Tag Archives: Sports

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.

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.

 

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.