Another Olympics. Another time.

August 11th, 2016

Four years ago, I told you the story of the games. Time to tell it again.

Never mind that we can’t remember who competed, we can’t remember who won the silver and bronze. We’re not even sure who won the gold.

But, ah, the games. We remember the games.

The Olympics remind us of when we were young, when everything was possible.

As published in The Memphis Daily News, August 12, 2016, and in The Memphis News, August 13-19, 2016

Gold Medal


When the Olympics last rolled around, my fellow decathlete, Jeff Chamblin, and I laughed our way through the memories, remembering the competition as if it were yesterday.

We remember the wedge on 18 at Galloway, dug from a heavy lie in a front yard on Walnut Grove, arriving there after a 350-yard drive, 250 yards of that bouncing in the street. Even now, we can see the wedge rising over five lanes of traffic. We can hear the horns, the homeowner scream from his porch, as we watch that scarred, bruised warrior of a ball hit, bounce and bite to eight feet for birdie. Don’t tell me about the troublesome rules of golf. In this competition, if you could find it and hit it, it was in play, and that was a helluva shot.

We all gasped when top right English sent the three across the table into the money ball dropping it in the corner pocket. We couldn’t believe it when the backhand slam from somewhere out in the driveway sent the opponent diving into the corner of the carport as a ping pong ball and his medal chances whizzed by his ear.

In the middle of the Rio Olympics in 2016, the Memphis Olympics in the middle of 1970 come to mind again. Like Rio, lots of mosquitoes and less Russians. Unlike Rio, much better water and much worse conditioning.

Jeff and I worked for The Commercial Appeal that summer and while we were supposed to be selling ads one afternoon, we were doing something more rewarding – drinking beer and coming up with a decathlon of the games we grew up playing – a sort of east Memphis upbringing Olympiad.

Horse was in, Around The World was out, because Horse is more creative since you don’t shoot from fixed positions. Another beer. Poker and Hearts were in, but Bridge was out since a partner is required. Monopoly was on board but Parcheesi was, well, too cheesy. Another beer. Leftfield ball and bowling would be the team sports. And so on. And another beer.

Ten competitors. Ten events over the weekend. Bowling, Leftfield Ball, Horse, 9-Ball, Golf, Tennis, Poker, Ping Pong, Monopoly, Hearts.

We remember all that, but we can’t remember everybody who competed, or what we competed for – beer and money to be sure, but we’re not sure how much. Jeff claims he took the gold, but I know better.

In the last event – Hearts – I was hoarding the ace and queen of hearts, and when I took Jeff’s king with that ace, I shot the moon and used the 26 points to take him and the gold.

That’s what I remember. I think.

Just games, but games can bring out the best and worst in us, show us some of our brightest and darkest moments, stir old memories, and cause belly laughs between two old friends on the phone.

That’s pure gold, and it’s time to make that call again.

I’m a Memphian, and I love the Olympics.


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