“Spanky” isn’t exactly a tough-guy name for a football player. Also, his build was slight for a linebacker, a position typically requiring size, height and speed.But Spanky had something else: a knack for excellence, a quiet, steady bearing and an unstoppable work ethic.As a black youngster growing up in Wiregrass Alabama, Thomas broke through the last remnants of racial divisions.When his all-Southern Conference college football days at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga were over, the NFL wasn’t waiting for him. Instead, he returned to his hometown, Dothan, to assist a Boys Club, to mentor youth who needed a role model like Spanky.Eventually, he moved on to central Florida to lead a Boys Club of his own.He died in a car accident 20 years ago yesterday — Feb. 27, 1990. He was 24.Two decades later, when friends and former teammates speak of Spanky Thomas, they express the same thoughts.Spanky was a natural leader, in the classroom, on the field and in life.Spanky had a great smile.Spanky is missed.The whole column is here. I was reminded of the column this afternoon while going through The Star's photo archives. The top photo here is of Spanky (No. 11) chasing an Auburn running back during a 1986 game. By the way, pictured in the bottom photo is Mike Makins, another teammate of Spanky's who spoke with me for the column.
It's difficult to get through December without a passing exposure to at least one the various film versions of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. As I recently shared with for The Star's Pop Cultured column, my favorite is the 1970 musical version with Albert Finney. Yet, moving picture and sound can't do full justice to the power of Dickens' words. This exchange between Scrooge and his nephew illustrates the point:
"Nephew!" returned the uncle, sternly, "keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine."
"Keep it!" repeated Scrooge's nephew. "But you don't keep it."
"Let me leave it alone, then," said Scrooge. "Much good may it do you! Much good it has ever done you!"
"There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say," returned the nephew. "Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round -- apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that -- as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!"
Indeed. Merry Christmas.
In a little less than a month the football teams from the University of Alabama and Louisiana State University will compete for the BCS national championship. The Star’s editorial board is planning a comparison of the opponents’ states beyond the gridiron, an examination of Alabama and Louisiana that has virtually nothing to do with football.
We are looking for other measurements from the political world.
We are looking for other measurements from the political world - traditions, legends, quotes, landmarks, icons, embarassments, etc.
Your suggestions welcome.
A highlight of last week's annual convention of the National Conference of Editorial Writers in Indianapolis was not on the impressive agenda.
It was a spot in downtown I visited every morning, the Indy Bike Hub YMCA. The facility is a full-service parking garage for bicycle commuters, with showers, lockers, 148 parking spots with locks for bikes (pictured), an in-house bike shop capable of repair work and top-notch exercise equipment just in case the pedalling from home wasn't enough. (Of course, non-cyclists are welcome at the facility, as well.)
As a member of the YMCA of Calhoun County, I took advantage of the Y's member-exchange which allows visitation privileges for out-of-towners. The staff at the Indy Bike Hub was friendly and I was able to get in a little spinning on a stationary bike.
"There is nothing like it in the country," Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard told the Indianapolis Star during last week's grand opening. The city is planning to expand its accessibility to cyclists. "The goal is to make Indianapolis the healthiest city in America," YMCA of Greater Indianapolis President Eric Ellsworth told the newspaper. "This is one small cog in the wheel."
Next-door to the Bike Hub is the City Market. In the mornings, downtown office workers crowded around stands selling eggs, biscuits, pastries and coffee. One morning a coffee vendor noticed my sweaty workout clothes and remarked, "Hey, did you just come from the Y?"
"Yup," I answered. He smiled, and said, "I did,too." Fortunately for his customers he had a place to shower following his morning workout.