Oh, welcome…here it is the first day of March and my garden has changed since the ice and snow last month. Hark! What’s that sound? The birds are back, singing in the bright sun and, look over there, the first green fingers of the jonquils are sprouting from the ground. So with new evidence of spring more apparent with each day, allow me to sort between the promising sprouts and withered vines:
A PROMISING SPROUT to Mark Wiedmer, a fabulous artist with literally no writing experience who the late banker George Clark Jr. once brought by my office looking for a “chance.” Stupid guy – could have made millions doing portraits but, no, he ended up as a sports writer and next week he’ll have something to show for it. Mark, a brilliant columnist, will be inducted into a sparkling class of the Chattanooga Sports Hall of Fame and the only question is what took ’em so long.
A WITHERED VINE to the Eagle Football Stadium in Allen, Texas, where large cracks have been found in its foundation and it has been closed indefinitely. You may remember it made the news two years ago when the $59.6 million, 18,000-seat facility was opened to the envy of every high school in America. The stadium has a sunken-bowl design and features a video scoreboard, multi-level press box, weight room, wrestling room, and an indoor golf facility.
A PROMISING SPROUT to seven-year-old Molli-Malone Wommack of Brunswick, Ga., who saw a classmate choking and turning blue in the school cafeteria, calmly administered the Heimlich maneuver, and saved the child’s life. Molli-Malone’s mother, a nurse at the school, taught her daughter the technique when she was five and school officials said the child had choked on a spoonful of corn. “You can choke on anything so be careful,” said the young heroine.
A WITHERED VINE to school superintendent Jose Fernandez of the Centinela Valley Union High School District in Lawndale, Calif., who was surprised when an emergency meeting was called by angry parents after it was learned his annual salary in 2013 was $663,000. Allegedly bankrupt when he took the job, Fernandez was also given a $900,000 loan at 2 percent payable over 40 years. One news account quoted one man as shouting, “You should all step down and walk away from this! This is ridiculous! This is nuts, this is crazy! I give my wife everything! I do anything I can for my wife! I’m sleeping with her! Who are you sleeping with?” one man shouted during the meeting. The school district has three high schools with a combined total of 6,500 students.
A PROMISING SPROUT to Vanderbilt basketball coach Kevin Stallings who just took up for his rival, the embattled Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin: “I think for people to speculate on his job is absurd,” Stallings said. “He's in his third year and that is ridiculous. He's doing a good job with their team. I think they're getting ready to make the NCAA tournament. It takes some time when you go in there and you have to change some things and change the way things are done.” (Vandy plays at UT today at noon, ESPN-2)
A WITHERED VINE to any Tennessee fan who has the audacity to believe the scandalized basketball coach Bruce Pearl will ever again coach at Tennessee. Not only did Pearl cheat, he lied to the NCAA and Tennessee athletic officials will never forget it.
A PROMISING SPROUT to Tyler Sexton, who was born 12 weeks prematurely and, after being diagnosed with cerebral palsy, underwent 16 surgeries. Today, at age 28, he is a second-year pediatric resident and says, “When I walk into a patient’s room, I can say, ‘I know what’s going on with you.’ I can instantly help them move past perceived barriers in their life.”
A WITHERED VINE to the countries of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan after they banned the manufacture and import of synthetic lace underwear, much to the chagrin of both women and men in the three nations. The claim is the material is unhygienic but as one Kazakh woman fumed, “Why don’t they ban something that is really harmful … like cigarettes and alcohol.”
A PROMISING SPROUT for Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, who was asked this week about playing golf with President Obama: “I enjoyed it. People back home (in Tennessee) didn’t enjoy it so much, but I did. We had to quit on (hole) 15 because we had a Senate vote and the president was visibly wanting to play three or four holes and finish this. And I enjoyed collecting the 20 bucks from him that he lost.”
A WITHERED VINE to Preside Obama after Corker revealed the get-together and dinner afterwards accomplished little. “We haven’t had the ability to solve the major problems of the day because he’s afraid of his base,” Corker explained, saying if Obama asked him again, “ … I would say to him: ‘Please don’t do that again, OK? Unless you’re in earnest wanting to solve a problem, don’t do that again. You’re better off not acting like you want to solve a problem when you really don’t want to solve it. That breaks down trust.’”
A PROMISING SPROUT to Walter Williams, a farmer who lives just north of Jackson, Miss., and was surprised to wake up in a body bag at a funeral home. He had been declared legally dead Wednesday night and taken to be embalmed but now his delighted family believes his pace-maker stopped and then re-started. He, too, is happy to be alive but the funeral home workers still aren’t quite over the incident.