Tag Archives: College Football

Blind Sided

27 Feb

The Blind Side is a movie based on the real story of Michael Oher, a young African-American who is adopted into a wealthy Memphis family. Through their support, he blossoms into a great football player who goes on to success in college and the National Football League. It is a movie about the goodness of people and about what can happen when someone gets a little help along the way. It is a movie that makes the audience feel good about the world. It is a movie that everyone in my family likes.blind-side

Except me.

That situation has led to arguments. It has led people to think that I am cold-hearted. It has led to statements like “How can you not like The Blind Side?”

Well, let me explain how.

I was initially turned off by the main character played by Sandra Bullock, who hates the University of Tennessee. Why would I want to watch a movie where they talk smack about the team that I like? That makes no sense to me.

For a long time, that was my reason for not liking The Blind Side. However, people did not accept that, and my argument had to be strengthened. That is when I started looking into the story a little more carefully.

Before I get into that, there is something else that I need to explain. I am not a fan of any movie that takes real people and turns their story into a simple fairy tale. There are a ton of these movies out there, and they all make the same mistakes. Humans are complicated, and they have complicated stories. Turning those complicated stories into simple “feel good” narratives is not fair to the people being portrayed, and it is not fair to the audience. I am all for “feel good” movies. However, they are better told in the fictional world.

This does not even take into account the criticism this movie faced for being part of the “white savior” narrative. Those are the movies where white characters find out something about themselves by helping people of color who, according to the narrative, cannot help themselves. Some other movies that fit this are Cool Runnings, Dances With Wolves, Glory Road, Lawrence of Arabia and McFarland USA,

Now, here is the complicated tale of Michael Oher and the Tuohys, his adopted family.

The movie portrays Michael as a big poor kid who did not know how to do anything. Then, Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy took him off the streets. That is when his football talent emerged.

In reality, he was an all-state football player and one of the top linemen in the nation who lived with several foster families. The Tuohys were one of those families, and they adopted him.

This is where my cynicism shows through, but first I will say this. I am sure that the Tuohys cared for Michael. After all, they are real people with real feelings. However, it did not hurt that he was a great football player. Why did that not hurt? Because the Tuohys were huge boosters of the University of Mississippi. Mr. Tuohy played basketball for Ole Miss and worked as an announcer on basketball radio broadcasts. Mrs. Tuohy was a cheerleader at the school.

This is where the arguments ensue. Others say that his football ability had nothing to do with the adoption. I say that I have seen a lot of crazy stuff in Southeastern Conference football recruiting. Adopting a great football player is a good way to pass benefits to the player in a legal way, and some people will go to any length to do that. Heck, Memphis is one of the most notorious cities when it comes to questionable recruiting tactics.

Anyway, huge Ole Miss boosters adopt one of the nation’s top high school football players, and he ends up going to Ole Miss. It caught the attention of the NCAA.

Members of my family read this blog, and this post may lead to more heated discussions about The Blind Side. So, why am I bringing it up? Here is why.

This week, the NCAA announced that Ole Miss lacked institutional control when it came to football recruiting. There are violations after violations. People are wondering what punishment they will receive. People are also wondering what will happen to Hugh Freeze, the head football coach who oversaw some of this activity.

Do you know where Hugh Freeze used to be the football coach?

Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis.

Do you know who was one of his best players?

Michael Oher.

Do you know how he got into college coaching?

He was hired at Ole Miss 20 days after Michael Oher signed the papers to play at the school.

I am sure that The Blind Side is a good movie about good people. Heck, Sandra Bullock won an Academy Award for her portrayal. I am also sure that Michael Oher would not be where he is today without the influence of the Tuohys. However, there is more to the story than this simplified version, and I wish that was the movie that had been made.

The Tennessee Bucket List

29 Mar

We spent Saturday afternoon roaming around Nashville. We ate lunch on the patio at Burger Republic and played around at Centennial Park. In between, we browsed through some shops. It was while browsing that I found a book called The Tennessee Bucket List: 100 Ways to Have a Real Tennessee Experience. Actually, it only lists 99 ways because the last one is something that a writer would put in there when he could not think of anything else to add.

Anyway, I bought the book because I wanted to know how many of these I had done. Heck, I have lived in Tennessee my entire life. I must have done most of them. Also, buying the book meant I could write a blog post.

Here goes the list of my real Tennessee experience.

See a Show at the Grand Ole Opry – I have seen the Opry at the Opry House and at the Ryman Auditorium. Thanks to a former student my wife and I were lucky enough to see the Opry backstage at the Ryman. She got her picture with Riders in the Sky.

Behold the Beauty of a Tennessee Walker – We have had box seats at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration since I was a kid. Most people go to Shelbyville for the horses. I go for the donuts.

Watch a NASCAR Race – Actually, I have been to a NASCAR race in Alabama. I will be at the Bristol Motor Speedway for the first time in the Fall, and that will be for a football game.

Sip Moonshine – Everyone has done this, right?

Wander the District – You cannot have the full Nashville experience without going to this part of town.

Explore a King’s Mansion – The TV Room is my favorite part of Graceland. The Outlaw Josey Wales is playing all of the time.

There are three tv's. I left out the one showing the trivia answer.

Be a Part of an Archaeological Dig – I am not sure how much digging is done in Tennessee, but there was once a dig on my family’s farm.

See a Civl War Reenactment – The dad of one of my friends took me to a reenactment of the Battle of Stones River. It was surreal to see people pretend that they were living in the past.

Enjoy a Goo Goo Cluster – You have not had candy until you have had a Goo Goo.

See Seven States at the Same Time – Rock City is an old-time roadside attraction that has survived into the 21st Century. If you are near Chattanooga, then you have to, as the barn roofs say, See Rock City.

Take a Walk Down Music Row – You may not see a famous person, but you will pass buildings where awesome music has been created.

Walk the Field at Shiloh – Almost 110,000 Americans fought on this land. There were more casualties in this battle than in all of America’s previous wars combined. It is a haunting place.

Explore Cades Cove – When the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was formed, land was taken from people who had lived in the mountains for years. This community has been preserved in its rustic state.

Stroll Down Beale Street – The Blues was not born in Memphis, but this is where the great Bluesmen gained fame.

See the Sunsphere – In 1982, the World’s Fair was held in Knoxville. It is the last World’s Fair to make a profit, but the Sunsphere is all that is left.

Buy a Pair of Boots – I admit that I have done it.

Stand in the Footsteps of History – Everyone should visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. It is housed in the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. A few years ago, I took my family.

Explore the Titanic – Yep, the Titanic is in Tennessee. Specifically, it is in Pigeon Forge. It sounds strange, but it is an awesome museum.

See a Shark – Yep, sharks are in Tennessee. Specifically, they are at an aquarium in Gatlinburg, which is down the road from Pigeon Forge.

Hear Al Green Preach – I am cheating on this one. I have never heard Al Green preach, but I have heard him sing.

Visit Franklin on Foot – Downtown Franklin is a great place to visit. The city has found the right combination of preservation and enterprise.

Behold the Statue of Athena – Actually, we saw this on the same day I bought the book. Nashville has the Parthenon because it used to be known as the Athens of the South. Inside the Parthenon stands Athena.image-10

Strum a Guitar – Everyone has done this, right?

See a College Football Game – I have seen games at Neyland Stadium, Dudley Field, Nissan Stadium, the Liberty Bowl and Cumberland University’s Nokes-Lasater Field. However, the coolest one was Chamberlain Field in Chattanooga, which opened in 1908. When it closed, it was the second oldest college football stadium in the country.

Play Miniature Golf – It is one of my favorite things to do. The best place to do it? Hillbilly Golf in Gatlinburg.

Spend the Afternoon Shopping – The book talks about Opry Mills. However, the Mall at Green Hills is the best.

Savor a MoonPie – It is an awesome snack, but it is best paired with a RC Cola.

Visit the Grave of Meriwether Lewis – This is the Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame. He met a mysterious end in a tavern along the Natchez Trace.

See a Bear in the Woods – I saw a bear with her cubs at Cades Cove. Luckily, I did not end up like Leo DiCaprio.

Go Line Dancing – Everyone has done this, right?

Spend a Day at Dollywood – I have been to Dollywood after it was called Dollywood. I have also been there when it was called Silver Dollar City. I have also been there when it was called Gold Rush Junction.

Watch the Marching of the Ducks – The Peabody Hotel in Memphis is a nice hotel. It is also the home of some cool ducks.

Go Whitewater Rafting – Everyone has done this, right?

Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame – We try to go there each time they open a new exhibit. It is a great museum

Explore Market Square – This is a part of downtown Knoxville with a lot of cool restaurants and shops.

Pig Out of Memphis-Style Barbecue – Nashville people do not like to give Memphis credit for anything. However, they are tops when it comes to barbecue. Go to Rendezvous.

See an Eagle – A few wild ones can be seen around here.

Discover the Mighty Mississippi – At times, I have just sat and watched it flow by.

Ride a Sky Lift – For years, it has been a Gatlinburg landmark. Everyone has to ride it at least once.

Visit the Jack Daniels Distillery – Jack Daniels is produced in Lynchburg, which sits in a dry county. You cannot buy alcohol where the most famous whiskey is made.

Sit in the “Scopes Monkey Trial” Courtroom – One of my greatest moments as an educator was talking about the Scopes Trial in the courtroom. It is worth a visit to Dayton.

Sing “Rocky Top” – I have sung it thousands of times at the top of my lungs. However, I cannot bring myself to sing the “WOO” part.

Tour a Plantation – They are everywhere.

See a Lady Vols Basketball Game – I have seen a bunch of games and seen a bunch of victories. However, it is not the same without Pat Summitt.

Tour the Home of a U.S. President – There are three. I have seen two. Andrew Jackson and James K. Polk.

Ascend the Space Needle – It is a ride high over Gatlinburg.

See a Titans Game – I have done this a bunch. It was fun when they were winning. These days, it is not as much fun.

Cheer on the South (or North) – When I went to the Dixie Stampede, we were late and could only get tickets on the North side. I was told that the North never wins. That night they won.

Take a Riverboat Cruise at Night – Nashville’s General Jackson is a great ride on a Summer night.

Enjoy an Orchestra – We love going to the Nashville Symphony. They are awesome.

Sink Your Teeth into a King Leo Peppermint Stick – I am not crazy about them, but they are a Christmas tradition.

Walk to the Top of Clingman’s Dome – It is Tennessee’s highest point. Just watch out for the fog. They do not call them the Smoky Mountains for nothing.

Listen to a Country Music Concert – Everyone has done this, right?image-11

Visit a Fort – There are forts, but they are not as cool as forts in the American West.

There is my list. I will not write about the things that I have not done. I am sure the author of the book would love for you to buy a copy to see what else is in there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Stand Up Guy

8 Nov

I attend quite a few college football games. The competition. The pageantry. The connection with other fans. I like it all. However, I have never understood the Stand Up Guy, that one person who insists upon standing while everyone around him is sitting.Stand Up

Yesterday, a Stand Up Guy was sitting, uh, standing a few feet to my right. At times, he would sit, but he always found an excuse to stand up. He stood up to text and stayed in that position for several plays after texting. He stood up to put on a sweatshirt and took the opportunity to stand for a while. Other times, he just stood up for the heck of it.

This made me wonder what goes through the mind of a Stand Up Guy. Does he think his team can feel his standing energy? Does he think he can yell louder while standing? Does he think the three extra feet of elevation give him a better view? Does he think the person behind him paid money for a ticket to have a good view of his ass? Does he think his ass looks that great? Does he think he can force the entire section to stand up and provide more standing energy for his team?

I do not mind standing up at a game. I have attended games where the entire crowd stood the entire time. There are also important times of the game when everyone should stand. However, standing for the sake of standing is ridiculous. It is also selfish. I would say that the Stand Up Guy is oblivious of his surroundings, but I am certain that he knows exactly what he is doing.

He is showing people that he is a “true fan” because he is doing everything possible to support his team. However, I have noticed something about the Stand Up Guy. I only see him at a few games. The fans who are sitting around him are there every time the team takes the field. Perhaps, the “true fans” are the ones sitting around and wondering what the Stand Up Guy thinks he is doing.

Cumberland Beats Georgia Tech 629 to 450

26 Oct

In 1916, Cumberland University, the place where I work, played in a memorable football game. They traveled to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech, which was coached by John Heisman. Yes, the man who the trophy is named for.

The game is memorable because Georgia Tech won 222-0, which is the most lopsided game in college football history.Score

Occasionally, that score will show up on ESPN or some other channel, and the announcers will make a joke out of it. They do not say that Cumberland disbanded football the year before and that Heisman threatened to sue the university if a team did not show up. They also do not say anything about Cumberland beating the Georgia Tech baseball team 20-0. That team was also coached by Heisman, and he was looking for some payback.

Essentially, the game was between a pickup intramural team and the best team in the nation.

Around here, we hear about that game a lot, but the 2015 season has brought us something else to talk about. This year, the Cumberland Bulldogs are better than the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets or Rambling Wreck or whatever they are calling themselves. This is how it works.

Cumberland beat Kentucky Christian 54-21, and Morehead State beat Kentucky Christian 28-0. That means Cumberland is better than Morehead State.

Morehead State beat Campbell 31-27.

Campbell beat Drake 24-14.

Drake beat Jacksonville 28-24.

Jacksonville beat Delaware 20-14.

Delaware beat New Hampshire 31-14.

New Hampshire beat Elon 37-14.

Elon beat Gardner Webb 21-13.

Gardner Webb beat Liberty 34-20.

Liberty beat Montana 31-21.

Montana beat North Dakota 42-16.

North Dakota beat Portland State 19-17.

Portland State beat Washington State 24-17.

Washington State beat Rutgers 37-34.

Rutgers beat Indiana 55-52.

Indiana beat Western Kentucky 38-35.

Western Kentucky beat Vanderbilt 14-12.

Vanderbilt beat Missouri 10-3.

Missouri beat South Carolina 24-10.

South Carolina beat North Carolina 17-13.

North Carolina beat Georgia Tech 38-31.

All of that happened with a combined score of 629-450.

Lest you think I figured all of that out by myself, I bring your attention to http://www.myteamisbetterthanyourteam.com. Check it out to see where your team ranks.

With that being said, I hope John Heisman is spending eternity coaching baseball.

A Tale of Four Quarterbacks

26 Aug

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 came to the stadium straight from the airport. Can you imagine someone trying to bring suitcases into a stadium during these times?

Larry upset one of the concession stand workers. We tried to get a cup of ice, and the guy said that it would be $10 or some other outrageous amount. That is when Larry said, “Damn, Jesse James carried a gun when he robbed people.” Apparently, the guy did not like the Jesse James reference.

There is something else I remember. Those were good times to be a fan of the University of Tennessee. Although we had lost Heath Shuler, who had finished second for the Heisman Trophy, we had a senior quarterback ready to take the helm. Jerry Colquitt had patiently waited his turn, and it was his time to shine.

Another upper classman, Todd Helton, was the backup. Everyone knew he would be drafted into the Major Leagues and had a bright future in baseball. He did not expect to play that often, but the team needed someone with experience because the other two quarterbacks were freshmen. They were also highly recruited.

One was Branndon Stewart, a son of Texas who came from the Heath Shuler mold. He could make things happen with his arm and his legs. The other was Peyton Manning, the son of a southern legend who played more traditionally. Everyone knew that there would be a quarterback battle in the future, but that was a year away.Quarterbacks

At least, everyone assumed it would be a year away. On the seventh play of the game, Colquitt injured his knee and was out for the season. Suddenly, Tennessee was down to a baseball player and two talented freshmen. Before the game was over, all of the quarterbacks would take snaps, and Tennessee would lose 25-23.

Helton became the reluctant starter and led the Volunteers to a big win over Georgia. However, he was injured in another game, and no one wanted to ruin his chances at baseball. He stayed on the team, but the freshman quarterback battle was at full force.

Stewart and Manning split playing time, and the fans were split, as well. Remembering Shuler, some fans wanted Stewart. Seeing a pro typical quarterback, other fans wanted Manning. Eventually, the coaches settle on Manning.

Stewart, seeing the writing on the wall, transferred to Texas A&M and led them to the 1998 Big 12 championship. In the title game, they beat Kansas State, which insured that Tennessee would go to the first BCS Title Game. The Vols won the National Championship, and, ironically, Stewart helped them do that.

Helton was drafted by the Colorado Rockies and recently retired after playing for them his entire career. Not long ago, they also retired his number.

Despite his injury, Colquitt by drafted into the NFL, but his playing career did not last long. He got into coaching and made it onto the staff of the Seattle Seahawks.

Manning is, well, Peyton Manning and is considered to be one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Like Shuler before him, he finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting, which is one of the greatest travesties in that award’s history. Then, he was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts. Now, he plays for the Denver Broncos.

Thinking about the opening game of 1994 made me wonder about how lives were changed by one injury on one play. What would have happened if that injury had not taken place? Would Colquitt have gone on to a more promising NFL career? Would Helton have come in during a later game and gotten hurt more seriously? Would another year allowed Stewart to beat out Manning for the starting job? Would Manning have transferred? Would Tennessee have won the National Championship in 1998?

I have no idea, but I know what we were thinking when that injury took place. Holy crap, what are we going to do now?

Pay These Prices and Please Pay No More

12 Apr

Bobby Denton passed away. Most of you have never heard of Bobby Denton, but he is someone I have been listening to since I was six years old. I could not pick him out of a crowd, but I would know his voice anywhere. Bobby Denton was the public address announcer at University of Tennessee football games.Bobby Denton

His voice would boom over the loud speakers as over 100,000 people listened. He let everyone know who made a tackle or scored on a long touchdown play. He let us know if the team had made a first down on a quarterback sneak.

Every university has a public address announcer who does these same things. However, each one of them has their own style and sayings. Bobby Denton was no exception. He had a certain way of saying things that could get the crowd fired up. After a great play, he would let the crowd settle down before saying something like, “That touchdown pass from Peyton Manning to Joey Kent covered 85 yards!” The crowd would start yelling again.

People make fun of me because I like to get into the stadium early and watch the team warm up. While other people tailgate, I take in the atmosphere from the seats. Bobby Denton was one of the reasons. You knew that things were cranking up when he took the mic and said, “It’s football time in Tennessee!”

Then, he would go through his pregame ritual of telling everyone about the exits in case of an emergency and where the first aid stands were located. At the end, Bobby Denton said one of his catchphrases, “Concession prices are listed on Page 21 of your program. We urge you to pay these prices and please pay no more!” Half of the people in the stands said it with him.

As a kid, I sat next to my dad and listened to Bobby Denton tell me what was happening on the field. I have grown up listening to Bobby Denton. After his death, coaches and players from the University of Tennessee talked about how great of a man he was. I am just one of thousands of people who listened to him, but I know that football games will not be the same without Bobby Denton saying an opposing player was “tackled by a host of Volunteers!”

Tennessee Traditions

16 Aug

I am a fan of the University of Tennessee, and that has been a rough experience in the past few years. While most Tennessee fans follow several sports, the university is considered a “football school”, and the football team has gone through the worst seasons in its history. Coaching changes. Bad losses. Few good wins. To put it bluntly, it has sucked.

Now, there is a new coach, Butch Jones, who is trying to breathe some life back into the program. He has hit the recruiting trail. He has reached out to fans and former players. Every fan I know thinks he has done a fantastic job – until yesterday. That’s when he unveiled a new uniform that the team will wear for a couple of games.Uniform

Immediately, the howls began from fans who said the uniforms were terrible. Reading Twitter and message boards, people typed over and over about how this was destroying Tennessee tradition. The team is Orange and White – not some charcoal gray.

This made me start thinking about some of the Tennessee tradition that they were talking about. My dad started taking me to football games when I was 6 years old. That was in the mid-70s. Since that time, I have been lucky enough to attend almost every game, both home and away. I have experienced the traditions of Tennessee, and they have become a big part of who I am. However, all of those traditions had a beginning. There was a first time that each one happened. I wonder what fans during those times thought about this new things that was being introduced.

Orange Jerseys – The team first wore orange on the field in 1922. Before that, they probably wore some color like gray. Oh, wait. I wonder if some fan sat in the stands and said, “This is a man’s game. Why are they wearing orange? It looks like those flowers over there.”

T on the Helmet – Have a big T on the side of the helmet is a Tennessee tradition. It started in 1964. I don’t know if anyone complained about it. However, Johnny Majors became coach in the 1970s and CHANGED THE T!!! It was blasphemy, I say.

Running Through the T – One of the most exciting times as a Tennessee fan is when the team runs onto the field through a giant T formed by the band. I guarantee that every fan dreams of doing it. The tradition began in 1965. That means Tennessee played football for 70 years before the team ran through the T. I bet some fan said, “Why are they making them run across the field like that? They should save their energy for the game.”Running Through the T

Rocky Top – This is one of Tennessee’s most famous traditions. Throughout a game, the band plays and the fans sing “Rocky Top” dozens of times. Opposing coaches and players have talked about how it drives them crazy. This song has become synonymous with Tennessee football. It was first played at a game in 1972. Before that, fans heard spirited renditions of “Down the Field”, the official fight song. I can hear it now. Some fan says, “We’ve been playing ‘Down the Field’ forever. It’s a tradition. I can’t believe they are playing this hillbilly music.”

Checkerboard Endzones – I saw a poll that said Tennessee’s checkerboard endzones are one of the most famous traditions in college football. They first appeared in the 1960s, then were taken away for a while. This is a tradition that wasn’t even thought enough of to keep around. I bet some fan said, “This ain’t checkers. It’s football, by God.”

The Vol Walk – This is a tradition that a lot of fans love. They line the street as the players walk to the stadium. It’s a long-held tradition that started IN MY LIFETIME! Nevertheless, it is a tradition.

I wrote all of that to say that traditions have to start somewhere and that the traditions of the program have always changed. There is a first time for everything, and, sometimes, that leads to something that people value for years to come. However, without the introduction we never know.

Here’s the bottom line for those who hate the new uniforms. It was not done for the fans. It was done for the current and future players. Guess what, they all love it. One recruit said the uniform was prettier than his girlfriend.

As I wrote at the beginning, the program has gone through hard times. Today’s recruits don’t remember that Tennessee won the first BCS title. They don’t know Heath Shuler, Condredge Holloway, Hank Lauricella or George Cafego. What’s more, they don’t care.

Here’s something else, all of those other traditions were probably started for the players, too. If I remember my Vol history, then the program struggled through the early 1960s. A young coach came in and jazzed things up with the T on the helmet; the checkerboard endzones; and a new way to enter the field. He did it to attract players. That’s what Butch Jones is doing with the new uniforms.

Oh, the color orange was picked by a football player.