My Southern Heritage Doesn’t Require a Flag

…or a monument.

Summer is upon me.  According to John Phillips, “The Mississippi River runs like molasses in the summertime.”  I know the summer humidity is as sticky as molasses…just like discussions about my heritage. 

The steamy humidity is a part of my heritage, as are lightning bugs and mosquitos, or violent thunderstorms, and the refreshing cool afterward.  Cutting sweet corn off the cob and salting it with the sweat off my brow.  Seems much of my heritage runs the gamut between opposite poles of good and bad.

My Southern heritage is being debated across the far reaches of this country…again.   The left is celebrating a statue of General Lee and Traveler, along with Stonewall Jackson being whisked off to a museum and the Right continues to debate the evils of Critical Race Theory, a theory I believe most have never studied…including me.  CRT is a graduate school or law school course that has been around for some forty years and is beyond the scope of what is being taught in grade schools.  Some people are confusing the truth about our checkered past for CRT.  I notice the folks crying the loudest about General Lee are also crying the loudest against CRT.  Maybe they aren’t confused at all.

These statues were erected to glorify men so gallantly in their Confederate gray or butternut.  Many monuments were bought and paid for by the Daughters of the Confederacy.  Statues bought and paid for by our grandmothers and great grandmothers can’t be bad, can they? 

The problem is many were erected in the badly segregated South of the Jim Crow era, celebrating men who caused the deaths of so many and who brought havoc and destruction to the South.  Erected by those who advanced a segregated society for another hundred years after the war. I find nothing to celebrate on this issue.

I believe there is much to celebrate about my Southern heritage. What I celebrate doesn’t increase the resentment associated with enslaved people bullied and beaten by gun bulls and patty rollers on tall horses.  The enslaved whose present and futures were lorded over by Southern aristocrats whose propaganda led poor whites to their deaths on distant hillsides.  Our heritage doesn’t have to involve a Battle Flag that flew over an army in the employ of a rebellious cluster of Southern states intent on keeping and expanding their “peculiar institution.” A “country” that only lasted for four years.

Is there nothing else we can celebrate regarding Southern Heritage?  Is there nothing else to be proud of?  Is there nothing more than flags flown from pickup trucks and belt buckles and bumper stickers proclaiming “Forget, Hell!!!!”  Are we simply the sum of our rebellious past?

We have a rich culture that doesn’t have to harken back to “old times there are not forgotten.” If you are going to lionize the exploits of soldiers on a battlefield, why look past the Revolutionary War?  More Revolutionary War battles were fought in my state than any other and some of the greatest military leaders of the war fought here.  South Carolina born and bred, Sumter, Marion, Pickens, and Moultrie, along with adopted sons like Morgan, Greene, and Shelby left their mark, not only on my state but on the nation as a whole.

Wait just a “cotton pickin’ minute.”  Weren’t some of these men slave owners? Yes, some were and despite this fact, we should neither purge them from history books nor should we discount their contributions.  As some of my right-leaning friends have told me, “It’s history”.  I agree, it is history and history should be taught warts and all.  It shouldn’t be sanitized, nor should it be taught as propaganda like my eighth-grade Cold War Civics class. History is simply what was. We shouldn’t cover it up and we shouldn’t hide from it.

We have a rich Southern culture and heritage going back centuries despite our “peculiar institution” and resulting Jim Crow…let me rephrase that…” including our peculiar institution and resulting Jim Crow.” It’s history.  We don’t need a flag or statues to worship under any more than we should deny the existence of mosquitoes and high humidity in our travel brochures.  They are facts we can’t or should not attempt to escape.  Facts are facts and history is history.

We have a rich and diverse heritage in my state alone.  Gullah language and art from the coast to Appalachian culture in the mountains and foothills and to German Lutherans in the “Dutch Fork” middle.  Native American tribal influences from the Catawba River, across to the Savannah, and down to Pee Dee just to mention a few.  We have art, music, and literature that sprang from slaves and sharecroppers. Beautiful cities and small towns.   Architecture, music, visual arts, cuisine, sports, a heritage that shouldn’t include praise for men enslaving other men or men who fought for them. 

When I say “shouldn’t include” do I mean we should ignore it?  Certainly not.  We shouldn’t heap praise upon the heads of my long-ago, dearly departed great, great grandfathers for fighting under the Battle Flag of Northern Virginia.  Whatever their motivation, they rebelled in the name of supporting slavery. If there was any honor in that flag it was lost when it was co-opted by the KKK and like minded white supremacists while we or our parents did nothing.

My grandfathers were poor men with little education.  Maybe they bought the propaganda about the state’s rights that included the right to enslave.  Maybe they believed in an unfair tariff that was placed on goods raised on the backs of the enslaved.  Maybe they believed it was a War of Northern Aggression.  I doubt they thought much past the surface.  Wars are started by rich, old men and fought by young, poor ones.  Still, they fought and died under the wrong banner and should not be memorialized or immortalized. 

No, I’ll stick with being proud of a heritage that includes BB King from Mississippi singing the Blues, a Southern invention.  I might sip a bit of Jack Daniels from Tennessee with a bit of Coca-Cola invented in Atlanta, Georgia.  Maybe later I’ll select from a menu that includes Cajun or Creole food from Louisiana or BBQ from anywhere in the South or shrimp and grits, from my state.  I’ve eaten enough Soul food to cause my arteries to collapse.

Afterward, I might go sit on my front porch, a Southern culture trait in itself, while smelling honeysuckle, jasmine, or gardenia with a Pat Conroy, Ace Atkins, or a James Lee Burke novel.  All notable Southern authors who follow a lineage of fine Southern authors from Faulkner, Walker, O’Conner, and Williams to name just a few.

Depending on the season I might watch my favorite sports teams, The Braves from Atlanta, The Tigers from Clemson.  I might catch a NASCAR event, a sport begun in the South that sprang from moonshiners and dirt track racers.  We have a Southern heritage attached to our sports teams and college football is a recognized religion with an attending congregation in the millions on any given Saturday.  Why can’t we Southerners be proud of that?

Again, and with fervor, my Southern Heritage doesn’t involve a battle flag or statues saluting dead Confederates.  My Southern Heritage is too rich for that.   My Southern heritage is about beautiful and historic homes and cities, sharecropper shanties, and Sears cottages. It’s about kudzu, cotton, and long-abandoned textile mills.  It’s about old men, white and black, plowing behind a mule on the river bottoms.

It is about rich music from Nashville or Muscle Shoals and even richer food from New Orleans, Atlanta, or anywhere on the coast. It’s great literature that can be as heavy as Southern humidity or as light as the scent of Jasmine.  My Southern heritage is about beautiful flower and vegetable gardens, and cotton fields bursting white in the fall.  It is about sitting on the front porch with family and friends after church and a Sunday dinner. 

My heritage is about friends and families of all races.  It is about celebrating diversity.

If I haven’t turned you off, further works by Don Miller may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR0A3XCeFAUGkHotYyrBgt6V-v3Rl-6mVzt2hmVK3o_4rtITkiH874sjYQs

Image of Lee’s statue by Paul Mayer, Office of the Mayor, Washington, DC.

Football and the Fairer Sex

This is an odd day for me to make a blog post but after reading some of the posts concerning the Vandy kicker I felt a call to arms.  I felt a call to turn myself into a transgender female.  After reading some of the comments I was ashamed to be a male.  But then I saw some of the negative posts were from women…okay I did not want an operation anyway and I doubt I have the legs for a skirt.

You know the story.  Sarah Fuller, Vanderbilt’s star goalkeeper goes from helping the Lady Commodores soccer team win an SEC Championship to winning an audition as a kicker for the Vanderbilt football team.  The Vanderbilt kickers have a problem with Covid-19.

The Vanderbilt football squad has a problem with offense…and defense. She only had one chance to kick, a squib kick-off to open the second half and people went overboard with comments in both directions. Too much praise, too much criticism.  It was just a well-executed squib kick. No runback and the primitives among us didn’t get to see her crushed.

Do we call male soccer players for Vanderbilt Gentlemen Commodores?  No, there is no Gentlemen Commodore soccer team and I know of no program that refers to their football…or futbol team as “Gentlemen.”

Why can’t we praise people for their efforts?  Maybe it was a publicity stunt, at 0 and forever, Vandy needs good pub or to find a good pub. 

Maybe it was to stir up interest for a Gentlemen’s Commodore soccer team. 

Maybe it was what it was.  She was the best option at the time. She is still the best option but they are playing Georgia so we may again only see her once.

Nah, more than likely George Soros, the liberal boogie man, agreed to pay off the head coach’s buy out so they could fire him if the school agreed to make a spectacle of Miss Fuller.  Could happen.  The head coach did get fired. I’ve read crazier conspiracy theories.

I don’t understand why my male compadres…and their female counterparts were anxious for a person they don’t know to be turned into a pretzel by three hundred pound monster linemen. 

Fact is, she’s most likely tougher than you think, and women have been outperforming men’s expectations…and outcomes since…since…since cave dwellers went out to hunt wooly mammoths. 

She is a goalkeeper you know?  Goalkeepers are tough.  They don’t flop, grab an ankle and wallow like a limb has been torn from their bodies when being breathed on by an opposing player.  Goalkeepers cause strikers to flop, grab an ankle and wallow because a limb has been torn from their body. 

My daughter was a goalkeeper and part of me cringed when she came out on a breakaway, throwing her body at the ball while body blocking the attacking player.  Part of me cheered too, but usually not until after the play was over and Ashley was back on her feet.  “Got all your teeth, Boo?” No, I would never call her Boo.  “Got all your teeth, Spike?”

During my football coaching days, we had a kicker who happened to be a girl…and we were a first.  Said in a kind of mealy-mouthed way, “First high school football team to play a girl.  Play a girrrrrrrl.”  Said as if we might have bit down on a dog turd,Why does she get all the publicity?”  BECAUSE WE WERE TERRIBLE, NUMB NUTS!

None of the italics are true…except the terrible part.  We had “logistic” issues as in where she dressed but she was accepted as a “team member”, just like every other kid who came out. 

That’s also not to say there wasn’t some gnashing of teeth.  We’re already bad and some felt having a girl on the team made us look even worse.  “You’ve got a girrrrrrrl on your team.”

We were probably as bad as Vandy in a high school way, and she wasn’t the strongest kicker, but she did get the opportunity to kick a few extra points and succeeded.  Let me rephrase, she earned the opportunity to kick a few extra points. She was like any other reserve, we played her when we could.  She was also a soccer player and a tough nut to boot.  Bet Miss Fuller is too.

 I still don’t understand why a person would hope someone would break both her legs. Did this somehow make a mockery of football? 

Wait.  Did this somehow make a mockery of your manhood?  I think some men are afraid.  Afraid of being replaced maybe.  Afraid they will somehow be less important.  I keep reading, “Men should have roles, women should have roles.”  Usually with a Biblical reference followed by barefoot and pregnant. 

It was the same reaction when women went out and proved they could be firefighters, or law enforcement officers, soldiers, pilots, etc.  Not so secretly, men expressed their displeasure…as did some women.  Not because women weren’t capable, they have more than proven they are, but because somehow it has upset the belief people should be limited by the antiquated roles we perceive they should have. There should be no limits.

Has she proven herself an American football player? No, and she probably won’t.  She is a kicker and kickers aren’t noticed until they miss.  My hope is she proves herself to be a kicker.  She’s already proven herself to be an athlete.  A lot of other people have proven to be knuckle-dragging cretins.

Don Miller has just released the second of his Drunken Irishman Saloon series, Long Ride to Paradise. The link is https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08P81W6LZ.

His author’s page is https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3CBHKrwrcnRx38KnvopTelH0W56XFsG7wnRRL5lUD1JpiZ4TfUy2YcxfE

JOCKSTRAPS and OTHER DIGRESSIONS

 

Sometimes the derivation of words gets lost over time…and sends me down a rabbit hole.  I don’t know why I felt the need to research the history of the jockstrap…I just did.

There was a time I would not be caught dead without an athletic supporter once I knew what they were and what they were designed to do.  This was not due to the science behind the jockey strap but in response to my naivety in the1960s and certain scare tactics employed to make sure we were wearing them.  Our coaches would explain in a very serious and hushed tone, “You do want to have children when you grow up don’t you?” or “If you don’t wear that thing your ding a ling will fall off!” or “If you keep doing that you will go blind!” … oops, the wrong scare tactic. This leads me to the less than extensive research I have done about the athletic supporter or what is known as the jockstrap, jockey strap or just plain ole “jock.”

It would be a logical leap to believe that the athletic supporter became known as a jockey strap because jockeys wore them. Logical yes, but that is not correct.  Jockey simply means rider.  Jockey straps were invented for Boston bicycle riders and not the diminutive munchkins riding horses in the Kentucky Derby or Preakness.

In 1874, the first jockstrap was invented by Charles Bennett, a worker for Sharp & Smith, a Chicago hosiery company.  He created it to remedy what he called “floppy man parts” as cyclists rode over the cobblestone streets of Boston.  In their advertisement, our little friends were referred to as “floppy man parts.”  There were so many complaints about jiggling jewels the jockey strap was invented to keep our little man friends tucked safely up and out of harm’s way.

I have to digress.  The first jockstraps used in team sports was by hockey players, also in 1874.  It would 1979 before helmet use would be required in hockey.  Took a while to figure out which head was important.

The first jockstrap was a type of bike jockey strap, not to be confused with a type of Bike Jockey Strap.  The Bike Company, producer of over three hundred and fifty million jock- straps bought the patent and went into business.  If you are thinking there is a tie-in between the Bike Company and bike riders, again you would be wrong.  The Number One manufacturer of athletic supporters began life as the Bike Web Company years before.

The lineage of the jock strap likely can be traced back to when Babylonian men “girded their loins” before a battle in the Fertile Crescent some five thousand years ago or as Roman soldiers using a leather belt with flaps hanging over their “danglies” conquered an empire.

The history gets a bit bizarre in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries when European men were men and women could not help but notice it.  During this time, men liked to flaunt their packages even if their packages were lacking “flaunt-ability” by use of a pouch-like accouterment called the codpiece.

Cod means, and since I really don’t care if this is in good taste or not, scrotum as derived from the Greeks.  From this word derives the slightly off-color description, “cod sack.”  In some cases, the codpiece was used as a false advertisement somewhat like the modern “Wonder Bra” or “falsie” but stopped short of being like the “fake boob”.  Can you really call something like a boob fake?  I really need to do some hands-on research on the subject.  The codpiece of old gave you an impression of more where there wasn’t necessarily more.  It was like driving a big four by four to compensate for certain “little man” inadequacies.

You might have seen codpieces and not known it.  They seem to be a part of costumes associated with Heavy Metal bands in the Seventies or singers like Gene Simmons of KISS, along with male ballet dancers.  Dancers I understand but who knew singers had to worry about jiggling and flopping.  Maybe they reach those high notes by using too tight codpieces or felt a need to be protected from all those teen groupies.

No matter how bizarrely Heavy Metal bands dressed, none were as bizarre as the actual codpieces produced and worn in what I thought was the less brazen period of the fifteen and sixteenth centuries.  I was mistaken at least when it came to men.  Men adorned the front of their armor or trousers with what resembled…ah…well…very large…erect…man parts.  Some were adorned with angry heads resembling serpents, animals and my personal favorite a plumed bird.  “Want to touch the birdy?  It might chirp at you.”

During the Seventies, the use of jockey straps seemed to decline.  It wasn’t that we weren’t still concerned about our little friends or because it was the era of “free love,” it was just that technology had advanced to the point that they weren’t needed as much.  Compression shorts, football girdles and baseball sliding shorts all made appearances and kept your man parts out of the way.  I have even traded my jock strap for what a female friend of mine calls “Mandex”, compression shorts made from Spandex.

I should point out that I do not run around in Spandex.  I have taken the time to look at myself in a mirror, notice what other men my age look like in spandex running or bike shorts and have mandated the use of running shorts over my “Mandex.”

During my years as a football coach, our players wore what were called girdles which resembled the ladies’ apparel of the same name.  In addition to keeping our player’s “jewels” in place and out of harm’s way, they had pouches where their hip and thigh pads were inserted.  Despite this technological advance, some of our players would still wear jockstraps, some in interesting ways including over their girdle.

When stretching before practice I noticed one of my defensive end’s posterior had pink hearts showing through his white practice pants when he stretched.  Because I have an inquiring mind and am easily distracted I could not help wondering why he wore his jock over his girdle and then decided to put his underwear on top before putting on his football pants…I still wonder.

From the book “Floppy Parts” by Don Miller.  It can be purchased or downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

COACH ‘EM UP AND LOVE ‘EM

An article from the Washington Post by Chuck Culpepper, “Across college football, ‘I love you’ becomes audible” caught my eye. It featured an exchange, among others, which took place between Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Deshaun Watson after the 2016 National Championship loss to Alabama. As Dabo finished answering a question he turned to Watson and said, “I love you.” Watson returned the love with a back at you “Love you too” to Swinney. There is a great deal to love about these men if you are a Clemson fan.

Football has certainly changed from the days of Frank Howard, Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler and Darrell Royal. The major change is reflected in Royal’s quote, “When you throw a pass three things can happen to it, and two of them are bad.” I would say today’s coaches have totally ignored that pearl of wisdom and have proven the one good thing that can happen is a whole bunch of points are being scored. Another change I doubt any of these “old school” coaches would have ever uttered, is a statement like “I love you” to a player. Old school coaches simply would not or COULD NOT say it.

It is only recently men have been free to express feelings of love for other men…in a manly kind of way. See, I have trouble even talking about it. I can’t even give more than a “love ya Man” to my brother and I feel terrible I am so repressed. Coaches kissing their players on the cheek or giving out hugs, until recently, were restricted to the women’s side of athletics. Displays of affection have now found there way over to the men’s side of the bench and I say GREAT! Until this era the best a player might hope for would be a slap on the butt or a noogie.

I’m sure Frank, Woody, Bo and Darrell all loved their players and for the most part I’m sure their players knew it…maybe. I guess I should add my name to the list. I can’t remember ever coming out and saying “I love you” to a team. Maybe late in my career. You ask a bunch of kids to sweat and bleed for you but you are too repressed to let them know you care about them as young men by saying it. Shame on me.

Once after a particular tough loss, I asked South Carolina high school hall of fame coach Mike Anthony what I should do. His wisdom was simple, “Nothing you can do except coach ’em up and love ’em.” Wise words…wish I had listened. Soooooooo, to all my former players, sorry I’m late doing this…I LOVE YOU and while I’m at it, THANK YOU.

To all of you new coaches or coach want to bes, don’t be afraid to “coach ’em up and love ’em.”

The complete article by Chuck Culpepper can be accessed from the following link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/colleges/across-college-football-i-love-you-becomes-audible/2016/11/23/e2d61f4c-a90d-11e6-8fc0-7be8f848c492_story.html

For more of Don Miller’s unique views of life, humor and Southern stories of a bygone time, try http://goo.gl/lomuQf

WINNERS AND LOSERS…but not really

I’ve seen so much written and spoken, negatively, about the Rio Olympics and admit to falling into the same negativity with the Zika virus, dead body parts found in beach sand, fecal matter in ocean water, the hidden favelas, participants robbed at gun point and, on a lighter note, how much side boob or butt crack some of our beach volley ball players might be showing. No I was not negative about our volley ball players and MORE than JUST appreciated the buff female forms in bikinis, stretching and diving athletically for their sport. I really don’t understand why people involved in high levels of athletics are not supposed to look good doing it, male or female, without coming under so much public scrutiny. Originally weren’t the first Olympics performed au naturale? Here’s to the good old days…oh wait…they were male only? Let’s just forget that idea. I was also negative about how much the Olympics actually pulled the world’s people together and wondered if any of us were burning with the fire of the Olympic flame as we ridiculed “outspoken” people wearing hijabs or failing to put their hands over their hearts.

In my first attempt at writing badly, Winning was Never the Only Thing, I attempted to convey the idea that sports was more about the people who participated in athletic endeavors than the act of winning itself. Whether it was winning a game or losing an event, paramount was recognizing that even the losers put forth great effort…and display a “winning” effort. No I don’t believe everyone should get a trophy but everyone should be recognized for the effort that they put in to “winning or losing” and just not for the winning. Simone Biles, Simone Manuel, Michael Phelps and the rest of the medal winners should be praised for their accomplishments but what embodies the Olympic Spirit, and winning in general, for me, was exemplified when Abbey D’Agostino of the United States and Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand became tangled with each other in the five thousand meters. After Hamblin went down, D’Agostino tripped over her and also fell to the ground. Though the US runner’s leg was badly injured, the runners helped each other to their feet, and Hamblin cheered on the American as she stumbled, in obvious pain with an Olympics’ ending knee injury, to the finish line…in last place. After finishing, both runners embraced in what ABC’s WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS would have called “the agony of defeat.” I would call it displaying a “gold medal” attitude despite the fact I could hardly see the display due to the tears in my eyes. On the same day, Haitian hurdler Jeffery Julmis face planted on the first hurdle in the one-tens losing any chance of a medal. Instead of staying down in humiliation, Julmis untangled himself and completed the race to finish last…because finishing must be important.

Are there really any losers in the Olympics? I’m not sure we could call the 1988 Jamaican bobsled team “world class” but they did qualify and later had a movie made about them. The same year Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, Great Britain’s “heroic loser” finishing last in the seventy and ninety-meter ski jumps but also had a movie made about his efforts. How can “losing” be important enough to have a movie made about it? More to the point I ask “Is Carrie Walsh a loser for not winning the gold in 2016…after two golds in previous Olympics?” The same could be asked about Gabby Douglas, who won an individual gold in 2012 but didn’t in 2016. I think the answer is no…and would add all the non-medal finishers to my list, BUT NO THEY DON’T GET TROPHIES FOR PARTICIPATING.

I am proud of what the United States has done and the legends we have been made but I am also proud of the losers too. To make the Olympics is a major accomplishment and all of the athletes deserve our heart-felt applause if they display the “Spirit of the Olympics.” Despite the comments of a certain US soccer goalie and the failure of an Egyptian to shake an Israeli’s hand, most participants have kept their “humility” in both victory and in defeat despite the inappropriate saying “Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.” Show me a good loser and I’ll show you an Olympian.

For more of Don Miller’s unique outlook on life please click on the following link to purchase a book, view links to his blog or just to follow. Thank you. https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM