Saturday, January 31, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII
Super Bowl XLIII will be played between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on February 1, 2009 in which the Steelers are a 6.5 point favorite.

I had a connection in Super Bowl I in 1966 when the Green Bay Packers defeated Kansas City 35-10. The game was played on Jan. 15, 1967. While working as a motion picture filmmaker in New York City, I was a member of a motion picture film crew that made the main commercial (Ford) for the first Super Bowl game. We filmed a stunt man driving a Ford automobile off a Ski Jump at Lake Placid, N. Y. After the Ford sedan landed at the bottom of the snowy mountain, the driver drove the car away as it was not damaged.

As part of an agreement between the NFL and its younger rival, the American Football League (AFL) in which each league's championship team would play each other in an "AFL-NFL World Championship Game". After the leagues merged in 1970, the Super Bowl became the NFL's championship game, played between the champions of the league's two conferences: the American Football Conference (AFC) and the National Football Conference (NFC). Since the NFL season extends into the New Year, the Super Bowl uses Roman numerals to identify each game, rather than the year it was held. For example, Super Bowl XLII, played in February 2008, was actually part of the 2007 season.

The Super Bowl was created as part of the merger agreement between the National Football League (NFL) and its competitive rival, the American Football League (AFL). After its inception in 1920, the NFL fended off several rival leagues before the AFL began play in 1960. The intense competitive war for players and fans led to serious merger talks between the two leagues in 1966, culminating in a merger agreement announcement on June 8, 1966. One of the conditions of the AFC-NFC Merger was that the winners of each league's championship game would meet in a contest to determine the "world champion of football". According to NFL Films President Steve Sabol, then NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle wanted to call the game "The Big One". During the discussions to iron out the details, AFC founder and Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt had jokingly referred to the proposed inter league championship as the "Super Bowl". Hunt thought of the name after seeing his children playing with a toy called a Super Ball; the small, round ball is now on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The name was consistent with postseason college football games which had long been known as "bowl games." The "bowl" term originated from the Rose Bowl Game, which was in turn named for the bowl-shaped stadium in which it is played. Hunt only meant his suggested name to be a stopgap until a better one could be found. Nevertheless, the name "Super Bowl" became permanent.

After the NFC's Green Bay Packers convincingly won the first two Super Bowls, some team owners feared for the future of the merger. At the time, many doubted the competitiveness of AFL teams compared with NFL counterparts. That perception all changed with the AFL's New York Jets' defeat of the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III in Miami. One year later, the AFC's Kansas City Chiefs defeated the NFL Minnesota Vikings 23-7 and won Super Bowl IV in New Orleans, the last World Championship game played between the champions of the two leagues, as the league merger finally took place later that year.

The game is played annually on a Sunday as the final game of the NFL Playoffs. Originally the game took place in early to mid-January following a 14-game regular season and playoffs. Over the years the date of the Super Bowl has progressed from the second Sunday in January, to the third, then the fourth Sunday in January; the game is now played on the first Sunday in February, given the current 17-week (16 games and one bye week) regular season and three rounds of playoffs. This progression of the date of the Super Bowl has been caused by the following: the expansion of the NFL regular season in 1978 from 14 games to 16, the expansion of the pre-Super Bowl playoffs from two rounds to three (also in 1978), the addition of the regular season bye-week in the 1990s, and the decision prior to the 2003 season to start the regular season the week after Labor Day, moving the start of the season to a week later than it had been (in 1997, for example, the regular season started on Sunday, August 31). Former NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle is often considered the mastermind of both the merger and the Super Bowl. His leadership guided the two competitors into the merger agreement and cemented the preeminence of the Super Bowl.

The winning team gets the Vince Lombardi Trophy, named for the coach of the Green Bay Packers, who won the first two Super Bowl games and 3 of the 5 preceding NFL championships (1961–62, 1965). Following his death in September 1970, the trophy was named the Vince Lombardi Trophy, and was first awarded as such to the Baltimore Colts at Super Bowl V in Miami. Super Bowl III was the first to be numbered. Super Bowls I and II were not known as such until the game's third year and were named "The AFC-NFC World Championship Game" when they were played.

Game history

1966-1967: Packers' early dominance
The Green Bay Packers won the first two Super Bowls, defeating the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders. The Packers were led by quarterback Bart Starr, who was named MVP for both games. These two championships, along with the Packers' NFL championships in 1961, 1962, and 1965 have led many people to consider the Packers to be the "Team of the 1960s. Green Bay, Wisconsin is often referred to as "Title Town" by its own residents due to the five championships the Packers won in the 1960s and its twelve championships since the team began playing in 1919.

1968-1979 AFL/AFC dominance
Super Bowl III featured one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history as the New York Jets, behind the guarantee of Joe Namath, defeated the 18-point favorite Baltimore Colts 16–7. Namath, the MVP of the game, and Matt Snell, 121 yards on 30 carries with a touchdown, led the Jets to victory. The win helped solidify the AFL as a legitimate contender with the NFL.

The 1970s were dominated by the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers, winning a combined six championships in the decade. Miami won Super Bowls VII and VIII, the former completing the NFL's only perfect season. Pittsburgh won four Super Bowls (IX, X, XIII, and XIV) behind the coaching of Chuck Noll and play of Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, and Franco Harris each receiving at least one MVP award—and their "Steel Curtain" defense led by Jack Lambert.

The only NFC franchise to win a Super Bowl during the decade was the Dallas Cowboys winning Super Bowls VI and XII. On the other end of the spectrum were the Minnesota Vikings, who lost Super Bowls IV, VIII, IX, and XI.

1980-1996: Two decades of NFC dominance
NFC teams won sixteen of the twenty Super Bowls in the 1980s and 1990s, including thirteen in a row from 1984 to 1996.

The 49ers lead the NFC domination of the 1980s
The most successful franchise of the 1980s was the San Francisco 49ers, who won four Super Bowls in the decade (XVI, XIX, XXIII, and XXIV). The 49ers were led by coach Bill Walsh and quarterback Joe Montana. They were known for using the precision accurate, fast-paced west coast offense. The 1980s also included the 1985 Chicago Bears who finished the season 18–1 (a feat accomplished the prior year by the 49ers), and two championships for the Joe Gibbs-coached Washington Redskins. The Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders were the only AFC franchise to win a Super Bowl in the 1980s, winning Super Bowls XV and XVIII.

The Cowboys dominate the early 1990s
The Dallas Cowboys became the dominant team in the NFL in the early 1990s. After championships by division rivals New York and Washington to start the decade, the Cowboys won three of the next four Super Bowls. The Cowboys were led by Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin, the first two of whom won MVP awards. The early 1990s also featured the Buffalo Bills appearing in four consecutive Super Bowls, although they lost all of them. The 49ers became the first team to win five championships with their win in Super Bowl XXIX, with the Cowboys accomplishing that same feat a year later. As both teams began to fizzle late into the decade, another NFC powerhouse, the Green Bay Packers, led by multiple-MVP quarterback Brett Favre, emerged, winning Super Bowl XXXI following the 1996 season.

1997-2000: The AFC rises again
In Super Bowl XXXII, quarterback John Elway led the Denver Broncos to an upset victory over the defending champion Packers, snapping the NFC's 13-game winning streak, and beginning a streak in which the AFC would win eight of the next ten Super Bowls. The Broncos would go on to win Super Bowl XXXIII the next year, over the Atlanta Falcons, in Elway's final game before retiring. After an NFC win by the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV, the AFC continued its winning ways, with wins by the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots.

2001-2005: The Patriots' Dynasty
The Patriots became the dominant team of the early 2000s, winning the championship in three of the first five years of the decade. In Super Bowl XXXVI Super Bowl MVP quarterback Tom Brady led his team to a 20–17 upset victory over the Rams. The Patriots also went on to win Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX. After championships by AFC rivals Pittsburgh and Indianapolis in Super Bowls XL and XLI, respectively, the Patriots responded in 2007 an undefeated regular season - only the second in modern NFL history and the first with a sixteen game schedule - which included a road win over the defending champion Colts. Despite the regular season performance, the Patriots were upset by the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

Television coverage and ratings
For many years, the Super Bowl has had a very large television audience in the U.S., and it is often the most watched television program of the year. The game tends to have high Nielsen television ratings which usually come in around a 40 rating and 60 share (i.e., on average, 40 percent of all U.S. households, and 60 percent of all homes tuned into television during the game). This means that on average, 80 to 90 million Americans are tuned into the Super Bowl at any given moment. It is also estimated that 130-140 million tune into some part of the game.

An urban legend has developed around the idea that the Super Bowl is watched by one billion people worldwide. This figure originates from NFL press releases stating one billion as the game's potential worldwide audience – i.e. the number of people able to watch the game; the one-billion figure is then misquoted by some media outlets as the actual global audience.[7] In fact, independent studies suggest that the average global viewership is just over 100 million, the vast majority of whom are U.S. viewers.[8]

The highest-rated game according to Nielsen was Super Bowl XVI in 1982, which was watched in 49.1 percent of households (73 share) or 40,020,000 households at the time. Super Bowl XVI is #4 on Nielsen's list of top-rated programs of all time, and 3 other Super Bowls (XII, XVII, and XX) made the top 10. Super Bowl XLII in 2008 holds the record for total U.S. viewership, attracting an average audience of 97.5 million and ranking second only to the final episode of M*A*S*H in 1983. Although the proliferation of cable and satellite television has undercut broadcast ratings somewhat in recent years, the game is still sufficiently popular that a number of networks actually schedule original programming during the game, such as independently produced halftime entertainment, simply to take advantage of a large audience already in front of the television. Other networks air reruns or syndicated programming to avoid wasting a potentially highly rated new episode.

Following Apple Computer's 1984 commercial introducing the Macintosh computer, directed by Ridley Scott, the broadcast of the Super Bowl became the premier showcase for high concept or simply extravagantly expensive commercials. Famous commercial campaigns include the Budweiser "Bud Bowl" campaign, and the 1999 and 2000 dot-com ads. Prices have increased each year, with reports citing a record US$2.7 million for a 30 second spot during Super Bowl XLII in 2008. A segment of the audience tunes in to the Super Bowl solely to watch the creative commercials.

Super Bowl on TV

Early Super Bowls/NFL Championships featured a halftime show consisting of marching bands from local colleges or high schools. But as the popularity of the game increased, so did the potential of exposure. This has led to the trend of popular singers and musicians performing during its pre-game ceremonies, the halftime show, or even just singing the national anthem of the United States, "The Star-Spangled Banner". For example, Super Bowl XLI in 2007 featured Cirque du Soleil, Romero Britto, and Louie Vega during the pre-game ceremonies; Billy Joel performed the Star Spangled Banner; and Prince played during the halftime show. Unlike regular season or playoff games, thirty minutes are allocated for the Super Bowl halftime.

One especially memorable performance came in 2002, when U2 performed. During their second song, "Where the Streets Have No Name" the band played under a large projection screen which scrolled through all the names of the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004 generated controversy, when Justin Timberlake removed a piece of Janet Jackson's top, exposing her right breast with a star-shaped ring around the nipple. Timberlake and Jackson have maintained that the incident was accidental, calling it a "wardrobe malfunction." The game was airing live on CBS, and MTV (at the time, a corporate sister company of CBS within Viacom) produced the halftime show. Immediately after that moment, the director cut to a very wide-angle shot and cut to a commercial break. However, video captures of the moment in detail circulated quickly on the Internet. The NFL, embarrassed by the incident, permanently banned MTV from doing another halftime show in any capacity. This also led to the FCC tightening controls on indecency and fining CBS and CBS-owned stations a total of US$550,000 for the incident. The fine was later reversed in July, 2008.

Twenty-five out of forty-two Super Bowls have been played in one of three areas: New Orleans, Louisiana (nine times), the Greater Miami (nine total), and the Greater Los Angeles (seven total). The three "big" hosts are then followed by Tampa, Florida and San Diego, California: San Diego has hosted three games, while Tampa hosts its fourth on February 1, 2009.

Miami has been selected to host Super Bowl XLIV in 2010, Arlington, Texas in 2011, and Indianapolis in 2012. Although Hurricane Katrina damaged the Louisiana Superdome and the city of New Orleans, it was renovated. Some city officials have stated that they would like to put in another bid sometime in the future. The last time the Los Angeles area hosted the game was Super Bowl XXVII in 1993. The league's two teams vacated the city in 1995: the Raiders moved back to Oakland, California, and the Rams moved to St. Louis, Missouri. (No Super Bowl has ever been held in an area which lacks an NFL team: hence Los Angeles would be an unlikely choice as long as it lacks a team.)

No team has played the Super Bowl in their home stadium. The closest have been the San Francisco 49ers who played Super Bowl XIX in Stanford Stadium rather than Candlestick Park, and the Los Angeles Rams who played Super Bowl XIV in the Rose Bowl rather than the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The only other Super Bowl venue which wasn't the home stadium to an NFL team at the time was Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas: the Houston Oilers used to play there, but they moved to the Astrodome several years prior to Super Bowl VIII. The Orange Bowl was the only AFL stadium to host a Super Bowl, II and III. Super Bowl IX was the last NFL game played at its venue: the New Orleans Saints' last season at Tulane Stadium was 1974, and the game was played there (and not at the newly built Louisiana Superdome) at the end of the season in early 1975. Tulane Stadium was the first of three Super Bowl venues to have been demolished: it was torn down in 1979. The others are Tampa Stadium (demolished in 1999) and the Miami Orange Bowl (demolished 2008).

Only three Super Bowls have been played in northern cities; two in the Detroit area (Super Bowl XVI at Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, and Super Bowl XL at Ford Field in Detroit), and one in Minneapolis (Super Bowl XXVI). However, both were played inside domed stadiums. There has never been a Super Bowl scheduled to be played outside in cold temperatures. The northernmost Super Bowl played outdoors has been Super Bowl XIX in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Super Bowl XLVI will also be played in a northern city, Indianapolis, Indiana. The new Lucas Oil Stadium has a retractable roof, which presumably will not be retracted when the game is played in February 2012.
On March 5, 2006, Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, a "cold weather" city, was awarded the rights to host Super Bowl XLIX in 2015. However, the game was contingent on the successful passage of two sales taxes in Jackson County, Missouri on April 4, 2006. The first tax would have funded improvements to Arrowhead, home of the Chiefs and neighboring Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals Major League Baseball team. The second tax would have allowed the construction of a "rolling roof" between the two stadiums. However, the second tax failed to pass. With increased opposition by local business leaders and politicians, Kansas City eventually withdrew its request to host the game by May 25, 2006. Before that, Super Bowl XLIV, scheduled for January 2010, was withdrawn from New York City's proposed West Side Stadium, also to have been a retractable roof facility, because the city, state, and proposed tenants New York Jets could not agree on funding. The game was then awarded to Dolphin Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Selection process
The location of the Super Bowl is chosen by the NFL well in advance, usually three to five years before the game. Cities place bids to host a Super Bowl. Candidate cities are evaluated in terms of stadium renovation and ability to host a Super Bowl. Then the NFL owners meet to make a selection on the site. The sites for the next four Super Bowls have been determined, up to Super Bowl XLVI in 2012. On October 16, 2007, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suggested that a future Super Bowl might be played in London, probably at Wembley Stadium. The game has never been played in a region which lacks an NFL franchise. (Seven Super Bowls have been played in Los Angeles, but none since the Los Angeles Raiders and Los Angeles Rams both relocated elsewhere in 1995.)

Home team designation
The designated "home team" alternates between the NFC team in odd-numbered games (the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI in February 2007), and the AFC team in even-numbered games (the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII in February 2008). This alternation was initiated with the first Super Bowl, when the Green Bay Packers of the NFL were the designated home team.
Since Super Bowl XIII in January 1979, the home team is given the choice of jerseys, colored or white. Formerly, the designated home team was specified to wear their colored jerseys; this resulted in Dallas donning their less familiar blue jerseys for Super Bowl V.

While most of the home teams in the Super Bowl have chosen to wear their colored jerseys, there have been four exceptions; the Cowboys twice (XIII & XXVII), the Washington Redskins (XVII), and the Pittsburgh Steelers (XL). The Cowboys (since 1965) and Redskins (since the arrival of coach Joe Gibbs in 1981) have traditionally worn white jerseys at home. Meanwhile, the Steelers, who have always worn their black jerseys at home since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, opted for the white jerseys after winning three consecutive playoff games on the road, wearing white. The Steelers' decision was contrasted with the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX. The Patriots had worn white jerseys at home during the 1985 season, but after winning road playoff games against the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins wearing red jerseys, New England opted to wear red for the Super Bowl as the designated home team. Generally the "home team" holds its practices the week before the game at the host team's practice facility and the "away team" practices at a nearby college or other practice facility in the area. For example, for Super Bowl XLII, the "home" New England Patriots practiced at the Arizona Cardinals practice facility, and the "visiting" New York Giants practiced at nearby Arizona State University. However, whenever the Super Bowl has been held in New Orleans, the NFC team has practiced at the facilities of the New Orleans Saints, an NFC team, regardless of whether the NFC team has been the designated home or visiting team. The AFC team has generally practiced at Tulane University for those same games.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pat Summitt
Pat Head Summitt (born Patricia Sue Head on June 14, 1952 in Clarksville, Tennessee) is the head coach of the Tennessee Lady Vols basketball team.

She has been coaching since 1974, all with the Lady Vols. She is the all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history.

She has written two books (with the help of Sally Jenkins), Reach for the Summitt (part motivational book, part biography) and Raise the Roof (about the Lady Vols' undefeated season in 1997–1998, in which they won the NCAA championship).
Early life and family
Patricia Sue Head was born in Clarksville, Tennessee. When Pat was high-school age, her family moved to nearby Henrietta, so she could play basketball in Cheatham County since Clarksville did not have girls teams yet. From there she went to University of Tennessee-Martin, where she won All-American honors. She would later co-captain the first United States women's national basketball team as a player at the inaugural tournament at the 1976 Summer Olympics, winning the silver medal.
She has four siblings: older brothers Tommy, Charles and Kenneth, and younger sister Linda.

She married R. B. Summitt in 1980, and the two filed for divorce in 2007. They have one son, Ross Tyler Summitt (b. 1990). During the 1990-91 season, baby Tyler was passed around the Lady Vols team as a pre-game ritual.

Coaching career

Late 1970s
In the 1974–75 season, Pat Head became a graduate assistant at the University of Tennessee, and was named head coach of the Lady Vols basketball team, who were 25-2 the previous year. She earned her masters degree in physical education in 1976.
In her opening season, the Lady Vols won the TCWSF Eastern District Championship for the third straight year. However, the team finished only 4th overall in the TCWSF (they had been 2nd the previous two years), and were not invited to the AIAW. After finishing 16–11 her second season, Pat directed two 20-win teams, winning back-to-back AIAW Region-II championships. 1976 also included the Lady Vols defeating 3-time AIAW champion Delta State by 20, and Tennessee's first number one ranking. 1978 saw the Lady Vols participate in their first AIAW Final Four, where they finished 3rd. Pat also recorded her 100th win during this season, a 79–66 victory over NC State. Tennessee finished up the 70s by winning the first ever SEC tournament, and returning to the Final Four, where they finished runner-up to Old Dominion, 68–53.

During the 1980-81 season, the Lady Vols went 25-6, and avenged their championship game loss to Old Dominion by defeating them three times. The team made it to the AIAW Final Four for the third straight year, but finished runner-up for the second consecutive year, losing to Louisiana Tech, 79-59.
The 1981-82 season featured the first ever NCAA Women's basketball tournament. The Lady Vols were one of 32 teams invited and named a 2 seed in their region. In the region championship, the Lady Vols upset first seeded USC 91-90 in overtime to advance to the Final Four. They lost their Final Four match-up with Louisiana Tech who ended up winning the tournament.
The next season, the Lady Vols won the regular season SEC title but fell in the SEC tournament to Georgia. Tennessee was invited to the now-36 team NCAA tournament and was given their first ever 1 seed. Tennessee made it to the regional championship, but fell to Georgia again, 67-63. Summitt won her 200th game on December 3rd, a 69-56 victory over St. John's during the Coca-Cola Classic in Detroit.

The 1983-84 season saw Tennessee start out poorly, 6-4. However, Summitt got her team together and finished 22-10, for her 8th straight twenty-win season, a streak that is still active. Tennessee not only made it to the NCAA Final Four for the second time out of the three tournaments, but also made it to the title game. However, Tennessee lost by 11 to USC who had also won the title the previous year. Pat Summitt earned Coach of the Year honors. This season was followed up by another twenty win year in which Tennessee earned both the regular season SEC title (despite only going 4-4) and the tournament title. However, the Lady Vols fell in the NCAA Tournament to Ole Miss during the Round of 16. The next season was a similar story - The Lady Vols had a decent regular season, played a great tournament (reaching the Final Four for the second time in three years), but fell before winning the title.

In 1986-87, after years of trying, the Lady Vols finally broke through and defeated perennial power Louisiana Tech for their first title, 67-44. Louisiana had defeated the Lady Vols by 12 earlier in the season. Tennessee's Tonya Edwards earned the honor of Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four. During this season, Summitt also earned her 300th win, an 87-66 victory over North Carolina. The next year, the Lady Vols were poised to repeat as the third-ranked and top seeded Tennessee made it to the Final Four yet again. However, Louisiana Tech avenged their championship loss with a nine point win and went on to win the title.

In 1988-89, the Lady Vols made it to the Final Four for the fourth straight year, and as a one seed for the second straight year. After dispatching Maryland by 12, Tennessee faced SEC rival Auburn for the title. Auburn had lost by two to Louisiana Tech in the title game the previous year and had been given its only loss in the SEC Championship. However, that loss was to Tennessee, who managed a fifteen point victory over the Tigers. The championship game was similar and Tennessee took home its second title in three years with a 76–60 victory. Record-wise, this was Tennessee's best season yet, as they won 35 games while dropping only 2: one to Auburn in the regular season and the other a two point loss to Texas. Additionally, the Lady Vols won every NCAA tournament game by at least twelve points.

In the final season of the decade, the Lady Vols started off the season well, winning the SEC title. However, the team fell by one to Auburn in the SEC Championship and then lost in overtime to Virginia in the regional finals, one game shy of making a trip to the Final Four being held in Knoxville. Summitt did accomplish another milestone during this season, however - her 400th win, a 70-69 victory over South Carolina on January 25th.

Despite winning neither the SEC regular season championship nor the tournament championship, Tennessee was given a 1 seed in the 1991 NCAA tournament. After a close win in the regional semifinals against Western Kentucky, Tennessee dispatched Auburn for the second time in three years. In the national semifinals, the Lady Vols beat Stanford, 68-60, to earn the opportunity to avenge last year's tournament loss against Virginia. Just as the previous year's game had gone into overtime, so did this one. Down one at the half, the Lady Vols tied the game at sixty by the end of regulation. Tennessee escaped in overtime with a 70-67 win and their third national title in five years. However, the next year the Lady Vols did not even make it to the regional championship, falling to the same Western Kentucky team they had beaten in the same round the previous year, 75-70. The 1992-93 season was better, as Tennessee defeated the defending champions Stanford twice and swept the SEC season for the first time ever. However, the Lady Vols were unable to grab the SEC tournament title and fell in the NCAA tournament to Iowa, a 72-56 loss in the regional finals.

Early in the 1993-94 season, Summitt grabbed her 500th win, an 80-45 beating of Ohio State on November 21st. Tennessee also won both the regular season and tournament SEC titles. However, the streak of years without a Final Four appearance extended to three with a 71-68 loss in the regional semifinals to Louisiana Tech.The next season would mark Tennessee's return to the Final Four. Tennessee ran the table in the SEC regular season for the third straight year but also failed to win the tournament title for the third straight year. The top-seeded Lady Vols breezed their way to their fifth national championship game, with no game being closer than 21. However in the National Championship, the Lady Vols fell to the undefeated UConn Huskies, coached by her bitter rival, Geno Auriemma, 70-64, the first championship of many for UConn. During the off-season, Pat Summitt acquired high school stand-out Chamique Holdsclaw.

In 1995-96, with freshman Holdsclaw and senior Michelle Marciniak, the Lady Vols won the SEC tournament and made a second straight Final Four. The other three teams, UConn, Stanford, and Georgia, had all defeated the Lady Vols in the regular season. In the semi-finals, facing the UConn Huskies who had knocked them off for the title the previous year, the Lady Vols shot out to an 11 point lead. However, UConn cut it to 4 by the half and tied the game during the second half. With twelve seconds to go, Tennessee led by three but the Huskies hit a three to send the game into overtime. This was not enough, though, as UT prevailed by 5 in overtime. The championship game was not that close as Tennessee won their fourth title easily with an 83-65 win over Georgia.

With regard to record, the 1996-97 season was one of Summitt's worst seasons ever. In addition to losses to powerhouses such as Louisiana Tech (twice), Stanford, Old Dominion, and Connecticut, Tennessee also lost to teams such as Florida, against whom they had been previously undefeated. After their tenth loss of the season, in the SEC semi-finals to Auburn, the team pulled together in time for the NCAA Tournament. Avenging their loss to undefeated Connecticut, Tennessee continued on their way to the championship game, where they avenged another loss, defeating Old Dominion by 9 for their second straight national title. Summitt also earned her 600th win during the season, a 15 point victory over Marquette on November 23, 1996.

In many aspects, the 1997-98 team was Summitt's best. With the top-ranked recruiting class as well as Chamique Holdsclaw, the Lady Vols ran the table to a 39-0 season while playing one of the top-ranked schedules in the country. Only three teams came within 10 points of beating the team, and the Lady Vols won a 93-75 victory over Louisiana Tech for their third straight national championship.

Chamique Holdsclaw (who by this point had won championships in every season she was with the Vols) had boldly declared that the 1998-99 team would be the greatest ever. However, this proved not to be the case as Tennessee didn't even make the Final Four let alone claim another title. Injuries to several players decimated the team and the Lady Vols ultimately fell to Duke in the regional finals. With this, the Chamique Holdsclaw era, much to her dismay, ended rather quietly. A landmark was set during this season however, as Holdsclaw, Tamika Catchings, and Semeka Randall became the first trio from one team to be named Kodak All-Americans.

The Lady Vols ended the decade with their third straight 30-win season, third straight SEC title, and third straight SEC Tournament title. Additionally, the Lady Vols defeated UConn in the regular season, 72-71, in what would ultimately be the Huskies only loss of the year. In the NCAA tournament, Tennessee breezed its way to the title game, winning all 5 games by at least ten points. However, in the championship game the Lady Vols were blown out by the Geno Auriemma-coached Huskies, 71-52. This marked the second time in five years that UConn had beat UT in the final, adding more intensity to the Summit/Auriemma rivalry. During the season, Summitt earned her 700th win, 85-62 at Wisconsin.

At the 2000 ESPY awards, the Lady Vols basketball team was named co-team of the decade, along with the Florida State Seminoles football team. Additionally, Pat Summitt was named the Naismith Coach of the Century and Chamique Holdsclaw earned recognition as player of the century.

In the 2000-01 season, the Lady Vols claimed another SEC title, winning all 14 SEC games. Additionally, they split the season series with the UConn Huskies and headed into the SEC tournament with a 28-1 record. However, the Lady Vols were upset by Vanderbilt in the semifinals and then lost in the Sweet Sixteen to Xavier, their worst finish since 1993-94. Despite this, Pat Summitt earned her 750th win, in the second game against UConn, a 92-88 victory. Additionally, the team finished with their fourth straight thirty-win season.

In the 2001-02 season, UConn won the match-up by 14 points. However, they would see each other later in the tournament. Tennessee suffered other losses during the season, losing to Texas by a point and getting badly beaten by the Duke Blue Devils. Additionally, despite winning their fifth straight SEC championship, the Lady Vols fell once again in the tournament, this time to LSU. In the NCAA tournament, Tennessee was able to reach the Final Four yet again, with a 5 point win over Vanderbilt. This trip to the Final Four marked Summitt's 13th appearance, which broke Coach John Wooden's record of 12, as well as her 788th win, which tied her with Jody Conradt for winningest coach in women's basketball history. However, the Lady Vols fell in the national semifinals to Connecticut and coach Geno Auriemma, who wound up winning the championship and capping an undefeated season. This loss ended the season at 29-5, one win shy of extending Summitt's streak of 30-win seasons. Summitt did achieve more milestones during this season. A 106-66 win over USC marked her 200th win at home, a victory against Louisiana Tech was her 300th win against a ranked opponent and her 93-65 win over Arkansas was her 1,000th game as a coach, including international contests.

During the 2002-03 season, the Lady Vols compiled their 6th perfect SEC season, and additionally beat powerhouses Duke and Louisiana Tech among others. However, the Lady Vols dropped their second straight to Texas and lost yet another game in the series against UConn. This streak would continue as the Lady Vols made it to the title game only to lose to the Huskies, and coach Geno Auriemma, yet another time, 73-68. During the season, Summitt earned her 800th win, 76-57 over DePaul, and was the fastest coach to reach this milestone.

The 2003-04 season was quite similar to the previous year. The Lady Vols defeated most of their opponents, including Duke and Louisiana Tech, but dropped games to UConn and Texas. The Lady Vols again went 14-0 in the regular season against SEC competition and again fell in the tournament. And once against, the Lady Vols won five games in the NCAA tournament only to lose 71-52 in the championship game to Connecticut, for the third time in a title game and the fourth time in a Final Four. This was UConn's third consecutive championship, two over UT, making it clear that, for the time being, UConn and coach Geno Auriemma had UT's number.

By 2004-05, Connecticut's Diana Taurasi had finally graduated and Tennessee was able to break their losing streak against Connecticut with a narrow 68-67 victory. As Taurasi left, Tennessee received Candace Parker, a highly regarded and nationally known player. However, due to injuries, she would be redshirted and didn't play this year. Tennessee suffered losses during the season to Duke, Rutgers, and LSU, while beating teams which included Stanford and Louisiana Tech. LSU's win over Tennessee gave the Tigers the SEC title, breaking Tennessee's streak of 7 straight. However Tennessee was able to break their streak of four years without a tournament title, by avenging their loss with a 67-65 victory over LSU in the SEC Championship. In the NCAA tournament, Tennessee defeated the Rutgers team which had beaten them earlier in the year to advance to their fourth Final Four in a row. In the Final Four, the Lady Vols fell to Michigan State by a mark of 68-64. Tennessee had led by 16 at one point, but the underdog Spartans made a record-tying come back to advance to the title game. In the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the Lady Vols defeated Purdue. This victory gave Pat Summitt her 880th win, breaking North Carolina coach Dean Smith's record of 879 wins, making her the all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history.

2005-06 was Candace Parker's first year as a college athlete. After being redshirted the previous year she was recovered from her injuries and became a starter. During the season, the Lady Vols dropped three games to SEC foes, LSU, Florida, and Kentucky, their worst SEC season since the 1996-97 season. The Lady Vols also suffered a bad loss to Duke. However they won their second straight game against Connecticut and rebounded from the poor SEC season to win the tournament for the second year in a row. In the tournament, Tennessee controversially received a two seed instead of the one seed Summitt believed her team deserved, and in the regional finals played North Carolina. Parker tied Ivory Latta for leading scorer with 20 points, but it wasn't enough. Tennessee trailed from the beginning, falling behind by as many as 16. Late in the second half, the Lady Vols were able to cut the lead down to five, but ultimately fell, 75-63. This loss meant that for the first time in five years Summitt would not be appearing in the Final Four.

Early in the 2006-07 season, Tennessee defeated four ranked teams in a row: UCLA, Stanford, Arizona State, and Middle Tennessee. After Tennessee lost to the North Carolina Tar Heels again, by 13, the Lady Vols defeated a strong Notre Dame team and defeated UConn for the third time in a row. In Knoxville, Summitt's team fell to top-ranked Duke, 74-70, in a game which Duke scored the first nineteen points, with Tennessee not scoring for nearly the first six minutes.. Later, in Baton Rouge, the Lady Vols clinched the SEC title against LSU in a game where Candace Parker scored 27. However in the tournament semifinals, Tennessee fell to the Tigers. In that second game, Parker only scored 4. In the NCAA tournament, Summitt's team easily made it to the Final Four, dispatching teams that included SEC foe Mississippi and 13-seeded Cinderella, Marist, winning each game by at least 14. In the Final Four, Tennessee again faced North Carolina. Despite shooting just 27%, the team came back from a 12 point deficit with 8:18 remaining to win, 56-50. In the championship game against Rutgers, Tennessee finally won its seventh title. Down by 11 at the half, Rutgers mounted a small comeback, taking the lead down to 7 with 13:33, only to have Shannon Bobbitt hit three three-pointers. Rutgers responded with a 7-0 run, cutting the lead down to 8, but Parker hit 6 free throws to ice the win for Tennessee.

The 2007-08 season started off with the top-ranked Lady Vols going 3-0, including wins over 9th-ranked Oklahoma and 22nd-ranked Texas. The win over Texas was Summitt's 950th. After two more wins, #1 Tennessee knocked off fourth-ranked North Carolina, 83-79, in a rematch of a Final Four match-up last year, to advance to 6-0 on the season. Tennessee won their next four games, then headed out to California for a match-up with 5th-ranked Stanford. Down 4 with less than 30 seconds remaining, the Lady Vols managed to tie the game up and send it to overtime, but still lost, 73-69. The Lady Vols responded by winning their next seven games, giving them a 17-1 record going into a match-up with Duke. Candace Parker's 17 points and 12 rebounds, including a bucket with 22 seconds remaining, helped the Lady Vols defeat the Blue Devils for the first time in four years, 67-64. Tennessee would win the rest of their regular season games and defeat LSU for the SEC Tournament Championship. They won four straight games in the NCAA Tournament heading toward their third matchup of the year against the LSU Tigers in the Final Four. Alexis Hornbuckle tipped in a Nicky Anosike missed contested layup with 0.7 seconds left to win the game, 47-46. On April 8, 2008, Tennessee won its second consecutive and eighth of all time national championship against Stanford, 64-48.

Tournament record
Pat Summitt has 14 Southeastern Conference regular season titles with the Lady Vols, as well as 13 tournament titles. Summitt's Lady Vols have made an appearance in every NCAA Tournament, as well as every Sweet 16, and have appeared 18 times in the Final Four. She was also named the Naismith Coach of the Century. When she made her 13th trip to the Final Four as a coach in 2002, she surpassed John Wooden as the NCAA coach with the most trips to the Final Four. Summitt is a 7-time SEC Coach of the year and a 7-time NCAA Coach of the year and has won eight national titles, including three in a row from 1996 to 1998. Summitt is known for scheduling tough opponents for her team to play in the regular season, in order to prepare them for March. In her years of coaching, her teams have played top ten ranked teams over 250 times.

In the 1997–1998 tournament, her team went undefeated the entire season, winning all 30 regular and 9 tournament games, earning Summitt's sixth championship. Some sportswriters considered that year's team the greatest team ever in college women's basketball. This was the third consecutive championship for the Lady Vols, and the third for heralded players Chamique Holdsclaw and Kellie Jolly (now Harper). Holdsclaw was named a consensus All-American, as was freshman Tamika Catchings.

Summitt and the 1996-1997 championship team were the subject of an HBO documentary titled "A Cinderella Season: The Lady Vols Fight Back." That year, the Lady Vols posted just a 23–10 record heading into the NCAA tournament, with two losses to Louisiana Tech, setbacks against national powers Georgia, Stanford and UConn, but also shocking losses to SEC lesser lights Arkansas, Auburn, and LSU (which was 7–20 just two seasons prior and had not yet established itself as a perennial national power). However, Tennessee righted itself during the tournament, shocking previously undefeated UConn in the regional final, 91–81, before defeating Notre Dame and Old Dominion in the Final Four in Cincinnati.

Pat and her Lady Vols are still making new winning records. It's doubtful if her winning record will ever be broken. She makes me proud to be a Tennessean.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The most beautiful city in America
Sedona, Arizona

Sedona Arizona Natural History is a story of rocks. The Four Corners area of the US Southwest, comprised of Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Colorado is home to the Colorado Plateau, a broad, raised area of land that's important to Sedona, Arizona natural history. The famous colorful geological formations that make Sedona, Arizona one of the top vacation destinations in the area, are carved out of the Colorado Plateau, along with its Red Rock Country and the San Francisco Peaks. The southern edge of the Colorado Plateau is called the Mogollon Rim, which defines the edge of the Sedona area along the north and east of town. Red Rock Country extends from the Mogollon Rim to the Verde Valley, and westward to Sycamore Canyon. Red Rock Country is five hundred square miles of canyons, cliffs, and grassy areas, with famous Oak Creek running through, with its snow melt from Flagstaff. It flows through Oak Creek Canyon, which is a major tourist destination in Sedona, not to be missed if you're anywhere in the vicinity. The towns of Page Springs and Cornville exist along Oak Creek, before it empties into the larger Verde River. With the help of receding oceans and erosion, Oak Creek carved out Oak Creek Canyon over a span of millions of years, beginning long before humans ever set foot in the area. The results millions of years of nature's handiwork are visible and stunning for us to see: butties, spires, and Sedona hiking canyons for which the Sedona, Arizona area is known all over the world.

The Geology of Sedona, Arizona
Sedona Arizona is built on a bed of Redwall limestone which was deposited there 330 million years ago by a shallow tropical sea. Through the limestone runs the water that supplies Sedona Arizona via many aquifers. Where the limestone gets thin and dissolves, sinkholes are formed, some of them giant-sized. One famous sinkhole is Devil's Dining Room. If you've ever seen limestone, you know it's not red, but rather grayish color. Sedona, Arizona's red limestone actually is grayish limestone that's been stained by oxidized iron deposits that trickle down to the limestone. The deposits coat the limestone particles resulting in a rusty color. The Redwall is covered by four layers of more red substance called the Supai Group. The Supai groups is about six hundred feet thick and was laid down about 300 million years ago. Visitors to the Sedona Arizona area today can see exposed Supai group rocks at Wilson Canyon underneath the Midgely Bridge. The next layer, above the Supai group,k is the Hermit formation, laid around 280 million years ago. The Hermit formation is made of mudstone, sandstone, and conglomerate. It's dark red and, as the final layer, you can see it everywhere today. Sedona sits right on top of the Hermit formation.

The Hermit formation isnt' the final layer of earth, however. Remember, Sedona sits on the Hermit formation, but Sedona isn't' the highest thing around. Take a look around and you'll see buttes and spires. These used to be coastal sand dunes and were formed around 270 million years ago. In some places it's seven hundred feet thick. We then have Coconino sandstone, laid about 265 million years ago, followed by a layer added around 262 million years ago, sometimes called Toroweap formation. It's identified by horizontal band of green vegetation on the higher peaks. Next up is the Kaibab formation, made mostly of limestone, put there around 255 million years ago. There are fossils in the Kaibab formation, and it makes up the Mogollon Rim, not to mention the rim of the Grand Canion.

The other significant determiner of geologic formations in the story of Sedona Arizona natural history were lava flows, which started around 15 million years ago. They formed outcroppings and filled fault lines. Today, the major force at work in the canyons and valleys of the Sedona Arizona area is erosion.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

President Barack Hussein Obama
44th President of the United States

At high-noon on January 20, 2009, Barack Hussein Obama, was sworn in by US Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts, as the first Africa American President of the United States and Commander in Chief of the American armed forces.

Barack Obama was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961, to Barack Obama, Sr. and Ann Dunham. His parents met while attending the University of Hawaii, where his father was enrolled as a foreign student. His mother was from heartland-of-the-U.S. Kansas, and his father from Kenya. Barack's parents eventually divorced, and after his mother remarried, he lived in Indonesia for a time before returning to Hawaii to live with his grandparents. He later moved to New York, where he graduated from Columbia University in 1983.

True to the values of empathy and service that his mother instilled in him, Barack put law school on hold after college and moved to Chicago, where he became a community organizer with a church-based group that was dedicated to improving living conditions in poor neighborhoods. For example, helping poor people work with service agencies to get their plumbing and heating fixed and to find jobs for unemployed. It was here that he realized it would take changes in our laws and politics to truly improve the lives of the people in these impoverished neighborhoods. A little known but impressive fact is that when Barack applied to Harvard Law School, he did not even indicate his race on his Harvard application.

Barack earned his law degree from Harvard in 1991, where he became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. He then returned to Chicago to practice as a civil rights lawyer and teach constitutional law. His advocacy work led him to run for the Illinois State Senate, where he served for eight years beginning in 1996. While in the Illinois State Senate, Barack served as chairman of the Public Health and Welfare Committee. In 2004, well into his U.S. Senate campaign, Barack wrote and delivered the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, and became a rising star in U.S. politics. A few months later, he was elected to the U.S. Senate with a landslide 70% of the vote. Four months into his senate career, Time magazine named him "one of the world's most influential people," calling him "one of the most admired politicians in America." Barack formally announced his candidacy for the 2008 presidential election in Springfield, Illinois on February 10, 2007.

Barack is also an accomplished author. His 1995 book, Dreams from My Father, is a memoir of his youth and early career. The book was reprinted in 2004 with a new preface and an annex containing the text of his 2004 Democratic Convention keynote speech. The audio book edition earned Barack the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album.

In December 2004, Barack signed a contract to write three more books. The first, The Audacity of Hope, was published in October 2006. The book has remained at or near the top of the New York Times Best Seller list since its publication. It was also the theme of his 2004 keynote address. The second book will be a children's book to be co-written with his wife Michelle and their two daughters, with profits going to charity. The content of the third book has yet to be announced.

In August 2008, Barack was nominated by the Democratic party as their candidate to be President of the United States. Barack selected long-time and well-respected U.S. Senator Joe Biden as his running mate.

God is still holding us in His hands <> He blessed us at the right time with the right leader to keep our nation free. Two years ago most Americans didn't think Sen. Obama had a chance. With the continued help of God, and the American people, President Obama will make us proud again.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Pensacola History and Culture
Pensacola, Florida

Pensacola and the surrounding area boasts a rich historical legacy, one that begins with the earliest years of European colonization.

Of course there were Native Americans living in the area prior to the coming of the Spanish, but much of their civilization has been lost to the ravages of time.

It is known that humans lived in the Pensacola area as long as 10,000 years ago. For most of that time, their communities were small and nomadic. Through generations they developed a culture that was tied to the seashore and the trade generated by access to Gulf.

Until the purchase of this land, by the U.S. in 1819, it was a "no man's land" for runaway slaves and Indians.

By A.D. 1300 or so, the Native American Indians of present-day Pensacola were part of a larger grouping of mound builders, who flourished until the coming of the Spanish and the diseases that would finally destroy most of the natives.

There's much disagreement and speculation over who was the first European to set foot in Pensacola... Francisco Maldonado, a member of the Hernando de Soto expedition, is known to have explored the Gulf Coast and is thought to have landed in Pensacola Bay.

But without a doubt the most celebrated and remembered of early Spanish explorers of the area is Don Tristán de Luna y Arellano. De Luna led an ambitious expedition that intended to settle the Florida coast and establish a base of exploration and trade.

Leading 2,000 plus soldiers, farmers, metalworkers, priests, and, surprisingly, lawyers, de Luna dropped anchor in Pensacola Bay in August of 1559.

What begin in a flurry of high hopes and officious pronouncements quickly degenerated into a nightmarish ordeal. Barely had the colony landed than Pensacola was hit by a massive hurricane that destroyed all but three of de Luna's ships.

Most of the community's provisions were also lost or destroyed by the storm, and the settlement began to disintegrate. As difficult as it is for us to picture, given today's Pensacola of interstate, intercoastal waterways, and highways, in the 1550s Pensacola was as good a definition of the "middle of nowhere" as existed.

After abortive rebellions, disasterous raiding excursions and continuing starvation, the colonists were finally retrieved nearly four years after leaving Mexico.

The years following saw Spain and France contesting control of the entire Gulf Coast region. in 1698, 140 years after de Luna's comic opera attempt at a permenent settlement, Don Andres d’Arriola founded Pensacola.

In the early 1700s Spanish and French colonists formed an uneasy alliance against the British and their Indian allies during Queen Anne's War. The British burned Pensacola to the ground in 1707, the French in 1722.

Asfter that the Spanish rebuilt the town on several different locations. Control of Pensacola then shifted to England, until the American Revolution, when it was given again to Spain.

The United States finally gained possession of the city in 1821... and lost control again in 1860 when Florida seceeded from the Union and joined the Confederate States of America.

After the Civil War, Apache Chief Geronimo was held at Ft. Pickens along with some of his family and followers, before being moved to Mobile, Alabama.

As Pensacola entered the twentieth century it started a steady period of growth. Fueled in part by the building of railroads into the county and bridges connecting Pensacola with Gulf Breeze, and Gulf Breeze with Santa Rosa Island.

Throughout the 1900s the city and its adjacent areas continued to grow and develop. The city of Pensacola has become a regional business, healthcare, shopping center. Naval Air Station Pensacola has provided the city with many jobs and a community of civic-minded families who have been a tremendous resource.

Pensacola Beach, Gulf Breeze and Perdido Key have all evolved into vacation destinations of the first order. Continuing development of these areas is expected to drive a significant portion of the county's economy throughout the twenty-first century.

Pensacola, the city of Five Flags, is a history buff's dream. In Pensacola Bay the sunken wrecks of the de Luna expedition rest, on Ft. Pickens walk the ghosts of Civil War soldiers and Apache braves, and over it all hangs the legacy of the many nations and cultures which shaped the city, and its people.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Natchez Trace
My place of birth was near Grinder's Stand where Meriwether Lewis died. Natchez Trace Parkway is a beautiful drive. The best time to travel on this scenic site is late October when all the tree leaves are in rainbow colors.

The Natchez Trace, a 440-mile-long path extending from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee, linked the Cumberland, Tennessee and Mississippi rivers. It was a traditional Native American trail and was later also used by early European explorers as both a trade and transit route in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Today, the trail has been commemorated by the 444-mile-long Natchez Trace Parkway, which follows the approximate path of the trace. The trail itself has a long and rich history, filled with brave explorers, dastardly outlaws and daring settlers. Parts of the original trail are still accessible.

Origins of the Natchez Trace
Largely following a geologic ridgeline, prehistoric animals followed the dry ground between the salt licks of central Tennessee to grazing lands southward and the Mississippi River. Native Americans used many early footpaths created by the foraging of bison, deer and other large game, who could break paths through undergrowth. In the case of the Trace, bison traveled north to find salt licks in the Nashville area. After Native Americans first began to settle the land, they began to blaze the trail further, until it became a relatively (for the time) well-worn path traversable by horse in single-file.

The first recorded European explorer to travel the Trace in its entirety was an unnamed Frenchman in 1742, who wrote of the trail and its "miserable conditions", though it may have been traveled in part before, particularly by famed Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. Early European explorers depended on the assistance of Native Americans—specifically, the Choctaw and Chickasaw. These tribes and others, collectively known as Mississippian, had long used the Trace for trade between themselves.

Development and Disappearance of the Trace
By 1800 Thomas Jefferson sought to counter growing French influence along the Mississippi Valley. To foster communication with the Southwest, he designated a postal road to be built between Daniel Boone's wilderness road, ending in Tennessee, and the Mississippi River. To emphasize American sovereignty in the area, he decided to call it the Columbian Highway. Treaties were signed with the Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes. In 1801 the United States Army began blazing the trail, performing major work to prepare it as a thoroughfare. The work was first done by soldiers reassigned from West Tennessee, then later by civilian contract. By 1809, the trail was fully navigable by wagon. Critical to the success of the Trace as a trade route was the development of inns and trading posts, referred to at the time as "stands." For the most part, the stands developed southbound from the head of the trail in Nashville.

Many early American settlements in Mississippi and Tennessee developed along the Natchez Trace. Some of the most prominent were Washington, the old capital of Mississippi; "old Greenville", where Andrew Jackson plied his occupation as a slave trader; and Port Gibson, among others.

By 1816, the continued development of both Memphis and Jackson's Military Road, a direct line to New Orleans, Louisiana from Nashville, began shifting trade both east and west, away from the Trace. As author William C. Davis (United States) writes in his book A Way Through the Wilderness, it was "a victim of its own success." With the dawn of steamboat culture on the Mississippi, the Trace became obsolete. In 1830, the Trace was officially abandoned and began to disappear back into the wilderness.

Bushwhackers, Bibles, and Boats
Despite its brief span of use by Americans, the Trace served an essential function for years. It was the only reliable land link between the eastern States and the trading ports of Mississippi and Louisiana. This brought all sorts of people down the Trace: itinerant preachers, highwaymen and traders were just a few.

The circuit preachers were some of the most notable of the lot. Unlike its physical development, the "spiritual development" of the Trace started from the Natchez end and moved up. Several Methodist preachers began working a circuit along the Trace as early as 1800. By 1812 they claimed a membership of 1,067 Caucasians and 267 Blacks.

The Methodists were soon joined in Natchez by other Protestant religions, including the Baptists and Presbyterians. The Presbyterians and their offshoot, the Cumberland Presbyterians, were the most active of the three. They claimed converts among Native Americans, too. The Presbyterians started working from the south; the Cumberland Presbyterians worked from the north, as they had migrated into Tennessee from Kentucky.

As with much of the unsettled West, banditry freely occurred along the Trace. Much of it centered around Natchez Under-The-Hill as compared with the tame sister of Natchez atop the river bluff (the current Natchez). Under-the-Hill, where Mississippi River steamboats docked, was a hotbed for gamblers, prostitutes and drunkenness. The rowdiest of them all were the Kaintucks, the wild frontiersmen from upriver who came in on the steamboats and flatboats loaded with goods. They left the goods in Natchez in exchange for pockets full of cash, and summarily treated Natchez Under-the-Hill as what could be generously called an early 1800s Las Vegas, Nevada.

Worse dangers lurked on the Trace itself in the wilderness outside city boundaries. Highwaymen such as John Murrell and Samuel Mason terrorized travelers along the road. They operated large gangs of organized brigands in one of the first examples of land-based American organized crime.

The Mystery of Meriwether Lewis
Meriwether Lewis, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition fame, met his mysterious end while traveling on the Trace. Lewis had stopped at Grinder's Stand near current-day Hohenwald, Tennessee for rest. Suffering another bout of manic depression brought on by the state of his financial affairs, disappointment from jilted loves, frustration from editing his journals, and unsatisfied as governor of Louisiana he rested for the evening. He asked the owner of the stand for gunpowder. Intimidated by his behavior, she gave it to him. A few hours later, two shots rang out in the night—Lewis had apparently shot himself twice, once in the head and once in the chest. He lived until the next morning when he cut his own arms and legs open with a razor and bled himself to death.

A few years after his death, rumors of murder began to spread. Conspiracy theories surrounding that night in Grinder's Stand circulated in academia. In 1996 James E. Starrs, a professor at George Washington University, attempted to procure permission to exhume Lewis' remains for study, to put the mystery to rest. Although his efforts were supported by several researchers and 160 descendants of Lewis, the National Park Service (NPS), which oversees the grave site in Hohenwald, denied permission. A court later ruled that the exhumation was justified, but the NPS has successfully resisted pressure to exhume Lewis.

Today, Grinder's Stand and the city of Hohenwald lie in Lewis County, Tennessee.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

America's Civil War
The Seizure of the Pensacola Navy Yard
by David Ekardt

January 12,1861, the United States Navy suffered one on the most humiliating incidents in its history, the surrender of the Warrington Naval Yard in Pensacola, Florida. But, one year later, the Navy would recoup its honor by recapturing the facility.

Trouble was brewing in the nation since before Abraham Lincoln was elected, and matters came to a head in December 1860 when South Carolina and Mississippi seceded from the Union. Florida followed suit on 10 January, 1861. The events that followed the secession of Florida can be considered the first actions of the War Between the Sates.

Just a few days prior to formal secession, Governor Madison Perry of Florida directed state militia units to start seizing federal property in the state. When a unit approached the Federal Arsenal at Chattahoochee and demanded entrance, the civilian workers willingly turned over the facility to the troops. Likewise, a unit showed up at Fort Marion in Saint Augustine and the lone soldier on duty wisely turned over the keys to the fort.

But a real coup for the state, which truly had the potential for armed conflict with the United States Navy, came in the attempt to take over the forts and naval facilities in Pensacola. The Naval Yard was equipped to supply, service, and build naval vessels for the fleet. It was the most important prize in Florida.

The Naval Yard and the entrance to Pensacola Bay were protected by a series of forts. Fort Barrancas, Fort McRee, and the advanced redoubt, were on the mainland. Fort Pickens was located across the bay on Santa Rosa Island. These forts were manned by a small company of fifty men under the command of Lieutenant Adam Slemmer. During peace time as this was, only a small contingent of men was kept on duty to maintain the facilities. Had there been a war footing prior to this, the forts would have been fully manned.

On the night of January 10, 1861, men from the state militia approached Fort McRee, and by accounts, at least two shots were fired to ward them off. The next day, Lt. Slemmer, determined to protect what he could, gathered his men from Fort Barrancas and Fort Mcree, dumped twenty thousand pounds of gunpowder into the bay, and spiked the guns. Then with the aid of thirty sailors, moved all the remaining supplies across the bay to Fort Pickens .

The Naval Yard personnel were put on alert, with the Marine guard of forty men kept under arms. The Marine guards at the main gate were instructed to fire warning shots in case of trouble. At the time there were only about thirty sailors on duty along with civilian workers.

On January 12, 1861, a force of Florida and Alabama militia under the command of William Henry Chase, the man who had overseen the construction of the forts before he had retired, headed for the Naval Yard. At a pre-arranged time, secessionist naval officers forced the Marine guards at the gate to allow the rebel force to enter the facility. Chase and his officers met with Captain James Armstrong, commander of the base, who surrendered the facilities. Marine Captain Josiah Watson was summoned to Armstrong’s office and was ordered to have his men surrender their weapons. The Marines were not in favor of surrendering their weapons and accouterments and did so only after much persuasion and direct orders from Armstrong. Eventually they stacked arms. The militia forces gathered on the parade deck after securing the Marines in a warehouse. They had been advised to lock them up prior to lowering the U. S. flag. Chief William Conway was ordered to lower the flag. However, when he was chastised by one of the sailors for giving consideration to obeying that order he refused to do so. The militia raised a flag that was described as “a yellow rag with one star”, which was replaced a few days later with a flag fashioned from a U.S. flag. The blue field with stars was removed and replaced with a blue field with one large white star.

For his action, Chief Conway was later honored for his refusal to lower the national colors. Conversely, two months later, Commodore Armstrong was court-martialed for surrendering the Navy Yard. He was convicted of neglect of duty, disobedience of orders, and conduct unbecoming an officer. He was suspended from duty for five years with loss of pay for half of that period.

The next day, the Marines and sailors were permitted to leave on the U.S.S Supply which had been transferring supplies from the Yard to Fort Pickens before the takeover. Captain Watson and his wife departed for Mobile to take the land route to Washington DC, while his men went aboard the USS Supply bound for Washington . Lt. Slemmer’s family was permitted to gather their belongings and board the ship also. That same day, a deputation requested Lt. Slemmer to surrender Fort Pickens , which he adamantly refused to do. With the USS Wyandotte, the USS Brooklyn, and the USS Macedonian standing by, there was enough force to prevent an armed attempt to take the fort.

President Buchanan and Florida Senator Stephen Mallory reached an agreement on January 21, 1861, to prevent bloodshed. As long as the Federal government did not land troops on Santa Rosa Island to reinforce Fort Pickens, no attempt would be made by the militia to take the fort by force. The situation stayed amiable enough for the occupants of the fort to get supplies from the naval yard stores, and even go into town for supplies, mail and to use the telegraph. The same agreement covered the re-supply of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

As this period of non-aggression lasted, more troops arrived in the Pensacola area, eventually bringing the troop strength up to 6,000-8,000 men. These units had such colorful names as, the Eufaula Rifles, Eufaula Pioneers, Perote Guards, the Alabama Rifles, the Guards of the Sunny South, the Tallapoosa Rifles, the Red Eagles, and the Rough and Ready Pioneers. Braxton Bragg arrived on the scene to take over command from Chase who went on to command Florida troops elsewhere. During this time the Confederates fortified the shore from the Navy Yard to Fort McRee, a distance of four miles. They mounted several heavy guns along the fortifications, all bearing on Fort Pickens .

When Lincoln took office in March, he authorized reinforcements to go to Fort Pickens; however they ended up staying on board ship due to the truce. Finally, on April 12th, after a flurry of contradictory orders, the Marines of the USS Brooklyn, USS Sabine, USS Wyandotte, and the USS St. Louis, numbering about one hundred-twenty were ordered to go ashore to bolster the defenders of the fort. Along with them were the seventy-five men of Battery “A”, 1st U.S. Artillery along with their guns and horses. In his exuberance to be the first ashore, Marine drummer George Gardner stepped overboard when he thought they were in shallow water. Surprised to be in over his head, he held his drum tight, used it as a float and as he kicked his way to shore.

On April 17th, The USS Powhatten along with the transport ship the Atlantic, arrived on the scene. Colonel Harvey Brown and approximately one thousand men were ferried ashore. The Marines were sent back to their ships until April 23rd, when Brown, after seeing movements of a number of rebel ships, hastily called for the Marines, believing that there was an imminent attack on his position in the offing. The Marines stayed for a month helping to improve the defenses of the garrison. Until May 27th, they pitched in, each man having to fill and place forty sandbags a day.

A reporter from the New York Times present for the early days there reported on the Marines:

“The Marine Guard of the Wyandotte gunboat has been sent ashore on Rosas Island to do picket guard for the tired-out garrison there. Let me here name one bright spot in the Navy. It is the Marine Corps. Extra loyalty in trying times seems to be a characteristic-I had nearly said peculiarity-of Marines everywhere….America should call them ‘National’ because when every other branch of the country’s service has black spots in it, the Marines loom out in moral grandeur-true, unreproachable and brave. I am delighted to see the papers, and to learn from private letters that the corps at home is just as its representatives are here. Oh, that we had ten thousand Marines!”

Throughout the months of the standoff, Colonel Brown called the Marines ashore to bolster his troops. Brown grew nervous with every unusual movement of Confederate troops ashore, and every rumor that reached him about an enemy attempt to land on the island.
The next several months dragged on with dysentery setting in on the fort’s inhabitants. A lack of rain prevented the refreshing of the water in the cisterns which caused the outbreak. Scurvy from the lack of fresh vegetables also ravaged the troops. The first excitement came on August 3rd when five boats of Marines and sailors rowed out from the USS Colorado and USS Niagara to attempt to burn the Judah, a schooner that was being fitted out at the Navy Yard. The guard was alert and gave the alarm when the boats were spotted. Several rockets and an illumination balloon were sent aloft illuminating the area. The boat crews pulled off, and returned to the ships without casualties.
On September 2nd the rebels tried to move a floating dry dock which became grounded in the bay between the Navy Yard and Fort Pickens. A night time raiding party rowed out to the dry dock and set it ablaze as they were afraid that the Confederates would arm it and turn it into a floating artillery battery.
The officers of the fleet decided to make another attempt at attacking the rebels. They tried to convince Colonel Brown to join in a night time attack on Fort McRee. Brown was constantly in fear of an attack on his fort, and would not allow his troops to join in the attack. The Naval officers then decided to make another attempt at destroying the Judah and the largest gun the Confederates had at the Navy Yard, a 10-inch Columbiad. Four boat loads of Marines and sailors under the command of Lt. John Russell USN, and 1st Lt. Edward Reynolds USM set off on the night of September 13th. Silently they rowed past the encampment of Braxton Bragg’s 6,000 man army.
The force split up with two boat loads going towards the Judah , while the other two made for the big gun. The boats approaching the Judah were just yards from the ship when the alarm was raised. Men on board the ship and shore sprang to life, as the first shot was fired from the six-pounder in the lead boat. The attackers threw flaming tar balls onto the deck of the ship and fought their way on board. In the ensuing close combat, they drove off the defenders. Under heavy fire from the wharf, the raiders spread turpentine-soaked wood shavings around the ship and set it ablaze.
Meanwhile the other two boat crews found their objective virtually unguarded. One defender was killed as they landed. The attackers spiked the Columbiad, removed its tompion and shoved off into the night. As they withdrew under heavy fire from the Navy Yard, they kept up a spirited return fire from the boat guns, cutting into the defenders with grape shot. Two sailors died and a total of twenty sailors and Marines were wounded. An undetermined amount of Confederates were killed and wounded. The raid was a success, and the Judah was totally destroyed.
Braxton Bragg would not let this go unanswered. During the night of October 8th, approximately 1200 Confederate troops landed on Santa Rosa Island, about four miles from the fort. They advanced in three columns up the narrow island and surprised the encampment of the 6th New York Zouave troops. The rebels drove the New Yorkers back towards the fort, but lost the impetus of their surprise as they slowed down to loot the tents and supplies of the Yankees. The alarm was raised in the fort, and troops came pouring out to join in the melee. The New Yorkers rallied and together they pushed the attackers back. By daylight the battle was over with the Confederates pulling away from the island. Marines from the ships off shore had been landed to augment the defenders however they arrived too late to join the fight.
The last real engagement between combatants occurred on November 22 and 23 as Colonel Brown ordered his guns to open fire on a ship entering the Navy Yard. The shore line lit up with cannon fire as the Confederate guns returned fire on Fort Pickens. For the rest of the day, and into the night and most of the next day, the guns of Fort Pickens, and the Union gunboats unleashed a heavy fire onto the Confederate forts, Navy Yard and gun emplacements. The Union guns fired over five-thousand rounds while the Confederates fired over one thousand rounds. The conflagration was heard up to one hundred and twenty miles away, while the concussions over the bay waters killed thousands of fish that washed ashore. Several of the buildings in the Naval Yard were set ablaze by the cannon fire. General Dick Anderson, Braxton Bragg’s second-in-command was in charge when the firing started, and ordered his guns to respond. Bragg removed him from command when he returned for the waste of shot and powder. Fort McRee was reduced to rubble by the guns of the USS Niagara and the USS Richmond. The ships were able to fire upon a side of McRee that had not been reinforced or armed.
Things quieted down with the smaller Union force afloat and entrenched on Santa Rosa Island keeping the larger force of Confederates tied up and out of the fight towards the west. Finally, the government in Richmond decided to move Bragg’s troops west where they could be put to better use. On May 9th, 1862 in the dead of night the remaining troops that had not been siphoned off from the defense of the Navy Yard, set fire to what was left of the buildings and supplies before marching out of town.
The next morning, Marine Lt. Mclane Tilton and eighteen Marines were sent ashore to reconnoiter the situation. They found the Navy Yard and gun emplacements abandoned and burning. Other sailors and Marines were sent ashore along with some of the troops from the island to try to extinguish the flames.
The long contest had ended, and the Navy had regained its crucial facilities, and restored their honor. The southern forces were never able to make full use of the Navy Yard facilities. The long standoff by a small number of Northern forces had kept a much larger force of badly needed troops tied up for over a year. The Yard was rebuilt and served the ships of the Gulf Blockading Squadrons for the rest of the war.
Side note: Most people do not associate chemical warfare with the Civil War, however it almost became part of the contest at Pensacola. A Confederate soldier, Isham Walker of the 9th Regiment of Mississippi Volunteers developed a plan to use chemical warfare to kill all the troops in Fort Pickens and the men of the fleet. He wrote to the War Department detailing his plan. He suggested using two manned balloons tethered by two miles of copper wire to be carried aloft over the fort out of range of the guns. From a safe height, they would drop poisonous bombs into the fort and onto the ships of the fleet. He and friend Sam Benton of Tennessee, a ‘practical balloonist’, would be able to accomplish this at a mere cost of twelve hundred dollars for the balloons, copper wire and chemicals. The bombs would have black powder and a ‘subtile’ poison that was ‘innocent’ until ignited, poisoning the atmosphere for several rods in every direction. Although this plan was never put into action over Fort Pickens , there are accounts of the Confederates dropping bombs of various types over Union troop during the Siege of Richmond.