By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Win it for Tommy
Placeholder Image

 T.L. Hanna High School in Anderson, S. C., had their "Radio."

 We had our Tommy. They made a movie about "Radio," starring Cuba Gooding, Jr., as the challenged young man who becomes the unofficial mascot of the football team, bringing inspiration and good cheer to those around him.

We could make a movie about Tommy, too. Tommy started hanging around the practice fields at Clinch County High School sometime in the 1990s. He lived nearby and soon was helping then-Coach Cecil Barber around the field and in the locker room.

A couple of scenes that stick out in my mind would have to be included in our Tommy movie:

We had a big game at home, against one of our fiercest rivals. While the team was warming up, Tommy had a seizure of some type on the field. While medical professionals were treating him, the team went into the locker room to hear their pregame speech. Coach Barber checked on Tommy before he went into the locker room. Tommy was fine, the medics told the coach as they tended to him in the ambulance.

Coach Barber, though, being the ultimate motivator, saw an opportunity.

"Guys, I just talked to the paramedics," he told the team with emotion in his voice. "And I don't think Tommy's going to make it. Tommy loves the Panthers, and there is nothing Tommy would want more than for you to go out there and win tonight... for him. So, let's win this one for Tommy!"

The team then stormed out of the locker room, screaming, "Let's win this one for Tommy!"

That same season, after a game against another heated rival, players and coaches were shaking hands on the field after the game. Tommy got in line with the players and coaches, and when he got to the head coach of the opposing team, he shuffled up to the man, said "good game" meekly and stuck out his hand. When the coach reached for Tommy's hand, Tommy jerked his hand up and said "Ha! Ha!" in the astonished coach's face.

A couple of years later, Tommy graduated to the stands, where he was always the first in the stadium and sat on the front row.

"Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, Len, how do you think the Panthers will do tonight?" he would ask as I would walk by him.

"Well, I don't know Tommy," I would reply. "What do you think?"

"Hey, hey, hey, hey, I think we're going to win."

The subject was always the same with Tommy. I would see him sweeping in front of Lutz, Brown, Peagler & Manley insurance office every Monday morning - his day job.

"Hey, hey, hey, hey, Len, you going to the game Friday?"

"Yep, how bout you, Tommy?"

"Yeah," he would say, then pause. "Do you think the Panthers will win?"

"Well, I don't know, Tommy. What do you think?"

"Hey, hey, hey, hey, I think we're going to win."

Tommy won't be going to any more Panther games. He died last week at the age of 61.

I've been around high school sports most of my life, either as a student or covering athletic events for a newspaper. Nearly every high school has their own Tommy or Radio - some unique person who finds a home, and acceptance, in the family of high school sports.

Most of our current players probably didn't know Tommy well. He had been ill as of late and hadn't been able to make it out to the football field like he used to.

But, sometime this season, when the chips are down for the Panthers, we absolutely have to use Coach Barber's "win this one for Tommy" speech.

Tommy would love it.

 Len Robbins is editor and publisher of The Clinch County News.