I can't believe that we're almost to the end of November and that Thanksgiving is here. Where has this year gone?
This has always been one of my favorite holidays as friends and family gather to eat too much, watch too much football and have too much fun. But heck, isn't that what life's all about?
I've been a most fortunate fellow for the last 34 years or so since I began my career as a sports writer for the Chattanooga News-Free Press. My buddy Roy Exum was willing to give this young pup a chance to be a writer when I didn't know diddly squat about anything. I was just a sports nut.
He used to write a column on Thanksgiving about all of his blessings and he continued with similar columns on Christmas and Easter.
I've followed in his tradition for Thanksgiving as we pause for a few minutes to count our blessings and to say thanks to so many people.
In no particular order, here is my most recent list.
I'M THANKFUL to be alive, happy and in reasonably good health
I'M THANKFUL that I woke up this morning without a hangover.
I'M THANKFUL that I'm married to a wonderful woman named Althea who just recently retired from Erlanger after more than 20 years as a nurse in the operating room. There's no doubt that she'll return to the work force in 2014, but it will be a different facility as she continues to help those with medical issues.
I'M THANKFUL that Butch Jones is the head football coach for the Tennessee Vols and that he's making great strides to turn a once-proud program around. I think I know how Georgia fans felt at the end of the Auburn game after what the Vols went through last week against Vanderbilt.
I'M THANKFUL for ElmCroft, that delightful place on Gunbarrel that offers assisted living for folks like my mother Frances Hunt. They have daily activities and three hot meals a day. Folks like Angela and Josh do a wonderful job there and my mother couldn't be any happier.
I'M THANKFUL for UTC coach Russ Huesman and the job he's done with the Scrappy Mocs. I'm sorry they lost those last two games, but again, there's no doubt that the Mocs are headed in the right direction as well as he's "restoring the glory."
I'M THANKFUL for all of the wonderful people I've been associated with in my many years as a sports writer. I've always said that one of my biggest motivating factors for being a writer is that it gives me a chance to share positive news about people, including a lot of really cool teenagers.
I'M THANKFUL that we have many outstanding coaches in this area, including Polk County's Derrick Davis. He may be one of the classiest in the business and he showed it following his team's loss to Notre Dame in the second round of the playoffs. He had the first word with the Notre Dame players and coaches, telling them what a fine team they had and how lucky they were to have such a great group of coaches leading the way.
I'M THANKFUL for home-cooked meals. I'm sure that most of you will eat too much turkey and dressing this weekend and that's fine as you can have mine too. I'm not a fan of T&D, but I can't say enough about a good slice of ham that goes so well with creamed corn, green beans, macaroni and cheese and sweet potato casserole.
I'M THANKFUL for the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous and the millions of lives it has changed, including mine.
I'M THANKFUL for James Jabaley and the thousands of people he helped in recovery. James was meaner than a striped snake when he won three state wrestling titles at Notre Dame in the mid 70s, but he also had the biggest heart of anyone I know as he helped so many people that others didn't want to touch.
I'M THANKFUL for folks like Jim Whitaker, Claude Tucker, Connie Little, Thurman Hudson, Button Haskins, Lew Steele and John Bobo who were also such instrumental players for so many suffering souls.
I'M THANKFUL fot the downtown YMCA and the wonderful staff of folks who work there. We're really lucky to have such a spacious facility. Maybe I'll get off my duff one day soon and enjoy some of its benefits.
I'M THANKFUL for the Chattanooga Track Club and members like Sherilyn Johnson and Jenni Berz who have been co-race directors for the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon and the Waterfront Triathlon in recent years.
Both events are some of the most popular in the southeast and the fact that literally thousands of fitness enthusiasts make their plans to participate says volumes for the kind of event that Johnson and Berz have created. Just lining up volunteers for such would be an incredible job.
I'M THANKFUL that I still have the chance to cover local races, even though my running days are mostly past. It still makes my heart thump when people lay it on the line in a marathon, including Ryan Shrum and Jessica Marlier.
These two finished second and third at Chickamauga earlier this month and both posted significant personal records. They had done their training and their races unfolded just as planned with Marlier getting a PR by more than 10 minutes as she finished in 2:52:59!
I'M THANKFUL for Trey Stanford. Trey is the official timer for Chattanooga Track Club events among many others, but he's produces accurate results from every race in this area and often does so in adverse weather, including cold, hot, windy and even in driving rain storms. He makes my job so easy and always does it with a smile on his face.
I"M THANKFUL for Carolyn Varnell and the folks at the Sports Barn East and the job they've done with the annual Turkey Trot 8K that's held every Thanksgiving. It's become a most popular event and this year's race had more than 1,100 entries for a challenging race on a cold, cold morning.
I'M THANKFUL that we got more than our share of rain this summer. Most of you know that I also do lawncare to suppliment my income and this year was a real blessing along those lines.
I'M THANKFUL for folks like John Wilson, who started the Chattanoogan.com way back when and continues to do so well. I can't imagine working for anyone else and having any more fun.
I'M THANKFUL that Chattanooga had two daily papers for many years and that Larry Fleming and Stan Crawley, two of my most bitter competitors at that time, have become two of my best friends as we have worked together in recent years. I'm also thankful that Stan survived some serious heart issues back in the spring.
I'M THANKFUL for folks like Jerry and Debbie Hightower, who are two of the finest people anywhere. They introduced me to snow skiing a few years back and I'm thankful they still want me to go with them to Colorado every spring, even though my body's about to fall apart.
I'M THANKFUL for people like Louis and Sandy Priddy and the impact they've had on the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in the Chattanooga area. Louis used to have several big races every year to benefit the FCA and the Big Oak Ranch among others and I was blessed to be at Chattanooga State on Labor Day when they honored Louis and Sandy on the 25th anniversary of the first FCA 5K.
I'M THANKFUL for the ocean and the relaxation you feel when you lay your head down at night and can hear the waves breaking on the beach.
I'M THANKFUL that I still get a thrill when I see fireworks explode across a clear sky.
I'M THANKFUL for the pride I feel every time I hear the Star Spangled Banner played before an athletic event.
I'M THANKFUL that my car starts almost every time I put the key in the ignition.
I'M THANKFUL every time I pass a pretty girl on the sidewalk. It's even better when she smiles.
I'M THANKFUL I live in a neighborhood where wild deer feel comfortable grazing in my front yard.
I'M THANKFUL that Chipper Jones spent his entire major league baseball career as a member of the Atlanta Braves.
I'M THANKFUL that I believe in a loving God, who has been taking care of me a long time.
I'M THANKFUL for the act of forgiveness. Goodness only knows where I'd be without it.
I'M THANKFUL for second chances.
I'M THANKFUL for folks like Ward Gossett, who took me under his wings 34 years ago when I started my career as a sports writer. Unlike most of the other veteran writers, Ward took time to show me the do's and don'ts of sports writing and how important it is to get the final score right and to spell people's names correctly.
Ward is my competitor these days, but we still work side by side at many events and I'm proud to call him my friend. Ward's like the rest of us and getting older, so put him on your prayer list as he has a total knee replacement next Tuesday.
I'M THANKFUL that high school sports are a big deal in the Chattanooga area.
I'M THANKFUL for my years working with Steve Henry when he was the head wrestling coach at Soddy Daisy. Steve's now an assistant principal, but it's always good to see him as he's one of the best in the business.
I'M THANKFUL I had the chance to have Luke Worsham as my wrestling coach at Baylor back in the dark ages. I wasn't very good, but I surely learned a lot.
I'M THANKFUL for people like Jack Stanford, Frank Ingram, Clyde Frazier, Joe Overton and Jack McEwen who had such a powerful impact on my life.
I'M THANKFUL that Bruce Hunt was my father and he too instilled the value of hard work and doing things the right way.
I'M THANKFUL that pitchers and catchers will be reporting to spring training in about 13 weeks.
I'M THANKFUL that I have the ability to be thankful today. There have been times in years past when I wasn't thankful for much and certainly wasn't very happy either.
I'M THANKFUL that I've made it another year and that you have too. May the richest of blessings continue coming our way.
(Email John Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org)