Hall Of Fame

Tonight, Rabun County High School will induct it’s second Sports Hall of Fame Class prior to the start of the evening football game.

The Hall of Fame was formed last year, and in it’s second year of existence many people representing numerous sports and decades have been recognized.

Tonight’s class is no different.

For me, tonight’s class holds special significance, because one of the teams being inducted is the 1970 Rabun County High School Football team.

The 1970 team is special to me as my dad was the Assistant Coach of the team and my brother Tom would have been a senior on the team that year. Tom died in a car wreck in March before that season began.

From this point forward, let me preface this by saying the memories set forth on this post are coming from a 5 year old mind, so I may not have it all exactly right, but I think it’s pretty close.

Obviously, after the death of my brother our family was in turmoil, the greatest tragedy that could ever happen to a family had happened to ours.

Living in a small tight knit community, the people of our town rallied around us and held us up on a daily basis and as football season approached, we had something to look forward to.

My mama and daddy both grew up in Toccoa, just 30 miles from Clayton and in 1970, Toccoa High School was ranked very high in the State. Rabun County would be playing Toccoa late in the season and Toccoa was the odds on favorite to win the game handily.

My daddy and his entire team WANTED the win and sure enough, in the 3rd Quarter Rabun County went ahead and held on for the victory. Up until that time, this was the biggest win a team from Rabun County had ever seen.

The Hall of Fame story could easily end here, but for me, the game that was played against Toccoa wasn’t what made this team Hall of Famers, it was what they did off the field, how they helped save a family and surrounded a 5 year old with love and protection.

You see, when my brother died, he was an integral part of that team, the guys that made up that team were his best friends and they loved one another as brothers.

When Tom died, parts of them died too, they also had to grow up in ways that most would never had expected and I suspect they formed a bond that still exists today.

And for me, they became a group of young men who did everything they could to help fill the void of a big brother who would not be coming home again. They took care of me, they (and their girlfriends) made sure that I didn’t get swept aside in the grief of our family, they protected me. They became a whole new group of big brothers for a 5 year old missing his own and not understanding the concept of death or loss.

When Tom died, we were in the process of building a new home. It was the home we moved into in 1970 and still remains in my family today.

The house wasn’t complete when Tom died, but it was getting close. I think my parents realized very soon after Tom passed away that we needed to get out of the house we were living in and into our new home, a fresh start or at least a new beginning.

Growing up, my mother went to get her hair done every Thursday afternoon. Immediately after school she would go get her hair done and usually be home about 5PM.

On one Thursday afternoon, the entire 1970 Football team showed up at the house we were renting. With their pick-ups and cars and their father’s pick-ups and anything they could find and while my mother was at the beauty shop, they moved our entire house.

When my mother got home from the hairdresser we were moved into our new home. Mama used to joke that they didn’t even put anything in boxes, they just moved the dressers and closets as they were, but they got us moved.

This group of high schoolers continued to bless our family and I hope in some ways we enriched theirs. Simple acts of kindness and love is what represented this group of young men and I think they always realized that 1970 season included a guardian angel who was in every practice and huddle with them along the way of the season.

These young men, the 1970 Rabun County Wildcat Football Team protected us, they helped our family get our footing once again and they provided us with some valuable memories that put a smile on my family’s face when it was much easier to let tears stain our eyes.

I will always be indebted to the 1970 Wildcats, many of them I haven’t seen since I was a child. But they will forever hold a special place in my heart and in the history of my family.

Tonight, many fine people will be inducted into the Rabun County High School Sports Hall of Fame, but I’ll be cheering just a bit louder, with a lump in my throat for a special group of men, who in my eyes were Hall of Famers long before tonight’s induction ceremony.

As a child, I never knew how to say thank you for what these men did, I honestly didn’t know what I would be thanking them for, they were just part of my life. But as a man, I now know the sacrifices they made from their own lives, their teenage years, to help a little boy have some normality to a life that had been turned upside down. From the bottom of my heart, I say thank you, these normal band of high school football players did much more than they ever knew and more than I ever told them and for that, I will always be filled with gratitude. These will always be my Hall of Famers!

Congratulations to all the deserved honorees, especially the Hall of Famers of 1970.

It Is Well

I struggle every day.

I struggle with not feeling good enough, I struggle with money, I struggle with relationships, I struggle with decisions that I have made and I still have to make, life is a struggle.

While the struggles of everyday life weigh upon me, I have come to a peace in my life that I know comes only from a faith that has been instilled in me since childhood, since the days of the simple stories of the Bible, through life lessons as a youth and joys and disappointments as an adult.

I’m one of those “wear your emotions on your sleeves kind of guy.”  Once when my  brother was picking on me, my grandmother spoke up and in her most grand-motherly of southern belle grand-motherly voices said “leave him alone, he is a sensitive child.”

While that joke has been told and retold through life, it is true, I am sensitive, I ache when those around me ache, I cry for a nation that has lots its way, I mourn when I witness bigotry and oppression of people who are simply trying to live the lives that God created for them, yes, I am sensitive and I struggle.

When the same grandmother, who told my brother I was sensitive passed away, I had a meltdown in the funeral home.  My mom and dad took me into a back office to help me regain my composure and my mom told me something that struck home.  In that moment of pain, my mom told me “let it out, I wish I could.”

As I have matured, I have realized my sensitivity is a blessing, not a curse.  Sometimes I wish I could have a harder shell, but I don’t.  My emotions seep out of me like a river of lava from the deepest bowels of the earth.

I understand that being a sensitive child, sometimes makes life for those around me more difficult, but it is how I am wired and I accept that.

When I tell my co-workers and friends that I cried during a TV show, they just laugh and say “of course you did,” it isn’t meant as a condemnation, but more an acceptance of who I am.

This week, I have been having a hard time, I have thought about a relationship that I wish was stronger, my heart hurts for recently divorced friends that are struggling to find a way in their new-found reality and I have thought and prayed about recent events that have ostracized groups of people who simply want to share their faith the best way they know how and have been pushed away.

This week, a simple message has gone through my mind over and over again…

while we as humans want things done in our time, in our way, we must have faith, FAITH in knowing that HIS time is omnipotent and one day, someday, HIS plan will be revealed, we just have to stand strong, stand in our truth and TRUST.

That prayer filled message has been constant, I know it to be true and trust in the words of God that all will be well.

This morning, as I came into work and flipped on my Pandora, the first song I heard was “It is Well,” a song that has always had tremendous meaning for me, but one that speaks to me stronger today than usual.

It is well, yes because of faith, indeed IT IS WELL.  My sensitive self listened with tears strolling down my cheeks and a joy in my heart, still struggling to understand, but steadfast in knowing that HIS plan will be revealed in HIS time.

It Is Well…….

 

 

Run Lindsay Run!

It’s that time of year again, the annual battle of Jacksonville, the World’s Largest Cocktail Party, the game between the borders, whatever you want to call it, today is the annual Georgia – Florida Game.

When I lived in Florida, they called it the Florida – Georgia Game… how rude!

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with this game my whole life.  If your team wins, you have bragging rights, if the bad guys win you have to listen to the gator fateful for an entire year.

Each year the game is played in the neutral location of Jacksonville, FL and becomes one of the great parties of the year.  50% of the tickets go to Georgia fans and the others go to the bad guys.  When filled, and it always is, a line of beautiful red fills half the stadium and ugly orange fills the other half.

I have been fortunate to attend a few of these games in-person and have always had a tremendous time.  Jacksonville does a great job of hosting each year.

Of all the classic games played in this stadium, I have many memories, but my favorite took place in the comfort of my parents home, many years ago on a cold November day sitting in a dining room chair eating peanuts with my mama and daddy.

The year was 1980, I was a Junior in High School and Coach Dooley, Herschel Walker, Buck Belue and others had Georgia riding high, a perfect season going into the game and a possible chance to play for the National Championship in the grasps.

It’s funny how we remember moments in life just like they were yesterday.  This is one of those memories for me.

I’m sure there were other people in the house, but I only remember being there with my mom and dad.

I remember it being a cold November day, much like today.  I remember sharing roasted peanuts with my daddy, peanuts he had cooked on the top of our wood burning stove.  I remember my mama in her traditional red top, I remember my daddy cheering, I remember feeling nervous and invincible sitting there with my parents.

I remember the nerves going into the game.  Georgia was great that year, but the bad guys were good too and they wanted nothing more than to burst our bubble of historic destiny.

For some reason, I parked myself in a dining room chair I had pulled into the living room between my mama and daddy’s recliners.  We watched the game, a slobber-knocker from the outset.

As the game got deep into the 4th Qtr, Georgia was against the bad-guys end zone and behind on the scoreboard.  Things weren’t looking good, it seemed like the bad guys were going to ruin our dreams, they were going to step in and ruin the fate of our team, like satan himself, they were going to allow evil to overcome good.

Then it happened…. the stars aligned, the heavens opened up and Buck Belue tossed a pass to Lindsay Scott that had the angels rejoicing, the Bulldog faithful celebrating and the demon sent to the lockeroom in defeat…… forever immortalized as RUN LINDSAY RUN!

 

As Lindsay ran, my house screamed, daddy was out of his chair urging Lindsay down the field and mama’s encouraging cheers carried him towards the end zone.  For me, I ended up  in the chair with my mama, I landed in her lap and we embraced and cheered!

That play carried Georgia onto its National Championship Game and I was fortunate to be in the stands for that game with my best friend, my mama and daddy and Chuck Foster.  Those were heady, fun days culminating in my one and only time standing on the field of the SuperDome in New Orleans, celebrating a National Championship.

The Georgia / FL game still holds much the same gravitas as it did back in those days.  Seasons are won or lost during the 60 minutes played in Jacksonville, today will be no different.

I would love to be back in my childhood home, surround by my mom and dad, cheering the Dawgs, but that won’t happen.  I will however take comfort in knowing that two very special angels will be cheering from the heavens, she in her red top, him eating roasted peanuts and urging the good guys on.

It’s the classic battle of good vs evil, GO DAWGS!

Here Comes the Bride

My niece Chelsea is getting married next Saturday.  I have dreamed of this day since she was born.  Not just the wedding but a lifetime of happiness that she would find my marrying her Prince Charming.

Chelsea has found her guy and together they will bring their two daughters together to form a new family.

Ever since she was a little girl, Chelsea has been an independent, strong-willed mix of tomboy and girly-girl and she has found the perfect guy to embrace everything that she will bring to a marriage.

I have always heard that girls marry their fathers, well Chelsea is definitely doing that.  Brett, the groom, is a know everything, right-wing, sports loving, debating, strong willed guy just like his future father-in-law.  More importantly, like his father-in-law, he is a hardworking, protective, dedicated family man who will move mountains for those he loves.

We are fortunate that Chelsea found Brett and thankful for the family he will bring with him.  His mom, Baboo and daughter Jaydynn complete us.

Chelsea and Brett have a great relationship that is built on love, respect and commitment, values that I know will carry them into old age.  They both have strong alpha personalities, so that love and respect will come in handy when paired with their stubborn streaks.

Brett’s only real downfall is that he is a Georgia Tech fan, but we are working on that and know that soon he will see the error of his ways and come into the light, we’re a DAWGS family and have a hard time comprehending blue and gold over Red and Black!

As the days grow close to their wedding, I am sentimental about the little girl who has overcome challenges, excelled as a mom and flourished through life.  I am proud of the woman Chelsea has grown into and look forward to seeing her in this next chapter.

The wedding will be beautiful, sitting on the banks of a river with all of Chelsea’s touches making the day special.

As they walk down the aisle to marriage, I hope they both think about those who have lifted them up through life.  The ones who celebrate their marriage in heaven and those who will be with them on their day.

I pray Chelsea and Brett have a lifetime of happiness and their girls, Jaydynn and Hadley know that they were chosen in love and good fortune.

I wish nothing more than a world of happiness for Chelsea and Brett.  There will be great times and difficult times for them to maneuver through the next 50 years of their lives together, but when their commitment is built on God, family, love and mutual respect there is nothing they can’t overcome together.

Except maybe that Georgia Tech thing….. he REALLY needs to fix that quickly!

Cheers to Brett and Chelsea, may your lives be filled with adventure and I pray the happiness you find as you approach your wedding will carry you through all the days of your lives.

Life’s Playlist….. What A Wonderful World performed by Eva Cassidy