Friday Flashback: Billy Mills

Unless you are an avid Olympics fan you have probably never heard of Billy Mills.  Mills won the Gold Medal in the 10,000 meter run at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics which is considered to the one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history.  Mills was basically an unknown having finished second in the U.S. Olympic trials.  

In the final lap of the 10,000 meter run, Mills overcame Olympic favorite, Ron Clarke of Australia, who held the world record in the event, and Mohammed Gammoudi of Tunisia after it appeared  he was too far back to be in contention.  He pulled away and sprinted out of nowhere and passed them both winning with a time of 28:24.4 which was almost 50 seconds faster than he had ran before and set a new Olympic record for the event.  It was the first time that an American had ever won the gold medal.

You can view the footage of the race here.

Gammoudi was quoted saying of Mills:  “The arrow shot from the heavens”.

Mills was the second Native American to win an Olympic gold medal.

Mills was raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.  His given name, Makata Taka Hela is said to mean “love your country”.  He was orphaned when he was twelve years old.  He took up running while attending Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas.

Today Mills works with his charity, Running Strong for American Indian Youth, and speaks to groups throughout the world about the lessons he has learned from his incredible life.  

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My Obsession With Georgia High School Football

Another season of Georgia High School Football kicks off this weekend.  Although I currently live in Tennessee, I still have an obsession for high school football in the Peach State.  I know I probably shouldn’t but it is difficult since I have spent most of my life following high school football in Georgia.

You need to know that growing up, my dad was a preacher and our church was really strict about our forms of entertainment.  We weren’t allowed to go to college or professional football games so that basically left high school football as one of the few non-sinful things we could do for entertainment.

My interest for high school football began in 1974 when we lived in a small community near Folkston, Georgia called Homeland.  I attended middle school in Charlton County and started following the Indians.  My dad was probably the most responsible for my interest in high school football.  He had played for the Clinch County Panthers when he was in high school and took us to several Clinch County games.  The first game I remember was Charlton County’s 6-0 win over Clinch County for the Region 2B title in 1975.  I sat on the Charlton County side in a game that was played at Waycross Memorial Stadium.  Needless to say, it was a very quiet ride home that night.

I am #48 in this photo in 1979 at Villa Rica

We were living in Ware County when I started high school.  I played on a football team for the first time on the Gators’ B-team but after the first game, we moved to Villa Rica, Georgia.  It was at Villa Rica when I started following the Wildcats.  My parents let me go to several Friday night games at Villa Rica.  The most exciting season was in 1979 when the team won their final four games after a 1-6 start to qualify for the playoffs.  One of the key games was an overtime classic in the homecoming game against the Darlington Tigers.  Villa Rica defeated Darlington 20-14 that night.  In the playoffs, Villa Rica stunned two-time defending AA state champion East Rome 3-0 in the mud at Barron Stadium.  I listened to that game on the radio. I went out for the football team in the spring of my sophomore year, played in the spring game against Carrollton.  Unfortunately, we moved yet again before I graduated from high school.  My final two years of high school were spent at Tompkins High School in Savannah, Georgia.  With my playing days clearly over, I listened to games on the radio on Friday nights.  During the 1980 season, Tompkins got into the playoffs with a 4-6 record and upset heavily favored Coffee County 24-21 in the region playoffs.  Tompkins wasn’t very good during my senior year and I gravitated to listening to Savannah Christian games on the radio instead.  I remember the Raiders winning a thrilling 18-14 game over Pinewood on the game’s last play.  The Raiders went on to win the state title.

I went away into the United States Air Force after graduation and really didn’t find interest in high school football where I was stationed.  The only game I attended during that time was a game in Abilene, Texas.  Yes, I know Texas is big in high school football but it didn’t interest me.  Not like Georgia.  It wasn’t until I returned to Georgia in 1984 when I was stationed at Robins AFB in Warner Robins, Georgia that it all started again.  My first game back was the AAAA State Quarterfinal playoff game between Warner Robins and Valdosta.  Valdosta won that game 28-0.  After that game I kinda adopted Warner Robins as the team I would follow for the next 24 years.  I was a season ticket holder for several seasons.  The highlight of those years were when I lived within walking distance of the stadium.  I witnessed many exciting games. I remember sitting in the sub-zero tempartures in the 1985 state championship game in Athens as Warner Robins lost to Clarke Central.  The 1988 state championship win over Brookwood.  Agony of defeat when Northside beat Warner Robins 7-6 in 1989 when Warner Robins was ranked #1 in the nation.

I also supported Northside when they weren’t playing Warner Robins and found some of their games exciting too.  I watched the Eagles come up short several times as they choked in the big games but finally broke through in 2006 to win their first state championship.

Between 1992-1996 I actually got experience as a sports writer and covered several high school games in Middle Georgia for the Macon Telegraph.   The time as a writer gave me a new perspective on high school football.  I also covered the private schools in the Georgia Independent Schools Association (GISA) although I have to be honest and say they weren’t my favorite but they also provided some exciting games as well.  I covered Tattanall’s 17-14 win over Westfield in the state title game in 1995.  As a sports writer, I had some unique situations such as having to sit on the roof of the press box in the 1994 state quarterfinal game at West Laurens because there was no room for me inside the press box.  Or the weekend when I covered four games in three days because Macon only had one football stadium.    There was also the time when at a post game interview with a football coach, he completely turned his back on the other reporter and would only answer my questions.  The other newspaper had reported a negative incident involving some players during the week.

If I could have made a living be a sports writer and covering Georgia high school football I would have.

The last season I attended games was in 2009.  I witnessed an amazing comeback by Warner Robins in their annual rivalry game with Northside.  They trailed 20-0 going into the fourth quarter but won the game on an improbable pass to stun Northside 21-20.  Four weeks later Northside won an exciting game against Peachtree Ridge in the state quarterfinals 20-17 in overtime.  Northside eventually came up short to Camden County in the state championship game.

With my dad at the Georgia Dome

The last game I attended a game in Georgia was the 2010 Class A State Championship game when Clinch County defeated Savannah Christian 24-14 at the Georgia Dome.  I attended that game with my Dad and that will be a forever happy memory I will have with him.

Since then I have moved to Florida and now Tennessee.   Even without being there in person, I still go to my computer on Friday nights and listen to the games.  I love technology now that makes this possible.

I will never forget one night when I was watching Warner Robins play Central in the rain at Thompson Stadium.  I was asked if I had a child playing on the team.  I said that I didn’t.  Strange, I know, but she said that I must be a true fan of high school football.

You would have to understand me to know my obsession.

Team of the Week: Montgomery Biscuits


I’m sorry if you have had breakfast already but there is a minor league team in Montgomery, Alabama that probably makes everyone hungry in the Southern League.  The Biscuits are the Class AA affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.  They have been in Montgomery since 2004 and play in Montgomery’s Riverwalk Stadium.  

The Biscuits were baked when the Orlando Rays began to decline in attendance from 2000-2003.  The owners announced the team would move to Montgomery.  The Biscuits name was selected from 4,000 entries in a “name the team” contest largely due to the potential marketing possibilities.  The team’s souvenir store is called the “Biscuit Baker” and you may often hear fans chant “Hey Butter Butter” at opposing batters.  During games, biscuits are shot from an air cannon into the stands.

The Biscuits won back-to-back league titles in 2006 & 2007.

Most notable former players are:  Matt Diaz, Evan Longoria, David Price, B.J. Uptown and Seth McClung.

The Biscuits are currently in second place in the Southern League’s North Division with a record of 28-22 in the second half of the season.  They finished 34-36 in the first half.

First Baseman Patrick Leonard leads the team in batting with a .319 batting average.  Taylor Guerrieri leads the Biscuits with the most wins on the pitching staff.  He has a record of 12-5.

The latest news on the Biscuits is not good as one of their fans suffered a “horrifying” eye injury from a foul ball at a recent game.  An errant line drive rocketed into the stands above the home team’s dugout near third base, hitting the woman in the head.  Critics are arguing the case for extended netting to protect fans from stray balls and broken bats at the stadium.

Timeouts In Life

The daily routine is grinding.  I often feel like I am on a treadmill that never seems to end.  Fortunately, I do have weekend breaks but one day is usually filled with chores and errands that can’t be done during the week.  

It helps when you can take a timeout.  

This weekend my wife surprised me with a weekend at an Airbnb in the country at the Gratidude Ranch between Fairview and Leipers Fork, Tennessee.  The first thing I noticed was the absence of traffic sounds.  Just the sounds of nature filled my ears.  Crickets and the horses eating the grass near us.   It is the typical country farm setting that we don’t experience everyday. 

Having time to take a timeout in everyday life is important because our minds and our bodies need to take a break from the constant motion.  We are not machines.  Every machines breakdown or parts wear out.  

We need time to slow down and listen to nature.  Embrace the silence.  Rest.  That’s why God encouraged us to have a day of rest.  I know some religious folks take the sabbath day to the extreme and some have even made an entire religion out of it.  Is it not surprise that we had to mess up a simple thing as rest?   No, it’s too simple.  There has got to be more to it than that.  

Chill out.  Rest.  Relax.  

We work too hard at too many things not to take a break.  I welcome the rest and time just to lay in a hammock and watch the clouds go by.  Listen to the occasional huff sound made by a horse or the popping of the tin roof when the sun goes in and out of the clouds. 

Why does the quiet scare us?  Why do we fear of doing nothing?  Why is rest looked at as being lazy?

When we lived in Tampa I always observed how stressed people were to find a way to relax.  People were impatient in a place you would think they would be laid back.  It turned out to be more stressful to go to the beach than it did just to stay home.  

Stop.  Enjoy today.  Take a break.  

If God needed a day of rest don’t you think we need it too?

Friday Flashback:  1972 Olympic Men’s Basketball Final

It was the shot heard around the world when Alexander Belov scored on an uncontested layup at the buzzer to give the Soviet Union a 51-50 victory and dealt the United States their first loss in Olympic men’s basketball.  Team USA had won 63 straight games and seven gold medals in the sport before that game.

The final three seconds of the Gold Medal final is perhaps the most controversial three seconds in Olympic basketball history.  After being fouled, USA’s Doug Collins made both free throws to give his team a 50-49 lead for the first time in the game.  After the Soviets inbounded the ball, the referees stopped the game with one second remaining.  The decision was made to put three seconds back on the clock after the Soviets claimed that they had called for a timeout between the two free throws by Collins.  The game official never acknowledged the timeout.  After the Soviets brought the ball inbounds, the horn sounded for what should have ended the game and a Team USA win; however, referees ruled that the clock had not been properly reset to show three seconds remaining.  Belov caught a full court pass and scored the winning basket as he rose between two USA players to make the layup.

It was certainly a bizarre series of events.  You can see the video by clicking here.

The USA filed a formal complaint with the International Basketball Federation but they ruled in favor of the Soviets.  Team USA refused to accept the Silver Medal.    

Even years after the controversial game, most of the players feel strongly about refusing the medal even when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) offered to award them at the 1992 Olympics.  A few have relented but would only accept the medal if it was unanimous among the team.  It is reported that Kenny Davis still strongly opposes so much that he has even had a clause put in his will forbidding his wife, children or descendants from ever accepting the silver medal after his death.  

Team USA teams have gone 59-3 since that game winning seven of the last 10 Gold Medals.  Team USA was again shocked in 1988 losing to the Soviets 82-76 in the semifinals which was the first meeting of the two teams since the controversial game.  In 1992, NBA players were allowed to participate in the games.  

Nashville To Make Bid For MLS 

I was wondering if Nashville was going to try to get another professional sports team for the Music City.  It appears that they now have their sights on an expansion team in Major League Soccer (MLS).  Various news reports state that Nashville mayor Megan Barry has allocated $50 million in proposed revenue bonds for a soccer stadium.  Most MLS teams have built their own soccer-specific stadiums.  MLS is going to expand to 24 teams next season and add four more teams later.  Nashville supporters are hoping to be in the latter group before MLS holds at 28 teams.

The Nashville MLS committee is made up of 22 people and includes executives from almost all of the city’s biggest companies.  So there appears to be some serious backing for this.  

The next question is:  Can Nashville support a professional soccer team?

I think it is very possible that the MLS can succeed in Nashville.  There is a lull in sports here between hockey and football seasons so an MLS team could fill that void.  Although we have the Nashville Sounds AAA baseball here, an MLS team would still be a good fit for the area.  The city has turned out for Team USA games at Nissan Stadium.  Although Nissan Stadium is a good home for an expansion team, Nashville may follow suit with other MLS teams to build their own soccer-specific homes.  There had been some talk of remodeling Herschel Greer Stadium which is the former home of the Nashville Sounds.  

The MLS is expanding to Atlanta (2017) and Minnesota (2017 or 2018), Los Angeles (2018) and Miami (2018).   

Personally, I am concerned about the MLS expanding so much.  The league has succeeded beyond expectations but there is still a concern that its’ popularity isn’t growing that much.  Maybe I’m wrong but soccer leagues have had a poor history in the United States.  

Nashville currently has a soccer team with Nashville FC which began play in 2013 in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL).  The NPSL is a national amateur league.   Nashville FC plays their home games at Vanderbilt Stadium.  Nashville FC will evolve to the United Soccer Leagues (USL) in 2018 so it will be interesting to see what happens if Nashville secures an MLS franchise.

Past Nashville soccer teams:

  • Nashville Diamonds, American Soccer League (1982)
  • Nashville Metros, Premier Development League (1989-2012)

Team of the Week: Hickory Crawdads

The team with one of my favorite nicknames in minor league baseball is now playing in their 23rd season.  They have been a farm team for the Texas Rangers since 2009.  The Crawdads are currently 24-20 and third place in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division.

The Crawdads have been pretty successful on the field winning three league titles (2002, 2004, 2015) and 10 division titles.

They play at L.P. Frans Stadium which opened in 1993 and seats 5,092 fans.

When the team was purchased and moved from Gastonia, North Carolina, the team was named the “Crawdads”.

Most notable players that have played for the Crawdads:

  • Jose Bautista (Toronto Blue Jays)
  • Joe Beimel (Seattle Mariners)
  • Matt Capps (Arizona Diamondbacks)
  • Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • Magglio Ordonez (retired – played for Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers)
  • Chris Young (Kansas City Royals)

Left fielder Eduardo Pinto currently leads the Crawdads with a .337 batting average and was recently called up to the Frisco RoughRiders of the Texas League.  Jonathan Hernandez has pitched in 92.2 innings for the team.  His Earned Run Average is 4.86.

For more information about the Crawdads, go here