Bill's Blog


Posted on February 15th, 2018

Last week was terrible. The stock market fell by about a million points, the Federal Government shut down for the second time this year, and I had emergency surgery! 

But I’m back home now, and this week has been a good one. As I recover from my recent surgery, I am sitting in my lounge chair in front of my big screen T.V. watching the Winter Olympics from Pyongchang, South Korea. And if you can pronounce “Pyongchang,” you deserve a gold medal in linguistics. 

As I watch such diverse Winter Olympic events as short-track speed skating, men’s doubles curling, and the biathlon (the official winter sport of the National Rifle Association), it has occurred to me that I should have been a Winter Olympian. That’s because as a child I was pretty competitive in winter sports. 

Since I was born and raised in Elvis’ hometown, (“Meh-fus,” as Elvis would say it), I could only participate in winter sports one or two days a year. That’s because then and now we get snow in Memphis on, at most, one or two days a year. 

But when I was a boy, I took advantage of snow days to head outdoors and play with other kids in the neighborhood in our own version of the Winter Olympics. 

We couldn’t do any downhill skiing, since Memphis has no hills to ski down.  (Mount Moriah does not have a ski slope.) But we had our own bobsled competition of sorts sledding down icy streets. We also engaged in what you might call “curling hockey,” using broomsticks as hockey sticks as we hit a small rubber ball into makeshift goals on the frozen streets. 

While snowball fighting is not an Olympic sport, it should be. If it was, I could have won a gold medal, not because I have a great arm but because I was so small it was almost impossible for the other kids to hit me with a snowball. (Dodge ball was my main sport.) 

In the 1970s, I attended the University of Tennessee at Knoxville where, in those pre-global warming days, we had many more snowy winter days than I had experienced back in Memphis. And on those snowy days, my classmates and I would engage in what I  would now call the “orange luge.” 

We would borrow (okay, steal) plastic trays from Smokey’s Palace, the cafeteria in the student center. We would then take the orange trays to the top of the iconic “Hill” and barrel down the hill on our tray sleds at breakneck speeds.

During the past week as I’ve watched the luge competition, it has occurred to me, “Hey, I did that at the University of Tennessee on trays from Smokey’s Palace!” 

It was also at the University of Tennessee that I first experienced skiing at nearby Gatlinburg. Ober Gatlinburg will never be chosen as a site for the Winter Olympics. The “snow” at Ober Gatlinburg is actually ice that is spit out from large machines on both sides of the slope. Notice I said “slope,” not “slopes.” 

Invariably, as the temperature rose on relatively mild winter days in Gatlinburg, the “snow” would turn into thick wet ice. It was like skiing on top of a Slurpee. 

But in all immodesty, I got pretty good at it. If they ever create a Winter Olympic event that combines downhill skiing and figure skating, I’ll be pursuing a medal. 

Yes, I could win a gold medal in Slurpee skiing! 

Well, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get back to the Olympics. They are about to start the finals of mixed doubles ski jump! They’ll combine the beauty and grace of figure skating with the agony of the traditional ski jump crash! 

I never did a ski jump on my snow days as a child in Memphis or a college kid in Knoxville. But I did soar a few times while ice skiing at Ober Gatlinburg. Not on purpose of course. 

I hope that at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Bejing there will be a new event ... the plastic tray luge! If so, I will be there competing for the gold!


Margaret Haltom: love the sledding photo of the athlete in action

Frank Crawford: I remember those snowy days on the Hill as well, and I took many a slide on the orange cafeteria trays - and almost broke my back hitting a high concrete curb backwards at the end of a greased lightning slalom downhill from the steps of Ayers Hall. How I walked away from that I will never know.

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