Tuesday, September 27, 2005

A Big Orange Tuesday on Rocky Top

Yes they can. And yes they did. And yes, it was wonderful.

On a night to remember, when the Tennessee Volunteers looked as if they were on the verge of a meltdown, Rick Clausen rose phoenix-like from the ashes to salvage the season as the Vols stunned LSU, 30-27.

It was a game for the ages. But it sure didn't start out that way.

The Vols found themselves down 21-0 at halftime. It could have been a lot worse.

Sophomore quarterback Erik Ainge looked confused, scared and downright ineffective. His two turnovers (a fumble and an intercepted pass...well, lob) had led to 14 LSU points.

Ainge was thrown to the ground after the interception and popped something in his back. The Vols slithered to the dressing room down 21 after barely preventing another Tigers score at the end of the half when time ran out.

Enter Rick Clausen.

The senior quarterback came in off the bench after intermission and put the Vols offense on his shoulders. His mere presence turned the offense into a completely different team.

Suddenly the Vols were moving down the field. Gerald Riggs was running for gains. Receivers were catching passes.

Clausen guided the Vols to two long scoring drives in the second half before safety Jonathan Hefney intercepted a pass and returned the ball 25 yards. It set up a one yard touchdown run by Riggs to put Tennessee within three.

James Wilhoit hit a 28-yard field goal with 2:02 remaining in regulation to tie the game. The boisterous Death Valley crowd sat silent and stunned.

Tennessee won the toss in overtime and opted to go on defense. The Vol D stiffened. LSU had to settle for a 31-yard field goal.

Once Tennessee got the football, it was all Riggs and Clausen. Riggs took it in on third down at the LSU one. The Vols earned a win.

And a new quarterback.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Another Sunday coming down

Ahh, Sunday afternoon. The day of many choices.

AFC or NFC. AL or NL. NASCAR or Formula One. Maalox or Phillips MOM.

(Greasy pizza will do that to you.)

At noon, you flip between CBS, FOX and ESPN. When Terry Bradshaw gets obnoxious, quick, flip over to Dan Marino. BORING. OK, there's Michael Irvin.

But, oh, no, there's Chris Berman! Turn it, turn it!

Whew. That was close. Take a few deep breaths.

Now it's 1 p.m. and the Titans are playing the Ravens. But I don't care much for the Titans. Dammit, gotta get that DirecTV. I want to watch the Colts every Sunday.

Oh, yeah, it's mid September. Let's look in on the Braves.

Lulled to sleep by Don Sutton's diarrhea of the mouth, I awaken to learn that the Braves bullpen has imploded. The Mets lead, 4-1. Sigh.

OK, let's look in on the Titans. They are leading Baltimore. Yawn.

Flip to the NASCAR race. Yes! Mark Martin is in the lead. I love that blue Viagra car. That man has self confidence. But he gets passed by Tony Stewart. And by Twinkles Gordon. And half the field.

Stayed up too late last night trying to forget about Tennessee's debacle at The Swamp. Fall back asleep.

Awake again. The Titans have won. The Jets are on. Former Halls guy Chad Pennington's Jets are up, 7-0, over the Miami Dolphins. Rickey Williams doesn't appear to be around. Maybe he's smoking grass in the tunnel.

Now it's time to go meet The Giant Rat of Knoxville for dinner. Great Chinese place down west. The sweet and sour chicken is to die for. Got enough left to eat for lunch tomorrow.

Pull back into the driveway 30 or so minutes before the Kansas City Chiefs are to play in Oakland. Excellent! Good ol' Dick Vermeil.

Quick. Check the ticker. Colts won! Whoo Whoo! Patriots lost! YES! Steelers won! Fantastic. Got just enough time to finish this week's Sports Illustrated before the Chiefs hit the field.

What a Sunday. The sun came up today. Got to see good football for a change.

Suddenly, that loss to the Gators doesn't mean all that much.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A Time for the Ages

You gotta hand it to the representatives that converged on Montgomery, Ala. in February 1861. Out of chaos, they created a government.

Considering how our government operated during the recent disaster, that's all the more mind boggling.

"Up until the election of 1860, no one knew what was going to happen," historian William C. "Jack" Davis told the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable last night. "In October 1860, (South Carolina) governor William Gist sent a letter to the governors of the 14 other slave states saying 'It appears possible that (Abraham) Lincoln will be elected (and) will you secede?' All the governors said 'No, not unless South Carolina does first.'"

Still, Davis said, the Southern states remembered Ben Franklin's idiom that those who don't hang together will surely hang separately. Representatives from each seceded state (six at the time) met in Montgomery that February to discuss the future.

"Each state sent the same number of delegates they had in the U.S. Congress," Davis said. "Nearly 50 men. The best men in every state got sent. None are empowered to commit their states to anything."

The sleepy town of 8,000 turned into a booming city of 20,000 when the delegates arrived. But those expecting The Greatest Show on Earth were disappointed.

"They march in, greet each other, elect a president of the convention, and then go into secret session and kick everybody out," Davis said.

Surprisingly enough, there was little politicking for the presidency. "Everybody assumed Georgia would get the presidency," Davis said.

That meant either Alexander Stephens, Robert Toombs or Howell Cobb.

Toombs looked the part, but he couldn't hold his liquor. Two nights prior to the vote, South Carolina held a party. Toombs had two glasses of wine. It was enough.

"Toombs had that fatal second glass of wine and made an ass out of himself," Davis said.

Scratch Toombs.

Stephens was, Davis said, the intellectual figure of his age, the true Little Giant. But he never had been part of "The Movement" and had in fact opposed secession until after it happened.

Thus goes Stephens.

And Cobb? Well, he never was seriously considered for the presidency.

Enter John Campbell. Campbell had written to former U.S. Senator Jefferson Davis in Mississippi. Would he consider the presidency?

Responding with sly political doublespeak, Davis said "I have no desire to do anything but stay at my plantation and pick flowers. However, if my people call, I can not say no."

Jack Davis said Jefferson Davis was the perfect choice.

"He was not a hotheaded secessionist, and he was not a Unionist," he said. "Davis had stood by the Union as long as he felt he could."

He was inaugurated on Feb. 18, on, ironically enough, Union Street, in a town formerly known as Yankeetown.

There were other ironies. Just a stone's throw from the spot where Davis took the oath of office was the future home of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Where Martin Luther King would later usher in the Civil Rights movement.

The Confederacy would eventually move to Richmond after Lincoln called for troops in the spring of 1861. Davis wouldn't return to Montgomery again until 1886.

He stepped, like so many of his contemporaries, into a time that would belong to the ages.