Memorial Day 2022: All Gave Some, Some Gave All

As I sit here tonight, I’m reminded of what Memorial Day stands for and represents. Memorial Day is a day set aside each year to remember those brave American heroes, men and women alike, that gave their lives for this country.

You see, Memorial Day isn’t about the barbecuing, parties, lakes, or anything other than remembering those that didn’t make it out of those bullet-riddled battlefields.

If you ever think that we don’t live in the greatest country ever known to man, there are 624 acres out in Arlington, Virginia, that say differently. They call it Arlington National Cemetery. There you will find more than 415,000 reasons to be thankful to live in this nation.

The men and women there and all over this country didn’t have to fight for us. But they did and they gave their lives so that we might live freely for the rest of our days. Tomorrow, take a moment to reflect and remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom for you and I.

Paying Tribute: A Visit with Hank and Audrey Williams

Paying tribute. It’s something I’ve always liked to do. Whether it’s having one of the person’s favorites, whether it be candy or food. To physically visiting their grave and having a chat with them for a bit.

Yes, I know that the actual person isn’t lying beneath that cold hard stone, only their Earthly body, but their soul, the part of a person that actually makes a human who they are, resides in Heaven.

Last Sunday, my girlfriend and I exchanged gifts at my house a day after Christmas because we were both busy with family on Christmas Day, which is completely and totally understandable.

After we exchanged gifts, we went to eat sushi at Rock N Roll Sushi in Montgomery, because it’d been a while since we had both had sushi and we like it, so why not?

Soon, after we had finished eating sushi, we headed to Oakwood Annex Cemetery in Montgomery to visit with believe it or not, not just one but two country music legends.

One who is considered by many to be the Father of Country Music, Hank Williams Sr., and his wife, Mrs. Audrey Mae Sheppard Guy Williams.

Not many people know this, but Hank and Mrs. Audrey met in Andalusia late summer of 1943, but didn’t marry until December 1944. It’s also believed that by the time they both passed away, Hank of course long before Audrey, the couple was actually divorced.

Of course, Hank Williams is best known as the father of Hank Williams Jr., but he also had an adopted daughter named Lycrecia.

Lycrecia is the daughter of Audrey Mae Sheppard Guy Williams and James Erskine Guy, her full name is Lycrecia Ann Guy Williams.

She was born August 13, 1941, but not long thereafter, Mrs. Audrey and Erskine divorced that same year and Hank adopted Lycrecia some time between 1943 and 1953, so she refers to old drifter as “daddy”.

As my girlfriend arrived at the final resting place of the two legends, I felt the wind die down and I approached the graves.

Now, these aren’t your usual small, intimate graves. These graves feature large headstones and raised concrete slabs.

I sat down on a bench next to Hank’s resting place and listened to his hit song “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” after the song ended I heard a train whistle off in the distance. It was as if Hank could hear his music being played.

Nearly 68 years after his untimely death, the spirit of old Hiram King “Hank” Williams is still searching for a way to get to that New Year’s Day 1953 show that he never made it to.

Rest In Peace, Hank and Mrs. Audrey Mae Sheppard Guy Williams, we miss you both.

Virtual Grave Tour to return New Year’s Day

I’ve always had a love for cemetery. There’s just something peaceful about them. Most people see them as a place where one only goes when they die.

They see cemeteries as cold, dark, gloomy places of mourning and sadness. But to me, cemeteries aren’t all cold, dark, gloomy places of mourning and sadness. They aren’t places where one should only go when they die.

In fact, you can learn a lot just by going and walking through a cemetery and looking at the dates on the headstones, thinking about what all the people lived through and what they saw during their time here on Earth.

I’ve lived across the road from a cemetery all of my life. The graves in that cemetery range from 1863 up until 2010.

When I was a young boy, about 9 or 10, my brother and I, along with our friends would go up to the cemetery at night and play hide and seek with flashlights so that we could see and avoid disrespecting those that were peacefully sleeping at our feet.

So, I’ve always loved the history that cemeteries hold and the stories that are told by the dates on the headstone.

Stories of heart-ache, heartbreak, loneliness, illness, wellness, happiness and sadness. But above all, stories that in a way, make you feel a certain connection to the people that have walked the land before your time. The rich and poor, the old and the young, the famous and the ordinary, their stories all differ, but they’re all the same in a way. They’re all human just like you and I.

I say all of that to say this on January 1, 2022, the Virtual Grave Tour will return to a cemetery near you, wherever you may be, the Virtual Grave Tour travels all over this great land, from California to Florida and anywhere in between.

Come along won’t you? Relive and remember history one grave at a time.

The Iron Bowl: America’s Most Bitter Rivalry

It’s a rivalry as old as time itself. In a series that dates all the way back to November 30, 1893, this is a rivalry in every sense of the word.

Thanksgiving has come and gone, we’ve all filled our stomachs with turkey, dressing and all of the fixings. Now, it’s time for the State of Alabama to push the leftovers to the side and clash in the 86th chapter of the fiercest rivalry in college football, the Iron Bowl.

The Tide may have washed over the Southeastern Conference’s Western Division and the Tigers may have lost their grip on their prey two weeks in a row, but as history has shown, anything is possible when it comes to these two cross-state rivals.

It separates brothers, mothers, fathers, boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands and wives, even if only for a few hours.

This rivalry has seen it all through the years. Bo’s gone over the top, the game has been won in a literal second, Cam ran all over Alabama in the second half, and so much more. Aubie has even mocked the legendary Bear Bryant in the past.

If you put these two in a room together, you’re bound for a fight. That’s exactly what we will have on our hands on Saturday, November 27, 2021, when the Tide and Tigers are locked inside one proverbial cage and only one will emerge victorious.

In a rivalry of twists and turns, the blood of these two teams is boiling and Saturday, the pot will no longer contain the bad blood between these two.

It’s the Iron Bowl in the 86th chapter, what will happen? Find out at 2:30pm tomorrow on CBS!

An Open Letter to Charlie Morton

As many of you are aware, the Atlanta Braves are in the World Series for the first time since 1999. To put that into perspective, most of this generation’s Braves fans weren’t even alive. As for me, I was alive, but barely.

I say that to say this, in my 23 and a half years of life, I’ve seen tons of baseball. I’ve seen many unprecedented moments in the sports.

Last night during Game one of the World Series was absolutely no exception. Jorge Soler became the first player in Major League Baseball history to homer in the first at-bat of Game one of the World Series and so much more.

But the thing that stood out to me the most was the guts and grit of Braves starting pitcher Charlie Morton. In the second inning, he took a 103 mile-per-hour batted ball off the right leg.

He went on to finish the inning, in which he throw ten pitches and came out for the third inning and threw six pitches before exiting the game with a fractured right fibula. Meaning, he threw 16 pitches while pushing off on a broken leg. Tears filled his eyes as he was helped off the field out of the dugout.

You could tell that he wanted to be there for his teammates.

Dear Charlie Morton, you came through in the clutch for us all year long, especially in times when we needed it most. You gave us all something to be proud of. You gave us your all every time you stepped on the mound, no matter the situation and there’s nothing more that we as fans could ask of you.

We appreciate your toughness, resiliency, and drive to be the best version of yourself every day. Don’t worry about us, we’ll be fine. Take the time you need to heal up and come back stronger in 2022.

Thank you again, brother, We love you. We’ll take it from here man. We’ll make sure we pick up where you left off.

Thank you for everything this year, Charlie. See you in 2022 brother.

245 Years of Freedom: Independence Day 2021

Tomorrow, this nation that we call home turns 245 years old. Tomorrow we celebrate 245 years of freedom. It’s no secret that we’ve had our share of trying times. But nothing can take away the fact that this nation that we all call home is the greatest nation on the face of the Earth.

We’ve got so much to be thankful for that gets overlooked because we hear what the media wants us to hear and we see only what they want us to see. Often times we don’t take the time to turn off the news, block out the media and look around us and truly appreciate what is around us.

In recent years, we’ve become so dependent on the media to tell us what we can and can’t do, where we can and can’t go, what we can and can’t wear. We don’t take the time to express our God-given rights like we should.

245 years ago, we gained independence as a nation. We gained the right to do as we wanted, to pursue what makes us as Americans happy, we gained the right to live free, independent lives. In recent times, it seems that we have forgotten that and we choose to let others tell us what to do and when to do it.

I’m not sure about you, but in my eyes the flag still stands for freedom and they’ll never be able to change that. So live your life as you choose and always pursue happiness, but never forget those that so selflessly and courageously laid down their own lives and those who continue to fight for us abroad so that we can enjoy our freedom here back home.

Happy Independence Day, be safe and God Bless.

Source: (Truist Park Twitter)

A New Era Begins Now: Heupel Heads to Rocky Top, Follows Familiar Face Home

A little less than a week ago, Danny White, the former University of Central Florida athletic director, was hired as the University of Tennessee’s athletic director to replace former AD Phillip Fulmer, just a few days removed from that announcement, Tennessee has found its 27th head coach. 

Josh Heupel, the former University of Oklahoma quarterback who led the Sooners to the national title, and was as an assistant coach and head coach captured conference crowns at Oklahoma and UCF, has been named the Tennessee Volunteers next head coach. 

He will replace Jeremy Pruitt, the former Volunteer head man who was fired on earlier this month and was accompanied by the retiring Fulmer. Heupel brings a pedigree of fast-paced and exciting teams. He was named the 2018 First Year Coach of the Year by the Football Writers’ Association of America, and was a finalist for the Associated Press National Coach of the Year Award, the Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year Award, and the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award that same season. 

Heupel stated, “I am thrilled to be coming to Tennessee,” “I understand that Volunteer fans are hungry for a return to the top that they so richly deserve, and it is my goal and commitment to bring a championship back to Rocky Top.” 

During his time in Orlando, Florida at UCF, Heupel posted a 28-8 record and a stellar 20-5 mark in conference play. He will be formally introduced as the head coach during a press conference which will be live-streamed today at 12:05 p.m. ET on UtSports.com and SEC Network.

Welcome home, Coach Josh Heupel, we can’t wait to see what the future holds on Rocky Top.

(Picture: Tennessee Athletics Twitter)

Remembering the Life of one of Baseball’s Greatest Pitchers: Phil Niekro

Known for his unhittable floating knuckleball that seemed to approach the plate like a balloon, Philip Henry “Phil” Niekro was a trailblazer, an icon, a legend, a Hall of Famer and so much more.

But most of all, he was a genuinely good soul. While most people will remember him for his daunting knuckleball and his ability to strikeout some of the best hitters the game of baseball has ever seen, I will remember him for his kind, generous heart. They just don’t make them like Phil anymore.

Niekro was born in Blaine, Ohio, and grew up in Lansing, Ohio. He attended Bridgeport High School In Bridgeport, Ohio, and was a boyhood friend of basketball Hall of Famer John Havlicek.

The baseball field on which he played at Bridgeport High School’s at Perkins Field athletic complex was renamed “The Niekro Diamond” in 2008 after both Phil and his brother Joe Niekro, whom was also a Major League pitcher.

Their father was a coal miner who pitched semipro baseball and had learned how to throw a knuckleball from another coal miner. He later taught his sons how to pitch in the backyard when they were kids.

During his 24 big league seasons, Phil Niekro rode his knuckleball to 5,404 innings pitched – the most of any pitcher who started his career in live ball era. Unlike most pitchers, Phil was more than simply durable.

His 318 wins and 3,342 strikeouts are a testament to a pitcher who was often untouchable. By the time he turned 40, Niekro had already won 121 games, the most wins by anyone that age in baseball history.

During his career Niekro, who became known as “Knucksie” due to the dancing movements of his famous pitch, appeared in 864 games, gave up 5,044 hits, 2,337 runs, in 5,404 innings pitched. Totaled 318 wins and 274 losses, starting 716 games, had an ERA of 3.35, pitched 245 complete games, 45 shutouts, earned 29 saves, surrendered 2,012 earned runs, 1,819 walks, and 3,342 strikeouts.

He spent time with the Milwaukee Braves (1964-65), Atlanta Braves (1966-83, 87), New York Yankees (1984-85), Cleveland Indians (1986-87), and Toronto Blue Jays (1987).

He was also a five-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glove Award winner, the 1980 Roberto Clemente Award winner, led the National League in wins twice, pitched a no-hitter on August 5, 1973, had his number 35 retired by the Braves, is a member of the Braves Hall of Fame, and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York in 1997, alongside Nellie Fox, Tommy LaSorda, and Willie Wells.

He died of cancer at age 81.

Rest well Knucksie, I’ll see you again on the other side. Thank you for not only your contributions to the Atlanta Braves organization, but also for your contributions to Major League Baseball, your name will live on forever in the book of baseball lore.

(Picture: Atlanta Braves Twitter)

Volunteers Look to Take Recent Frustrations out on Pittman’s Pesky Hogs

Before the football season began on September 26, these two programs seemed like they would be at two totally different ends of the totem pole.

Jeremy Pruitt’s Tennessee Volunteers (2-3) entered the season ranked in the Top 25, while first-year head coach Sam Pittman’s Arkansas Razorbacks (2-3) seemed to have Kirby Smart’s then-fourth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs on the proverbial ropes before the Dawgs came storming back with a late surge to take a 37-10 win over the Hogs in Fayetteville.

While both teams enter with identical 2-3 records, it seems that this game is a must-win for the Volunteers if they hope to get things back on track as we head toward the home stretch of the 2020 season.

Arkansas, who wasn’t expected to be very competitive at all this season has shocked the nation. The Hogs were projected to be the second-worst Southeastern Conference team in front of only Vanderbilt before the season began.

For Tennessee, things have taken a completely different path. The Volunteers were expected to be among the best in the Southeastern Conference in 2020 during the preseason, but that’s not the case on Rocky Top.

This year marks the 13th-straight season that Tennessee is not in contention for a conference title. Since leading Georgia 21-17 at halftime on October 10, Pruitt’s Volunteers have been outscored 109-24.

Following an open date on October 31, the Tennessee Volunteers are set to begin the second-half of their 2020 season with a trip to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to visit the pesky Razorbacks.

This will be Tennessee’s first trip to Fayetteville since 2011, as the Volunteers and Hogs are scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. CT kick on the SEC Network, with Tom Hart (play-by-play), Jordan Rodgers (analyst), and Cole Cubelic (sideline) on the call.

The game will be available on the airwaves in the Smokey Mountain region on the Vol Network WIVK 107.7 FM and WNML-FM 99.1 with Bob Kesling (play-by-play), Tim Priest and Brent Hubbs (analysts), and Kasey Funderburg (sideline) on the call.

Saturday’s contest in Fayetteville will mark the 19th overall meeting between the Razorbacks and Volunteers, and the sixth meeting in Fayetteville. Tennessee leads the all-time series 13-5.

In Knoxville, the Volunteers lead the series 6-2, in Fayetteville, Tennessee leads 3-2, in Little Rock, the Volunteers lead 3-0, and in bowl games, Tennessee leads 2-0.

The Volunteers all-time record on November 7 is (15-3), they are on a 14-game winning streak on this date.

In the last five games on this date, Tennessee is 5-0: 1981: 24-21 W over Wichita State, 1987: 41-10 W over Louisville, 1998: 37-13 W over UAB, 2009: 56-28 W over Memphis, and 2015: 27-24 over South Carolina.

Source: Tennessee Football Twitter.

Tennessee to Face Tough Mid-season Test in Hard-nosed, Second-ranked Alabama in Knoxville

It’s no secret that the Tennessee-Alabama rivalry has fallen off of a proverbial cliff in the last 13 years, from 2007 to last year, but that doesn’t take away from the downright hatred and bad blood that continues to flow rapidly through the veins of these two programs, and fans of the two respective programs alike.

Traditionally, the rivalry game has been played on the third Saturday in October. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic influenced schedules, the game was pushed back a week.

The Tennessee Volunteers and the second-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide are set to renew their rivalry at 2:30 p.m. CT Saturday in Neyland Stadium on CBS. Gameday seating will be at approximately 25 percent of the venue’s full capacity of 102,455.

Saturday’s game will be available over the airwaves of the Smokey Mountains on the Vol Network with Bob Kesling (play-by-play), Tim Priest and Brent Hubbs (analysts), and Kasey Funderburg (sideline) on the call.

The CBS broadcast will be brought to viewers by Brad Nessler (play-by-play), Gary Danielson (analyst), and Jamie Erdahl (sideline) on the call.

Recent series history has been in favor of Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide, as Alabama has won 13 meetings in a row (2007-2019). Tennessee has won nine of its last 12 games dating back to last season. Saturday marks the halfway point for the Volunteers’ season as Tennessee is off on October 31.

Tennessee punt returners are averaging 20.0 yards per punt return this season, which ranks third in the country and second in the Southeastern Conference.

Kick returner Velus Jones Jr., is averaging 25.0 yards per kick return this season, which ranks second among teams in the Southeastern Conference.

Tennessee’s defense has recorded two touchdowns thus far in 2020, which ranks third in the country and third in the Southeastern Conference.

20 Volunteers have made their Tennessee debut in 2020, including 17 true freshmen.

Inside the Series:

Saturday’s meeting between Alabama and Tennessee will mark the 103rd all-time meeting between the bitter rivals.

Alabama leads the series 57-38-7. The Crimson Tide lead the series in Knoxville, 26-20-1, Tuscaloosa, 10-4, and Birmingham 14-21-6.

Tennessee’s largest margin of victory in the series is 27 points (41-14, 1969 and 1995 respectively). Both of those games were played in Birmingham.

The Volunteers’ largest margin of defeat in the series is 51, which occurred in 1906, when the Tide beat Tennessee 51-0 in Birmingham.

Tennessee’s all-time record in games played on October 24 is 12-4-2, they are currently on a two game losing streak.

The last time a game was played on October 24 came in 2015 (19-14 L). The others came in 2009 (12-10 L to Alabama), 1998 (35-18 W over Alabama), 1987 (29-15 W over Georgia Tech), and 1981 (38-9 W over Memphis State).

Tennessee and Alabama have faced each other four times on October 24. The Vols own a 2-2 record again the Tide on that date, outscoring them 76-75.

Source: Tennessee Football Twitter.