Sports Talk is written by Coach Earl Lewis
For many of us, Thanksgiving weekend is about three main things: Football, Food, and Family, plus, in recent years, Black Friday Shopping. Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying, the first three of those are certainly important, and they are all things to be thankful for. Beyond that, I am not so sure about the Black Friday thing. I never have understood why it’s called Black Friday for one thing, and I’ve only participated in it one time. That was years ago with my wife in Birmingham, and that was enough to last a long time.
All that was said to make the point that sometimes we all get so wrapped up in the football and food in particular that we forget many of the things that we should be thankful for.
For several years, I’ve focused my late November column on things that I am thankful for, but sometimes forget, in this “hurry up” world that we live in. I do this in the hope that it will remind you, as it does me, to count our many blessings and as the hymn says, “to count them one by one”. Many of my “thank you’s” involve the world of sports, and I make no apologies for that. However, I confess that several times as I have sat in Bryant-Denny Stadium with 100,000 other screaming Bama fans, I’ve thought about how much better the world would be if we all got that excited about our churches and our relationships with God.
Anyway, here goes a list of some of the things that I’m thankful for – some personal and some involving sports. I will hazard a guess that many of the things I mention are similar to a list that you could compile.
****For spending 88% of my life to this point in the good town of Sylacauga.
****For being an American and for being a combination of a Tennessean and an Alabamian. We are all fortunate to live in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. If you don’t agree, go try Iran, or Afghanistan, or one of the other Third World countries for awhile.
****For being raised in a Christian home by two special parents, and for a Granddaddy who ingrained in me the importance of morals, ethics, and Christian principles
****For the game of football – one of a handful of things left that builds character in young men. It is the ultimate team sport where all 11 players who are on the field together depend on each other. No one person can carry the load alone. They learn to deal with adversity and bounce back.
****For all team and individual sports because young men and young women can learn many life lessons.
****For having the opportunity to talk person to person with coaches Paul Bryant, Gene Stallings, Nick Saban, and (believe it or not) – Ralph Jordan.
****For getting my picture made with Coach Saban on October 31, 2017, when we were both celebrating our Halloween birthdays.
****For being married for 56 years to the best wife a man could ever hope for, the late Willa Dean Melton Lewis.
****For old friends – they are too numerous to name but many of whom are former high school teammates and classmates who still communicate regularly.
**** For newer friends.
****For being able to realize one of my boyhood dreams of coaching at Sylacauga High School, and thanks to Mr. Ruben Porch, Coach Tom Calvin, and Coach Louis Machen for allowing that to happen.
****For the influence of Sylacauga’s First United Methodist Church where I have been a member for 70 years.
**** For getting to see Ted Williams, one of my many heroes, in person, as he hit baseballs in exhibition games at Birmingham’s Rickwood Field.
**** For getting to see in person each of the Alabama Crimson Tide football National Champions since 1961 play at least once.
****For witnessing two preliminary rounds of the Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National, one of the world’s most beautiful places.
****For having my picture made with professional golfer, Sam Snead.
****For having a daughter, a son, a granddaughter, a daughter in law, and a grandson in law, all of whom have grown up to be God fearing, productive citizens.
****For having the opportunity to coach some exceptional athletes as the Head Track Coach at SHS from 1970-1978. They led us to numerous championships including a State Indoor title, 8 consecutive Talladega County Championships, 4 Sectional titles, 4 District titles, two State Outdoor Runner up finishes, and 3 Mid-State Conference titles. I can’t possibly name them all, but nine of the group went on to compete in college: Danny Morris, Edward O’neal, and Terry Burney at Tuskegee, Greg Dison at Auburn, Ricky Williams at Cal-Tech in Decatur, and Russ Grant, Sandy Sims, Fred Bentley, and Paul Bentley at Jeff State. One of the best who did not choose to compete in college was Kerry Clisby, who was a two time State Champion in the 440 yard dash and who ran on two State Champion Mile Relay teams.
**** For having the unique experience of being a member of the 1954 State Championship football team and an assistant coach 15 years later for the 1969 State Champions.
**** For having the opportunity to work with Coach Bruce Evans for five years. He was a much better coach than he was ever given credit for and an even better person – a dedicated Christian who not only talked the talk but also walked the walk. During his best three years as Head Football Coach here, our record against Talladega County Schools (Comer, Talladega, and Childersburg) was unmatched. In 1981 the record was 3-0 by a combined score of 51-36; in 1982 it was 3-0 by a combined score of 100-0; and in 1983 it was again 3-0 by a combined score of 85-7. From 1980 – 1983 we were 8-0 against Pelham and Shelby County, and in 1980 and 1981 we were 2-0 against Pell City.
****For learning from the three best English teachers in Alabama at Sylacauga High in the 1950’s – Evelyn Lowman, Velma Goodgame, and Rosary Thomason.
****For playing football for Bill Harris and Paul Foote. The ones who survived made big strides toward the transition from boys to men.
Well, that’s enough about me. My list could go on and on. Hopefully this will inspire you to review your blessings, and that you will find that your life has been full of more blessings than you realize. HAPPY THANKSGIVING and don’t spend all of your money on Black Friday.