It's no secret that I am first and foremost a basketball guy. Live it, breathe it, love it.
It's also no secret that we live in an area that is predominantly focused on football. Much of our staff meetings end up centered around some sort of football -- be it preseason, in-season or offseason.
I accept it because it's in large part the culture we live in.
Yet walking into our Times Free Press office Monday afternoon -- six days before the Super Bowl and nine days before national signing day in football -- I heard the conversation drifting toward the hardwood.
More specifically, it was centered around Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson, whose brash behavior during games lends one to believe that he has heard "Shhh," "Be quiet" or just plain "Shut up!!" a lot in his lifetime.
And the best part? I love it. Love the passion with which he plays. Love the cocky attitude and swagger that he brings to the court every game.
Such attitudes no longer are approved, especially in high school. I've had teammates who convinced themselves other people were talking trash, just to get themselves pumped up. Although never the king, I would find myself chirping from time to time. It's good for the game -- gives it a flow. Gives it a reason. Gives it some excitement.
You know what else is good for the game? Marshall Henderson. You might not like him or the way he plays, yet you're going to watch him. Maybe to hate on him or maybe to watch his abilities on the court, but you're going to watch. I'm going to watch him tonight when he takes on my favorite program, the Kentucky Wildcats. Will I love him after? Time will only tell.
His demeanor screams "Punch me!" if you're an opposing player or fan, but as most former players both can and will tell you, there's only one way to quiet a player like Henderson: Stop him.
That'll shut him up. Maybe. Probably not.
Here's my Three to Watch for tonight, with the upcoming Super Bowl (Go Niners!) as the theme:
n Northwest Whitfield girls at Dalton, 6: The "Quonisha McCurty Bowl" is going to be big. Big for both teams because they each need a win with first place on the line in Region 7-AAAA. Hey, if nothing else, it'll get Whitfield County people excited for the upcoming soccer season.
n Bradley Central girls at McMinn County, 6: The "Black and White With a Touch of Gold Bowl." For those of you thinking I was talking about race, shame on you. An obvious reference to each school's colors is also a big game in District 5-AAA, with Bradley's Bearettes currently holding a two-game lead.
n Cleveland boys at Ooltewah, 7:30: This is the "Refs Better Be in Good Shape Bowl." Two teams that like to run up and down the court also are both in the thick of a tight District 5-AAA race, with Ooltewah's Owls holding a one-game lead over the Blue Raiders and Bradley Central.
If none of those games tickles your fancy, here's a bonus for you:
n Arts & Sciences boys at Howard, 7:30: The "Size Does Matter, Doesn't It? Bowl" pits Howard and its collection of guys over 6-foot-4 against the Patriots who, well, don't quite have that. Still, it's always an exciting game to go to, and cover.
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6311. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.