I told McDonald that I would sacrifice and sit in the cramped backseat.

Traffic was heavy as we drove westward toward home, and the mist continued. It was a tricky drive, but something was happening outside that we didn’t realize. Between Nashville and Knoxville sits a geographic formation called the Cumberland Plateau that is higher in elevation that the two cities on either end of it. The higher we climbed, the colder it was getting. The fine mist was turning to black ice on the road.

The first sign of trouble was a pickup and a trailer that began swerving in front of us. We thought he just didn’t know how to pull a U-Haul and passed him. That’s when Jeff realized that we were on ice, and the vehicle was out of his control. For me, the next few seconds went into a mental slow motion. We were sliding along with other cars, and Jeff was trying to steer toward the guard rail to get us stopped. The mist was coming down, and fog had descended. That’s when the headlights hit something that no one could ever suspect. A wall was sitting across the road. Not a real wall, but an over turned tractor-trailer lying in our path.

Idiotically, I was not wearing a seatbelt and knew that I was in trouble. Without thinking, I laid down in the backseat and closed my eyes. From the back of my mind came the idea that I needed to stay limber. Maybe I heard it while watching a NASCAR race. Whatever the reason, I forced myself to stay loose on impact.

After that, I heard Jeff say, “I believe we’re gonna hit her, boys!” McDonald replied, “No shit!” Then, there was impact, and my head hit the back of the seat. Almost instantaneously, another vehicle, the one pulling the trailer, hit us. We sat stunned until someone from the outside yelled, “I smell gasoline!” The doors would not open, so we crawled out the smashed back window; climbed over the other truck; and, jumped over the guard rail.

I had the foresight to grab my cellphone as we escaped the carnage and called my parents when I knew that we were out of harm’s way. As I told them the story, I could hear crashes in the distance. Before it was over, we were car number one in a forty car pileup.

However, the night was just beginning. Jeff’s face smashed into the steering wheel, and he was losing blood and teeth at an alarming rate. McDonald couldn’t climb over the guard rail because his arm was broken. Luckily, I only had a scratch on my forehead. Immediately, people started scrambling. A woman was trapped in her car and under the truck. The TV announcer for the game was in the wreck as well. Truckers were climbing out of their cabs and trying to help. The air was getting colder by the minute, and the road was getting slicker. Now, we jokingly call it “Terror on the Plateau”, but it wasn’t funny that night.

I got Jeff into the cab of a truck for warmth and called his wife. I also called our friend Larry and asked him to call McDonald’s wife. That’s when I got a call from a friend caught in the traffic. He asked, “Are you caught up in this wreck?” I replied, “We are the wreck.” He sat in one spot until daylight.

After 1 1/2 hours, the ambulances began to show up. They were behind because seven other wrecks happened at the same time, and they couldn’t make it up the incline to us. It was too frozen. We finally got Jeff into an ambulance, and I waited for another one with McDonald. When it arrived, I stormed my way into it because it was the only ride I had into town. McDonald asked the paramedic if his arm was broke. The paramedic answered, “I don’t know, but it’s deformed.” That made us laugh for the first time in a while.

They checked us at the emergency room in Crossville while we waited for Larry, who had decided to head our way, to pick us up. He had a heck of a time too, as the interstate was closed coming from the west as well. When he arrived, I was sitting in a chair. McDonald had his arm in a sling. Jeff was sitting in a wheelchair and looking like Rocky Balboa after his first fight with Apollo Creed.

We were all nervous on the way home but finally made it at 6 in the morning.

After several operations, Jeff is back to normal, except for some false teeth. McDonald’s arm healed but only after he missed a season of senior softball. I was sore for a while but had no injuries. We have been to many basketball and football games since, and the terror of that night is slowly fading away. However, we still talk about that night as we go down the interstate, and I always look at the spot where the truck created a wall across the road. The spot where we lived several hours in our own disaster movie.

On Top of the Tornado

3 Mar

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 few drinks, we would hit the lobby bar before turning in. As we got dressed and prepared for the evening, we could not anticipate what was really going to happen.

As we left the room, she asked if we should take our phones, and I said no because we weren’t even leaving the building. We took the special elevator to the top and exited into a crowded restaurant with people laughing and dishes clanking. With a little time to wait for a table, we found a seat, ordered some drinks and watched the sky light up in the distance. Lightning was everywhere, but it was miles away. At no point did anyone think that it would have an effect on us. Then, it happened. I noticed a strange haze outside and suddenly saw a large piece of something fly by. I immediately grabbed my girlfriend’s arm and said let’s go. Why?

I could only say one word. Tornado.

As we moved it hit the hotel. Diners screamed and began to panic. Chandeliers swayed, hitting the ceiling with each swing. The building was swaying as well. Not a good feeling when you are 73 stories high.

People immediately began running down the stairs thinking that they could beat the fall if the building collapsed. There was no way I was getting trampled in that stampede, so we stayed behind and rode the elevator down with the restaurant staff. By then, the tornado had passed and the electricity had not gone out. It was the slowest elevator ride ever because we really didn’t know if we would make it all the way down. Luckily, we did, and, when the doors opened, we found a lobby turned into a refugee camp. People who had been on the street came straggling in covered with water, dirt, debris and with haggard looks on their faces. It was a disaster movie come to life.

As people continued to pour in, we learned what happened after the tornado hit. It traveled down the street, wreaking havoc along the way, and hit the Georgia Dome where a basketball game was being played. Fans and players scrambled as the roof was ripped apart and pieces fell on top of them. I realized that my dad would have been watching the game and seen the carnage. I didn’t have a phone and was banned from going to the upper floors. Knowing that my parents were home worrying, I could kick myself for leaving my phone behind, but I got lucky again. Sitting on the floor across from me was a man from my hometown. I used his phone to call home, and my parents relayed what they were seeing on television. It was hell outside, and we were lucky to be alive.

After several hours, we were allowed to go to our room and got there at the same time as the people next to us. When they opened the door, they stood with shocked looks on their faces. Like moths to a flame, we followed them in and saw their entire window blown out. We were standing in an open room 40 stories in the air. Lucky once more, our room was untouched.

We left the next day and, for the first time, realized what we had found ourselves in. Debris was piled on all of the streets, and demolition workers had cleared a path on one street to get people to the interstate. It was like driving through an apocalyptic landscape, and we were scared. The shock and adrenaline had worn off, and reality set in. We came close to death and never realized it.

Lucky has been used a lot in this post, but that is an understatement. It’s been four years, and I still don’t have adequate words to describe it.