Monday, September 15, 2008

The Greek Festival

The weekend after Labor Day, Rachel and I caught up on some house work, licked our wounds from UT's trouncing out on the Left Coast, and wished hopelessly that Skip Holtz might become the Vols next head coach (this point is all in jest).

On Sunday, we accompanied our friends Keith and Meg Edwards to a Greek Festival about 10 minutes from the house. Their daughters, Kate and Abby, pictured with Keith above and again below, were a riot. Believe it or not, they are twins. Not only do they not look alike, they act NOTHING alike. Kate is the dark haired one. Although smaller and quieter than Abby, she is the Alpha female and will destroy anything that violates her territorial rights (OK, this is a bit of an exaggeration). Abbey is the bubbly extrovert. Put them together, and you have hours of entertainment, not to mention a pile of picked flowers (they picked each of us multiple flowers).

The festival was a lot of fun. It was at an Orthodox Church, and they had carnival rides and games for all of the kids. They had a massive assortment of Greek food, which is why Keith and I were there. I followed Keith's lead and tried a new dish. I can't remember the name of it, but it had potatoes, eggs, and cheese. It was really good.

After lunch, we headed to Merrymeade Farm, which is a farm market and livestock zoo very close to our house. We looked at the farm animals, grabbed some fresh produce and enjoyed ice cream cones.

A relaxing, well spent Sunday.


Bill Langston entered an extremely thought-provoking blog last week (please see "Schwangston" link in my favorite blogs area) regarding sports superstitions. As requested, I left a list of my personal superstitions from long, long ago, when I was actually in shape and played sports. For instance, I didn't shave on the days I was scheduled to pitch. I also had pre-game rituals for getting ready for basketball and baseball (put the uniform on the same each time, warmed up the same, etc).

With Florida coming to town this weekend to likely administer a GARGANTUAN butt-whoopin' to my Vols, and through Bill's prompting, I thought it appropriate to analyze the superstitions that might be affecting this team.

1) Steve Kennedy game attire - All avid football fans believe that their actions directly affect the performance of their team on the field. I believe that my attire may be the cause for the poor football performance in recent years. I wore a lucky cap/T-Shirt combination that went 24-2 over the two year stretch of 1997-1998. It included a National Championship. Unfortunately, both items became so frayed they were forced into retirement.

I have struggled to find "lucky" attire since then. I thought I had found it briefly in 2004, when the Vols began the season 3-0, including a win over arch-rival Florida. The Eric Ainge era began and then quickly flickered into a bad memory with a sack in the Notre Dame game that ended his season and turned him into a mental wuss for the next 3 years.

2) Every great sports program that has fallen on hard times has a single defining instance that led to derailment - a dreaded "CURSE". The "Curse of the Bambino" (began when the Red Sox traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees) plagued Boston for over 90 years before they finally won the World Series after a 90+ year drought. The Cubs hope to end the "Curse of the Goat" (the owner of the Billy Goat Tavern cursed the team when they would not sell a ticket for his pet goat to attend the 1945 NLCS) this year. My new home, Philadelphia, has the "Curse of William Penn" (no sports team has won a world championship in Philadelphia, since the statue of William Penn on top of City Hall was eclipsed as the highest point on a building in PA in the 1970's. The recently completed Comcast Tower erected a new statue of William Penn to break the curse. Result - the Philadelphia Soul won the Arena Football Championship).

Tennessee must therefore suffer from a curse:

a) The curse of James Banks - star WR kicked off of the team in 2003 for violating team rules (in Tennessee, "violation of team rules" = "he liked to smoke weed"). I doubt that this is the curse, as the Vols were a lousy 8-5 in 2002 before his dismissal and had the audacity to lose to an ACC school in the Peach Bowl that year.

b) The curse of Mark Alexander - in 1998 (the last year that Tennessee won a National Championship in football, University Center Manager and Neyland Stadium Gate Gestapo, Mark Alexander, threw one Stephen Ryan Kennedy out of the Florida game for trying to enter the stadium on a borrowed student ID. This unloaded an entire battery of "curses". These were all aimed personally towards Mr. Alexander, however I may have accidentally cursed the entire stadium). The rest of that season was salvaged by the fact that my future wife retrieved a piece of turf from that game, which I kept alive in my Kingsport apartment until UT captured its first National Championship in 45+ years. The turf subsequently "gave up the ghost". This curse is likely not the culprit either, as the Vols were a respectable 11-2 in 2001.

c) The curse of John Ward - retired "Voice of the Vols" ended his brilliant career at the end of the 1998 National Championship season. Not the likely culprit as John Ward never cursed anything. He is pseudo-deity.

d) The curse of Joe Johnson - retired UT President. This man is salt of the earth and one of the nicest gentlemen to ever walk this earth. Again, he would not curse anything. One still has to wonder given the philandering and inappropriate conduct of the past few UT President.

3) Maybe it wasn't my attire... maybe it was the loss of one of the most celebrated and frequently encountered items of clothing on the UT campus. No, I'm not talking about the Kappa Sigma "croakies" or Massey Hall underwear. I am referring to the eternal Mark Clark UT Power-T logo baseball cap. Although I don't remember precisely when its use was greatly reduced, I am certain that it lead to some sort of "orange imbalance" in the world and likely several losses.

4) I conducted a little research for this Reflection. To correctly identify the event that started this downward spiral, one has to define when the bad times began. I propose that 2002 was the beginning of the end. Although the 2000 season was a disappointing 8-3 and 2001 ended with a loss in the SEC Championship game and a chance to play for the National Championship, we were 11-2, BCS contenders and Citrus Bowl Champions. I propose that the wheels fell off in 2002, with an 8-5 record capped by a loss to Maryland in the Peach Bowl. Anytime you lose to an ACC school in football, it should be viewed as a negatively defining moment for your football program.

That said, what world events could have resulted in the 6 years of University of Tennessee football bad karma that have ensued?

a) Introduction of the Euro on January 1, 2002 - likely not the culprit, as the Vols won their New Years Day Citrus Bowl Game.

b) World Wrestling Federation changes its name to World Wrestling Entertainment - although this was an earth-shattering event for Mark Clark, Larry Wray and myself, it likely had no effect on UT football.

c) Dick Cheney serves as President for several hours after George Bush has a colonoscopy - although this is as frightening as Randy Sanders serving as a Head Coach, I believe this, too, is coincidence.

d) Freddy Heineken, Dutch beer magnate, dies - a traumatic event in the lives of beer-lovers world-wide. However, Jack Daniels is the drink of choice at Neyland Stadium. He has been dead since 1911 with no ill effects on volunteer football, other than a few pre-1927 losses to Vanderbilt.

e) The LA Angels win the World Series with "The Rally Monkey". This likely began the "Curse of West Coast Visiting Dominance" on the Vols. However, I don't think this curse carried over to all aspects of Tennessee football, or we would have not stomped the Golden Bears at home in 2006.

f) Ingrid Betancourt kidnapped in Bogota, Columbia by FARC rebels. I initially hoped that this was the cause of our misfortunes. Ms. Betancourt was heroically rescued earlier this summer by government forces in a peaceful rescue, and I was sure that UT football fortunes would change for the better. Not the case at UCLA.

g) Worldcom files for the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history. If this is the cause for UT football poor performance over the past several years, then the events of this week (Lehman Brothers became the new king of bankrupt U.S. corporations) will either lead to curse reversal or one DISMAL 2008 football season.

With the Gators coming to town Saturday, we will find out.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Jennifer Kain's Wedding

Rachel and I flew to Nashville for Labor Day Weekend to attend Jennifer Kain's wedding (to Jasper). This is a picture of the infamous "Pigg and the Gang" (L-R Sara Pigg Walker, Jennifer Kain Richardson, Rachel Kennedy and Becky Sexton).

The crew, all friends from Physical Therapy School at Belmont University, also attended a bridal brunch Saturday morning. This was good, as it allowed me to watch college football in the afternoon.

The wedding was held at a Presbyterian Church in Brentwood, TN and was one of the most beautiful services I have ever attended. The reception was at a country club near by and was very classy. (Sarah and Brian Walker are shown dancing here, as Brian fulfills his obligation of "one dance").

My bride and I at the wedding reception.

The Groom's Cake was absolutely amazing. It has Reese's Cups all around it. It was the most magnificent cake I have ever seen, probably because I am a huge fan of peanut butter and chocolate.

The Wedding Cake was gorgeous, too. It was a strawberry cake and was absolutely delicious.

On Sunday, Becky and Sara came over to the house to swim. Kristen Lee and Rachel's best friend, Rachel Bomar Jerrell, also came over. The pudgy girl pictured here with my Rachel is Rachel Bomar Jerrell (she is pregnant, in case you are an idiot). It is hilarious because she hasn't gained weight anywhere except in her belly. She looks like a watermelon on toothpicks. Sadly, she can run stairs faster than I can.

Sunday evening, Rachel, Kristen and I met Rachel's sister, Heather, for dinner in East Nashville. We ate at a Mexican restaurant called Rose Pepper's. It was really good. It was great to see Heather.

Here I am, chillin' with the ladies.


Rachel's parents took in a stray dog a few months ago. Promptly given all vaccination and named "Toby", this little dog has a lot of spunk and personality. He is quite entertaining. The vet estimates that he is about a year old.

The two videos below show Toby at his finest. In the first, Dr. Hargis dodges so Toby can fetch his tennis ball.

In this vid, Toby shows his mad catching skills.