Charlie Daniels: Super Fan Part 2 – Football, NASCAR and More - Soapbox Jr.
When I left off last time, I mostly covered dad’s support of the Tennessee Vols and some appearances at Nashville Predators Stanley Cup Semi-Finals games, but there was more to tell, and a few points I needed to finish.
There was one other aspect of his love of the Vols, his friendship with former UT football head coach and athletic director, Phil Fulmer. Coach Fulmer and dad met when dad was invited to be a part of his golf tournament which supported the Jason Foundation which was created by Clark Flatt, whose son committed suicide when he was 16-years-old. The goal of The Jason Foundation is to eradicate teenage suicide. The tournament was renamed The Phillip Fulmer and Charlie Daniels Golf Classic.
The two remained friends until dad passed, and he was looking forward to doing 2020’s tournament, but COVID-19 postponed it indefinitely.
One disappointing aspect of dad as a diehard VFL (Vol For Life) was that he missed the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl in January of 1999 in which Tennessee won the National Championship. He really wanted to be there, but he had laser surgery on his vocal cords to remove nodes that had started to plague him over the years. He was recovering well from the surgery which was successful, but his surgeon was worried that going to the game in Tempe, AZ would be difficult for him to keep from talking, let alone cheering for his team, so we watched the Vols defeat the Florida State Seminoles 23-16. It was the pinnacle of success for the Tennessee football program which has been in disarray since Coach Fulmer was let go back in 2008.
The Vols have been through 4 head coaches since 2008, none of which has had any sustained success, but through it all, dad bled orange.
Here’s hoping the new staff can turn the program back to being competitive again.
I was also reminded that dad was a diehard NASCAR fan, which indeed he was, and he sang about it and wrote about it often.
He loved watching races on TV, but there is nothing like actually being at a race. Dad attended a few, but the one race I attended was at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1984, the Coca-Cola 500. Dad had been doing commercials for Skoal, and their parent company, U.S. Tobacco was the sponsor of Harry Gant’s Skoal Bandit car, so we got to experience NASCAR first class, I’m pretty sure dad also got to start the race by waving the green flag.
He wrote and recorded a song called “The Intimidator,” about the late great Dale Earnhardt, recorded another one called “High Speed Heroes,” he recorded “Stroker’s Theme,” the opening titles music to the Burt Reynolds NASCAR themed “Stroker Ace” movie.
There have also been a few CDB paint schemes in NASCAR over the years, most notably, Joe Nemechek’s 33 Oakwood Homes car had a CDB scheme for at least 3 races, if I remember correctly, one of them being Talladega where true to his nickname, old “Front Row Joe” started the race at the pole position.
Dale Earnhardt won that race, and there is a great picture of dad and Dale taken at that race. Sadly, #3 lost his life about 4 months later in Daytona. NASCAR hasn’t been the same since.
A "The Charlie Daniels Journey Home Project" scheme has also been occasionally gracing Mike Harmon’s car in the Xfinity Series for the last few years.
But where I left off in my previous soapbox, dad and I had been Dallas Cowboys fans, but our second team was the Houston Oilers.
This was back in the “Luv Ya Blue” era of Bum Phillips and the great Earl Campbell. Earl was a beast, and one of the best running backs of the era, no… one of the best of all time.
Our attachment to the Cowboys was severed when the great Tom Landry was unceremoniously fired by owner, Jerry Jones. The Cowboys were in a slump, and maybe it was time for Landry to go, but the man was a legend, and was the only coach the Cowboys had since they came into the league, so it should have been handled differently. Dad didn’t pull for the Cowboys after that, and neither did I.
For many years, we didn’t have a real favorite team, and I wasn’t really following the NFL like I had in years past, until a surprising development in 1996, Houston Oilers owner, K.S. “Bud” Adams had given up on trying to convince Houston to build a new stadium to replace the aging Astrodome.
Tennessee made their pitch to bring the Oilers to Nashville, and many country artists were part of the campaign to bring professional football to Nashville, including dad.
The campaign was successful, and after a nomadic existence bouncing around from Memphis, to Vanderbilt’s stadium, the team was about to get a new direction. Dad and I went to the very last Tennessee Oilers game, where they unveiled the logo and name of the future, the Tennessee Titans.
After that, dad's favorite teams were the Titans, and whoever was playing the Cowboys.
A new stadium, new uniforms, and a new name, and a Super Bowl run aided by a “miracle” and a third victory over a powerful division rival in the AFC Championship game.
Dad and I went to Atlanta for Super Bowl XXXIV, it was amazing, it was frustrating, it was heartbreaking - if you were a Titans fan - but they fought hard, and almost forced overtime. It wasn’t the outcome we hoped for, but we were proud of how they fought back after falling behind in the first half.
A few seasons later, dad recorded the intro music for the coach’s show, and we also went to training camp and got to tour the Titans training facility, and got to meet some of the players.
On at least 3 different occasions, dad sang the National Anthem at the Titans stadium through its various name changes, and in 2011, dad was selected the 12th Titan, an honorary title which – at the time – required the honoree to raise a flag with a #12 on it, a tradition “borrowed” from the Seattle Seahawks, by their former GM who was then GM for the Titans. We each got jerseys with the number 12, and “Daniels” on the back. I still wear mine to this day.
Things have changed a lot in NASCAR and the NFL, and dad would have had a lot to say about it, but I’m not going to get into that right now. Maybe some other time.
One last sports memory of dad, when he sang the National Anthem for my high school football team – of which I was a member – we were undefeated. He was our good luck charm.
Wish he was still here to reminisce about these wonderful memories.
What do you think?
Pray for our troops, our police, the peace of Jerusalem and for our nation.
God Bless America!
— Charlie Daniels, Jr.
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