“Brilliantly Written”

Here’s a story that’s nothing short of brilliantly written. That’s high praise, obviously, but Marvin West knocked this one out of the park.

It’s Marvin at his best, preaching from his unique bully pulpit, although Marvin could never, ever, be confused with a bully, just a writer with a deep and abiding respect for the human condition.

SALIENT QUOTE: “It sure would be nice to recognize the Tennessee football team of 50 years ago, the 1966 Volunteers, before they get old and thin out. Anniversary celebrations are so much more fun when the celebrants can walk.”

File this under “E,” for exceptional. Marvin loves to write these type stories. And does so with a passion.

If there’s anybody better, the floor is nominations.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

“A Favorite Story”

Everybody has a favorite Vol basketball story, whether about coaches, players, or even road trips. Everybody remembers Tony White scoring 51 against Auburn in 1987 to break Ron Widby’s record of 50 against LSU 20 years earlier. They didn’t call Tony “The Wizard” for nothing.

That was amazing, especially since Auburn kept fouling Tony, even though the game might have been out of reach. It was equally amazing since everybody in Stokely Center seemed to be keeping score. The din got louder as Tony canned each free throw.

There was an equally compelling story that same year. Tennessee and Kentucky were squaring off at Stokely. Tennessee was ahead, but Kentucky was rallying. Tony was bringing the ball down the sideline near the Tennessee bench.

The head coach, Don DeVoe, got Tony’s attention with a very specific order. “Run the offense!” he said. That’s not really what he said, but this is a family board.

Tony took two dribbles and threw up a three that got nothing but net. No one, save John Ward, said “Bottom!” That righted the ship and the Vols won.

After Tony made the shot, DeVoe turned triumphantly to the nearby press table, to Ben Byrd and F. M. Williams, and said, “That’s the way to run the offense!”

Those were really the days, weren’t they?

Monday, May 23, 2016

“Which Team Is Which?”

There are times you can’t really believe what you’re seeing on the field… literally.

That was the case in the 1969 season finale at Neyland Stadium.

It was a sunny November day, Vanderbilt in gold shirts, white pants, Tennessee in orange shirts and likewise in white pants.

Only the helmets distinguished one team from the other. You really couldn’t tell the difference between the two teams. It was tough to watch.

It was noted after the game that Tennessee would wear white shirts in Nashville the next season, but as things turned out, the Vols didn’t.

The sun was not shining as brightly on Dudley Field, and there was more contrast between the jerseys.

Tennessee won both games, 40-27 in 1969 and 24-6 in 1970.

There was only one worse day, the 1980 Virginia game, when Virginia came out in white shirts and orange pants, and Tennessee came out in orange pants and orange shirts.

Now that was confusing.

One more thing. Tennessee lost 16-13 on Homecoming Day in a game that wasn’t expected to be close.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

“Two Notable Stories”

There were two notable stories in today’s KNS, one on the kickoff time change for the Appalachian State game and the other about the demise for at least a year of the University’s office of Diversity and Inclusion.

The move to a Thursday night game points out cogently that you can never say never, especially where television money is concerned. Thursday night games had been considered verboten, but this is a new day and national exposure for the program apparently overrides the impact on campus, at least for one day.

As for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, it was a self-inflicted wound that led to the loss of $450,000, $131,365 in operating budget funds and funding for four positions.

This whole deal has proven to be an embarrassment to the university as campus leadership has, from the start, been oblivious to the impact of their actions on the campus, across the state, and inside the General Assembly.

Donna Braquet, whose newsletter post on gender neutral pronouns helped create this whole controversy, still has a job, moving back to “her full-time position as an associate professor in the University Libraries department. A quarter of her salary had been covered by the Office of Diversity when she became director of the [Tennessee Pride Center].”

Rickey Hall has taken his traveling road show to the University of Washington, while Chancellor Jimmy Cheek is still with us, despite persistent rumors that he may be gone by June 30.

The Romans had it right when they first used the term “quo vadis,” translated loosely as “Where are you going?

The university community is looking for answers to that important question.

Hopefully, these answers will soon be forthcoming.

To those who are charged with these answers, there is one important question. May we please have our university back?


Friday, May 20, 2016



“Two for the Price of One”

A great many of us geezers can remember when Sunday afternoon baseball was two games for the price of one at Crosley Field In Cincinnati, Briggs/Tiger Stadium in Detroit, Yankee Stadium in New York City, and other venues across the expanse of major league baseball as it was known then.

When the newspaper printed the standings and the games of the day, it was not unusual to see a line like this one: “Detroit (Lary 15-6 and Bunning 15-8) at New York (Ford 17-4 and Stafford 9-6), 2, 1:30 p.m.” (In Knoxville, the Smokies might play a doubleheader, with one nine-inning game, and a seven-inning second game.)

The doubleheader went the way of the high buckle shoe, the afternoon newspaper, and the 1:30 p.m. kickoff in college football. Sad… but true.

The Sunday afternoon doubleheader in baseball, not to be confused with the twi-night doubleheader (two games in one evening), is a rarity now.

Early in their tenure in Atlanta, the Braves played what some observers called a “Cole Porter,” a day game followed by a night game (“Night and Day, You Are the One,” Porter wrote), with a separate admission charge for each game. That is also a rarity, except in Boston where they play two, with separate admission, on Patriots Day.

The Sporting News always called the first game the “lidlifter” and the second game the “nightcap,” not to be confused with the generic adult beverage of the same name. That’s from the olden days when that publication had a box score of every game, complete with game summary.

Ernie Banks always said “Lets Play Two,” even when there wasn’t a doubleheader scheduled. Former Detroit Catcher Bill Freehan once wrote how noisy it was when the Tigers played two for a promotion called “Bat Day,” where every kid under 12 got a free replica with a reserved seat ticket. Knowing the Detroit fandom and their desire to be a part of the game, it’s a miracle many of the bats stayed in the stands.

Here’s a “Tennessee” connection. The Vols were part of an ersatz “Cole Porter” in Birmingham, Nov. 9, 1968, when Alabama and LSU squared off in the rain in the afternoon, and Tennessee and Auburn played that night. That was the night the Tennessee band had to shelve their halftime show because of the field conditions. Dr W J Julian was not pleased.

There used to be an exhibition doubleheader of pro football at Cleveland way back when, when the Browns would play in one game, and two other teams would play in the nightcap.

These are but a few examples of the “good old days” really being that good.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

“Leadership Style and Vision”

In what parallel universe could Robbin Morrison Taylor, vice president of public affairs at Western Kentucky University, praise Knoxville campus Chancellor Jimmy Cheek for his “leadership style” and “vision”?

It’s hard to countenance the juxtaposition of those concepts with the reality of Dr, Cheek’s tenure. But she apparently did say that.

“Taylor stressed a commitment to collaboration and said she would take direction from Cheek, whom she praised for his leadership style and vision,” wrote MJ Slaby of the KNS.

If Dr. Cheek is still around when she takes office and, assuming she is the one selected, she’ll darn well earn her money, putting out fires and otherwise defending the good name of the university. That is, if recent events on campus and in the General Assembly, are any indication of what’s to come.

As always, those of us who have been a part of the university community over the years will be watching intently.

Wednesday, May 17, 2016

“Embellished by the Telling”

Sometimes the cheers are for someone else, even if there’s a game going on.

The year was 1928. Tennessee was playing Alabama at Tuscaloosa, the famed 15-13 win that set the Vols on the path to gridiron glory.

Lost in the depths of history was a freshman game being played in Knoxville at about the same tine.

Herman Hickman, later to be a famous coach, writer, and man about town as well as a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, recalled the cheers of the crowd, however sparse it might have been. The youngsters on the field were impressed by level of “support” they received.

What Hickman didn’t know was that Pat Roddy had been relaying wire reports from the game at Tuscaloosa, thus causing the “cheers” that came up every so often.

Ed Harris told this story in “Golden Memories of Ed Harris: 50 Years in Big Orange Country.”

Like most of these type stories, the account might have been embellished through the years, but there’s a good chance there’s at least a grain of truth in it.

You be the judge.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Funny how the term “Coach” applies long after a coaching career is over. It’s almost instinctive to use that appellation.

Once a coach, always a coach, the saying goes. (The late Maynard Glenn, honco of the City of Knoxville Recreation Bureau, was also always called “coach.”)

When Doug Dickey was head coach and later AD at Tennessee, more people called him “Coach Dickey” than called him “Doug.”

No one, save his former players, ever called him the “Tall Man,” and that was always behind his back.

Haywood Harris may have called him “Tall,” even after insisting that the appellation “Tall Man” might have been inappropriate. That was a conversation shared with his immediate colleagues only.

When there came a need to talk to Bill Battle, the request was always, “May I speak with Coach Battle, please?”

John Majors is still “Coach Majors” to a great many people. He’s still “John Terrill” in Moore and Franklin Counties and to many of his teammates.

Once a coach, always a coach, it seems.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

“Big Orange Country”

How pervasive is the influence of Big Orange Country, however you define the scope of that term?

Consider what Russ Bebb wrote many years ago in the introduction to his book (“Vols: Three Decades of Big Orange Football, 1964-93”).“Its epicenter, Neyland Stadium,” Russ wrote, “is at 35 degrees, 58 minutes north latitude and 83 degrees, 35 minutes west longitude.”

With that geographic designation behind us (by the way, you can win a lot of bar bets armed with that information), Russ says: “It’s called Big Orange Country, and therein live two types of people: those who worship Tennessee football and those who are simply too young to comprehend its importance.”

That may be a bit of hyperbole, but make no mistake about it, there’s nothing like it.

Russ hit the whole deal right on the head.

Saturday, May 14, 2016