Tag Archives: Tony Robinson

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.

Tennessee, Alabama and Me

24 Oct

This weekend, the University of Tennessee plays the University of Alabama in a football game, and this is the one I look forward to the most. Younger fans may think of other games as bigger, but, for me, nothing is bigger than when these two teams get together. My dad started taking me to Tennessee games when I was 6 years old, and I have been to every Tennessee/Alabama game since then. There have been a lot of wins. There have been a lot of losses. There has also been a lot of memories.

When I was a kid, it was always me, my dad and my grandfather, who we called Daddy J. Most times Larry would be with us. You’ve read about him before. My dad would drive while Daddy J sat in the passenger seat tugging on a big cigar. Being in the backseat, I would lean up to hear the adult conversations that were going on.

Obviously, we went to Neyland Stadium all of the time, so I considered it special to attend a game at Legion Field in Birmingham. For the younger folks, that’s where Alabama used to play all of their home games. If the timing was right, then we would eat at All Steak in Cullman. Once in Birmingham, we would park in someone’s yard and walk to the stadium, where they had the greatest hot dogs I have ever eaten.

Legion Field was different from a lot of stadiums because it had a walkway around the field. Fans could go up to the fence and get close to the players and coaches. I can remember my dad telling me about Bear Bryant and pointing to the man standing under the goalpost.

He had a program rolled up in one hand and a cigarette hanging in the other one. Of course, he always had on the houndstooth hat. These days houndstooth has become a fashion statement in Alabama, but I always wonder how many of the people wearing it actually saw Bear Bryant coach a game.

All of that was cool, but it has always been about more. On Saturday, I will attend my 39th game between these teams. I have forgotten the details of a lot of them, but a few games stand out.

1982 – Tennessee came into the game in full rebuilding mode under Johnny Majors. Alabama came into the game ranked second in the nation and with eleven straight wins over Tennessee. Shocking everyone, Tennessee intercepted a pass in the end zone to preserve a 35-28 victory. No one was more shocked than me because it was the first time I saw Tennessee beat Alabama. Honestly, I never thought it would happen. More honestly, I shed a tear or two.

We were staying in Gatlinburg that weekend, and I wore orange the rest of the night. As we sat on a street-side bench, people would walk by and say “Go Vols!” Crimson couldn’t be seen anywhere as Tennessee fans celebrated.

It turned out to be the last time that Tennessee played against Bear Bryant. He retired at the end of the season and passed away a few weeks later. Most Tennessee fans know the photograph of Johnny Majors and Bear Bryant shaking hands after the game.Johnny Majors

1983 – The rematch in Birmingham was an offensive explosion. The teams traded blows until Johnny Jones scored on a 66 yard run to make the final score 41-34. It was electric, but things got better. Larry and I snuck into the Tennessee locker room and joined in the celebration. I got wrist bands from Charles Davis, one of Tennessee’s players. However, the best souvenir was a pair of socks from Clyde Duncan. Those socks scored on a long touchdown pass that day, and I wore them to every game for many seasons after.

1985 – This time we didn’t drive to Birmingham. Some people who my dad did business with flew us down on their private jet. On Friday, we toured their factory and had dinner at the fanciest restaurant I had ever been to. We had to wear a coat and tie, which I didn’t have. I had to wear what the restaurant gave me. There was a piano player, and my dad paid money for him to play “Rocky Top.” The other diners were not pleased.

The next day, Tennessee, ranked twentieth in the country, won 16-14 as Alabama, ranked fifteenth in the nation, barely missed a last second field goal. The game was full of drama as Tony Robinson, Tennessee’s starting quarterback, went out with a knee injury. The defense had to hold on, and Dale Jones did his part by making an impossible interception.

The flight home was quiet because we were the only Tennessee fans on the plane.

1995 – We had learned a couple of months before the game that Daddy J had an inoperable brain tumor. On the morning of the game, I visited him at the hospital and talked to him about football. He probably didn’t understand, but I like to think that he did. After this visit, I met Larry and the other guys to drive to Birmingham for a game between two highly ranked teams.

Tennessee was ranked sixth in the polls and was led by Peyton Manning, who was just a sophomore. Alabama came in eleventh in the nation. Like in 1983, Tennessee had not won in a while, and fans were anticipating a change in fortunes. We didn’t wait long as Tennessee scored on the first play and went on to win 41-14. Tennessee found a favorite son and started a seven game winning streak over Alabama.

After the game, fans tried to storm the field, but the Birmingham police would have none of it. They brought out the pepper spray and got a few journalists in the process. It was an eventful night, and it was a terrible day. My grandfather passed away that morning after I left the hospital.

At the visitation, I told Larry that I wished Daddy J could have seen that game. Larry replied that God let’s us see good things when we are in heaven.

I have been to many Tennessee/Alabama games, but those are the ones that I remember most. So, what’s the record between the two teams since I have been going.

Tennessee has won 15 games.

Alabama has won 22 games.

There was one game that didn’t count. You’ll have to ask an Alabama fan about that.