I watched the NFL/AFL playoff games and was disappointed with both outcomes. With the exception of the years that Peyton and Eli won the big games, I’ve managed to be on the wrong side of the score most years. What shocks me is that this year is Super Bowl 51.
How’d that happen? I’ve been around for everyone one of the championship games, but I’ve not always watched them.

I saw the first super bowl. Green Bay took on the Kansas City Chiefs. I wasn’t a fan of the Packers then, so I cheered for the Chiefs. Hank Stram was a good coach, but he went up against Vince Lombardi, whom some say is the best coach to come around, he discovered that winning wasn’t always so easy. My heart sank as his team went down in defeat 35-10.

The second super bowl was anti-climactic. The most memorable game of the season occurred when Green Bay and Dallas battled in the “Ice Bowl.” Again, the Packers broke my heart when they beat “Dandy Don Meredith” and the Cowboys. That roster listed some of the best names for players: Jethro Pugh, Bob Lilly, Lee Roy Jordan, and Lance Rentzel. Bob Hayes, known as the world’s fastest human, streaked down the field. When they fell short, my heart wasn’t in any championship game.

The Sunday of Super Bowl VII began with the funeral of my paternal grandmother. The weather was frigid that day with a low of 1degree. We came home afterward, and the men tried to watch the game, especially since it featured the Miami Dolphins, who were undefeated throughout the season and won the big game. However, the gloom that filled the air took away any excitement.

I pulled for the Cowboys until I couldn’t take it anymore. My favorite players had retired or moved to other teams, and I just never like Tom Landry. Watching them lose each year hurt too much.

For a long time, I was tired of watching the Steelers play in super bowls. Besides, most of the plays in games never lived up to the “immaculate reception” by Franco Harris. The only other play I recall during those games was the stretching pass reception made by Lynn Swann. I can still see that toothless grin of Jack Lambert as he prepared to diagnose a play and destroy a running back or crossing wide receiver.

During many seasons, the super bowl was a game that featured two teams about whom I was only lukewarm in interest. Yes, some great players participated, and some of the games were exciting, but they lacked one thing: a team I cared about on either side. If the game was on my television, I ho-hummed my way through it. On occasion, as when Janet Jackson took center stage, the halftime entertainment was better than the game.

As I mentioned earlier, my interest piqued when super bowls featured the Manning boys. Both are favorites of mine, which is funny since I never liked their dad after the “Archie Who”
butt-kicking he administered to Tennessee in 1969. His boys, however, were favorites of many Vol fans, and a championship game featuring either of them was something to look forward to.

This year, I might skip the whole event. Atlanta is all right, but I am sick of watching the Patriots in the final game of the season. Yes, they are a good team, but just like some other teams, I’m tired of watching them. Before long, their players will retire, and hopefully, fans won’t have to watch them hoist super bowl trophies for a while. I won’t even be able to watch the halftime show since Lady Gaga isn’t an artist whose songs take up a single byte on my iPod.

Winter is a terrible sports season. I hold my breath, close my eyes tightly, and pray for spring training and baseball. When the super bowl is lousy, the wait is even more excruciating. If your favorite team is playing football on February 5, good luck. I’ll be taking a long nap that day. 


I checked my Facebook page the other day to see what was going on in the world. As usual, plenty of posts discussed the brilliance or ignorance of the president-elect. A passel of recipes showed up as well. Of course, birthdays were listed for all my friends who survived another trip around the sun. The most upsetting post appeared on Sunday evening. It announced that one of my childhood friends had passed.

Ray Claiborne was an amazing boy. He was wiry and strong even at ten years of age. Ray played on our neighborhood ball team. He filled in at first base, the position I always wanted to play, but where I couldn’t stop a hard-hit ground ball or stretch to snag a high throw, Ray managed to play the position with agility and confidence. He could hit the ball as well, and most of the time he would wind up on second base by stretching a single into a double that was capped off with a slide into the second.

Ray’s most amazing talent was his ability to run. He not only ran; the boy cruised at speeds about which most of us only dreamed. Ray would take off, and within a couple of strides, he was zipping down the field or road. Much older boys challenged him to races, and Ray silently accepted. When the contest ended, he trotted back to the start line after having smoked his competitor. Sometimes the other runner would demand another race; at other times, a different person would be waiting to test Ray. He always accepted all the demands for races, and he defeated all comers. No, he never bragged or said a mean word. Ray let his legs do his talking.

In high school, Ray ran on the track team. He and three others set the school record in the 440, now known as the 400. They blew passed other school teams and notched victories. A couple of team members played other sports, but Ray didn’t. I never knew if he wasn’t interested or if he had work to do at home that kept him from joining playing other sports. Still, his running abilities were grander and more developed than those of most other athletes who had chosen one or more sports.

I lost touch with Ray after high school. I went to school out of town, and I think Ray stayed in Knoxville to help his family operate their fleet of school buses. For some reason, I want to say that he took up smoking, something that surprised me greatly. The rest of us were never quality athletes; most of us were average at best. We smoked because it was the cool thing to do. Why Ray would pick up a habit that might jeopardize his running always puzzled me.

Ray Claiborne isn’t the first boy from that neighborhood ball team to have passed. Over the years, several have gone before him. Tommy Robinson died in a car accident as he traveled to pick up his date for the junior-senior prom. Pat Wright passed several years ago. He became a carpenter and always was as laid back as any person I’d ever known. Steve Turpin died not long ago after a battle with cancer.

Each year, more of the childhood friends that I had end their times on this earth. I know that we are reaching the age where death comes much more often to folks of our generation. The problem is understanding that. You see, in my mind’s eyes, I see these senior citizens as the young boys who they were so many years ago. Their passings leave me sad and more than a bit unsettled. No, I am not afraid of death, but neither am I in a hurry for it to arrive. With each death of an old friend, my history shrinks a bit. My past world loses another piece.

Ray Claiborne was one of those boys who made my childhood good. I appreciate his talents and the memories he created for me. I’m sure that now Ray is in a better place where illness no longer smothers him. I hope to see him some day and watch him run like the wind.


The past week saw winter rear its ugly head. A small amount of snow didn’t look like too much of a problem, but temperatures that stayed in the teens and twenties turned melting snow into sheets of ice. Anytime in my life that the white stuff stacks up outside, I’ve been out in it.
As youngsters, snow was something that excited us. It seems that accumulations were more back then; maybe global warming has affected the regions totals. We begged to go outside, but Mother
sometimes made us wait. That was unusual since most of the times she ordered us out of the house to find something to do.
We didn’t have snow clothing. Instead, we put on a couple of layers of shirts and pants. Zipping that second pair of jeans was a challenge, and by the time all the clothes were on, we looked like the younger brother in “A Christmas Story.” No one had a pair of boots. In their place, we put on our play shoes and a couple of pairs of sox; plastic bags used for loaves of bread, secured with rubber bands, were on top of everything.
Once outside, we reveled in the snow. Sometimes snowmen were created. Snowball fights always took place until someone took a fistful of snow to the face. One time, we built an igloo of sorts, and all of us boys crawled into it before the sun came out and melted it. Then we moved to the pond in the woods. We skated on thin ice and hoped it would hold us. Only once did it crack and dump us into frigid waters. It was more fun than could have been imagined.
After my children arrived and became old enough to knock around outside, I accompanied them as they played. Both were more appropriately dressed for the weather than I was years earlier. The two of them immediately dropped to the ground and made half a dozen snow angels. Next, we struggled
to make a snowman, even though the snow was many times powdery and uncooperative. The kids always had a good time battling their dad in a snowball fight. Of course, I also took them around the yard and pointed out the importance of leaving alone any yellow snow that they found.
Before long, the children turned surly with boredom. That signaled the time to bring out the old coal scoop. It was the one that Daddy bought when the coal furnace was installed in our house when I was a small boy. The edge was bent and warped from use shoveling coal and scraping the curb in front of our property.
I grabbed the handle and placed both little ones on the metal part. Then I’d take off running as fast as my skinny legs would move me. The kids held on to each other as the shovel glided over the packed snow and ice. I’d stop suddenly and swing the shovel out into a big circle and then started over again. Lacey and Dallas loved the ride and laughed and squealed as they rode. I, on the other hand, stumbled toward the front door to take off soaked clothes and plop down into my recliner, where the next hour would be spent napping. Amy would step outside and scoop up a large bowl of snow. She added ingredients to make snow cream, and we all enjoyed a cupful of the stuff.
I thought that I would escape trips outside to play in the snow when I aged, but oh, how wrong I was to believe it. These days, Sadie, our dog, whines and jumps, and growls to go out. When we exit the door, she takes off. Her nose is lowered to the ground and serves as a plow. The snow covers her snout until her tongue licks the stuff off. Sadie runs as if she were escaping a dangerous enemy, but her exercise is fueled by an excitement to be in the white stuff. She grudgingly goes into the house and stands still until I can dry her off. Then we both head for the recliner for that same kind of nap that I took when my children were small.

I love the snow---for about two hours. Then I’m ready for it to disappear so that I can get on with life. To be honest, I enjoy snow the best when I view it from the windows of my den. Cold play just isn’t something important to my present life. 


When people are together for any length of time, they are bound to argue. If they are family members, the spats are worse, sometimes even leading to fights. To be honest, most of those family quarrels begin over rather ridiculous things.

Husbands and wives sometimes have disagreements. When Amy and I first married, those times came quite often. We were learning to live together, something that is difficult for two
individuals who have never been in such a close relationship. Each of us made messes that irked the other. Sometimes the arguments began over what television show we would watch.

Most of the time, I wound up in trouble with my wife for being “insensitive.” I’d say or do something that Amy considered thoughtless. Did I know that I had hurt her feelings by my comments or actions? No, I was oblivious to the faux pas, but I knew that something I did had landed me in trouble. Any attempts at discussion usually led to my wife’s going silent and my growing frustrated and angry. The resolution to the situation arrived when I uttered, “I’m sorry’” although I had no idea what sin I had committed.

Brothers and sisters constantly argue. The older child has an intense dislike for younger family members. Life was so much better when the older one was the only one. Fights occur everywhere; that includes at home and in cars, motel rooms, and restaurants. A younger child invades the space of the older one, and screams of “get out of my room” echo throughout the house.

In cars, the wars start in the back seat. One child squalls, “Stop touching me” That only serves to up the ante as the offending small person holds a finger just above the complainer’s arm. “Stop! STOP! STOP!” the volume goes up with each successive command until the sound is close to piercing adult eardrums. At that point, the parent
chimes in with his own demanding barks that tell both sides to cease and desist. The command is usually followed by a command that begins with “Or else.” Only the bravest children dare to tempt fate then; they know that the wrath of a stressed parent can lead to painful consequences.

Teens and their parents engage in the most ridiculous arguments. The younger person punches the buttons of the parent, and the fight is on. My daughter Lacey was a master button pusher. She would complain about home, and on one occasion commented that she wished she could leave and never come back. I replied that I wished I could help her pack her bags. That wasn’t the best way to handle the situation, but she had managed to push the right buttons to lead to the answer.

One evening the family traveled to West Town Mall. I noticed that Lacey was sporting a thumb ring. For the life of me, I didn’t understand it, so I commented that “The demise of the Egyptian civilization was in part due to the preoccupation with personal appearance. For a minute the entire family sat silent, somewhat dumbfounded by the comment. Then my loving
wife, who should have supported me, spewed out laughter that was followed by raucous yuks from my children. I fumed the rest of the evening, and when we arrived home, Amy and I spent more than a few minutes arguing about her outburst. Years later, I see why she found my words so humorous perfectly.

Over the years, my family has engaged in some ridiculous arguments. Most of the time, they were based on raw moods or inabilities to adapt to situations. In the end, however, we still love each other and have survived those disagreements with little or no lasting repercussions. The best thing about those battles is that they bring back memories that are always followed by laughter. Yes, families engage in absurd arguments, but they give a bit of spice and color to life. They also teach folks to develop thicker skins. 


Okay, 2016 is in the rearview mirror, and I say good riddance. Don’t get me wrong; I am always thankful for the time I have in this life, but the past year has had enough negatives to keep me from wanting to relive it. I’ll take the future...and hope. I’m pretty sure we all need to look for a “restart.” At least that’s what I’m calling for in 2017.

One thing that needs a restart is the world where news organizations deliver stories each day. Over the past year, many politicians and special interest groups have demonized newspapers and television newscasts. They are accused of being “biased” and “liberal.” Other groups have accused the media of pandering to the inconsequential events that surround one candidate. The simple truth is that both sectors of the press have fallen into a trap. Not enough news is available to fill up each 24-hour cycle. To continue to bring in advertising dollars, these establishments have begun making trivia newsworthy. They give twists to ordinary events; they analyze the simplest things, and both liberal and conservative stations and papers can come up with an endless supply of talking heads who will support their biased views.

It is time for the TRUE news media to push the restart button. Their roles are to report the news without slant, not make it. In times past, folks sat down in the evenings to watch Walter Cronkite or Huntley and Brinkley. Those legends reported the news but never editorialized it. We also got a half hour of local news twice a day. The newspapers gave more in-depth coverage of stories, but the material was based on facts, on the 5 W’s of “who, what when, where, and why. Sources that folks find on Facebook are NOT news organizations. They are sites that make up news or boldly lie about a story to make it favorable to their sides.

We also need a reset on the latest ideas about the U.S. and its place in the world. Too many of our leaders are pushing for a pull back from involvement in areas of the world. They declare that our only involvements should be with those countries that will provide benefits to us. That kind of thinking is swimming in ignorance. Isolating ourselves will not end problems. To the contrary, it will increase them. The void that we leave will be filled by another country, and its power and influence will grow as our decreases. To stop the spread of ideas that are in conflict with democracy, our country must remain a key force in the world and its affairs. No, we don’t have to be the policeman of the world, but we do have responsibilities as a superpower. Refusing to address countries and problems will eventually lead us to becoming a second-class country.  

Most of all, the time has come for us to restart our dealings with others in our own country. The presidential election of 2016 has proven to be the most divisive event of the last few years. The winners are less than gracious in the victory. They prefer to rub salt into wounds and to get even with those who did not support their candidate. The losers are set on discovering something that will overturn the elections results. Even though their candidate won the popular vote, our country determines winners based on the electoral college. So, these disgruntled individuals must hold their noses and accept the outcome of our election process.

We have plenty of challenges ahead. Unless a person is living in a fantasy world, he realizes that campaign promises are rarely kept. Folks, no wall is going to be built; illegal immigrants are not going to be rounded up and shipped south of the border. Old jobs are not coming back; they either don’t exist, no longer pay enough for a good living, or won’t be around as soon as technology replaces workers. Our duty is to make this country a place of opportunity for all folks. That starts with making sure each person is educated in some area or trained in some skill that meets the world’s needs. We must learn to get along with folks of all races. Bigotry and racism will destroy us long before an outside enemy will.

A new year is here. Isn’t it time to put away old grudges? Shouldn’t we offer an olive branch to those with whom we have differences? Don’t we want a country that allows free speech in the media while demanding that it be objective? Can’t we take care of our affairs and still be the leader that the rest of the world looks to for guidance? These are the things that I hope 2017 will restart. God knows we need it.