The blazing Knoxville sun was quickly falling to the west, heading further down the road to Memphis and points beyond. Rocketing down Interstate 40, I shot into The Marble City, merging onto Neyland Drive.
I am living the days I have dreamed of all my life. “One day,” I said, somewhere ages and ages ago, “I will have children, and I will watch the Super Bowl with them just like I watched it with my dad.”
And now I do have children, and I am watching the Super Bowl with them, explaining different fine points of the game, explaining what the game represents and why the game means so much to the players, the coaches, and the fans. I am explaining (I do a lot of explaining — I am a teacher, you see, and a former sportswriter, so it’s not as if I can help myself. I would explain the game to the dog if the kids weren’t here) … wait a minute, where was I?
Swain County students may have been cheering when the high school football team’s trip to the state semifinals meant everyone got out early that day, but not all parents felt the same way. Elizabeth Wilmot, a Bryson City resident with two children who attend elementary school, was angry when she received an automated call from the school system on Tuesday, Dec. 3, informing her that school would be dismissed at 12:30 p.m. that Friday, Dec. 6.
Heather Brookshire is behind enemy lines.
“Everybody has been giving me a hard time all day,” she chuckled.
Taking orders and running around DuVall’s Restaurant in Waynesville last Friday morning, Brookshire is sporting a bright red and white shirt with the words “Pisgah Black Bears” emblazoned across it.
A Swain County High School junior varsity football player was suspended from school for 10 days and kicked off the team for racially derogatory comments made to a member of the Cherokee JV football team.
The floor below me began to shake.
For a moment, the idea of the structure collapsing seemed plausible. All around me, thousands of people were screaming, thrashing their arms wildly with manic looks on their faces. It was Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., and I was partaking in my first Southeastern Conference (SEC) football game.
Female fans of Western Carolina University athletics know three things — which player the quarterback is, when a touchdown is scored and, more importantly, how to tailgate.
Down by six touchdowns to the University of Alabama at halftime, Western Carolina University head coach Mark Speir never gave up on his team.
“When you’re getting into an ugly ball game like that, our players didn’t quit playing; they kept fighting,” he said. “At halftime, we were going to play for 30 more minutes and see where our program is at in [its] infant stage.”
As the Swain County high school football team marches towards another state championship, amid the fanatic cheers of the hometown fans who live to see the hard-hitting Maroon Devil boys take the field, there is another story unfolding.
It was a tranquil Saturday afternoon when the stampede began.
Lines of vehicles, like mechanical horses with flags waving high, hurtle down the highway, resembling some cavalry charging into battle, desperately in search of a cherished parking space near the football stadium at Western Carolina University.