“Not One of Us”

The Alabama fan base is really something.

There was a day not so many years ago, that a caller to the Finebaum Show, obviously exercised about something, called in and referred to Paul a “carpetbagger.”

That term is thrown around casually by many folks way below the Mason-Dixon line, usually directed at people from the north, usually way up north, who move southward and try to bring “northern” ways with them.

It is not an exceptionally polite term, but is something full of sound and fury and precious little else.

Paul did allow that he was born in Memphis and has lived in Alabama much, if not all, of his adult life. He is, by the way, a University of Tennessee grad from the mid-1970s who, as sports editor of the Daily Beacon, made life miserable for Cliff Wettig when he was interim coach of the Volunteers in 1977-78.

That didn’t placate the caller, who, with a straight face, said the South was South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. No Florida, no Tennessee, no Kentucky.

Everybody else was part of the unwashed, perhaps heathen (he may have said “heathern”), and otherwise not worth dealing with or even considering. You were either “one of us “or “one of them.” It was another version of political correctness gone astray.

There is always a great deal of interesting commentary on Paul’s show.

By the way, in this case, Paul was “one of them.”

His caller said so.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

“Thoughts about Redshirting”

No media type, not even a columnist, has ever had an in-depth discussion with a coach about redshirting, the process by which a player is allowed to sit out a year and come back bigger and stronger than ever, with the requisite number of years available. It’s a subject that’s not likely to come up in recruiting, unless the player brings it up.

That thought came up after talking to Keith DeLong one day and remembering that his uncle, Ken, was a sophomore in 1966. He was a talented receiver, with a great deal of potential, but Austin Denney’s exceptionally long shadow loomed over the tight end position.

Ken DeLong, the reasoning went, was too good a prospect for mere mop-up duty.

No one knows how Doug Dickey, or even one of his assistants, maybe, brought up the prospect of sitting out a year, but Ken did, and the rest is history. Denney made All-America in 1966. Ken started in 1967, 1968, and 1969 and was an All-SEC selection his junior and senior seasons.

Vol fans may have worried when Denney turned in his jersey No. 84 after the 1966 Gator Bowl. They shouldn’t have.

Here came Ken DeLong, in jersey No. 82, with three years eligibility remaining.

If you work things right, there’s a “new version” of nearly everybody in the wings. There are exceptions, of course, but you get the idea.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

“Considerable Bravado”

In October 1969, it took some considerable bravado for Vol fans to charter a small plane and fly it over Legion Field just before kickoff of the Tennessee-Alabama game, with a banner wafting in the breeze reading “This is Big Orange Country.” It had to have caught the attention all 71,000-plus gathered for the contest.

That may be an understatement, given that Tennessee had only won once against Alabama at Legion Field since Bear Bryant returned to the Capstone, and that was two years earlier.

In this context, with the gauntlet thrown down, what happened?

Tennessee scored on a TD pass to Oliver Springs’ wideout Gary Kreis, a 71-yard punt return by Bobby Majors, and a fumbled pitch returned for a score by Jackie Walker.

In fact, the Vols led 21-0 at the quarter, and school was out. That all probably happened before the pilots could land the plane and motor back to Legion Field.

All in all, a great day at Legion Field.

Monday, July 24, 2016

“Who Gets the Cover?”

Found a copy of the Sept. 23, 1968, edition of Sports Illustrated on the office desk a couple of days ago. It recounts two of the major events of the recent sporting scene. Time has not dulled the significance of that issue.

Alfred Wright wrote about Denny McLain winning his 30th game (“Golden 30 for Show Biz Denny”) in a Sept. 14 game against Oakland and featured McLain pictured with Dizzy Dean and Sandy Koufax and with a number of other celebrities, including CBS’ Ed Sullivan. All the photos were black and white.

Dan Jenkins wrote a four-page story (with five color photos by Walter Iooss, Jr.) about Tennessee’s 17-17 tie in the season opener against Georgia (“A Rouser on a Rug”). That game was also played on Sept. 14.

Vol wide receiver Gary Kreis is pictured coming perilously close to dropping the final TD pass from quarterback Bubba Wyche. Tight end Ken DeLong has a firmer grasp on the two-point conversion reception that tied the game.

So what was on the cover?

There was a color shot of Al Kaline congratulating McLain once the baseball game safely belonged to the Tigers. Ernie Harwell had probably just said so.

Which raises this question: Do five color pictures inside the issue as part of the magazine’s lead story trump the one color picture of McLain on the cover?

By the way, you can find this issue on eBay.com, under the heading “Sports Illustrated Al Kaline Denny McLain 9/23 1968.”

It’s definitely a keeper. If you’re a Vol fan and a Tigers fan, it’s a double keeper.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

“What about the Mule?”

When 1938 U.T. captain Bowden Wyatt came to Knoxville in January 1955 as head coach after conference championships at Wyoming and Arkansas, one of the first questions those pesky reporters asked him was about going to the “T” formation.

Everyone probably knew Wyatt was a Neyland product through and through, so the question didn’t gain a great deal of traction.

“I’ll switch when I know I’m on a slow mule, “ he said.

The mule was pretty spry until 1958, when the Vol ship of state started sinking. The upsets of Auburn and LSU in 1959 helped some, but a three-game losing streak to end the decade of the 1950s (Mississippi, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt) didn’t help at all.

Wyatt was 1-4 against Kentucky between 1955-59, a record that probably concerned more than a few Vol fans. Things didn’t get much better 1960-62, against Kentucky or the rest of the SEC.

You have to wonder, however, why no one was checking on the condition of the mule while all this was going on.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

“A Couple of Nevers”

Don’t usually comment on these type stories, but here goes.

In reference to MJ Slaby’s story in the print edition and on line, a couple of thoughts seem warranted.

What goes around, comes around.

SALIENT QUOTE: “In her resignation letter, Tindell said she has never had an unsatisfactory performance evaluation and was never notified of unsatisfactory performance issues.”

Where have we heard that before? What is the story about the goose and the gander?

That’s enough comment on this issue.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

“Where Were They?”

This comment came from Frank Cagle as an aside to a story on another subject.

“A friend writes to note that at Pat Summitt’s tribute at Thompson-Boling Arena it was odd that there were no remarks from two major players: Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and Athletic Director Dave Hart. One wonders if they were afraid of the crowd reaction if they were introduced or whether the Lady Vols community didn’t invite them.”

Didn’t really want to get involved with this again, but couldn’t let Frank Cagle’s comment pass. Wonder what the crowd reaction might have been.

Still think the Lady Vols will get their name back at some point, maybe when Dr. Cheek, mercifully, returns to the classroom or retires.

That needs to happen soon.

As in S-O-O-N.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

“Take a Peek at the Other Sideline”

There was a time before the 1991 Tennessee-Louisville game at Cardinal Stadium that a few Vol fans worried about the phalanx of celebrities present for the game. Down near the dressing rooms were Paul Hornung, Johnny Unitas, Muhammad Ali, Pee Wee Reese, and Lord knows who else. It was a virtual “who’s who” from the U of L.

Then someone came up with the idea that none of these dignitaries were going to be dressed out for the Cardinals that night. The players on the field would settle the outcome by themselves.

Andy Kelly threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to Carl Pickens on the third play of the game, and the Vols never looked back, winning 28-11.

The moral of this story is clear. Check out the opposing sidelines before you check to see who might be in the stands.

It never fails.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

“What Hath God Wrought”

After a sterling job guiding the selection of the initial class of the Tennessee Sports Hall of fame, Donna Thomas is part of the committee to help select a new Chancellor for the Knoxville campus.

Lord help us all.

Monday, July 18, 2016

P.S. Why does former Chancellor Jimmy Cheek look so unhappy in the picture on the KNS Web site, linked above?

“How Did He Know That?”

Funny thing how some people know what’s going to happen before it happens.

The late Ed Murphey, a Vol track star and SEC champ in the mile in the 1950s, had a unique recruiting pitch to Vol-to-be Johnnie Jones during a visit to Covington way back when: “Some day you’re going to score the winning touchdown against Alabama.” (That was in the days alums and fans could be involved in recruiting.)

Was it recruiting hype or not?

What did Ed know?

The year was 1983, Oct. 15. Alabama was ranked No. 11. Tennessee was unranked.

The game was tied at 34. The call was “48 option,” with quarterback Alan Cockrell under center. He was to decide whether the play went left or right. The ball was on the Tennessee 34-yard line.

The noise was so loud one lineman went the wrong way, but Cockrell ran the play to the left, and Jones made it happen, 66 yards to the northeast corner where all the Tennessee fans were. He made it all the way without being touched.

The final was 41-34.

When you think about this game, you might think about Ed Murphey.

Sunday, July 17, 2016