April 1st, 2006


The Tennessee Connection

Last Tuesday, a patient of mine from Tennessee, Shirley Myers, surprised me. "I've got a present for you." Wrapped in a manilla folder protected by a plastic bag, was the picture you see below.

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Mrs. Myers and I discussed the Lady Vols for years. Natural enough for her to be a Volunteer fan, but my interest in Tennessee goes back to single wing football, Coach Red Sanders, who came from Vanderbilt, in Nashville, to UCLA, and brought UCLA a national championship. Few teams still clung to the single wing, amongst them, the Tennessee Volunteers. So, I became interested in one of the few other teams to use this archaic formation.

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The Tennessee accent of Coach Sanders, Coach Tommy Prothro, and their great sense of humor, along with their accomplishments aroused my interest. Years later, coming to Orange County as the second nephrologist to open a practice in the area, I met Joe Leonard..... from Knoxville, and there was that accent, again. Well, there wasn't a more devoted, more uncompromising physician than Joe, and when he moved back to Knoxville in about 1973, we remained friends.

I would go back to Tennessee a few times when the Bruins and the Volunteers played in Knoxville, and we would renew our friendship. One time, I remember, Joe and his lovely wife, Janet, took us to Dollywood, and I had my first pulled pork BBQ sandwich, and, much to my surprise (and to the respected memory of my parents, my Hebrew school teacher, and my heritage) I loved it.

Coming from a basketball heritage that goes all the way back to the Theodore Roosevelt High School Rough Riders, Chicago City Champions of 1952, and John Wooden's repeat Bruin NCAA Champions, it wasn't hard to appreciate Pat Summitt's Lady Vols, with the "Meeks," Chamique Holdsclaw, Tamika Catchings, Semeka Randall, and all the other greats. With the Lady Bruins falling to Purdue, I switched my allegiance to the Lady Vols, but, alas, they fell to an extremely athletic Tar Heel team. I did have my picture from Pat and Mrs. Myers with me, and, they'll be with me today.... in about 7 hours when the Bruins take the court against the 2 point favored LSU Tigers. I hope that my talismans bring the Bruins a bit more luck....

To make the story all the more relevant.... When Joe Leonard went back to Knoxville, he treated a patient with acute renal failure due to Legionaire's Disease. The patient made a full recovery. It was Shirley Myers' husband. We're going to need all that "Red" Sanders, Pat Summitt and the Tennessee connection can do to escape with a win, but we did manage to beat a team from Memphis, also favored, last week.

55-34 @ 6:54 All Bruins

It'a a Red Auerbach moment. If he were the Bruin coach, he'd be lighting up his cigar. This one is in the win column. A great game for the Bruins. Don MacLean, the Bruin color man on the radio, put the game away 3 minutes before I did, and Mark Whicker of the Register said, "Every team UCLA beats is terrible. It's like a disease!" It's defense and intensity and hunger. They have something to prove. I am so proud of this team.

Looking ahead to Florida, it's again a case of a team, the Gators, that are superior on paper. They are, theoretically, stronger inside, and their guards can shoot, but that's before Aflalo applies the glue. Either team can win. But, don't bet against the gutty Bruins. They are hungry, and Howland won't let them forget how they got here.

A lot of number one seeds are licking their wounds, and the talking of heads of CBS unanimously agreed that it would be the Tigers who emerged. This sure takes me back to Pinckneyville and 1952 and Champaign and the Sweet Sixteen.

Tonight, it sure feels great to be a Bruin.

And here comes Michael Fey!