“Appeals to a Higher Power”

Sometimes these appeals to a higher power work.

Sometimes they don’t.

Expectations had been high in 1909 (aren’t they always?), but the talent level did not match the hype. Haven’t we heard that before?

The Vols scored but 11 points that season, all in the final game against Transylvania. The Vols were 1-6-2 and had not scored going into the 1909 finale.

The final score that day was Tennessee 11, Transy 0.

Here’s the kicker.

Vol players had signed an oath before the season to be ready to play.

“I do solemnly promise upon my word as a gentleman to go into strict training from September 11, 1909 till the evening of November 25, 1909. . . . It shall be my aim to aid or assist in any way as will help to make the Univ. of Tenn. Football team of 1909 the best in the South.”

The day before the opening game that season, the Orange and White student newspaper noted that, “Tomorrow witnesses the opening day of the 1909 season, and it is the Christian duty of every student to attend.”

Wonder how that worked for them, way back when?

Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015

“Embarrassed If It Had Bounced”

Lindsey Nelson saw a great many games during his lifetime and was always fascinated by the celebrity of some prominence who threw out the first ball just before the game.

Lindsey always seemed to be at the Tennessee games at a much smaller Hudson Field, a venue that now has his name over the stadium’s front door, along with a gentleman named Robert M. Lindsay. No one has yet called it “Lindsey-Lindsay Field.”

Hopefully no one will.

Anyway, Lindsey Nelson was asked to throw out the first ball one spring day.

“I went down to the corner of the dugout and properly tossed the ball the prescribed six feet to the waiting catcher.”

One more thing, he said.

“I would have been embarrassed if it had bounced.”

That brought back memories of his days in the press coop at Shea Stadium and other major league stadiums.

“For many years, on opening day, I always said to somebody on the press level, ‘’Who’s the old guy throwing out the first pitch?’

“And now, inexplicably, I was the old guy throwing out the first ball.”

It all couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

Wednesday. Feb. 25, 2015

“It Ain’t Quite as Good as It Seems”

Our buddy John A.L. Currie is back in the news, what with Kansas State fans “storming the court” after their team knocked off Kansas last night.

Calling the situation “unfortunate” and indicating he was “disappointed” KSU did not “do better for the Kansas team,” Currie indicated there would be an internal review and KSU would take “appropriate action,” including working with law enforcement so that any applicable charges can be filed.”

The “court stormings” make for great television (ESPN seems to enjoy them more than anybody), yet if you’re working the game and involved in one, it ain’t quite as good as it seems.

As Don Dare say, “Food for thought.”

Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015

“Better Days Were Ahead”

Tennessee went to No. 5 Vanderbilt this night in 1974 and came away with a hard-fought 59-53 win over the Commodores.

Tennessee had lost to Vanderbilt earlier in the season at Knoxville by a score of 82-65, but as usually happened in the Ray Mears era, the Vols turned the raucous Memorial Gym crowd into a motivational advantage. It wasn’t easy, but the Vols somehow survived… and won.

The Vols finished 17-9 in 1973-74, 12-6 in the SEC, but better days were ahead.

A freshman named Ernie Grunfeld averaged 17.4 points per game, but a year later, Ernie teamed with another talented freshman, this one named Bernard King, to lead the Vols through three tumultuous seasons from 1975-77, when a ticket to a game at Stokely Center was a hot commodity.

The Vols really had it going during these years, and basketball was fun to watch.

Especially when the game was at Vanderbilt… and the Vols won.

Monday, Feb. 23, 2015


Thought Kara Lawson did an exceptional job on the Tennessee-Ole Miss telecast last night. It’s probably hard to broadcast your school’s games, but she did well.

She’s a rising star in the broadcast business, a proud product of the University of Tennessee.

Kudos for a job well done.

Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015

“Meeting the Challenge”

Wrote recently about Marvin West listening in on confabs at the scorer’s table during Tennessee basketball games.

Here’s what Marvin wrote about the whole deal and how things worked out at the KN-S.

“On one of those occasions, Ralph Millett and Tom Siler were seated side by side in Stokely. Ralph asked Tom what I was doing running to the scorer’s table. Tom explained that good old U.T. hired Russ as official scorer, which gave him an inside advantage in gathering news and that Marvin had to hustle to remain competitive.

“The next afternoon Millett called me to his office and awarded a $5 per week merit raise. He said Tom had been very proud to explain the scene. The money made a difference. That the editor understood made more of a difference.

“You’ve never had this problem, but when ability is limited, one must run fast.”

And, as we all know, necessity is the mother of invention.

When Marvin faced a challenge, he always found a way to meet that challenge.

Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015

“Shrouded in Controversy”

Tennessee won a hoops game at LSU this day in 1981-82 by the slimmest of margins, 54-53. The Vols ended up winning a share of the SEC title that season, but this game was shrouded in controversy.

The Vols won, but not without some debate over the proper starting of the clock. Dan Federmann made the winning layup somewhere near the ostensible final buzzer.

LSU head coach Dale Brown was exhorting anybody who would listen that the clock had not started properly, and the winning basket should not have been allowed.

Tennessee promptly left the court and the gym, headed toward the airport. There wasn’t even a post-game radio show. The whole idea was to get away from the arena (and Baton Rouge) as quickly as possible.

That was the good news. Tennessee lost the next two, to Georgia and Auburn by a grand total of three points.

That’s life in the SEC, folks.

Friday, Feb. 20, 2015

“Getting the Cart Before the Horse”

There’s a certain truism about sports, i.e. that a game can so dominate a player’s thoughts that failure to prepare for an intervening contest can do great harm.

Take the 1979 Rutgers game… please.

Tennessee was to play Notre Dame at home the week after the Rutgers game, and that’s all anybody could talk about… Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Notre Dame.

Those aren’t good circumstances. John Majors knew that, but precious few other people didn’t.

So, Rutgers wins on Homecoming and gloom and doom pervaded all of Big Orange Country.

The Vols were still able to wax Notre Dame by a 40-18 count, but the Rutgers loss still lingers in people’s minds.

The lesson is that you have to play each game as it comes.

For many people, that’s easier said than done.

Just check the record books and see how often a team gets caught peeking ahead, getting the cart in front of the horse, so to speak.

Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015

“A Great Influence”

It happens all over the state of Tennessee, maybe beyond, during the TSSAA high school tournament games across the state.

A player makes a free throw and, somewhere in the stands, someone says, maybe quietly, maybe not, “Bottom!”

Coincidence, you say?

Not really. It’s just another example of John Ward’s influence, a great many years or so since he stepped away from the Vol Network microphones.

There was a man on the Orient Express who once looked at John and said “Bottom!”

Ward said he was “flattered with that type of attention,” with a significant proviso.

“But I’m uneasy with it.”

Uneasy or not, John Ward’s influence is still with us.

Listen for his trademark phrase at the next high school game you go to.

Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015

“An Amazing Turn of Events”

Our buddy Gerald Junius Harrison, Jr., popped up on Yahoo! Sports yesterday and to the amazement of those of us who knew him when he was on campus, was identified as an “associate athletic director.”

Gerald was in charge of tallying the damage done to the visiting team’s locker room by UNC players after the UNC-Duke game last fall.

Gerald has apparently come a long way from his days of watching over visitors to Tennessee football practices.

He always had a handle on who should be at practice… and who shouldn’t be. He relished his role as the designated “bad guy.”

If you didn’t pass his “sniff” test, there you went, right out the gate.

Passengers at McGhee Tyson Airport down Alcoa Highway had an easier time with TSA than a practice interloper did with Gerald.

Over the course of his time at Tennessee, Gerald may have been often in error, but one thing was for certain.

He was never in doubt.

Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2105