Glenn Jacobs, better known by his WWE wrestling stage name, Kane, has challenged Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey to a debate about the proposed Internet sales tax. Jacobs lives in Jefferson City and is a co-founder of the Tennessee Liberty Alliance. If anyone can pound some sense through the thick skulls of Tennessee politicians, it may be the fearsome Kane. But in any case, Jacobs’ challenge got me thinking about the amazing accomplishments of Tennessee athletes, and the even more amazing failures of Tennessee political figures. So I have decided to create my personal Tennessee Halls of Fame and Shame.
Peyton Manning was an All-American quarterback at the University of Tennessee, the first overall pick in the 1998 NFL draft, and has won a record four NFL MVP awards. If he stays healthy, Manning has a chance to go down as the greatest quarterback in NFL history.
Oscar Robertson, born in Charlotte, Tenn., is generally considered to be one of the best basketball players of all time. He is the only NBA player to average a triple double for an entire season.
Wilma Rudolph was a track star at Tennessee State University, and the fastest female sprinter of her era. Known as “the Tornado” and “the Black Gazelle,” she won three gold medals at the 1960 Olympics.
Reggie White was an All-American for the University of Tennessee who went on to become a two-time NFL defensive player of the year and 13-time pro-bowler. He was known as the “Minister of Defense” and is considered to be one of the best defensive linemen of all time, if not the best.
Tracy Caulkins of Nashville won three gold medals at the 1984 Olympics, set five world records and 61 national records, and won 48 national swimming titles.
Bernard King was an All-American at the University of Tennessee who led the NBA in scoring in 1985 with an average of 32.9 points per game. He once scored 50 points in consecutive games, making 20 of 23 field goals in one game and 20 of 28 in the other. He is one of only ten NBA players to score 60 or more points in a game.
Pat Head Summitt was an All-American basketball player at UT-Martin and an Olympian. She went on to coach the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team to eight NCAA championships and ranks first in all-time wins among NCAA basketball coaches.
Todd Helton was briefly Peyton Manning’s rival at quarterback for the Tennessee Volunteers until he suffered a knee injury and chose to concentrate on baseball. He now has Cooperstown credentials with a lifetime batting average of .319, an on-base percentage of .418, and a slugging percentage of .544. A slick fielder, has also has won three Golden Gloves.
Others: Doug Atkins, Bill Bates, Tamika Catchings, Chandra Cheeseborough, Charles Davis, Todd Day, R. A. Dickey, Dale Ellis, Justin Gatlin, Willie Gault, Eddie George, Lou Graham, Ernie Grunfeld, Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, Albert Haynesworth, John Henderson, Chamique Holdsclaw, Condredge Holloway, Allen Houston, Bailey Howell, E. J. Junior, Steve Kiner, Clyde Lee, Keith Lee, Jamal Lewis, Bobby Majors, Johnny Majors, Shawn Marion, Bruce Matthews, Billy McCaffrey, Ted “Hound Dog” McClain, Steve McNair, Ray Mears, Cary Middlecoff, General Robert Neyland, Candace Parker, David Price, Jack “Hacksaw” Reynolds, Ted Rhodes, Leonard “Truck” Robinson, Derrick Rose, Mason Rudolph, Brandt Snedeker, Steve Spurrier, Roscoe Tanner, Nera White, Ed (Too Tall) Jones, Ron Widby, Al Wilson, Jason Witten
According to Mother Jones magazine, Tennessee’s legislature is the worst in the nation, so the whole kit and caboodle qualifies for my Hall of Shame. Some of the most shameful Tennessee politicians include Ray Blanton, Marsha Blackburn, Bill “Seven Hour” Boner, Tommy Burnett, Stacey “No Hand Holding” Campfield, Glen Casada, Mark Clayton, Jeremy “Guns in Trunks” Faison, John Ford, Harold Ford, Jim “Gateway Sex” Gotto, Byron “Low Tax” Looper, Basil Marceaux, Fate Thomas, and Curry “Guns in Bars” Todd.
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.