By Jan Boston Sellers
Security was beefed up, hate mail received, and threatening phone calls vetted. The Athens (Tennessee) Chamber of Commerce has been embroiled in brouhaha after recruiting Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban to speak at its annual fundraising dinner earlier this week. Reports indicate the chamber has received lots of hate from some Tennessee fans as a result of Saban’s appearance.
If you have read this column more than a few times, you are well aware that if wounded, my blood bleeds orange. I am a huge Tennessee fan. My friends, husband and I have been making the trek to Neyland Stadium for more years than I care to count. Prior to that, I went with my parents or as a student. I love UT men and women’s basketball, swim teams, baseball teams, band, academics, the Body Farm, etc. Matter of fact, just last week we stayed up later than normal to watch the Lady Vols softball team in the world series championships.
I have more orange clothing and paraphernalia in my closet than a lot of deer hunters. We support UT in the good years and we yell for the Volunteers when they are struggling. I have sat outside in pouring rain, heavy fog, bitter cold and near hurricane force winds. But, never, ever, would I send hate mail because another coach is coming in to our territory.
I do love UT and I like Nick Saban. Why do the two have to be exclusive? I liked Saban when he was at LSU. I like Saban now. This man has won four (one at LSU and three at Alabama) college level, national championships and has a 63-13 win/loss record. I don’t care if he is coaching in the Big 10 or the ACC or any other conference in the country. There is no disputing the fact that Nick Saban can recruit and coach college football. Do I like Alabama football? Not so much. Most certainly not when they are playing my beloved Vols. But would I hear him speak given the opportunity? You better believe I would.
There are fewer teams I like less than the Florida Gators (sorry, Cameron Hill and Sara Nelson), but we went to Nashville to hear Tim Tebow speak at a fundraiser for David Lipscomb College a couple of years ago. His speech was inspiring and his message useful. I am sure that Saban’s was just as motivating and powerful. Do we have to like him? Probably not. But how can you not respect a man who has risen to those heights in his particular genre? I understand people may not want to spend their money on listening to him speak and, quite frankly, had I been in charge of the dinner at Athens, I probably would have made a different decision. But to send hate mail or make life threatening phone calls? That is, in my opinion, immature and unnecessary. When, oh, when, are we going to learn not to throw the baby out with the bathwater? Oh, and for the record, the Athens Chamber of Commerce, over the years, has utilized many UT coaches, athletes and dignitaries at their fundraising dinner.
Saban’s speech went off without a hitch in spite of the controversy his appearance generated. The Crimson Tide coach even praised new UT Coach Butch Jones.
Who knows? Perhaps Saban wasn’t even their first choice. Maybe everyone from “Duck Dynasty” was already booked.
Traffic may pick up exponentially this weekend as music lovers from across the country travel through here on their way to Bonnaroo 2013. This 12th installment, held on a 700-hundred acre farm on myriad stages, features a host of musical genres from today and the past. This year’s event will last through Sunday and will include performances by Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, Billy Idol, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Comedian Bob Saget and my personal favorites, Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers and ZZ Top; as well as a host of others as the concert goes on.
Around town this weekend, the Mountain Memories Quilt Show will be at the Cumberland County Community Complex Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. It is the seventh biennial show hosted by the Cumberland County Piecemakers Quilt Guild.
The King and I opens Friday night at Cumberland County Playhouse at 7:30 p.m. and runs through Aug. 30. Destined to be a “must see” for this summer, the play centers on a king and an English widow and their unique love story. Check the Playhouse for show times and ticket prices at 484-5000.
Tommy Dee and Friends will grace the Palace stage Friday night with a local concert. Guests will include Regina Stephens, Philip Turner, Sonny Oden, Little Willie, Wetwood Dalton and Audie McQueary. General admission is $10.