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On the Road with the Phoenix

24 Apr

This weekend, I traveled to Williamsburg, Kentucky to watch the Cumberland University Phoenix play baseball against the University of the Cumberlands Patriots. For most of you, it is probably weird to see two universities with almost identical names. In fact, they used to have the same name until the one in Kentucky changed theirs. I guess we are older and got dibs on the naming rights.

This post is not about the names of universities. It is about spending time at the ballpark watching a baseball series. It is also about watching a legend at work.

Woody Hunt has been our head coach for thirty-seven seasons and has over 1,500 wins. That makes him the winningest active coach in NAIA baseball. He also has three national championships. Yes, baseball is our sport, and Coach Hunt is the reason.

Like a lot of people in this area, I have followed Cumberland baseball for years and have always wanted to sit in the dugout to see the action up close. This weekend, I got to do more than that. I spent the first game as the color commentator on the radio broadcast. When the computer malfunctioned, I had to do play-by-play for a while. To be honest, that kind of freaked me out.

During Saturday’s first game, I stayed glued to Coach Hunt. His pre-game speech fired me up. I was ready to go out there and play.

Watching him in the dugout was a great experience. He did not say much, but, when he did, it meant something. He talked strategy with his assistants and spoke sternly to the players when they needed it.

It has been a long time since I spent a weekend at the ballpark. I have written about my days growing up around professional softball – my dad’s team; the ballparks; and the players.

There is something about the smell of the grass and the dirt and of hamburgers being grilled.

There is something about the sound of cleats on concrete and the sound of bat hitting ball during batting practice.

There is something about the music of a prerecorded national anthem coming through the speakers.

There is a feeling in the air as a crisp morning turns into a hot day. Then, that hot day turns into a cool evening.

There is that special time when the lights come on as the sun is going down.

There is also the feeling of being around a team, a group of people who are going through the wins and losses together. When the game is over, they talk about the game at the nearest fast food restaurant and continue talking about it as they head to the hotel.

No, there is nothing quite like being at a ballpark and being part of a team. It is something that I spent a lot of years doing, and, this weekend, it felt good to be part of that atmosphere once again. Even if was just for a few days.

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Haiku Because I Could Not Think of Anything Else

4 Jan

I feel the need to write, but I do not know what to write. I could delve into the mind of my iPod, but that has been done a lot. I could explore wisdom in movies, but those posts take longer than you might imagine.

It has been a while since I wrote some haiku. Maybe that is the thing to do.

Watched American

Werewolf in London. It starred

Jenny Agutter.

Jenny Agutter

also starred in Logan’s Run,

an awesome movie.

Inservice today.

School has begun. Man, time flies

when you’re having fun.

Cold. Cold. Cold. Cold. Cold.

Colder. Coldest. Cold. Cold. Cold.

Freezing. It’s freezing.

Twitter is angry.

Everyone’s mad about

something. It gets old.

The Titans made the

playoffs. It’s a miracle.

Music City style.

We have Alexa.

Wait, we have two Alexa.

Plurally proper?

A Cool Week in December

14 Dec

From December 4 to December 10, I had a pretty cool week. No, that is not a weather report. Rather, some cool things happened.

It all started on December 4 when my wife and I had the opportunity to sit on the glass for the Nashville Predators. We, along with some friends, purchased the tickets at a fundraiser. It was an awesome experience. Pregame and intermissions were spent in the Lexus Lounge, where food and drink were flowing. It was also where we could bump fists with the Predators as they made their way to the ice.

During the game, we got a good view of stuff like this.

To make it even better, the Predators defeated the Boston Bruins 5-3.

On December 7, I went with my brother, my nephew and some friends to see the John Wayne exhibit at the Opryland Hotel. We are all fans of the Duke and were able to discuss our fandom amongst his personal memorabilia. It was a great exhibit with his Oscar and a bunch of costumes. Do you know which movies these costumes represent?

We finished the night with whiskey and steaks at a restaurant inside the hotel. We figured that was the perfect way to honor the Duke.

On December 10, my wife and I attended a private concert by Eric Church. We were invited a few weeks earlier and are thrilled that we had this opportunity. We saw him perform at Bridgestone Arena, but this was completely different. On the big stage, he covers himself in sunglasses and a cap. He also performs with a chip on his shoulder. This show did not involve all of that. It was him sitting on a stool with a guitar and telling personal stories about the songs.

It was a great way to end a cool week in December.

Of Old Boxers and Old Movies

12 Dec

My friends and I have some weird text conversations. We talk about all sorts of things, but we mostly try to stump each other on trivia. We consider ourselves experts in all knowledge that will only lead to fortune on a game show. The other night we had one such conversation. Hopefully, you can tell that the conversations can go in any direction.

It went, with slight edits, as follows. to help guide you through this high level conversation, my friend’s comments are in bold.

85 years ago the old Southern Conference became the SEC. There were 13 original members. Did you know Sewanee was one of them?

I knew that.

So was Tulane.

Georgia Tech also. I believe they dropped out in 64… when did Sewanee get out?

1940

John Lennon was killed 37 years ago today.

That was yesterday.

Although, Archie Moore died on this day in 1998.

Correct. My bad. The Ole Mongoose was cornerman for Foreman when Ali stopped him in Zaire. Moore’s last fight was against a young Cassius Clay in 62.

He also played Jedediah in The Carpetbaggers, one of the all time great movies.

Yes, and was in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Sugar Ray Robinson was in a couple of Sinatra movies. Archie Moore also worked with James “Quick” Tillis, a Tulsa heavyweight who was a great boxer but not much heart. Tillis played in The Color Purple with Oprah. I flew in 81 to Chicago on a junket to see Tillis fight Mike “Hercules” Weaver for the WBA title. Tillis was named Sprint Tillis after the fight. He ran all night long. I saw better fights in the halls of high school.

Which boxer was in the Tony Rome movies?

Tillis’ daughter was an outstanding basketball player at Duke. Iciss Tillis.

I remember her.

Cassius Clay in 62 was in Requiem for a Heavyweight with Jackie Gleason and Anthony Quinn.

I didn’t know that.

Rocky Graziano was in Tony Rome.

I thought somebody else was in those movies.

Sugar Ray Robinson was in The Detective with Sinatra. LaMotta had a bit part in Graziano’s bio played by Paul Newman…

Sinatra got Joe Louis a job as a greeter at Caesar’s Palace.

Max Schmeling paid for his funeral.

 

 

 

A Feeling in the Air

29 Jul

I am sitting on the back porch, and, for the first time this year, there is a special feeling in the air. There is a crispness that hits as soon as you walk out the door. The sky looks differently. The breeze feels differently. It is a special feeling that hits suddenly.

Yep, it feels like football.

Coincidentally, my favorite team, the University of Tennessee Volunteers, begin practice today. Last season, the team did not reach the heights that everyone expected. This year, the fans I know have dampened expectations. However, it is always exciting to know that the season is just a few weeks away.

I grew up going to Tennessee games with my dad and have been raised in the traditions of the program. I have cheered them through great triumphs and suffered through the doldrums of losing seasons. I guess that is what fans are supposed to do.

As a historian who is also a fan of sports, I have tried to connect the two and understand why football is important to us. In my opinion, it has passed baseball as America’s favorite pastime. I have this theory that the seeds of football’s popularity began when the nation felt that the westward frontier was conquered.

For generations, the nation captured land in the West. This movement led to the notion that young men could become men by taking part in that pursuit. You know, “Go West, Young Man” and all of that. Once the land was taken, how was a young man supposed to prove himself?

He could do it in a sport that was a smaller version of the same thing. Football is all about gaining land 10 yards at a time until it is finally conquered by getting to its end. The game is all about field position and moving forward while an opposing force is trying to prevent that.

Does that not sound like westward expansion?

It was also safer. Doing battle on a football field was better than being in a pitched battle against Native Americans. You could not get killed on the football field.

Except, you could get killed on the football field. It happened all of the time in the early days of college football. It happened to the extent that the sport almost came to an end. It took rule changes to increase safety to save it.

Now, we are learning that it is still not safe. People may not die on the field, but playing football greatly affects life after the game is over. That effect is no longer banged up knees, crooked fingers and stiff necks. It affects the brain to an extent that ruins life and often proves fatal.

This feeling in the air brings excitement for the next football season. I, like millions of others, will attend games and cheer for our players, but what are we really doing? We are watching men brutalize their bodies for glory and for the shot at fortune.

Football is a sport that I love, but it is also a sport that needs to change. In the early days, they changed the rules to save it, and that will need to happen again. I will continue to watch the games. However, if I had a son I would not let him play.

Our Week With Eric Church, Carole King, the Bandit and the Nashville Predators

30 May

It has been an eventful week in the SBI World, and we have spent a lot of time in the city 30 miles to the west. For those not up on local geography, that city is Nashville.

On Monday night, we had tickets for Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals in the National Hockey League. The Nashville Predators have been on a magical run through the playoffs and have taken over the city. Long time Predator fans are not happy with the bandwagon people, but we felt that Game 6 was a must-see event. They clinched the championship, and I got to High Five the country music star who sat in front of us. I have no idea who he was, but my wife was not happy that I got to touch him and she did not.

On Tuesday night, I was back in Nashville for a fundraiser. Cumberland University, where I work, is the home of the Martin Van Buren Papers, and a Nashville attorney hosted an event to assist with that project. He has an amazing collection of historic artifacts and opened his office for tours. People paid to see documents signed by George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Davy Crockett, King George III and various other people. It was interesting to see everything and to hear the stories of how the collection came together.

On Wednesday night, I went with my brother and my nephews to a truly cultural event. We went to the theater to see the 40th Anniversary screening of Smokey and the Bandit, a movie that I have seen a million times.

It was great to see the Bandit, Snowman and Buford T. Justice on the big screen, but it was also great to see people with their t-shirts. As bandit tells Snowman when they get to the warehouse full of Coors beer, it was “redneck heaven.” After it was over, I wanted to get a diablo sandwich and a Dr. Pepper.

On Friday night, it was back to Bridgestone Arena, home of the Predators. However, we were not there for a hockey game. We were there to see Eric Church in concert.

I do not know much about the singer, but we had already seen him at a Kris Kristofferson tribute concert. This one was more rocking and raucous. Eric Church is known for wearing sunglasses, and it was funny to see all of the guys in the crowd wearing sunglasses. I reckon that thought some female would mistake them for the performer.

On Sunday night, we went to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center to see Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. It was a great show about the life of a prolific songwriter who also creating on of the great albums of all time. Through professional success and personal tribulation, she wrote songs that became part of the soundtrack for a generation. Now, we have to see the real person in concert.

At some point, I made the statement that I was not going to go into the city for a while. However, I will it will happen because there is too much cool stuff there to do. This week was just a small sample of that.

Things I Think

25 Mar

I think…

the speed limit means that you can actually go that speed.

cracks in concrete are canyons for ants.

Escape from New York is the best movie Kurt Russell ever made.

the Jessi Colter and Waylon Jennings version of “Suspicious Minds” is almost as good as the Elvis version.

the iPhone is the most addictive drug in the world.

that only rocks live forever.

the Freedom of Speech is under attack from people who only want to what they want to hear.

more people need to like history.

John Wayne and Clint Eastwood should have made a Western together.

people who are famous for no reason should lose their fame immediately.

people who throw chewing gum on the ground should have chewing gum stuck on them.

trees communicate with each other.

a remake of Escape from New York is a bad idea.

married life is a great life.

football, my favorite sport to watch, will one day be banned.

truffled macaroni and cheese is terrible.

I need to buy more vinyl.

reality television is the worst form of entertainment ever invented.

chairs are better than couches.

blogging is awesome.