Oh, They're Just Jealous

The Vols' epic misadventures in last Saturday's SEC championship game in Atlanta, Ga. (ultimately won by Tennessee, 30-29) were the subject of much Sunday scrutiny by the Peach-state sports scribes, in particular Atlanta Constitution Journal columnist Steve Hummer. Hummer catalogued the game's rampant miscues (11 fumbles, seven turnovers, and a whole slew of dropped passes and other foibles), and wryly observed that Tennessee and Auburn resembled the "championship virgins" they truly were, "sweaty-palmed...stumbling and fumbling..." By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, Hummer said, "the Tennesseans could no longer avoid victory." He ended with a personal aside to Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning, advising the Heisman hopeful not to let any of his butter-fingered teammates hold the trophy, lest they fumble the prize into the waiting hands of Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson, the other front-runner in the Heisman race.

The Dad-Gum Champ

A new star was born this football season, besides human Humvee Jamal Lewis. It's WIVK (or WNOX, or whatever they call themselves) sportsguy John Wilkerson, whose impersonation of Coach Phil Fulmer is killer funny. His cohort Mike Keith says the Fulmer persona started emerging after the Vanderbilt game but didn't fully reveal itself until the drive down to Atlanta for the SEC Championship. "I was laughing so hard, I was about to drive off the road," Keith says.

The Fulmer schtick is a tough gig, since the coach isn't into colorful language or Spurrier-esque outrageousness. So far, it's mostly liberal use of two words: a weaker-than-Tony-Tiger "Grrrrrreat!" (generally applied to Peyton Manning, Leonard Little, the seniors, and how it feels to win a championship) and an indignantly-declared "Travesty" (what it will be if Peyton doesn't snag a Heisman).

Wilkerson isn't the only media type picking up on Fulmerisms these days. The CNN morning anchors Sunday had a big time with the coach's complaints about "too many cotton-pickin' fumbles," and started introducing the "cotton-pickin' weather" and the "cotton-pickin' international news."

Listen, by the way, for "Fulmer" after the turn of the year when Mike Hammond moves up to take on more corporate duties and Wilkerson hosts the morning show.

You Go, Girlfriend

Meanwhile, brand-new Lady Vol Semeka Randall, one of the team's Four Fabulous Freshmen, is entertaining fans hereabouts with her mega-watt personality. During last week's New York road-trip, the high school All-American got up on the stage at the O'Neill Theatre and performed with the Grease cast Saturday night (the team was out until 12:30), and then showed up in the lobby of the Westchester Marriott at 7:30 a.m. to hang out with the fans. The team got back to Knoxville about midnight Sunday, whereupon Randall was seen running back and forth from the airport lobby to the parking lot, helping people with bags. "Have you ever seen somebody dance to Jingle Bells? Semeka does," said one worn-out staffer.

Knoxville's Illicit Rug Trade Exposed

If you were watching TV Monday night just before Peyton Manning's anticipated appearance on David Letterman, Knoxville made a wholly unanticipated appearance on the investigative ABC show Dateline. A segment about phony "Going Out of Business" sales concentrated on fly-by-night oriental-carpet stores that open only to close and attract discount-hungry customers. The focus of the Dateline investigation turned out to be the perpetually closing 1001 Rugs on Kingston Pike near Lovell Road. A Dateline reporter went there to purchase a rug on "sale" at supposedly drastic discounts, for a sale price of over $800—only to find an identical rug available at a New York store, undiscounted, for only $350. Focusing on a map of West Knoxville, on which Middlebrook and Kingston Pikes were visible, the show described how the scam had avoided city laws by opening a store just 100 yards outside the city limits. The chain, which has been opening and closing locations throughout the region for years, is apparently headquartered in Nashville, the location of the one store the owners promised to keep open.

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree...

It's a wonderful life for Councilman-elect Danny Mayfield, who says he's been busier than an East Towne beaver trying to get himself ready to take office Dec. 20, what with meeting the players, studying up on issues, and fielding phone calls from candidates who want to know how he pulled off what he has dubbed his "grand-slam, upset, home-run victory" last month. Good thing he's getting ready, because sitting members of Council, who chose not to do these things before the recent city elections, have saved him some presents to unwrap. There's a rezoning in his district pitting the Parkridge neighborhood against a proposed daycare center—incumbent William Powell moved to postpone this one (again) until Dec. 30, Mayfield's first regularly-scheduled meeting. Then there's a much-postponed Fountain City rezoning pitting a used car lot against the neighborhood. Additionally, he's fixing to find out that he must get by the rest of the fiscal year without any 202 money—the $40,000 allotted to each Council member to bestow on needy and politically-advantageous causes—which Powell is bestowing like there's no tomorrow.

But never fear, the incumbents have made up for sticking it to the new guy by making sure he's included in the sweetheart pension deal they passed (and we the voters approved) last year, whether he wants it or not.

Mayfield, who criticized the pension deal for the part-time elected officials during his campaign, says he tried to opt out of the pension. "And they told me, 'Danny, you don't have a choice.' I'm the only one this applies to. I wonder what else I'm gonna be forced to do by these ghosts of Christmas past."

Council members Carlene Malone and Nick Pavlis refused to participate in the pension plan.

Come Together

Friends of recently-deceased jazz drummer Samarai Celestial will gather Monday at 6 p.m. at Tjaarda's in the Old City for a "memorial get-together" in lieu of a standard memorial service. According to co-organizer Seva, the late Sun Ra percussionist "wouldn't have wanted it otherwise; he was too positive and warm a person." All friends of the musician are welcome to attend.