Posts Tagged ‘John Ward’

A Changing of the Guard…

As I mentioned the other day, any of you that have regularly read Gate 21 have probably notice the deafening sound of the silence here for the past month or so.  That silence was prelude to this post.  There is no better way to say it than to quote the words of the legendary John Ward:

It’s Time…

I started Gate 21 in 2007 not really knowing what I was getting myself into.  I really had no concept of what it was that I wanted to do with the site or, in fact, how I would do it.  I just decided one day that I could write a blog as well as the next guy and within 10 minutes, the original version of Gate 21 was live for all to see over at  Within 2 months, I had over 10,000 visitors and had taken the site to a privately hosted (i.e. I had to pay for it) server and debuted the cartoonish looking site that hung around until mid-2009 when I overhauled the site once again.  You are looking at that version now.

Since that less-than-auspicious beginning in 2007 I have spent literally thousands of hours writing, designing, re-vamping, updating, and otherwise working on producing and publishing Gate 21.  Along the way I have had had the help of many, many, people.  These would include writers HomeSweetHome and VolAmbassador, who have both made major contributions to the site over the past several years.  Then there were others across the blogosphere who have both assisted and collaborated with me on articles, memes, roundtables, Power Polls, BlogPolls, and running jokes.  These would include folks like Ghost of Neyland, MoonDog, LSUFreek, Will, Hooper, and of course—the best of the best—Joel at Rocky Top Talk.  These are but a few of the many with whom I have interacted and with which I have had the pleasure to become acquainted.

Then there are those of you out there across the blogosphere and the wider arc of the internet that have visited my humble site and read a bit of what I had to say.  There are even those of you who have taken the time to leave a comment here and there.  To each and every one of you I offer my sincerest gratitude for more than 2 years of interaction across the divide that is the internet.  I have not always been right about things, I have not always been seriousI have not always been couth, but I have always tried to be honest about my views and perspectives on the world around me and my love for the Tennessee Volunteers.  All I can say is that these last 2 1/2 years have truly been a pleasure.

All things, however, must come to an end…

Thus, while it pains me on many levels, this will likely be the last post on Gate 21, at least for the foreseeable future.  And, now it is time for the Gate to close.

The thousands of hours that I have spent on this site have been a labor of love, as blogging always is.  While I may have advertisements here on the Gate, the fact of the matter is that I have lost money on this endeavour from the outset.  The cost of hosting the site alone has been substantial.  Yet, this exploration of “Life, the Universe, and the Bounce of the Ball” (Thank you Douglas Adams) has been a welcome and wonderful creative outlet for me, and one which has been far more “therapeutic” than I ever imagined.  And to those of you who have visited and taken the time to comment all I will say is that you never know just how much a single sentence left in the comment box or via Twitter really means to folks like myself who are blogging their lives away.

There’s really nothing that makes a writer feel better than knowing what they wrote was interesting enough that someone felt compelled to respond…

Now, however, the demands of my “real” life are such that I simply cannot maintain the Gate in the way that I have in the past.  It is hard enough to run a site with substantial help and a bevy of free time.  It is next to impossible to do that alone while trying to maintain a job, a family, and some semblance of sanity.  As I have said before, the informational cycle on the blogosphere lasts approximately as long as the attention span of a hyperactive 4-year-old who just ate 5 bags of Skittles and washed them down with three cans of Red Bull, and I simply cannot keep up with that.  My lack of timely comment over the past football season stands as a testament to that reality and one which I simply can no longer ignore.

I know, Frank, shocking isn't it?

These sorts of conclusions are not always fun, but they are necessary.  I think Lieutenant Frank Drebin probably said it best:

A Spoonful of Drano sound bite

Okay, enough of the depressing stuff, now for the good news…

For those of you who have enjoyed my writing—though I am certain there aren’t that many of you—take heart!  I am not abandoning my devotion to Tennessee athletics only to go gentle into that good night.  While I may not be able to justify continuing on here at the Gate, I fully intend to continue writing about the Vols.  Why?  Because, in the words of Clay Travis, I simply cannot imagine not doing it.

VolNation Thus, it is my distinct pleasure and honor to announce that, effective immediately, I will be joining on as a writer for the VolNation Blog.  Thus, any of you who wish continue to read my mindless prattling, I’ll still be around.  I cannot overstate how lucky I feel at having the chance to jump on board at VolNation, and I hope to see some of you over there in the near future.  While my time at Gate 21 is now at an end, I am extremely excited about what the future holds in store for me at VolNation.

In the meantime, the Gate will not be disappearing (though, after the next few days, I really won’t be monitoring comments any longer).  It will still be here and you will still be able to send me hate mail via the contact form here on the site, at the email address listed in the sidebar and on the Ushers page, or via Twitter.  For those of you who have subscribed to the RSS feed here at the Gate, you can now follow me via the feed at the VolNation Blog.  The Gate will now take its place among the so-called “dotsam and netsam” that floats across the web.  Everything will stay right where it is—most notably, my tribute to Sam and Andy’s.

As for me, I am on to a new home on the web and new challenges.

So, for the last time, I bid you farewell from Gate 21.  To each of you out there with whom I’ve come in contact as a result of my time publishing Gate 21 over the past 2 1/2 years, I say thank you for reading, best wishes, and Godspeed.  Now, more than ever, I suppose my signature “tagline seems appropriate.  Thus, I will end this final post as I have ended those that came before it.

Until we meet again … Go Vols!

– So it goes …Email lawvol No McAlisters

Remembering John Ward: Ten years since “Give Him Six!”

Tennessee Football Regardless of how things turn out for the Tennessee Volunteers this fall, the 2009 season represents so very many milestones—it really isn’t even worth the trouble to try and count them all.  There has been so much change lately and so very many new looks and faces that everything seems as if it is in flux.  Some feel this near c-change is long overdue, others decry it as a loss of tradition, others still reserve judgments and simply point to the inevitable movement of the hands of time.  Still, no matter how great the changes may be, the echoes of years gone by still ring in the air around Neyland Stadium.  Thankfully, this will never change.

Vol Network In addition to all of the “obvious” landmark events that have or will occur as part of the 2009 football season, there is one more that may go unnoticed by many.  Though it hardly seems possible, the 2009 season marks Bob Kesling’s tenth year as the “Voice of the Vols.” Since the kickoff of the 1999 football opener against the Wyoming Cowboys, Kesling along with color-commentator Tim Priest, and sideline reporter Mike Stowell (who succeeded Jeff Francis in 2007), have brought the sounds of Big Orange football into our homes via the “Statewide Stadium” that is the Vol Network.

As have I pointed out in previous posts, since I was a child, I have always been a dedicated fan of live sports radio broadcasts.  I learned at an early age that television broadcasters, no matter how good they may be, simply cannot match the style, flair, color, or excitement that a gifted radio sportscaster can bring to a game.  There are few on television that come close—Ron Franklin and Mike Gottfried being pretty much the best—but even they cannot quite stay in step with the great radio broadcasters of the game.  Of course, for every Franklin and Gottfried, there are a bevy of lackluster talking suits which do little more than get in the way of the game rather than actually improving your understanding of what is taking place.

Thus is the curse of television…

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Yet another Meme: Shaun Ellis, “He made it! He made it!”

Here’s a little magic from John Ward and the Vol Network to go along with Joel’s post over at Rocky Top Talk this morning discussing Shaun Ellis’ miraculous runback of a recovered fumble versus the Auburn Tigers in 1998.

I would try to describe it, but that would only diminish the call from the legendary “Voice of the Vols Emeritus.“  But don’t take my word for it, listen for yourself…

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

How can you not love the sound of John Ward behind the microphone?

– So it goes Email lawvol No McAlisters

**Disclaimer and Notice: All Audio Clips remain the property of the licensing authority and their respective universities and/or institutions. Gate 21 makes no claim of ownership to these clips, and they are displayed on this website for the sole purpose of public commentary, discussion, and discourse, and are, in good faith, believed to be a Fair Use. Any questions or concerns regarding the display of such audio should be directed to the publisher of this site.

A Legendary Run Ends… Munson Retires

Obviously, I am a fan of the Tennessee Volunteers.  First and foremost, however, I am a lover of all of the great and grand traditions of college football, of the sport that creates such passion, and of the magical memories it makes for so many regardless of the colors they may wear.

It is for that reason that today is a sad day.  Last night legendary (and there is no word that fits other than “legendary”) college football radio announcer Larry Munson announced his retirement effective immediately.  Munson, who will celebrate his 86th birthday on Sunday, has served as the radio voice of the Georgia Bulldogs for 43 wonderful years.

Due to failing health, Munson began only announcing Georgia home games in 2007.  Then in April of this year Munson was diagnosed with blood clots in his brain and underwent brain surgery.  Some wondered if he would return for football season this fall.  Undeterred, Munson announced Georgia’s the home opener versus Georgia Southern.  Last night, however, Munson decided that it was time.

Larry Munson: Voice of the Dawgs for 43 years

Larry Munson: Voice of the Dawgs for 43 years

As I wrote in February, I remember all too well, what it felt like to hear John Ward announce his final game as the Voice of the Vols.  I was heartbroken to know that his voice would no longer announce “It’s Football Time in Tennessee!”  I still miss hearing him broadcast the fortunes of the Vols across the radio.  With no disrespect to Bob Kesling and Tim Priest—who do a fine job—it simply is not the same without Ward behind the microphone.  Still, at least the Vol-faithful had a year to honor Ward and color-man Bill Anderson, and one last chance to enjoy their wonderful brand of football announcing.  For the Georgia fans, it is already over.

I sincerely want to send out my personal best wishes to Larry Munson as he enters retirement.  Still, it simply won’t be the same.  There are so few of the grand college announcers  such as Ward and Munson left, and soon they will all fade from the airwaves and into memory.

Good luck, and Godspeed, Larry Munson!  You may be gone, but you will never be forgotten…

– Go Figure …Email lawvol

Image Courtesy of: / Curtis Compton

Flashback: The Great Games — The All-Time Top 10

Flashback | Gate 21

Well, as Joel pointed out, the News Sentinel’s Dave Hooker recently came out with his Top 10 games in Tennessee football history. It is an interesting list, but (like Joel) I’m not so certain I agree with all of the games on Hooker’s list.

Given the fact that I am still making my way through my “Great Games” series, it seems appropriate for me to chime in with my thoughts on this. At the risk of rendering some of my future posts in this series futile (not that they aren’t already), here is my top 10 games in Tennessee football history (with comparison to Dave Hooker’s ranking):

The Great Games |

Gate 21’s Top 10 All-Time


Tennessee Football Games

No. 10: 1989 – Tennessee vs. UCLA

The Rose Bowl | Dave Hooker Rank: Unranked

I know that some will question this one, but this game still stands out to me as one of the best. I toyed with ranking the 1985 Auburn win at No. 10, but I have to go with the Vols 1989 trip to Pasadena to take on the Bruins. This game was early in the season, and at that point UCLA was highly touted. Tennessee had been beaten in both their prior trips to the Rose Bowl to play the Bruins (1975 and 1967), and many thought they would repeat that trend as the Vols came off of their worst season in recent memory, and a close call in their season-opener versus Colorado State. The Vols, however, stepped-up to the challenge and proved that their 5 and 6 record for 1988 was only a bump in the road as they came out gunning for the No. 6-ranked Bruins. The Vols completely shutdown the UCLA offense with their own brand of SEC defense, en route to a 24 – 6 victory. That game set the stage for the rest of the season — one which included 10 more wins and only a single loss. The Vols would go on to win an SEC Championship, beat Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl that year, and end with a No 5 ranking.

Still, by my mind, it all started in California…

No. 9: 1999 Fiesta Bowl – Florida State vs. Tennessee

Sun Devil Stadium | Dave Hooker Rank: No. 1

Dave Hooker had this game as No. 1, but I cannot in good conscience give it that distinction. While the 1999 Fiesta Bowl did give Tennessee its first Consensus National Championship since 1951, the game itself was not nearly as spectacular as others that season.

First of all, both Tennessee and Florida State played very sloppily throughout the game as a result of the more than 4-week layoff leading up to the contest. Second — in fairness to Florida State — they were playing with a back-up quarterback, Marcus Outzen, who (to my knowledge) never started another game after the championship, due to the injury to Chris Weinke.

Finally, the game was exciting, but probably only if you were a Tennessee or Florida State fan. The reason for this is that the two teams were extremely closely matched at most positions. All of that said, I have such amazing memories of this game and of finally seeing another championship for the Big Orange, that I have to include it in the Top 10, regardless of its flaws.

After all, a championship is a very special thing…

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Flashback: The Great Games — Florida 1998

Flashback | Gate 21

The Great Games |

19 September 1998

Florida Football vs. Tennessee Football

(2) Florida 17(6) Tennessee 20

Neyland Stadium

Due to exceptionally bad planning on my part, I graduated from the University of Tennessee in four years — making my trip across the stage to collect my diploma in May of 1998…


Cartoon Courtesy of the Detroit News

I say it was bad planning because, as fate would have it — after traveling across the country with the Pride of the Southland for four years, following the Vols to every game — when Tennessee’s 1998 “season of destiny” rolled around, I was living more than six hours away in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I was a student at Tarhead State (UNC) engaged in my “Trade School” studies (I call law school that mainly to annoy all the Tarhead grads who infest the area where I now live) and quite far removed from my passion for Tennessee Volunteers Football.

Thus was my lot…

For what it is worth, I blame all of this on Joel at Rocky Top Talk since, as he and I both realized a few months back, he was my “teacher” in a crib-course on how to do well on law school entrance exams, and thus Joel is totally responsible for my entry into this sordid profession and my departure from East Tennessee exactly one year too early (This all makes perfect, well-reasoned, and orderly sense in my mind, in much the same way that Alabama coach Mike DuBose ultimately concluded that “Jesus wanted us to lose to Tennessee”).

Anyway, Tennessee opened the season versus the Syracuse Orangemen, and managed to hang on to victory by the absolute narrowest of margins — namely, Jeff Hall’s foot. The Gators, on the other hand, had beaten the living hell out of some school whose name eludes me, but I am sure it has “North“, “South“, “Central” “Left“, “Up“, or “Sideways” in its name.

After the 34 to 33 victory in the Syracuse game, I was somewhat less than hopeful about the Vols chances of winning against “Lord Spurrier and his Reptile Renegades.”

Nevertheless, given my incurable and uncontrollable addiction to traveling great distances, at considerable expense, to have your dreams crushed and your soul scarred, I climbed in my Volkswagen and headed back toward Knoxville for the showdown between the Florida Gators and the Vols. This was the first time I drove from Eastern North Carolina to Tennessee for a football game — it was a new experience. Now, however, I have made this journey so many times that I have all but memorized every single exit along Interstate 40 between the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area and Knoxville, and now I can (and on occasion do) drive it while sleeping.

As you might imagine, when I arrived in the Volunteer City, I didn’t have a ticket. After searching up and down Cumberland Avenue for an hour-or-two, I finally managed to find a single ticket, in return for all of the remaining money I had to eat on for the rest of my first semester of law school (making sure not to repeat my 1992 mistake of buying student tickets).

Left to Right: My Ticket to the 1998 game • My friend’s ticket to the same game • My infamous student ticket from the 1992 game when I wasn’t yet a student

Despite the fact that my ticket told me that my butt was supposed to be planted in Section ZZ15 in the North Endzone Upperdeck, I chose Row 18 of Section D — the heart of the student section — as my vantage point for the game, since all of my friends were on the “5-year plan” (or 6, or 7, or …) and that is where they were situated. Considering that there were somewhere between 250 and 5,000 people crammed into that row, and each of those around it, apparently I wasn’t the only one bending the rules — or the bleachers on which we all stood, until they finally gave way and broke off of the concrete risers in the 4th-quarter.

The contest opened with the Challenger,” the bald eagle soaring his way down from the North endzone across the Pride of the Southland during the National Anthem. How exactly that beautiful bird could find where he was supposed to go amidst the screaming of nearly 108,000 fans with flashbulbs turning the stands into a bank of strobe lights, is beyond me. What a way to start a hot and steamy fistfight.

And boy was it hot and steamy that night…

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Flashback: The Great Games — The 1996 Citrus Bowl


The Great Games |

1995-96 CompUSA Citrus Bowl

(1 January 1996)

Tennessee Football vs. FB-OhioState[1]

Tennessee 20 Ohio State 14

Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium

Continuing on with 1995, after beating Bama soundly and ending the 10-year drought against the Crimson Tide, the Tennessee Volunteers finished out their regular season at 10-1. Their only loss coming at the hands of the Florida Gators in a 62-37 drubbing which tarnishes the 1995 team’s otherwise exemplary record. Tennessee finished the season ranked 4th, but in the days of the so-called Bowl Alliance, the “premier” bowls were reserved only for conference champions, thus, Tennessee received a bid to the “first outside the money” CompUSA Florida Citrus Bowl to take on the similarly situated Ohio State Buckeyes, who lost their last game of the season against arch-rival Michigan, and with it the Big 11 10 title, and ended the seasons ranked … uhh … 4th also.

1996 Florida Citrus Bowl

Cover from the Official 1996 Citrus Bowl Program. Ohio State later sued the bowl committee for omitting “THE” (in all caps and 72 pt font) from their name — the matter was ultimately resolved in a settlement whereby Ohio State received a case of oranges and an autographed photo of Mickey Mouse.

The fact of the matter remains, no matter what either school would claim publicly, neither Tennessee nor Ohio State wanted to be in Orlando on New Year’s Day. Both had completed 1-loss seasons, and both came within a half of playing for the National Championship or, at a minimum, playing in one of the top-tier Alliance Bowls. Ohio State wanted to be in Pasadena and Tennessee in New Orleans or Tempe. Regardless of what they wanted, they were set to play one another in a game which — in my book — ranks as one of the best bowl games I’ve ever watched in person or on television.

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