Tag Archives: athletics

Rocky Top Ramblings – 12/02/2017

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Breaking News from sources close to the University of Tennessee. The Vols have finally landed their dream coach as Philip Fulmer has convinced Jon Gruden to leave the broadcast booth and take over the helm of one of the most storied programs in college football history.

“This is a great moment for the city, the university, and the state,” a source close to university officials stated earlier this evening. “Coach Gruden is the only man who can return this football team to its rightful place in the Citrus Bowl.”

Details of the deal are still unavailable, but insiders avow that Gruden will be the highest paid coach well into the next millennium.

However, even with this historic signing, controversy has erupted around campus as students, parents, and faculty are mobilizing to block the hiring of the lovable icon known as Chuckie for his unusual resemblance to the movie character.

“According to official documents, we have learned that Jon Gruden once shared a commercial flight with a man who is close friends with Matt Lauer’s neighbor,” claims Professor of Psychology Dr. Jen Touchyfeely. “Clearly, we cannot condone the university hiring somebody so closely linked to someone fired for being accused of inappropriate behavior.”

Not only that, a spokesperson for the university’s chapter of Young Feminists on Campus claims to have solid proof of rumors that Gruden occasionally watched Charlie Rose on PBS and once laughed at a joke by Louis C.K.

“Look, we are in the midst of a serious witch-hunt here,” interjects local talk radio personality Ima Deballer. “We are fueled by emotional knee-jerk reactions and mass hysteria over accusations against powerful men. There is no room for rational discourse or physical evidence. Anyone who questions these allegations clearly supports rape culture.”

However, some students are not convinced.

“Look, we have a tradition to uphold at this university,” states Slosh D. Frat III. “We have to loathe our coaches as scapegoats for the inadequacies of literacy rates and median household incomes in this state. We haven’t had a football coach to lambaste on talk radio for nearly a month. This [expletive deleted] university needs to hire a [expletive deleted] football coach to return meaning to my brief periods of sobriety or I’m transferring to a school with a real coaching carousel.”

Due to the turmoil surrounding the university and the national wave of copycat behavior by executives in response to allegations of improper behavior, the University of Tennessee has rescinded its offer to Jon Gruden and is contemplating hiring the first female football coach in NCAA FBS history.

Is Your Brain a Time Bomb?

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In 1989, when I was a junior in high school, I was struck in the head by an eight pound ball of iron. I suffered a Grade III concussion, a brain contusion, and brain swelling. I survived the incident but to this day suffer symptoms. This post is intended to raise awareness of the long-term effects of brain trauma and Post-Concussion Syndrome for the millions of people who endure living with a wounded brain.

Sensitivity to Light

If you’ve ever had a migraine, you understand how sensitive you are to bright lights. Imagine that times forever, and you’ll get an idea of what photophobia is like. Prolonged exposure to bright light gives me a skull-splitting headache, and it’s a relatively common symptom of severe concussions.  I can’t spend more than five minutes outside without sunglasses, and sometimes, even indoor lighting can be an issue, especially fluorescents. You know, the kind used in virtually every public building ever. So sometimes, I have to wear my sunglasses indoors, as well. No, I’m not trying to emulate the Blues Brothers. I just want to pick up some chips and salsa without feeling like a marching band is practicing inside my skull.

Years ago, some friends took me to an outdoor art exhibit. Naturally, I wore my prescription sunglasses so I could enjoy the day and not end up curled in a corner whimpering. We got invited to an after-party, and because my regular glasses were at home, I was stuck in shades long after dark. Some hipster quipped about the Terminator terrorizing the party, and it drew quite a laugh from the crowd. There’s no explaining photophobia in that moment. There’s only skulking away alienated and humiliated, having just been owned by a hipster.

Headaches Become a Fact of Life

You know those people who refer to every little headache as a migraine? Not the people who suffer from real migraines; a real one will put the strongest person in bed. I’m referring to the people who call the slightest tension headache a migraine. Yeah, I dislike those people. For a full year after the accident, I lived with a constant headache. Some days, it was a dull ache, others a sharp, piercing ice- pick. On bad days, it pounded my skull so violently I questioned benevolence in the universe. After that first year, the headaches became less and less frequent, but I came to know them the way an aficionado knows cigars. To this day, I also get occasional sharp, blinding pains near my scar.

After that first year, once the constant one faded, I learned to ignore most headaches and accept them as my reality. Today, I still rarely acknowledge anything less than a skull-pounder and even those barely slow me down, so whenever a co-worker rubs their temples and whines, “I have such a migraine” I have to squelch the desire to laugh at them. A real headache debilitates you. A real headache puts you in bed and makes every sound and light a test of your will. People who have suffered brain trauma know that any headache that doesn’t land you in bed is merely a nuisance, hardly worth announcing to the world.

Swiss Cheese Memory

Amnesia is a common Hollywood trope for head injuries, but what they never show is the inconsistency of cognitive dysfunction. Since the accident, some days, my memory works flawlessly and I’ll remember the stat line of the punter for the 85 Bucs. Other days, I’ll forget your name as I’m telling you mine. Others, I lose my car keys twelve times. On really bad days, I stare at my keys trying to remember which one goes to what.

Once, I met John Rhys-Davies at a Sci-Fi convention and got to have a real conversation with him. We talked LOTR and Sliders and the back injury he suffered on the set of La Femme Musketeer. The encounter was nearly perfect until, as we were about say farewell, he quoted a line of Shakespeare. As an English major, I scoured the splotchy patches of my memory for the play’s title and noticed the flicker of disappointment on his face. I wanted to explain about my injury, wanted him to know I wasn’t just a dumb bumpkin, but once more the moment was lost.

Sleep Disruption

Insomnia is a frequent condition after a brain injury. Some nights, I merely have difficulty falling asleep, but once I do, I rest through the night. Some nights I sleep for twelve hours. Some nights, nothing works. On those nights, especially when a few string together, I crave rest so badly, I contemplate hitting myself in the head to see if that will allow me to sleep. Of all the side effects I endure, I feel this one has the most stigma. Go-getters are early risers, but my internal clock has shifted so obtusely noon is now the crack of dawn. None of my friends or family understand why I don’t just sleep like a normal person, and no matter how many times I try to explain that I can’t because of the injury, I still feel like they’re judging me. I look fine. That injury happened years ago. Surely I’m over it by now.

When I got my assistantship teaching assignment in grad school, the department had assigned classes alphabetically, so guess who got two 8:00 AM classes?  Guess how many of my “friends” jumped at the opportunity to trade with me?  For my final year of grad school, I ran on three hours sleep a night, at most. If there can be any positive spin, at least I had time to grade all those papers.

 Nobody Can See the Mark

One of the most difficult aspects of head trauma is that no one can “see” what’s wrong. Even standard imaging techniques like MRIs and CT scans can only detect the subtle changes to the brain while it’s in a resting state. If neurologists can’t detect it, how can the average person? If I come to work on an hour’s sleep because my insomnia kicked in, I sometimes hear whispers through the grapevine that I stayed out all night drinking. If only. When I wear my shades in my office with the lights off, those whispers escalate. If I turn down 8:00 AM assignments, I’m simply lazy. After explaining the accident for the zillionth time, I watch their eyes travel up and down my body, searching for some physical sign of impairment, and even after I show them my scar or let them touch the dent in my skull, the doubts still linger in their eyes.

A few years ago, a colleague slipped and fell on a patch of ice in the parking lot. She had no visible injuries but suffered a concussion from the whiplash of the abrupt fall. Because she “looked” fine, our superiors couldn’t grasp why she couldn’t handle her usual workload. But I understood. All those tiny blood vessels and axons and synapses, as fragile as snowflakes, were violently shaken in a way nature never intended. I reassured her that in time she would find herself again and adjust to her new reality because I had managed to do so, and I spoke up for her with our superiors. Still, because we show few if any external signs of damage, they have a hard time grasping that our impairments are just as real as someone who has lopped off a finger. 

It Forces You to Change Your Life

When you’re in a crowd, your brain is able to process almost all the information subconsciously while you consciously focus on whatever you’re doing. For me, however, crowds are a nightmare. When too many people are moving in too many directions and having too many conversations, my brain becomes overloaded and within a few minutes, I can become completely disoriented. You can try to avoid crowds, but just like light, you’ll soon realize crowds are everywhere. So I take back roads with less traffic, shop during off hours, and work jobs that offer solitude. I don’t often go to live sporting events or concerts or even restaurants because the cacophony of noise and motion still completely overwhelms my brain a quarter of a century removed from the accident.

The worst example of this sensory overload occurred at another convention where I was attending as a guest author. I arrived a night early to get my badge, find my panel rooms, and have a plan, hoping to avoid the crowds as much as possible. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same plan because as the escalator deposited me into the lobby, I found myself in the middle of at least two thousand people, elbow to elbow. Within seconds, my senses were overwhelmed, and I struggled through the throng to find an exit sign.  The disorientation was so bad I had to withdraw from the convention and spent three days at home to recover. Isn’t there a line somewhere about the best laid plans?

It Also Changes Your Personality

Many people know about Phineas Gage, the railroad worker who underwent a major personality change after suffering a brain injury. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t take a tamping iron fired through the skull to make a difference. After the injury, I became much more introverted and quiet. Like many who’ve suffer severe concussions, I’ve battled depression. Mood swings are common as well.

Not long after the accident (I think I still had my stitches – all 36 of them) my pickup truck stalled and wouldn’t refire. I tried and tried and tried to start it, and with each unsuccessful attempt, my frustration escalated. In a fit of rage, I hopped out of the truck, grabbed a shovel from the bed, and proceeded to beat on the hood until I couldn’t lift the shovel again. Before the accident, I rarely lost my cool, but in that first year after, I was a walking rage machine. Today, it takes quite a bit to push me to that point because I’ve learned to check the cauldron of emotions as they course through me, but if I do reach it, something will probably get broken.

Also before the accident, I was highly analytical and serious-minded with a nearly photographic memory. Afterwards, while much of my analytical ability remained intact, in addition to the memory issues, I became much more creative and free-spirited. While neuroscience still can’t fully explain why this happens, one plausible theory is that it’s akin to Frontotemporal Dementia. Because of the rewiring that occurs, the interactivity within different regions of the brain changes, resulting in a fundamental shift in cognition. More than likely some mechanism that inhibited creativity was damaged by the accident, which “turned on” my latent creative skills. In extreme situations, this can lead to Acquired Savant Syndrome, such as the case of Alonzo Clemons, who suffered a brain injury at three and developed a profound mastery of sculpting despite not being able to tie his own shoes.

Your Brain Becomes a Time Bomb

The weird thing about concussions is once you’ve had one, you’re more likely to get one again; after your first concussion, your chances of getting a second go up 400 freaking percent. And subsequent concussions can be catastrophically bad, even if you don’t have apparent permanent damage from the first. This is because if you only damage a small number of neurons, your brain figures out a way to work around it. The damage is still there, but you don’t notice it, which may falsely lead you to believe that your brain is as healthy as it ever was. Since those connections never heal, another concussion can destroy enough of them your brain can’t work around it any more, leading to more serious problems. Another complication that can arise is called Second Impact Syndrome, where after a concussion, even the slightest bump on the head before the brain has sufficiently healed causes it to rapidly swell inside the skull. Though rare, the mortality rate for SIS is about 50%, and the permanent disability rate from it is nearly 100%.

I cannot stress this point enough. People who have suffered severe brain trauma have to accept that their brain should not be exposed to additional risks. I struggled with this fact for years because I had been a competitive athlete, and after the accident, I felt compelled to continue to prove my toughness. Today, a quarter of a century removed, I recognize the folly of that thinking. Just surviving the incident is tough enough. Your body may still be strong and virile. Your muscles and bones may not have suffered permanent damage from the head trauma, so you sometimes may believe yourself still capable of competing in the sports you love. But your brain is permanently injured. You have to accept that fact and not expose yourself to further damage.

In college, I drove a delivery truck on the weekends. It was a refurbished moving truck with one of the rear doors that slides up like a garage door. One night, the door didn’t open fully, and in the darkness I couldn’t see it as I stepped up into the cargo bay. My forehead slammed into the aluminum guard full force. As I crumpled to the wooden bed (luckily falling into the truck and not three feet down to the concrete parking lot) my final thought before I lost consciousness was that I had just killed myself. Later that night, when I finally made it home, I couldn’t figure out how to make a tub hold water. Fortunately, I recovered with no further permanent damage, but from that moment forward I became much more protective of my head.

Your Health Becomes an Uncertainty Forever

Since brain damage can manifest symptoms in countless ways (or not at all), I constantly find myself wondering every time my eyelid twitches if it’s just normal body behavior, or if it’s my nervous system starting to break down. Having a concussion puts you at much higher risk for diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. The Mayo Clinic found that even a mild concussion made you four times more likely to develop Parkinson’s, and another study found that three or more concussions made you five times more likely to suffer early-onset Alzheimer’s. Additionally, multiple concussions can cause Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, which is the degenerative brain disorder that has prompted the NFL to address the concussion issue. And until neuroscience progresses further, there’s no real way to predict if you’ll get it until you start exhibiting symptoms.

Ever since the accident, if I hold my arm a certain way, my left index finger pulses involuntarily. For twenty-two years, I thought little of it, other than slight embarrassment when it occurred while I taught. Three years ago, my left hand began trembling more frequently and would occasionally cramp in a way that drew my fingers together in a twisted knot. I began experiencing other symptoms that mirrored MS and Parkinson’s. For six or seven months, while doctors ran test after test with no answers, I lived in absolute terror that the accident had slowly degenerated my brain to a lethal point. It turned out to be an unrelated issue concerning gluten sensitivity, and today, I won’t say I’m back to normal, but as long as I completely avoid gluten, I do fairly well with it. But the lingering effects of that scare are that I can no longer tell if I’m aging normally or degenerating more rapidly than my peers. I now fear every sharp pain near my scar, pains I ignored for twenty-two years because they were simply my reality. And where I once shrugged off the memory lapses, I now question if my recall is worsening or if I’m just imagining it. Those fears are real, as real as any of the other side effects, and living with those constant concerns for my brain’s health can become rather tedious.

You Slowly Gain Acceptance and Adapt

Despite all these limitations and discomforts, over time, I’ve learned to accept my reality. The process wasn’t easy, and for the first five or six years after the accident, I wallowed in self-pity over everything it had taken from me. Then, one day, the epiphany struck me that I was lucky just to be alive. I’ve since learned, through years of trial and error, to find pleasure in the things I can still do and let go of the things I can’t. I’ve learned to appreciate the little things because I know firsthand the fragility of life.

I’ve learned to stop trying to conform to society’s expectations of who it thinks I should be and embrace the reality of who I am.  I’m one who has survived a trauma that should have killed me, and that fact alone is pretty special. I’ve carved out my niche based on the skills the accident unlocked, and I’ve learned to be grateful for each and every day regardless of how many times I lose my keys or misplace my sunglasses because I’m simply still here.

If you’re living with the effects of Post-Concussion Syndrome, please know you’re not alone. Please know that you can carve out a fulfilling life if you learn to work within and around your limitations. You’ll never again be the person you were before your trauma, but in time, you can find the new you, one who is a survivor, one who discovers new talents you never knew you had, and one who finds pleasure in the little things. In time, you too can learn to operate within the boundaries of your wounded brain.

D.A. Adams is bestselling author of The Brotherhood of Dwarves series and a survivor of severe brain trauma. You can follow him on Twitter @authordaadams

A special thank you to Chris Radomile, who assisted with the development of this article. You can follow him on Twitter @raddystuition

An Eight Pound Cannonball to the Skull

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A quarter of a century, that’s how long it’s been. Twenty-five years. The number staggers me. On March 7, 1989, at roughly 3:30 PM, an eight pound cannonball struck my forehead, lifting me from my feet and flinging me a few yards backwards. The blow itself felt little more than a slight thud, and at first, there was no pain, only extreme disorientation and faces crowding around asking if I were okay. I only lost consciousness for a few seconds, though had I been a boxer, I would’ve been TKOed. For some insane reason, no one called an ambulance. Instead, they called my mother and told her there had been an accident. While we waited in the locker room, I joked with the coaches about wanting out of spring football practice. Mom and my grandfather came to the school and rushed me to the ER, where I was immediately taken to an examination room.

I will never forget the pain of the anesthetic needle piercing my scalp. Nothing before or since has hurt like that, and to this day, the memory causes me to tense. As the doctor sewed up the wound, we joked about how he had shot putted in an abandoned quarry and occasionally had to dodge falling rocks. I’ll spare you the details of the procedure.

Later, in my room, as the anesthesia wore off, the headache that would accompany me for a solid year emerged. Overall, I was in good spirits until I went to use the bathroom and saw my reflection in the mirror. I didn’t recognize myself. My skin had turned ash gray; my eyes were sunken and hollow; blood stained what parts of my hair were visible around the bandage; and the image in the mirror looked more like a skeleton than a sixteen year old athlete. I freaked out and began groping at the bandage. That part gets a little foggy, so I can’t remember who all rushed into the bathroom and got me back to bed, but I do remember sobbing uncontrollably and resisting them. That’s also about the time my brain started swelling.

Imagine a balloon expanding inside your skull. It’s an unpleasant sensation. I don’t know how long it lasted, but my body went into shock. My blood pressure reached 200 over 140, and my pupils stopped dilating. It’s difficult to describe this part because the deeper into shock I went, the calmer I became. One moment, I could hear the helicopter landing outside to rush me to Knoxville and my parents freaking out and a nurse frantically begging my pupils to respond, and the next, all became quiet and still. My best description is that it felt like slipping into a perfectly warm bath. The headache vanished, and the most exquisite tranquility overcame me. There simply aren’t adequate words to describe the presence I felt, but after that experience, I can never fully call myself an atheist because I felt something.

I have no idea how long I was like that. Maybe seconds, maybe hours. I do remember the nurse exclaiming, “Oh, thank God” when my pupils finally reacted to her light, and suddenly all the sounds were back. And that headache. Oh man, that headache. No matter what migraine you’ve experienced, I’m sorry, but you haven’t really had a headache. Though not as sharp and blinding as the needle, it throbbed and pulsated and bashed the inside of my skull. To this day, it takes quite a pounder for me even to mention my head hurting.

The next couple of hours are fuzzy. There was a wheelchair ride to a CT scan, and chilly nighttime air as we crossed an outdoor area. I remember seeing fear in my father’s eyes for the first and only time. The rest is a haze.

I wanted to sleep so badly, but back then, they still believed that sleep after head trauma produced coma, so every few minutes a nurse made sure I remained awake. Other than Tylenol, I got nothing for the pain, and that was like throwing a cup of water on a house fire. All night, in the dark room, I stared at the ceiling, listening to the single beep of a monitor. Mom slept fitfully in the corner. Dad had gone home since I had stabilized and he had to work the next day. I can’t remember what I thought about through the night, but I remember the pain. I remember being simultaneously thrilled to see but annoyed by the brightness of the sunrise.

When I was released from the hospital, I had lost twenty pounds in three days, and the next few weeks are pretty blurry. I missed at least 20 days of school and failed trigonometry. Even now, I get upset that the school board didn’t grant me a medical withdrawal from that class. For five or six years, I moped about all the accident cost me, until one day I realized just how lucky I was to be alive. I still deal with several permanent effects of Post-Concussion Syndrome, but I recovered without serious cognitive impairment. Today, I appreciate each day for the blessing it is, and even on my worst ones, I remind myself that at least I’m still above ground.

So here I am a quarter of a century later. I’ve taught a couple thousand students, written four novels (five if you count that awful first one, which I don’t), and fathered two amazing sons. I have the greatest friends a person could ask for and parents who have supported and encouraged me at every turn. I also have a sister who loves me and four amazing nieces who make me smile, with a great nephew on the way. I have a woman in my life who thinks I’m pretty cool and accepts me with all my flaws and scars. In short, I’m more blessed than I deserve, so on this day, I’m grateful for every blessing that mercy granted me twenty-five years ago.

Tennessee Volunteer Ramblings


Breaking News: Vols Fans Anxiously Await Naming of Next Coach They’ll Hate

The excitement around Knoxville is palpable as football fans await Athletic Director Dave Hart’s scheduled press conference to announce UT’s next head football coach. Talk radio is abuzz with rumors and speculation on who the next scapegoat will be, and some fans have already created signs for the home opener calling for the coach’s resignation.

“It’s just great to have so much anticipation,” says Slosh D. Frat III, a third year freshman and lifelong fan. “Since Dooley got fired, I haven’t gotten to hate a coach for a whole week. Knowing that there’s a new guy just days away. Well, I just almost can’t stand it.”

Asked if there’s any chance he’ll like the new coach, Slosh was contemplative.

“If it’s Gruden, I’ll give him until spring ball before I turn on him. Other than that, I’ll pretty much start screaming for him to be fired that afternoon.”

Other Vol fans echo the sentiment.

“We have a tradition to uphold,” says Iggy Norant, long-time talk radio enthusiast. “Around the nation, we are known as some of the loudest, most uninformed sports fans in college athletics. ESPN has long heralded us as the dumbest, and we have to keep up that tradition. I’ve been a part of running off two head coaches and one coordinator already, and I can’t wait to run off the next guy!”

When asked how the fans’ rabid and rampant intolerance for rebuilding a program mired in mediocrity might impact future recruiting, Norant was incredulous.

“Recruits don’t care who the coach is!” he bellowed. “They come here because of the school’s tolerance of criminal behavior.”

Officials at the university were unavailable for comment, as they were conducting a seminar warning the student body of the perils of butt-chugging. However, in a prepared statement, the school states that it is ready to fire the next coach as soon as boosters give them the approval and the funds to pay off the buyout clause.

Amid the speculation, two names have surfaced as leading candidates for the position.  Jon Gruden, Super Bowl winning coach and current Monday Night Football color guy, is considered the fan favorite because of his deep ties to the university, including his marriage to a former UT cheerleader and his cousin’s best friend’s neighbor’s plumber helping institute butt-chugging on fraternity row.

“Jon’s practically an alum,” beams Norant.

However, one name has both sports fans and scientists excited.  According to an unnamed source with close ties to important people associated with big-time boosters, geneticists at the university have cloned General Robert Neyland from hair fibers and plan to have his growth accelerated in order to have him ready for recruiting season.

“I’m not sure who this Bob guy is, but he doesn’t have much experience at the SEC level,” Norant said.  “We fans will have him on a very short leash.  It would be kind of cool to have a coach with the same name as the stadium, though.”

With that, Iggy Norant excused himself, stating that it was time for him to call into the first of the five talk radio shows to which he’s a regular contributor.

Thursday Afternoon Ramblings


Dear sons, I wish I could describe for you just how much I loved playing sports as a kid.  I didn’t really blossom as an athlete until about 14 or 15, but I loved sports, even when I was a chubby, uncoordinated kid without much skill.  My sport was football, and my position was nose tackle/defensive tackle.  I know I didn’t have the size or talent to ever play pro ball, but if not for my accident, I think I could’ve at least made the roster for a small college.  One of the only things that nags and gnaws at me is the fact I’ll never know the answer to that question.  Was I talented enough to play college football?  I don’t dwell on it often, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it from time to time.

I want to share with you one of my fondest memories from the eight years I played.  It was my junior year of high school, and I was 15.  From a couple of years of intense weight-lifting, I was strong beyond my years and had earned a starting spot as the right defensive tackle.  We were playing Cocke County, at the time one of our biggest rivals because our head coach was originally from there and couldn’t stand losing to them.  The left guard who blocked me that night was 5-6 inches taller than me and was pretty athletic.  Play after play, we battled like we were in a street fight.  One play he would beat me, the next I him, and the next, we’d stalemate.  It was without a doubt the most intense one-on-one matchup of my football life.  I left everything I had on the field and played an extremely sound game, giving up hardly any rushing yards to my side.

In the end, we lost the game, but as the teams were shaking hands, he pulled me out of line and hugged me like an old friend.  “That was the most fun I ever had,” he said.  “You’re a warrior, man.”  I thanked him and told him he had played a great game, but in the moment, the sting of the loss hurt too much.  I walked back to our dressing room and sat down outside against the brick wall.  Then, I just started crying.  And I cried pretty hard, too.  I couldn’t believe we had lost that game, and losing hurt, especially after I had played one of the best games of my life.  Several of the Cocke County fans had gathered outside our dressing room to taunt us, and when they saw me crying, they really let me have it.  Some of my own teammates gave me a hard time, too, yelling at me to stop, but I didn’t care.  To this day, I’m not ashamed of crying after that loss because when I really care about something, I give it my all, and when you give your all and still come up short, it’s painful.

I sometimes think about that left guard and wonder if he remembers that game as well as I do.  I wonder if he remembers how hard we battled play after play after play, neither one willing to quit, neither one willing to back down.  I wonder if he ever looks back on that game and feels the way I felt out there on the field, like I’d never been so alive.  I hope he does, and I hope that you both one day will get to experience something like that, even if you have to suffer the same sting of defeat, because that memory is one of the most fulfilling of my life.  As old age takes me and my brain begins to fade, I hope the memory of that game on that night against that guy will stay with me until the end because the memory of feeling that alive and that present in the moment isn’t experienced very often, and it’s a pretty amazing feeling.

Monday Afternoon Ramblings

This is what end of semester Monday has done to me!

I would love to write a full entry today, but the end-of-the-semester-crunch has me worn down.  I hope to get a good night’s sleep tonight and be able to write the humorous follow-up to my recent Education Ramblings tomorrow.  Until then, please come join my new Facebook page, “Fire Tennessee’s Fair-Weathered Fans.”

That’s all for now.

Tuesday Afternoon Ramblings


I’ve told this story hundreds if not thousands of times, but one of the most important lessons I ever learned in life came my freshman year of high school.  I played defensive end on a 5-3 defense, which would be fairly close to the equivalent to the OLB on a modern 3-4.  During a scrimmage with Knox Carter, I missed a tackle because I half-assed got into the backfield and didn’t set a solid edge.  Then, to compound matters, I dove at the running back as he sprinted by me and lay on the ground, feeling sorry for myself for not making the play.  As I lay there, I heard Coach Brumley Greene come charging onto the field.

He grabbed my facemask, lifted me from the ground, and got in my face.  For the next two minutes, he proceeded to berate me for my pathetic effort on the play.  As he yelled and shook my facemask, spit flew from his mouth onto my glasses, cheeks, and lips.  He let me know without question that I, and I alone, was the only person responsible for the effort I gave.  This incident occurred in front of at least 100 people, most of them my age, and at the tender age of 13, I was mortified by the embarrassment.  As soon as Coach Greene finished humiliating me, he turned to the other team’s coach and ordered him to run the same play.  “Yes, sir,” was the only response.

On my second attempt, I nearly killed the poor ball carrier, and even before I could get to my feet, here came Coach Greene.  Again, he grabbed my facemask and sprayed me with spittle, but this time it was in congratulations.  Even at 13, I got it.  My effort was the only difference in the two plays, and despite the humiliation, or maybe more accurately because of it, I learned in that moment the importance of giving my all.  To this day, I cherish Coach Greene for teaching me that so early in life.

Today, however, he would be fired the moment he touched me.  The spit alone would be grounds for a lawsuit, and that, I wholeheartedly believe, is the crux of where we’ve strayed as a nation.  In a misguided attempt to protect young people’s feelings, we have robbed educators of some the most powerful teaching weapons in the arsenal.  Humiliation, shame, and fear are mighty motivators, and some of the best life lessons we learn have to bruise our feelings to leave a lasting impression.  From my own experience I can attest, the humiliation faded rather quickly, but the lesson has lasted my entire life.  Thank you, Coach Greene, for caring enough to teach me that lesson.