Cumberland’s Grover Cleveland

28 Aug

This week, Cumberland University, my place of employment, announced the appointment of a new president. It was a great day of celebration and hope for a bright future. In my opinion, the search committee and the Board of Trust made an inspired choice to lead our institution.

Last night, I was reading news reports about the announcement and decided to see if our Wikipedia page had been updated. While skimming over the Wiki information, I noticed a discrepancy. When the new president was introduced, we were told that he is the 26th president of Cumberland University. However, Wikipedia listed him as the 27th.

I jumped on Twitter with the question of which is correct and was told that Nathan Green, Jr. served two nonconsecutive terms. In the view of the university, he counts as one president. That is when I mentioned that Grover Cleveland served as president of the United States for two nonconsecutive terms and counts as two presidents.

Apparently, we count presidents differently that United States counts presidents. That is when my colleague chimed in with “Nathan Green, Jr. = Cumberland’s Grover Cleveland.”Nathan Green

We still have not figured out why Cumberland University counts presidents differently than the United States counts presidents, but, since Nathan Green, Jr. caused this mess, I feel the need to tell you more about him.

Green was born into a prominent family on February 19, 1827 and followed his father, who served on the Tennessee Supreme Court, into law. He was one of the founders of the Cumberland School of Law  and taught for over sixty years. This included stints as president from 1873 to 1902 and from 1906 to 1909.

Some people credit Green with ushering the university through the Civil War and Reconstruction, and others blame his adherence to outdated legal training as weakening the law school, which would eventually be sold to Samford University.

Green lived a long life and died on February 17, 1919. His life was interesting and full of achievement but wait until I write about his brother Tom Green. It is a wild and wooly story.

A Witness to Miracles

25 Aug

Football season is upon us, and, like all fans, I am anxious to see what my teams are going to do. I have been lucky enough to attend a ton of games. Many of them have faded from memory, but a lot of them stand out for their drama and excitement. Of those, I can think of three that were gridiron miracles where my team pulled victory from the jaws of defeat.

The first took place 1991. The University of Tennessee traveled to South Bend, Indiana to play Notre Dame, and I traveled with them. I have already written about The Miracle at South Bend and will not repeat myself. Just know that the Volunteers were down 31-7 with a few seconds left in the first half. They came roaring back to win 35-34 and ruin a pretty good day by Jerome Bettis, who was just inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame.

The second miracle transpired in 1998. The Volunteers had made it through the first eight games without a loss and were ranked at the top of the polls. However, the Razorbacks from the University of Arkansas came to Knoxville with the same record.

Tennessee was outclassed for most of the game and were in trouble. Arkansas had the lead and the ball with a little over a minute to go. They were running out the clock, and over 100,000 people were stunned. Then, the miracle happened.

Clint Stoerner, the Arkansas quarterback, stumbled and dropped the ball.Fumble

The Tennessee defense recovered, and the offense drove the field to win 28-24. The Volunteers went on to win the rest of the games and the national championship.

January 8, 2000 was a cold day in Nashville, but the city was hot with excitement. The Tennessee Titans had a great first season and were hosting an AFC Wild Card game. Yep, the NFL playoffs were in Tennessee. The Buffalo Bills were here, too.

The game saw both offenses struggle, but Buffalo was up 16-15 after a field goal in the waning seconds. The next play would become one of the most famous in NFL history.

The Bills pooched the kickoff into the hands of Lorenzo Neal, who pitched it to Frank Wycheck. Then, he three the ball across the field to Kevin Dyson, who streaked 75 yards for the touchdown.Music City

The crowd was going wild as they realized he was going to score. Except, I was just standing there.

My seat straddled the line where Wycheck threw the ball, and I thought it was an illegal forward pass. The play would be called back, and the Titans playoffs would come to an end. However, the official was not in position to see the forward pass, and the play could not be overturned. The Music City Miracle was in the books.

It was a great play that propelled the Tennessee Titans to the Super Bowl, and everyone in Nashville is convinced that it was a legal play. I am still not sure. I am just glad that the official was still running to his position when Frank Wycheck threw the ball.

Those are my three football miracles. Through the years, hundreds of thousands of people have claimed to be at those games, but I can honestly say that I was a witness to the miracles.

What about you? Have you been in the stands to see miracles happen on fields of play?

Movie Wisdom – Harry Dean Stanton Edition

24 Aug

I am still in the process of breaking my writer’s block, and I am still creating easy posts until it completely goes away. Today’s easy post is part of the Movie Wisdom series that I often use to get through such times.

In the past, we have looked at words of wisdom from leading men, leading ladies and character actors. This time, we are exploring the works of one of time all time character actors, Harry Dean Stanton. The Kentucky native has been in some classics.Harry Dean

From How the West Was Won

There ain’t much glory in trompin’ behind a plow.

It don’t pay to eat too much on an empty stomach.

There ain’t much glory in lookin’ at a man with his guts hanging out.

From Cool Hand Luke

Sometimes nothin’ can be a real cool hand.

Things are just never the way they seem.

From Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

Comes an age in a man’s life when he don’t wanna spend time figuring what comes next.

From The Godfather: Part II

Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

If anything in this life is certain, if history has taught us anything, it is that you can kill anyone.

Good health is the most important thing. More than success, more than money, more than power.

From The Missouri Breaks

The closer you get to Canada, the more things’ll eat your horse.

From Red Dawn

Far better it is to dare mighty things, than to take rank with those poor, timid spirits who know neither victory nor defeat.

No one can ever go home again.

From Pretty in Pink

If somebody doesn’t believe in me, I can’t believe in them.

If you give off signals that you don’t want to belong, people will make sure that you don’t.

From The Last Temptation of Christ

Change will happen with love, not with killing.

From The Green Mile

People hurt the ones they love.

Sometimes the past just catches up with you, whether you want it to or not.

You can’t hide what’s in your heart.

From Rango

No man can walk out of his own story.

Stay in school, eat your veggies, and burn everything but Shakespeare.

Control the water, and you control everything.

Sometimes you have to dig deep to find what you’re looking for.

It’s the deeds that make the man.


Breaking Writer’s Block With Magic Johnson and Larry Bird

23 Aug

Man, an oil slick like writer’s block has oozed its way over my brain. There is absolutely nothing in my mind that can be transferred onto the screen. It could be because school is about to start, and there is a lot to think about. It could be because I am operating three Twitter accounts. It could be because the blogging part of my brain has shut down.

How do I break out of it? Just throw some stuff out there and see what happens.

Magic and Bird: A Courtship of Rivals, a documentary about the careers of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, is on television. I have seen it a bunch of times, but it never gets old. In those days, I was a fan of the Boston Celtics and lived and died with their games.Celtics

We did not have professional teams in Tennessee, and, like a lot of other people without a home team, I had to pick a favorite from somewhere else. In the NBA, people chose between the Lakers and the Celtics. A friend of mine wanted to be different and picked the Philadelphia 76er’s.

The same thing happened with the NFL. Those of us in the hinterland without teams had to choose. This time, it was between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys. Although, that same friend went with the Miami Dolphins. The Dallas Cowboys were my choice, and, like with the Celtics, I lived and died with their games.Cowboys

One year, my dad took me to see the Cowboys play the Chicago Bears. I can still remember walking into Texas Stadium and seeing the cheerleaders dance onto the field. There was Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, Ed “Too Tall” Jones and Randy White. Walter Payton ran all over the place for the Bears, but the Cowboys came from behind to win.

I never saw Larry Bird and the Celtics, but, ironically, I got the chance to see Magic Johnson and the Lakers. It was the late 1980s, and they were playing against the Detroit Pistons. My dad did business with the owner of the Pistons, and we got to sit in his box. We also got to sit courtside for a while.

We stayed at the same hotel as the Lakers, which was also cool. We had breakfast at the table next to Pat Riley, the Lakers coach, and we were standing outside while the team boarded their bus. The players were huge.

Those were great experiences, but things change. I no longer watch the Celtics, but part of me still keeps up with them in the standings.

Nashville has an NFL team, and we have season tickets for the Tennessee Titans. I have watched them in the Super Bowl, and I have watched them through the depths of losing seasons. They are my team. However, I still keep an eye on the Cowboys in the standings.

Oh yeah, I still do not like the Lakers, and I still do not like the Steelers.

The Phrenology Head

20 Aug

Over the weekend, my wife was shopping, and I was wandering around the store. Suddenly, I saw it. Without hesitation, I picked it up and took it to the shopping cart. It was something that I had to have. It was a Phrenology Head.image-50

My wife immediately asked what I was going to do with it and breathed a sigh of relief when I said that I was taking it to work. I thought it would look interesting in my office and be a conversation piece. I was not wrong.

When my stepdaughter saw it, she asked what it was. I said it was a head. When I was unlocking my office door, my colleague asked what I had. I said it was a Phrenology Head. That means that most of the people who have seen it have made a comment about it. That is the definition of a conversation piece. Hopefully, my students will talk about the Phrenology Head when I take it to class.

That is the other reason I bought it. In the first semester of United States history, I talk about Phrenology and other such things from our past. In essence, it was the study of the human head. Practitioners would measure skulls and search for bumps and indentions. Different parts of the skull represented different parts of the brain. On top of that, each part of the brain controlled a different aspect of that person. A bumpy, indented skull meant one thing. A smooth skull meant another.

It was all very scientific.

My students laugh when we talk about Phrenology, and they will probably laugh when they see the Phrenology Head. However, it was serious business. The research was used to justify European superiority over other people. If you have ever seen the dining room scene in Django Unchained, then you know what I mean.

There is a Phrenology Head sitting on my desk, and I am waiting for the first student to walk into my office. Hopefully, they will ask about it. If not, then they are probably being polite to the crazy teacher who has this strange head. Of course, I am talking about the Phrenology Head. Although, I wonder what information a Phrenological study would get from my cranium.

My iPod Has Issues – Better Than Going Postless

17 Aug

There is an idea rattling around inside my head, but I am way too busy to write it. I just finished my Annual Activity Report, which my colleagues and I thought we had avoided, and I am due to work in the Rotary concession stand in a few hours. Our county is home to the largest fair in Tennessee, and my contribution is spending one night selling hamburgers. If this rain holds up, then there may not be much to do.Fair

On top of that, there is a Planning Commission meeting in the morning and a meeting with my Dean in the afternoon. Oh yeah, I also have to prepare for the start of the semester. That includes a short presentation about Simon Wiesenthal for a small group of faculty.

Obviously, there is not much time to write an in-depth post about my grand idea. Instead, I am going go back into the mind of my iPod. Lately, we have done that a lot, and I hope we do not turn its mind into mush. An iPod lobotomy would be a terrible result. The music could get all jumbled up.

It is a scary proposition, but we have to plow ahead. Going postless would be the only alternative.

“Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way” by Waylon Jennings

“I’ve Got the World on a String” by Frank Sinatra

“Into the Mystic” by Van Morrison

“Soul Poppin'” by Johnny Jones and the King Casuals

“Drive Driven” by Yello

“Oh What a Night” by The Dells

“Classical Gas” by Mason Williams

“Little Red Rooster” by Big Mama Thornton

“Street Fighting Man” by The Rolling Stones

“One More Time” by Daft Punk

“Ole Slewfoot” by BR-549

“He’s a Rebel” by The Crystals

“Back Door Man” by The Doors

“You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again” by Whitesnake

“The Last Pale Light in the West” by Ben Nichols

“Take Me Out” by Franz Ferdinand

“I Got a Bad Mind” by Big Joe Williams

“Get Up Stand Up” by Bob Marley

“Was I Right or Wrong” by Lynyrd Skynyrd

“The Twist” by Chubby Checker

Childhood Memories – Elvis Presley

16 Aug


Today is the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. This post is from the early days of this blog and recounts the time I saw him in concert.

Originally posted on SBI: A Thinning Crowd:

When I was seven years old, my dad came home with an announcement. Elvis Presley was performing in a nearby town, and, through a friend of my dad’s, we had gotten front row seats. I remember only bits and pieces of the night, but this is my version of the events.

As we walked into the concert venue, a basketball arena on a college campus, I noticed bright lights and a haze in the air. I assume this was the clouds of smoke from cigarettes burning throughout the arena, but it could also be the effects of my imagination. There was a bustle of excitement as we got to our seats. I remember thinking how high the stage was and wondered what would happen if Elvis fell off. My parents, my 17-year-old brother and I sat and waited for the show to start. However, it wasn’t long before a woman offered my…

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