Tag Archives: NFL

My iPod Has Issues – NFL Draft Edition

28 Apr

I am watching the NFL Draft, and it is getting boring.

That is why I cranked up the iPod to see what is happening there. Here is what happened.

“Amarillo by Morning” by George Strait

“Spybreak” by Propellerheads

“Mama Feel Good” by Lyn Collins

“Sweet Baby James” by James Taylor

“Little Red Corvette” by Prince

“Big Iron” by Marty Robbins

“Four Walls of Raiford” by Lynyrd Skynyrd

“Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

“Black Betty” by Ram Jam

“If Anyone Falls” by Stevie Nicks

“Lady Blue” by Leon Russell

“Arranca” by Manzanita

“Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” by Jerry Lee Lewis

“Heaven and Hell” by Waylon Jennings

“Do You Know What I Mean” by Lee Michaels

“Tube Snake Boogie” by ZZ Top

“Take Me Home” by Phil Collins

“Behind Closed Doors” by Charlie Rich

“Tennessee Whiskey” by Chris Stapleton

“Try Not To Breathe” by R.E.M.

 

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.

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.

A Witness to Miracles

25 Aug

Football season is upon us, and, like all fans, I am anxious to see what my teams are going to do. I have been lucky enough to attend a ton of games. Many of them have faded from memory, but a lot of them stand out for their drama and excitement. Of those, I can think of three that were gridiron miracles where my team pulled victory from the jaws of defeat.

The first took place 1991. The University of Tennessee traveled to South Bend, Indiana to play Notre Dame, and I traveled with them. I have already written about The Miracle at South Bend and will not repeat myself. Just know that the Volunteers were down 31-7 with a few seconds left in the first half. They came roaring back to win 35-34 and ruin a pretty good day by Jerome Bettis, who was just inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame.

The second miracle transpired in 1998. The Volunteers had made it through the first eight games without a loss and were ranked at the top of the polls. However, the Razorbacks from the University of Arkansas came to Knoxville with the same record.

Tennessee was outclassed for most of the game and were in trouble. Arkansas had the lead and the ball with a little over a minute to go. They were running out the clock, and over 100,000 people were stunned. Then, the miracle happened.

Clint Stoerner, the Arkansas quarterback, stumbled and dropped the ball.Fumble

The Tennessee defense recovered, and the offense drove the field to win 28-24. The Volunteers went on to win the rest of the games and the national championship.

January 8, 2000 was a cold day in Nashville, but the city was hot with excitement. The Tennessee Titans had a great first season and were hosting an AFC Wild Card game. Yep, the NFL playoffs were in Tennessee. The Buffalo Bills were here, too.

The game saw both offenses struggle, but Buffalo was up 16-15 after a field goal in the waning seconds. The next play would become one of the most famous in NFL history.

The Bills pooched the kickoff into the hands of Lorenzo Neal, who pitched it to Frank Wycheck. Then, he three the ball across the field to Kevin Dyson, who streaked 75 yards for the touchdown.Music City

The crowd was going wild as they realized he was going to score. Except, I was just standing there.

My seat straddled the line where Wycheck threw the ball, and I thought it was an illegal forward pass. The play would be called back, and the Titans playoffs would come to an end. However, the official was not in position to see the forward pass, and the play could not be overturned. The Music City Miracle was in the books.

It was a great play that propelled the Tennessee Titans to the Super Bowl, and everyone in Nashville is convinced that it was a legal play. I am still not sure. I am just glad that the official was still running to his position when Frank Wycheck threw the ball.

Those are my three football miracles. Through the years, hundreds of thousands of people have claimed to be at those games, but I can honestly say that I was a witness to the miracles.

What about you? Have you been in the stands to see miracles happen on fields of play?

Breaking Writer’s Block With Magic Johnson and Larry Bird

23 Aug

Man, an oil slick like writer’s block has oozed its way over my brain. There is absolutely nothing in my mind that can be transferred onto the screen. It could be because school is about to start, and there is a lot to think about. It could be because I am operating three Twitter accounts. It could be because the blogging part of my brain has shut down.

How do I break out of it? Just throw some stuff out there and see what happens.

Magic and Bird: A Courtship of Rivals, a documentary about the careers of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, is on television. I have seen it a bunch of times, but it never gets old. In those days, I was a fan of the Boston Celtics and lived and died with their games.Celtics

We did not have professional teams in Tennessee, and, like a lot of other people without a home team, I had to pick a favorite from somewhere else. In the NBA, people chose between the Lakers and the Celtics. A friend of mine wanted to be different and picked the Philadelphia 76er’s.

The same thing happened with the NFL. Those of us in the hinterland without teams had to choose. This time, it was between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys. Although, that same friend went with the Miami Dolphins. The Dallas Cowboys were my choice, and, like with the Celtics, I lived and died with their games.Cowboys

One year, my dad took me to see the Cowboys play the Chicago Bears. I can still remember walking into Texas Stadium and seeing the cheerleaders dance onto the field. There was Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, Ed “Too Tall” Jones and Randy White. Walter Payton ran all over the place for the Bears, but the Cowboys came from behind to win.

I never saw Larry Bird and the Celtics, but, ironically, I got the chance to see Magic Johnson and the Lakers. It was the late 1980s, and they were playing against the Detroit Pistons. My dad did business with the owner of the Pistons, and we got to sit in his box. We also got to sit courtside for a while.

We stayed at the same hotel as the Lakers, which was also cool. We had breakfast at the table next to Pat Riley, the Lakers coach, and we were standing outside while the team boarded their bus. The players were huge.

Those were great experiences, but things change. I no longer watch the Celtics, but part of me still keeps up with them in the standings.

Nashville has an NFL team, and we have season tickets for the Tennessee Titans. I have watched them in the Super Bowl, and I have watched them through the depths of losing seasons. They are my team. However, I still keep an eye on the Cowboys in the standings.

Oh yeah, I still do not like the Lakers, and I still do not like the Steelers.

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?

Remembering Steve McNair

4 Jul

July 4, 2009 – People throughout Nashville and the Middle Tennessee area were getting ready for a big Fourth of July celebration. The huge fireworks show in downtown was being prepared. Streets were being blocked off for the crowds. People were cooking out in the surrounding counties. I had just shown up at my friend’s house in Rutherford County.

That is when the shocking news began to spread. I got texts. We turned on the television. News vans had descended on a condo in Nashville where Steve McNair was found dead.Steve McNair

I did not know Steve McNair. One night, I saw him shooting pool in a bar, but that does not mean you know someone. However, I was one of thousands of people who walked into a football stadium and watched him play quarterback for the Tennessee Titans.

He was more than a quarterback. He was the icon of a city. When the Houston Oilers became the Tennessee Titans, a lot of people thought it would never work. Nashville was not big enough to support an NFL team. The first years proved the doubters right as the team struggled in Memphis and at Vanderbilt’s stadium before getting a home of their own. As the team struggled, Steve McNair got much of the blame.

However, when they got into the new stadium, the abilities of McNair and the rest of the team appeared. Imagine not having an NFL team in your city then getting one. Take your imagination further and think about how it would feel if that team went to the Super Bowl in their first year. On top of that, include a miracle play that propelled them on the magical run.

That year was great, and the fans were spoiled. Heck, this must be the way it is going to be every year.

I was in the Georgia Dome when Steve McNair almost completed one of the great comebacks in Super Bowl history. The team fell one yard short, but it epitomized what we would see from him in the years to come.

Steve McNair was a quarterback, but he was also a leader. He showed his toughness by playing hurt and running over defenders. He proved his college nickname of “Air McNair” was true when he won the MVP award. People admired him for his leadership and his ability. It was as if nothing could bring Steve McNair down.

Five years ago, that was proven wrong. As the days passed, the coverage of his death was constantly on television. It was one of the biggest news stories in Nashville’s history. People wondered what happened, and, eventually, the police told us. Steve McNair was the victim of a murder/suicide carried out by a young woman he had a relationship with. Obviously, that young woman was not his wife.

I am not here to judge him on his decisions. I am here to say that those who saw him play will remember those great games, but they will also remember when they heard the news of his death. On July 4, the people of Middle Tennessee celebrate Independence Day with fireworks and cookouts. However, many of them will also think about Steve McNair; the impact he had on this area; and the tragedy that befell him.