Tag Archives: Tennessee Titans

The Jesse James’ of the World

16 Oct

I was watching an NFL game and heard the announcer say something about a player named Jesse James. Obviously, this made me think about the famous outlaw, and I began to wonder something. How many people have this name?

In addition to the football player, there is the television reality star who was once married to Sandra Bullock. He made to it television as an customizer of motorcycles.

A professional wrestler also used Jesse James as a ring name. Of course, character names tend of change in professional wrestling, and he has also wrestled as Road Dogg and a few other things.

Locally, there is a country music singer named Jessie James. I do not know what she sings, but I know she is married to Eric Decker, who plays for the Tennessee Titans.

The list goes on and on, but you get the point. A lot of people are named Jesse James. This begs a question – why are people named for this criminal?

It is a question that has a few answers. In fact, I cover a few of them in class.

First, we tend to think of Old West outlaws as heroes. This could be because they represent independence and the ability to do as they please. It could also be because dime novels and movies convinced Americans that they lived a romantic lifestyle. This definitely happened with the original Jesse James.

However, there is one problem. I am not certain that Jesse James is an Old West outlaw. Some of his most famous robberies took place in Missouri, Iowa, Kentucky and Minnesota. Heck, he lived for a couple of years in Nashville. I am not sure those are places people have in mind when they think of the Old West.

Second, Jesse James is a cool name. It is alliterative and roles of the tongue. When people refer to Jesse James, they never say Jesse or James. They always say his entire name. Consider the brother of Jesse James. Frank James was involved in the robberies, but his name does not live on as a football player, motorcycle customizer, wrestler or country singer. The name does not draw the proper attention.

Yes, people are named Jesse James because of the original’s hero status and because it sounds cool. Heck, if the football player was named Frank James I would not even had heard it. I would not be writing this post, and you would not be reading it.

It sort of makes me sad for Frank James. Of course, Jesse was killed because he was the famous one, and Frank lived to a ripe old age. Frank James may be the cooler name after all.

Advertisements

Bad Football and a Musical Complaint

7 Nov

Lately, I have watched some bad football. The Tennessee Titans leave a lot of be desired. The season of the Tennessee Volunteers has gone from great promise to a quagmire. I am also reading a book about an infamous game in the history of Cumberland University. For those who do not know, our school lost to Georgia Tech 222-0. It is the biggest defeat in the history of college football.

Sam Hatcher, who I have known for years, wrote a book to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the game. Heisman’s First Trophy: The Game that Launched Football in the South is an interesting read that provides a great story of the game. I would recommend it to anyone. Some of it is fictionalized, but the heart of the story remains true.heisman-book

I have been surrounded by bad football, but I have also witnessed some bad halftime performances. The University of Tennessee Marching Band is known as the Pride of the Southland, and they have been performing something called the “Circle Drill” for 50 years. I know that because they announced  that this year is the 50th anniversary of the routine. Certainly, it is a difficult marching formation to perform, but I have one request.

PLAY SOME NEW SONGS!

I have been watching the “Circle Drill” for 42 of the 50 years that it has been in existence, and they have played the same songs the entire time. I can even recite the announcer’s script.

They do a musical tour of Tennessee by starting out in Memphis. That is when they play Elvis Presley’s “signature” tune “C.C. Rider.” Then, they go to Chattanooga with “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” Next is a visit to Nashville with “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” They end up in Knoxville with “Rocky Top,” the school’s unofficial fight song.

I understand “Rocky Top.” It fires up the crowd and needs to be played. However, it is time to spruce up the rest of the collection. Tennessee is one of the most musical places around. I know they can do better.

First, “C.C. Rider” is not the “signature” song of Elvis Presley. I guarantee that if you ask anyone to name and Elvis song that one would not be mentioned. I would choose “Hound Dog.” Here is the other thing. Elvis was not the only creator of songs in Memphis. What about doing a Tina Turner songs? Or an Isaac Hayes song? What about a Blues classic or something from Stax Records?

I know that “Chattanooga Choo Choo” is an obvious selection for Chattanooga. However, they could throw the crowd a curve with “Chattanooga City Limit Sign” by Johnny Cash. How about “Lookout Mountain” by Drive-By Truckers?

Nashville, otherwise known as Music City, is home to hundreds of artists and thousands of songs. I think they can find a new one. “Nashville Cats” by The Lovin’ Spoonful would be a great pick. Heck, they could shock the world by playing a Jimi Hendrix tune. It would work since he spent his early days in the clubs on Nashville’s Jefferson Street. I cannot even do this paragraph justice. There are so many songs to play that they could close their eyes and pick one out of a songbook.

Better yet, they could get the band from Tennessee State University to do the “Circle Drill.” I know the Aristocrat of Bands and the Sophisticated Ladies could circle it up.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Long Pants and Socks

9 Oct

WARNING: THIS POST MAY BE OFFENSIVE TO SOME PEOPLE! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!

A few weeks ago, my nephew and I were at a football game when he asked a simple question.

Why are you wearing sandals?

Unfortunately, that simple question did not have a simple answer. If I could boil the answer down to one sentence, then I would say, “Because I like socks.”

Allow me to explain.

I know that my wife would like for me to wear loafers with shorts. However, I cannot bring myself to do it because of something that happened in my childhood. My dad had a friend who wore loafers with shorts, and I thought it was the strangest looking thing I had ever seen. It got more strange when he took them off. His feet were swollen, blistered and caked with dead skin. In my mind, I knew what was up. If he had been wearing socks, then his feet would not be destroyed.

Shoes that encompass feet are meant to be worn with socks. If that was not the case, then socks would have not been invented. I like to wear socks with shoes. I also like to wear socks around the house. Rarely do I go around barefoot. Do you know why? Because that is how feet end up swollen, blistered and caked with dead skin.

When we were dating, my wife really wanted me to wear loafers with shorts. She thinks it looks good. I do not agree, but I was willing to give it a try. Coincidentally, that same night we had the biggest fight ever. I acted like a fool, and I am certain that the shoes played a huge role. I did not like the look, and I definitely did not like the fact that my feet were swollen, blistered and caked with dead skin.

I understand that a lot of guys like the look and the feel of wearing loafers without socks. There are a ton of guys I know who do it all of the time. I just do not know why.

The other day, we were tailgating at a Tennessee Titans game, and one of the tailgaters was wearing sneakers with socks. Before going into the stadium, he took them off and slipped on loafers. One word entered my mind.

Why?

His situation brings me to another point. For a while, I tried to get by with wearing some high dollar running shoes with shorts. They are super comfortable, and I wore socks that did not go above the shoe line. In my mind, this was a good compromise. However, the next time we went shopping my wife pointed out a pair of sandals. It turns out that they are a better compromise, and that is why I was wearing them to the football game. They encompass my feet, but the airiness makes the socklessness bearable.

All of that is well and good, but this post is about more than socks. The entire issue about the shoes is created by the issue of wearing shorts. That is why people can see if there are socks or no socks.

When it comes to shorts, I must make a confession. I like wearing long pants a lot better. This probably comes from the fact that my dad – the man I respect and admire more than any other – has never worn shorts. At least, if he has, then I have never seen it. For years, his comfort clothes of choice were khaki pants and Hushpuppy shoes – with socks. That probably shaped my opinion that men should wear long pants. As a result, I wore long pants, and they became my most comfortable clothes. While most people put on shorts or pajamas to lie around the house, I wear jeans…and socks.

When I talk to my wife about the uncomfortable aspects of wearing shoes without socks, she counters with the argument that women have to wear uncomfortable shoes. In other words, we all have to sacrifice.

I agree and have an idea of how men can sacrifice just like women have to sacrifice.

Instead of going around without socks and wearing shorts, men should dress more manly by wearing long pants and shoes with socks.

Wyatt Earp never wore loafers and shorts.Wyatt

George Patton never wore loafers and shorts.Patton

Genghis Khan never wore loafers and shorts.Khan

The list goes on and on.

Anyway, the issue is solved. Women have to sacrifice for fashion, and men should do the same by wearing long pants and socks. The fact that those things are more comfortable for me has no bearing on the situation.

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.