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Feeling Like Jackson, Tennessee These Days (Part 1)

Posted by Ryne E. Hancock on January 30, 2008

Doc’s Note: This is the latest in a series of columns on sports at Crichton. These columns will appear regularly until the end of the school year.

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Twenty years ago, if you had said to anyone that Jackson, Tennessee, a city known simply as being the hometown of Casey Jones and Carl Perkins, would have a minor-league baseball team, more than one Wendy’s, and a shopping mall, you probably would have been greeted with blank stares.

Seriously.

In the last ten years, Jackson-Madison County has seen tremendous growth, ranging from stealing the Memphis Chicks baseball team and passing them off as the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx in 1998 to NAIA Championships from both Union and Lambuth.

Not to mention that the city was the home of famed game-show host Wink Martindale, who’s known to my generation as that guy who’s in those Orbitz commercials.

And given the fact that many times in our journey towards Lebanon or some one-horse town in Georgia we have made fun of the city’s one-horse image, which has resulted in laughs from myself as well, Jackson is definitely a city on the way up.

“You’d never think Jackson would be this big,” Coach Ryans said as we exited onto Country Club Lane from Interstate 40 on Monday night.

In the area near Union University, there were blocks and blocks of old money (read: expensive homes and subdivisions) that we saw on the way there, which probably costs a tenth of A-Rod’s salary as well as Jackson Christian School, known for their state championship run a couple of years back.

We arrived at Union’s campus around 5:30 p.m. and made our way to “The Fred”, Union’s home gym.

In the foyer of the building, Union proudly displayed their athletic past, highlighting great moments in basketball, baseball, and volleyball.

But the real boasting took place when I looked around the gym and assessed the walls of the building as they were decorated with various championship banners, some of them looking like they were stolen from a carpet factory.

“They must really think they’re Notre Dame,” I said to myself, “lots of history, but a lot of arrogance.”

Prior to the game, Union’s basketball coach, who looked a lot like that guy from the “Saw” movies, decided to do the Cupid Shuffle, which probably was the best I ever seen a fortyish white guy do.

While it seemed to me that Union was using the banners to taunt Crichton or whatever, I did find a kindred spirit in my Union counterpart, Micah Fern.

Fern is one of two student assistants for Union University and thanks to him, I found a DVD player that allowed me to view the game that I was shooting, since we didn’t have the one that we usually carried on road trips.

“We definitely needed it,” I said to him as his assistant and I hooked up the player to the recorder.

To make the trip to Jackson more interesting, the “Basketball Sisterhood”, a collection of female basketball fans that make some of the road trips with Crichton, were also in the audience. Since I once spent four hours with them on the way to Nashville in November, I already knew that they were going to be loud and proud.

Along with them were DanStars Naysha Scott, Cierra Johnson, and Lauretta Plummer as well as soccer players Gavin Smith and Matthew Long.

While Union and Crichton battled for much of the first half, the second half of the game was a completely different story as the Comets found themselves missing everything under the sun, going 1-for-19 in the process from the arc.

For Union, the night belonged to Matt Neaville, who was making life miserable for the Comet faithful as well as Coach Walker, netting 32 points in the process for the Bulldogs as they cruised to a 93-80 win over Crichton.

At the end of the game, I said to Micah that they still had to come to Memphis on the 23rd and better bring their A-game with them.

But that’s not only to the people of Union.

That’s also to Crichton as well.

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