By Mark Nagi
There is so much doom and gloom in the world of sports right now. And I understand those emotions. It’s sad to think about. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t sunshine in the storm.
I’m sitting in a vacation rental in Carolina Beach writing this article. My daughters and their friends are still sleeping. I just got back from an early morning run as the ocean waves chased me on the beach, and I was thinking about all the positives in sports, past present and future. So here goes.
I’m thankful that Tennessee won the 1998 national championship. Imagine if that victory on a cool Tempe night hadn’t happened. Would it have occurred the following year? Maybe in 2001? Yes, Tennessee was still loaded with talent, but there’s no guarantee that the crystal ball was coming back to Knoxville. It was a generational win, one 47 years in the making.
I look forward to the next title.
I’m thankful that I had the chance, as many of you did, to watch the greatest basketball coach of all time up close. Pat Summitt was taken from us too soon, but her legend lives on. Every time I’m on the UT campus I enjoy seeing her statue welcome me to The Hill.
I’m thankful that Tennessee’s men’s basketball program is on solid ground. Following the Bruce Pearl mess, the Cuonzo Martin tenure and the ridiculous Donnie Tyndall season, the Vols were as low as you could get. A few years later, Rick Barnes has built a program Tennessee fans can be proud of, with charismatic players that are also good people. Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams continue to be thought of in high regard.
I’m thankful that in East Tennessee, we have so many high school football coaches that are not only great field generals but leaders of young men. Fulton’s Rob Black, South-Doyle’s Clark Duncan, Grace Christian’s Rusty Bradley, Farragut’s Eddie Courtney… the list goes on and on. These coaches are helping these kids make the transition from childhood to adulthood. It’s such an important job, and they have dedicated their lives to assist in their development.
I’m thankful that the TSSAA is working to make sure that sports are played this Fall. It’s a very difficult process and one that is ever-evolving. There is no easy answer, no perfect solution. But the non-contact sports are on schedule, and (fingers crossed) football and girls’ soccer now have plans in place. As of this writing, we are still waiting to hear from the governor’s office, but there is optimism.
I’m thankful that the NBA and NHL are coming back in a few days. I’m thankful that pro golf, the MLS and NASCAR have been playing lately. I’m definitely thankful that I was able to watch the Premiere League. I hope I get to watch the NFL. College football? That’s gonna be a challenge. But the power of positive thinking is in play here. Believe it. And it will happen. I really hope it happens.
And finally, I’m thankful that I had parents that always encouraged me to work towards my goals and helped me every step of the way. I played soccer and ran track in middle school and high school. I’d like to think that I was good at soccer. I know I wasn’t good at track. I studied Communications, worked as a sportscaster for 15 years, and still do sports writing to this day. I was blessed to have the support of my Mom and Dad.
What are you thankful for?
Mark Nagi is the author of “Decade of Dysfunction,” which takes an up-close look at Tennessee’s crazy coaching search in 2017. The book is available on Amazon.