Backstage at the Orange and White Game

A few weeks ago, an opportunity was presented to us for Jackson to meet the University of Tennessee, Knoxville statisticians – the guys who keep track of every yard, every punt, every point for the home football games – a career possibility that Chuck and I have encouraged for Jackson. He’s an excellent math student and has an unquenchable passion for sports. When Jackson realized that a real person was responsible for those recording numbers, all those tiny details that he loves to read and memorize, he latched on to the idea of becoming a statistician.

So, did he want to meet the UT Vols statistician? ABSOLUTELY YES.

Better still, would you like to meet him at the Orange and White Game and sit in the press box and learn all about being a statistician?

There were no words, just one huge smile and eyes that welled with tears. A definite YES. 

Fan Day 2016

Charles Child has been keeping the Vols’ stats for three decades, and in recent years he’s been joined by his son, Brian, and son-in-law, David. We met them a couple of hours before kick-off to get a tour of the press box and the field.

Going on the field

Two brace faces on the field

SEC Pylon

Press box at Neyland

We watched the players practice and saw what the stands look like from the ground level. The stadium wasn’t full like it normally is on game day, but it was still impressive.

Time to practice

College footballs

Peyton Manning hall

We met Tim Priest, the familiar voice of the Vol Radio Network and former Tennessee player coached by Doug Dickey.

Tim Priest

We ate lunch and enjoyed ice cream and took our seats in the press box as Charles, Brian, and David readied themselves for the game. They were generous to give the boys plenty of media guides and record sheets – piles of information for Jackson to study.

Jack in the press box

Jeremy and I aren’t stats people, but we enjoyed the special treatment nonetheless.

Jeremy in the press box

Members of the U.S. Navy Parachute Team, the Leap Frogs, kicked off the game by landing on the field. It was beautiful! (Here’s a video.)

Navy Seals

Steve Spurrier received the Neyland Award, a short ceremony that received both cheers and jeers. (More cheers, though.)

Steve Spurrier

Then my favorite – Smokey – took the field and the game was officially on the clock.

Smokey and the gang

They team was split into orange and white, but there were a handful of players in gray. Why? Because gray meant “Do Not Touch.”

Gray is no touch

Of course, it wasn’t a regular game but rather a scrimmage. A “let’s show them how we’re doing” sort of game. The view from the press box was great.

Orange and White

Orange and White at Neyland

Smokey in the checkerboard

It wasn’t just about the perks. We learned all about how serious the statistician’s work is, how folks from ESPN hover over them on game days to get all the numbers to all the stations. Though the stats wind up computerized, they keep official records the old-fashioned way – pencil and paper.

Stats sheet

While the game is going, all excitement and frustration is tabled. They are record-keeping, not rooting. Aside from high-level math, this is the hurdle Jackson will have to jump. He kept mostly quiet during the scrimmage, but that wouldn’t be the case in a real game. This is the kid who asked to leave the Tennessee-Arkansas game early last year because he was getting too emotional and knew he was going to blow.

Statisticians

On the way home on Saturday, Jackson said that the whole experience had been a dream come true. He didn’t stop smiling the entire day, and while most of us wouldn’t care about the mounds of stats and records, Jackson has been reading them at length and regurgitating random facts like revelations.

So many times I’ve looked at the face of this sweet child and wondered, “Where will you end up? Where will you go? What will you do?” Perhaps those questions got answered on Saturday.

A couple of firsts

The past two weekends served as firsts for Jeremy. Instead of trick-or-treating (which was a first in itself), he went on his first official deer hunt. He and Chuck have been planning this season for months. Though they didn’t come home with meat for the freezer, they had a ball together and look forward to giving it another solid try in a couple of weeks.

Jeremy's first hunt

Yesterday Jeremy joined me on a 5K, something he’s been asking to do for a while. He ran hard much of the time, only stopping to walk on a few steep hills. We took Major along since the race was pet friendly, and though I wasn’t sure how this whole event would go, but I couldn’t have planned it any better. Major got a ton of attention from the crowd and pulled me down the road like a sled dog. The three of us crossed the finish line together.

Jeremy's first fivek

Me and Jeremy at his first 5k

Now he’s asking to do an 8K. Like mother, like son!

Also, Jeremy wrapped another soccer season this weekend and Jackson had evaluations for Upward Basketball. One sport for one kid at a time.

Though the weather has been drizzly and cold, the rain held off for the Tennessee-South Carolina game on Saturday, for which Jackson and I had tickets. It was stressful and emotional and we both had panic attacks in the third and fourth quarters, but the Vols pulled out a win so we drove home happy.

Me and Jackson at the UT SC game

We have been entirely too busy lately, and even though many of our plans and obligations have been worthwhile, it will do us well to take a step back for November and December. If we don’t slow down, it will be 2016 in no time.

Monday morning convo with Major

Major: It was a bad weekend.

Me: Yes it was.

Major: I can’t believe that game.

Me: Me neither, dude. Me neither.

Major: We should’ve won.

Me: I know, I know.

Major: We should’ve gone for two.

Me: I know, I know.

Major: It’s gonna take me a while to get over it.

Me: Same here.

Major: Now I’m nervous about the rest of the season. Did you hear that Kentucky beat Missouri?

Me: I heard.

Major: And Vandy put some pressure on Ole Miss. VANDERBILT. AGAINST OLE MISS. I can’t take it.

Me: Me neither.

Major: Mom?

Me: Yes?

Major: Do you think we’ll beat Arkansas?

Are we gonna beat Arkansas

Those brown eyes, though.

Throwback to camping, and hello autumn

Hey, remember when we used to go camping? Circa 2012?

Millers and Prichards

I am so ready for this again.

It’s nearly my favorite month and there’s much to look forward to. Our wedding anniversary, SEC conference football, an evening with Liz Gilbert. My heart swells at the thought.

Come October 1, I’ll officially be in the holiday spirit – the sort of spirit that enjoys eating copious amounts Brach’s candy corn while ignoring tooth pain. The kind of spirit that burns autumn harvest candles and orders Salted Caramel Mochas. The kind of spirit that opens up all the windows in the house so the temperature drops to brisk 60 degrees. Hello fuzzy blankets and wool socks! Hello boots and skinny jeans! Hello chili on the stove and slow-cooked roast in the oven!

Hello, autumn. I’m so glad you finally showed up.

xoxo

North vs. South

Last Thanksgiving, when we all met in West Virginia and I drove 21 hours (each way) on my own with boys, we started what seems to be a holiday football tradition: the North versus South Game. As I recall, the 2010 game resulted in a tie as to spare little boy feelings. The 2011 game, however, was for real.

The North won, which I suppose is the result of choosing jinxed jerseys.

Making a plan…

… for those pesky Bears.

Rematch: Thanksgiving 2012.

Omen

I was all excited to make my Tennessee Vols pumpkin in early October.

And then it rained.

Cruel omen, no?

Anyway, let’s move on to Advent, shall we? I don’t have an official wreath but I’ve printed off a number of coloring pages and art projects to teach the boys about the season of Advent. December begins on Thursday, so we’ll have a lesson each day (even on weekends, which feels so wrong) leading up to December 25. We started talking about it this morning and Jackson’s eyes sort of glazed over, but for a five year old, he hung in there.

We also started decorating the house for Christmas yesterday and I found that I preferred some of the DIY holiday decorations I made last year while we were still in Amarillo and our things were in storage. I’m making the entire house as lovely as possible in anticipation of my family’s visit. This will be the first time they come to east Tennessee since we moved here in March, so I’m not leaving a single room untouched.