Like most, I was shocked to see the riotous events unfold at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday and thought something like that would never happen.
Of course, plenty of surprising events have taken place over the years in American history, but the nation has found a way to endure, and let us hope that continues.
I have collected front pages of newspapers describing famous happenings since I was in college 40 years ago, and my father, Dr.
C. Wayne Shearer, has for even longer until recent years. I saved Thursday’s paper about the out-of-control takeover, and I have saved about six or seven other papers over the last year, an unusually high number.
I saved the ones when COVID-19 had arrived in Chattanooga, when the George Floyd death and aftermath occurred, when the presidential election results were known and when the vaccines started arriving.
The national vaccine rollout apparently came after the front page of the Times Free Press was readied, but I was able to save a nice front section from when the local one started a few days later. Hopefully the vaccine inoculations will start speeding up and I will not have to save any more coronavirus bad news or milestone front pages.
And let’s hope we can quickly heal as well from the political atmosphere that created the Capitol situation.
Although it was not a paper I saved, the front page of Tuesday’s Times Free Press gave an insight into what might take place the next day and served as a warning. The top of the right side was about President Donald Trump’s Monday visit to Dalton and had the headline, “Trump decries ‘rigged’ election.”
The narrow one at the top of the left side said, “Corker: GOP effort would undermine democracy,” in reference to the former U.S. senator from Chattanooga’s remarks.
As these headlines showed, sometimes newspapers teach us about the future as well as the past if we are paying attention.
I hope I have taught myself a personal lesson as well. Over the years I have seen the news reports about isolated patches of black ice on some winter nights and have never understood why that might close schools.
And I always figured I was too young and athletic oriented – even at 61 -- to worry about slipping on any ice myself.
Well, guess what? On Christmas morning I happily walked down my driveway to get the paper to see if it had any memorable headlines and slipped and fell hard on some ice, breaking the upper part of my right arm. It was my first painful break of any kind since I was in junior high.
After several hours in the emergency room that morning getting x-rays, etc., I was put in a brace and sling and told to make an appointment with Dr. Chad Smalley early the next week. He ended up operating on it and repairing the break on New Year’s Eve, and I hope I am now on the slow road to recovery.
My wife, Laura, has gone above and beyond the call of duty helping me. I have also had to type left-handed and do everything else one-handed.
But I have been amazed what all one can do with only one good arm if you set your mind to it. I have about mastered the art of opening sealed plastic bags and jars, but about the only activity I have not figured out is tying my shoes – and maybe washing both my underarms on my own with a washcloth!
Since I can’t get out as much right now, I am thankful for all the football games I have been able to watch.
One game that I assumed was a gift to me --- as compensation for all my misery, I jokingly thought -- occurred on New Year’s Day, when I watched my alma mater Georgia play Cincinnati in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. I knew Cincinnati was a good and hungry team and that beating the Bearcats would be a challenge for Georgia.
It looked like my worst fears might come true, as Cincinnati went out to a 21-10 lead in the second half.
But then something magical happened in the eyes of Georgia fans. The Bulldogs had to make a few breaks late, and somehow they did. They scored a touchdown without converting the two-point play, and then kicked a field goal to pull to 21-19.
But it was getting late, and Cincinnati later had the ball. Amazingly, the Bearcats could not convert on a third-down pass, and Georgia got the ball back with just about a minute left. I was proud of how they had come back, but at this point I was interested only in a win, a miraculous one that the late announcer Larry Munson would have enjoyed calling.
Georgia was able to move the ball to the 36 of Cincinnati but had fourth down. Kicker Jack Podlesny came in to try a 53-yard field goal, which was not easy. But you know what, he made it with two seconds left, and Georgia would win, 24-21, following a safety in the only New Year’s Day game that was close and exciting.
When the field goal was made, I let out a ridiculously loud cheer that got the hoarseness from my surgery out of my system for good, and probably made my Westie dog, Maisie, and my wife want to get out of the room, too!
Needless to say, I love college football and enjoy all the different storylines of all the teams, not just Georgia.
That came true watching the Heisman Trophy presentation Tuesday. Sometimes while listening to all the beat football reporters on talk radio, I realize that the neat and uplifting storylines never come up, it seems.
But watching the Heisman ceremony on ESPN with the four finalists, I learned, or maybe was reminded, that Florida quarterback Kyle Trask did not even start a game during his last three years at powerhouse Manvel, Texas, High.
Also, Alabama quarterback Mac Jones made all A’s as an undergraduate, and Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence spent a good chunk of his childhood in Knoxville. And yes, he wore No. 16 because of Peyton Manning.
But the neatest story was to see the crowd of socially distant and mask-wearing supporters at the tiny Amite, La., community center root on hometown hero and sleek Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith as he won the Heisman Trophy.
Watching this one supporter break into a happy dance after the announcement was downright inspiring.
It reminded me of myself four days earlier after watching Georgia kick the winning field goal!
And regarding Knoxville, I also felt like breaking into a happy dance after seeing that a Buddy’s bar-b-q opened on the outer part of Northgate Mall by Highway 153, less than a mile from our house.
I always enjoyed Buddy’s when we lived in Knoxville, and finally went through the drive through recently at the one here. The chain has an interesting history in that it developed its reputation with a stand at the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville.
It is not the kind of place for someone who wants to visit and compare it to their renowned favorite barbecue restaurant in Memphis or Eastern North Carolina. It is simple and basic food. But I love their half chicken and hush puppies, and the eatery also has good sides and simple but unique desserts.
And by the way, it goes well with – yes – college football!