Covering my angst with the soothing wisdom from my mother's prayer journals

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It’s Great to be A Tennessee Vol!

035I Said It’s Great

To Be

A Tennessee


Cheering for the Tennessee Vols is one of my favorite pass times. My favorite Vol wore #36 as a member of several championship teams from 1966-1970. Because he coached for over twenty-five years, he attended his first game as a spectator when he was in his fifties. He had no clue it was a social event and worried that the fans were not as focused on the game as he was.

My thought was, “Thank goodness!”

I was accustomed to watching his games with other coaches’ wives. Watching with my coach was, well, a whole new ballgame. We made the necessary adjustments, and have for many years enjoyed home games in Neyland Stadium.

Saturday we both attended the UT/Florida game but he attended with his three brothers while I got to go with my daughter.

By now everyone knows Josh Dobbs completed five second-half passes for touchdowns. It was Tennessee’s first victory against the Gators since 2004. The atmosphere was electric the second half, but the first half resembled a disaster movie and I’m not just talking about the game.

As we wound higher up the ramps to our seats, the walkways resembled scenes from a disaster movie. Many early bird fans overheated and sat or lay along the way. At least four times we plastered ourselves against the walls of the narrow passages so emergency vehicles could get through.

The anticipation of a girl’s football weekend totally eclipsed any recollection of the usually sweltering atmosphere of Neyland every time Tennessee plays host to Florida.  I also forgot I was three years older than the last time I was required to access seats in a section nearest heaven, but anytime I get to gallivant with a daughter, I’m in.

With enthusiastic Florida fans to the left of us and rowdy Rocky Toppers on the right, we watched as the Tennessee Volunteers gained momentum for a win that took them one step closer to the predicted SEC playoff game in December. Though it is a long season with worthy opponents ahead, Saturday the Vols looked like Champions in that checkered arena.

Football requires commitment from the fans as well as the players and winning is how we are all rewarded. As a teacher, I can’t resist a teaching moment. Lessons do abound in losses, but I prefer to teach from a win so FYI:


  1. There is no reason to pass out or freeze to death at a game so Google the temps. Assuming you’ll be fine might eventually put a burden on your companions. Take precautions. You many look cute in those jeans and cowboy boots, but you’ll look sad passed out from heat.
  2. Arrive at the game sober and stay that way. If you’re drunk you will be a pain in the rear for someone who may embarrass you or themselves. Everybody around you paid good money for their seats. A drunk does nothing to enhance the experience.
  3. Have faith. Josh Dobbs didn’t give up on his receivers. He came out the second half and threw to guys who couldn’t catch cold the first half. Some fans lost faith after Florida’s two TDs in the first quarter and went home. Look what they missed. Those who stayed till the end shared an amazing experience.
  4. Appreciate the power of redemption. At halftime the receivers asked Coach Jones for another chance. “Coach, throw to me.”
  5. A wise coach forgives past mistakes and allows for redemption.
  6. Step up and refuse to be beaten. The entire team responded to the coach’s challenge at halftime.
  7. Take on responsibility not excuses. Juan Jennings was one of the receivers asking for another chance. Josh sent that chance his way. Juan later said, “When I saw the ball coming I knew it was all on me.” A life lesson would be, “You may have dropped the ball many times, but you can still be spectacular.”

Mother wrote in her journal, “A reminder: Keep dreaming and believing and expect impossible things to happen In your life because sometimes the unlikeliest thing can come true in the twinkling of an eye.”






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Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame Encourages The Champion Within

SPORT  Word collage

Last weekend we attended the Champion Within luncheon sponsored by the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. The event honored champions who have overcome substantial obstacles to achieve success in athletics. They are champions despite disabilities.

The Champion Within Youth Program is designed to encourage youth to rise above obstacles in life and to believe in the “Champion Within”.

A room full of people watched as each athlete took the stage, received his award, and gave a short acceptance speech.

Rashard Witherspoon, a junior at the Tennessee School for the Deaf High School, made a name for himself as a hardworking athlete.  In football, he was named All American by the Deaf Digest and NDIAA for 2012 &2013. In basketball he was placed on the All Viking Classic team and made All- Tournament and All District teams.

Rashard is also competing with other deaf students across the country in a national CrossFit challenge, works on computers and loves to spend time with his family.

Through all his experiences this young man says he knows that with God all things are possible and with humility he thanked God and his family for helping him achieve so much.

Joshua Putman was also honored. Joshua was born with Down’s syndrome and early on his parents enrolled him in programs that helped him stay active and healthy. He began competing in Special Olympics at eight years old and still competes.

Josh participated on his high school wrestling team and won gold medals in swimming, flag football, basketball, power lifting, track and field, volleyball, snowboarding, bowling and golf. He, of course, hit a hole in one.

In 1998 Josh was selected as the Tennessee Special Olympics Athlete of the Year. Soon Josh will compete with his partner, Steve Overlock, in the 2014 USA Games in Unified Golf.

Josh’s strong will, great attitude and supportive family drives him to work hard, and his hard work enables him to overcome adversity. He helps others by volunteering and participating in the annual Polar Plunge.

After Josh proudly received his award he thanked his parents, coaches and others who had helped him, and then with a catch in his throat he declared, “I really am a champion!”

The audience responded with a standing ovation and I saw several quickly swipe away tears. We were reminded that champions aren’t just gifted athletes. They are hard workers who won’t stop when faced with adversity. They overcome.

We have our own champion in the family, our son Matt. He was born with serious and multiple problems that will require special care all his life but against all odds, he thrives. Watching his daily battles and hearing stories of how other people with disabilities have achieved success gives me little patience for folks blessed with strong minds and bodies yet won’t even try.

A quote by Booker T. Washington says it all, “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.”

It was a blessing to see Josh and Rashard receive recognition for being the champions that they are.

Mother wrote in her journal, “God will not hold us accountable for gifts he has not given us, but all of us are responsible to use fully the gifts we do have.”

I need to get up and get busy.





Talking Ball With Our Nine Year Old Grandson

Football has the capacity to consume. That is certainly the case with the members of our family who register important dates (weddings and births) as before, during or after The Season. Our kids recall their grades in school by which team their dad was coaching, and remember crisp fall Saturdays spent traveling to college games.

Now we focus on Friday night lights as our lovely granddaughter cheers for the high school team coached by her dad, and on Saturdays when three grandsons play on middle school and youth league teams.

At one point the oldest was the quarterback for his team; his brother was a receiver for his, and their cousin played center causing their proud Papa to say, “Only the best players get to actually touch the ball.”

The youngest two (The Rocket and The Jayhawker) visited last week during fall break, and I took the opportunity to interview the nine-year old Jayhawker about his views on his favorite sport. (The eight year old Rocket was interviewed last summer).

While both are football fans, the Jayhawker once clarified their difference, “I watch ESPN every morning instead of cartoons. I’m not a Curious George kind of guy.”

His interest gives him insight into who is doing what and how well when it comes to football.
Here are some of his answers to the questions I posed.

“The best quarterback in college football is Teddy Bridgewater because he blows out teams from Temple to Florida.”127

I had no idea who Teddy Bridgewater was so I Googled him, and apparently his poise dignity and accuracy make him a possible number one NFL draft choice after his college days as a Louisville Cardinal.

“The best quarterback in the NFL is Peyton Manning because he can make any pass on target whether it’s five yards or fifty yards.”

I know this quarterback legend and agreed wholeheartedly with my grandson’s assessment.

“The best college team is Alabama because they usually cannot be beaten. (But they might get beaten sometime.)”

Coach Butch Jones is building a Tennessee team that will give the Tide a run for next year, but as of this season the grandkid is probably right.

“The best NFL team is the Broncos because Peyton Manning can carry his team to victory anytime.”

Any team-anytime! Not only football teams, but he’s now taken Papa John’s Pizza to victory.

“On offense, the most important player is the center because without a center they wouldn’t get a play off to get yardage.”

At this point the Rocket commented, “Now that’s music to my ears”.

“Defense makes a good team because without a good defense the other team would be scoring all day long. The most important player on defense is the safety because without a safety the quarterback might throw it long and the wide receiver might shake off the cornerback and the linebacker might not catch him and the wide receiver would make a touchdown.”

The teacher in me rejoiced in his ability to think at a higher level and to see the big picture.

“My favorite running back is Jamal Charles because he plays for the Chiefs, and he can run fast and shake off tackles.”

It’s that kind of Texas running back that caused me to be ungracious to Texas A & M when they entered the SEC.

“My most favorite quarterback is Tim Tebow because on and off the field his heart is glad.”

A glad heart speaks much louder than words.

“My favorite wide receiver is Calvin Johnson, Jr. He is very athletic and tough. He can catch and run with the ball.”

Those qualities are reflected in his salary.

“In college, my first favorite team is the Florida Gators because of Tim Tebow and my dad’s parents went there. My second favorite is the Kansas Jayhawks because I was born in Lawrence, Kansas. My third favorite team is the Tennessee Vols because my papa went there and was a very good running back.”

Our efforts to move the Vols into first place in his heart have obviously failed, but we will not give up!

“My first favorite NFL team is the Chiefs because I was born in Kansas. My second favorite is the Tennessee Titans because now I live in Tennessee. My third favorite team in the NFL is the Redskins because I am a fan of RGIII.”

Their Papa’s offer of ice cream brought the interview to an abrupt halt as both boys headed for the kitchen.

In her journal Mother wrote, “Trust God to deliver in His own unique way. He begins with the impossible and goes on from there.”

Football is really a life lesson full of opportunities to learn how to behave as well as how not to, but for our grandsons it provides an opportunity to learn how to be part of a team while dreaming of being the next Peyton Manning or Jamal Charles playing in front of thousands of cheering fans.
Who knows, that maybe exactly the plan He has for them.


“The Book of Manning” – More Than a Football Story


Tuesday evening the timer on my phone went off and my hubby and I took our places in front of the TV to watch “The Book of Manning”.

The timer was set because the Manning family seems like distant kin. Archie Manning is a Mississippi legend. I was born in that state, and I have a husband who played at Tennessee when Archie was at Ole Miss (yep, “Archie Who”) so I didn’t want to miss the ESPN documentary.

I have loved the SEC since the love of my life signed to play at The University of Tennessee in 1966 when he was a high school senior, and as we watched the footage of that notable football game from the fall of 1969, it seemed like yesterday.

Tennessee’s team was 7-0 going into that game, but Ole Miss got fired up by a comment made by Steve Kiner and Archie showed out; leading his team to a big win.At that time, Steve Kiner was an All-American linebacker who went on to play in the NFL. He can claim many outstanding accomplishments, but he is often remembered for his comments to the press before this particular game.

By that time Archie Manning had made such a name for himself that the reporter felt no last name was needed when he asked Steve what he thought about Archie. Steve needed a last name so he asked, “Archie Who?”

The Mississippi fans are glad he asked and most of the Tennessee fans have forgiven him for providing the spark that fired up Ole Miss’s team.

Archie, the football phenomenon married Olivia, the homecoming queen, and the documentary proceeded to cover the accomplishments of their children.

I enjoyed learning Cooper Manning’s story. I had heard he was a gifted receiver who, because of back problems, had to quit playing. Tuesday night I learned that his condition sidelined him at Ole Miss and ended the possibility that he and his younger brother, Peyton, would be team mates again as they were for one year in high school.

Surgery corrected the problem, but the recovery required the kind of determination his family is known for, and with their help he recovered. His life took a turn away from a career of his own to supporting his brothers.

The documentary moved on to Peyton Manning.

When Peyton signed to play for Tennessee, it was always exciting to see him take the field. He was always a class act and made watching games more fun for my resident coach.We were sorry he didn’t win the Heisman Trophy, but that thing has been the kiss of death for too many winners, and he’s doing just fine without it.

The youngest Manning, Eli, has a story that brings his family back into the good graces of the people of Mississippi and pits brother against brother as stellar quarterbacks in the NFL.

One thing that struck me was Peyton’s comment about Archie, “He’s more than my dad. He’s my friend.”

Eli said, “I want to show my daughter the kind of love my dad showed me.”

Archie Manning’s own father took his life the summer before Archie’s senior year in college. To overcome that kind of loss took courage and faith and made him a stronger dad for his own sons.

In her journal Mother wrote,”Trials refine our character. They bring us a new and deeper wisdom and help us discern truth from falsehood. They give us the discipline to do what we know is right. Above all, these things (trials) help us realize life is a gift from God to be cherished; not a right to be taken for granted.”

“The Book of Manning” provided insight into the lives of good people living productive lives while overcoming obstacles and, through it all, loving each other.