published Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Sports reasons for gratitude abound for TFP sports staff

Here’s hoping your Thanksgiving is filled with your favorite foods, football and family, and that it comes in appropriate doses — too much turkey and too much Uncle Louis can be equally as tiring — on this fine holiday.

The TFP sports department has a great deal for which to be thankful. Our health — more physical than mental, because our mental health gets questioned quite frequently — our family, our opportunities and certainly you our readers. Thank you for letting us tell the stories from around the local, regional and national world of sports. It’s an honor and a privilege that we guard jealously. And more importantly, it’s a job we enjoy because of you.

With that, the staff writers and editors wanted to share some of the things in the world of sports for which we are thankful on this day when we should all pause and give thanks:

I am thankful for Friday nights in the fall, for Saturday mornings on the putting green next to the first tee and Sunday afternoons in the backyard with whatever ball is in season. I am thankful for the opportunity to be a third-party witness to lifetime memories for countless athletes, coaches and fans throughout our area. And most importantly in this last year, I am thankful for Lee, Douglas, Tate, Brady, Wills, Jack, Ferenc, Ryan, Nathan, Carter and Stone of the 6-year-old tee-ball Bulls for showing a first-year coach the joy and enthusiasm and the purity that sports can offer at the lowest level of competition and the highest level of fun. For that experience, I will always be grateful, on this Thanksgiving and every one to come.

— Jay Greeson

I am thankful that despite too little pay and recognition and too much time away from their own families, there are still coaches who care about developing the kids who play for them into productive citizens as well as how to handle both winning and losing with class. Whether they’re in a private school system or an urban or rural school setting, coaches such as Cleveland’s Ron Crawford, Boyd-Buchanan’s Grant Reynolds, Brainerd’s Tyrus Ward, East Ridge’s Catherine Neely, Baylor’s Austin Clark, Ridgeland’s Mark Mariakis and McMinn Central’s Johnny Morgan, to name just a few, ensure our area’s future is in good hands.

— Stephen Hargis

I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to live and work in Chattanooga since 2007. I’m moving on to I don’t know what in 2014, but it has been a pleasure to be here — to experience this great city and to cover the ups and downs of UTC football and much more. I’m lucky to have worked with a lot of outstanding people in the TFP sports department, and I’m thankful for the never-dull season of UTC football I got to cover in my final months on the job. I saw a total of three wins in my first two seasons covering the Mocs; I saw four in October. I saw a UTC team finish 8-4 and feel disappointed. That’s progress, that’s interesting, and for that I’m thankful.

— John Frierson

For Mark Wiedmer, who provides another target for readers infuriated by Clay Bennett’s ’toons. At least we know they’re reading. Just wish “Weeds” had a desk and telephone number at the TFP so we didn’t have to answer some of those calls asking for his head on a platter. For David Blackburn, who came up from the bottom and helped build a great Tennessee program — before the Mike Hamilton era. He will take UTC to new heights. For Butch Jones, the first real UT football coach since the scalawags undercut and then fired Phillip Fulmer.

— Ward Gossett

I’m most thankful for my wife and daughters’ patient understanding regarding my absentee parenthood on most weekends and over the entire month of March while covering sports. But I’m also thankful that college football has waited decades to stage a playoff, since the arguments spawned by not having one have given me plenty to write about each November.

— Mark Wiedmer

As a native of the Chattanooga area who loves all that this city and region has to offer, I’m thankful that I’ve been able to live and work in my home town helping to document what makes this city so special — in the world of sports and beyond. I get to work with a team of tallented and dedicated professionals who bring this area’s always fascinating sports world to life for our readers every day. I’m thankful to have the chance to meet so many interesting people doing interesting things and to have the chance to share their stories and adventures with others. Despite the less-than-desirable hours, the lack of sleep and the frustrations that sometimes come with this job, it’s not a bad way to make a living. So I’m most thankful for the readers who allow me to do this job and be a part of their lives in some small way.

— Jim Tanner

I am thankful for every person who cares, even the slightest bit (Hi, Aunt Carol!) about athletics and understands their importance in society. I’m also thankful for the enjoyment playing sports, from a tot to now, has provided throughout my life. I’m very grateful to those who introduced me to golf. I’m thankful for those who go unnoticed in organized sports — the managers, water boys, trainers, assistant coaches and others who do things we never see. I’m also thankful for every Indiana University victory, every Titleist ball that bounces my way and every trout that takes the fly at the end of my line.

— David Uchiyama

The Chattanooga area has a multitude of high school coaches who do things the right way. I hope I’m not the only one thankful for them. Coaches such as Joe Galloway, Robert High, Carolyn Jackson and Catherine Neely have helped instill values in generations of girls and boys in their 30-, 40- and 50-plus-year careers. Those lucky enough to have experienced their guidance should be thankful for them. Wally Tallent and in particular assistant coach Greg Ricketts, with whom she had a special bond, were more than just my daughter’s basketball coaches at Ooltewah. Owls wrestling coach Wendell Weathers was always on the level with my son. Specifically I am thankful for them. Some of our area coaches have been in the news lately, but know that not all of it has been bad. WRCB TV reported recently that next month a group of students will be going to Honduras on another outreach trip coordinated by Red Bank football coach E.K. Slaughter, who is an example of the many positive role models in our area who far outnumber any others. And we should all be thankful for them.

— Kelley Smiddie

I’m thankful that I have a loving and understanding family who try their best to be helpful to me in times of need, and I’m thankful that I work for one of the best sports departments around — one in which we are a team that helps each other and works hard to provide some of the best coverage in the state and in the nation. Lastly, I am blessed and thankful that every day I interview a coach or a player, every day that I go watch a sporting event, I get to call that “work.” In this day and age, so many others are doing jobs or in careers that they might not want to be in yet have no choice because of a need to provide for their loved ones. As hard as things may get at times, I feel like I haven’t worked a day in years, and I’m thankful to this company as well as our readers that you’ve given me this platform to express my thoughts — as much as you might not like them at times.

— Gene Henley

Though it’s the most hectic night for the rest of our staff, I’m thankful for Friday nights, which give me the chance to relax a little bit and spend some time with my fiancee, who works harder than me with her full-time teaching internship, a part-time job and class. For all the bad stories in college athletics, it’s perhaps most rewarding for me to see players overcome difficult backgrounds or fight back from an injury to maximize or rise above their potential and have success. I’m also thankful for the passion of Tennessee’s football fan base. It can be a crazy bunch at times, but without them I don’t get to do a job I love.

— Patrick Brown

The assignment sounds simple: a quick blurb on what in sports I’m thankful for. For this writer, though, it might as well be a synopsis of my life. Very simply, sports always have been my best friend and they have never let me down (though being a Georgia Bulldogs and Atlanta pro sports fan sometimes feels like having to watch “Caddyshack 2” on a never-ending loop). I want to take a moment to say that I’m thankful guys like Ron Bush and Mark McCarter and the late, great Conner Gilbert took the time to take a too-shy aspiring reporter under their wings in the late 1980s and made me feel like I belonged. I’m also thankful the Chattanooga-northwest Georgia area cares so much for its young athletes that we are allowed to do what we do. Lastly, I am thankful for coaches such as Mark Mariakis, Robert Akins and Glen Hicks, people who make my job easier and who teach our kids more than just X’s and O’s.

— Lindsey Young

I am thankful for an incredibly patient family during the 15 demanding weeks of college football season, when I am gone every Saturday and spend many Sundays in the office, and it is an honor for me to make amends by helping coach our children in baseball, basketball and swimming. Two of the best benefits to being a sports writer are the people you meet and the changing seasons, each of which results in things never getting stale. I am thankful when I see athletes rewarded for their dedication, whether it’s for a career, such as Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, or an important moment, such as Alabama linebacker Tana Patrick. I am thankful for Auburn’s eagle, the Vol Navy and other traditions in college football, and I am thankful for early kickoffs.

— David Paschall

The aspect of sports that I appreciate the most as a life lesson is seeing someone overcome great adversity to achieve something remarkable. So I am particularly thankful to have met and written about such people as local masters athletes Wesley Cash and Diann Uustal, who have come back from seemingly career-ending injuries to win national and international competitions and even set world records — in their spare time, while continuing to excel and inspire in their professions. Both have had some of their greatest accomplishments after the age of 50, which I also increasingly appreciate.

— Ron Bush

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