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By the time you read this, the 5-at-10 will either be en route to Lake Martin, Ala., or already with an open CoCola. Happy birthday, 'Merica.

We'll have the mailbag tomorrow, and we have one open spot — and always a spot or three for hate mail if you so choose.

It's with the typical excitement and the somber realization of finality that we head to Lake Martin. My in-laws have lived on Lake Martin for as long as I've known them. The Mrs. 5-at-10 and I got hitched there, my kids learned how to swim and ski there, one semi-regular around these parts learned how to drink CoColas there.

It's a special place for sure.

And it's been sold. It's simply too big for the in-laws, and they are downsizing. So there's that.

It's been a special destination for the entire family for sure.

To a quick 5-at-10 so we can get 'Merica's birthday party started for real.

Halftime speech

We asked Wednesday — on July 1, the halfway point of a 2020 that has kicked our collective tail in almost every way, shape and invisible viral microbe — which TV/movie coach should deliver our halftime speech.

Well, because we move words, here's my potential script for such a speech

OK, huddle up.

It's halftime. We have suffered through the worst first half I've seen in my 50 years of doing this thing called life.

We're down, but we're not out. We're way behind, but great comebacks are borne in moments surrounded by great obstacles.

But you know where we are. All of you.

Because as daunting as this first half has been, whether we know it or not, remember it or not, what is going on here in America belongs to all of us.

All of us.

In the end, we're all on the same team and right now, well, the chips are down. 2020 won the first half. There's no doubt. Every break imaginable went against us, but the time now is to look forward, to step forward and to move forward.

The calamities of the last six months have been hatched in the previous six months, six years and six generations —  manmade travesties like racism and naturally destructive events like a pandemic.

Fear can no longer grip us. For example, if you had the option in January to wrestle murder hornets and a Saharan dust cloud or protests and a virus, well, the choice would have been clearly the former. 

We need teamwork from every citizen, regardless of party, color, socioeconomic status, faith, etc. 

We need leadership, at every level.

We need to remember that doing right is more important than being right.

We need to realize that while there is a 'Me' in team, there is an 'Us' in success.

We need to be reminded that no matter how badly the narrative is spun about our country's evil nature or wicked history, there are millions willing to risk their lives all over the world to come here.

Because throughout our history every time we have been knocked down, we have risen. Every time we have been challenged, we have responded. Every time we have been wounded, we have healed.

Together. As a nation and as a people.

It's the dream, and that dream is worth fighting for, with our efforts to be safer, to be more patient, and be more tolerant and be willing to think about things in terms of country over cause and especially over caucus.

Look around our big locker room and see the faces like yours and those completely different. Recognize those with similar beliefs and those with differing views, and remember we're all wearing the same uniform.  

The differences that divide us won't be fixed in the next six months anymore than issues and hatred that have been formed for more than six decades in so many places can be washed away because people are finally putting flags or statues in museums.

Will it be easy? No, the odds are against us right now, and we have doubters everywhere.

But is it worth the effort?

You're damn right it is.

Thoughts...Happy birthday 'Merica.

NFL precautions?

Precautions is an interesting word for the NFL, which has strong-armed its way through all things COVID-19 to this point.

The NFL was undeterred with the draft, with free agency and with almost every offseason benchmark to date.

But now, as the case curve heads back north at alarming rates, the NFL appears to be adjusting.

Two preseason games cancelled. Good. Cancel them all but one. Do we really need them? That's a question for another, Corona-less day.

Also, the NFL, according to The Athletic, the NFL is planning on crowds with the wrinkle of having fans sign a waiver to attend games.

So there's that.

The Decision

Well, we wanted to move quickly today. But hey, who knew, I'm kinda wordy, huh?

(Side questions: Is there anything even close to the huge gap in terms of time between the projected estimated time of departure and actual time of departure when you are heading out of town for more than a day or two? Seriously, there always seems to be about 13 extra tasks that take about 50 extra minutes before you can hit the road, right? Am I crazy or what, and no my level of crazy and my theory about mistaken travel ETDs are not mutually exclusive, OK?)

Where were we? Oh yeah, The Decision.

I watched the ESPN mini-30-for-30 or whatever they are calling it these days about the 10-year anniversary on LeBron's made-for-TV enterprise simply known as The Decision.

It was pretty fascinating on several fronts, to be honest. Not the least of which is harkening back to a time just a decade ago that coming on TV with Jim Gray and raising $3 million for the Boys and Girls Club of America was the most hated and controversial thing any athlete could do in the eyes of the public.

Ah, simpler times. Pass the lemonade Aunt Bea.

The Decision was forever known for the phrase "I'm taking my talents to South Beach" and the imagery of Cleveland burning and the outrage of Cavs fans is still pretty vivid. It of course was made way worse nationally and LeBron became a bona fide sports villain after the Miami pep rally that included the famous, "Not 1, not 2, not 3" prediction for Heat titles.

But the lasting imprint that the show noted and that rings true whether many of us realize it or not, is The Decision was the absolute exclamation point on the realization for star athletes who saw they can control their message and the media needs the stars more than the other way around.

Sure, megastars like Tiger and Jordan frequently flexed their muscles in previous times, but that was mainly on print media who wrote things they did not approve of. Tiger in particular was a famous bully in his heyday.

But The Decision paved the way for The Players Tribune and so many other avenues, including LeBron's HBO show and KD's ESPN thingy.

So in some ways, LeBron took his talents from Cleveland to South Beach and then to Hollywood — literally and figuratively — and it started with the decision.

This and that

— Because we all need some levity, it appears that Bevis and Butthead are making a comeback. So there's that.

— You know the rules; when TFP ace sports editor and prep sports guru Stephen Hargis writes about high school sports items, we read and link Hargis' headlines on prep sports. Hey, like Uncle Buck says, it's in the books people. Man, who knows what's going to happen with high school football. Screw you 2020.

— Another part of our possible second-half locker room speech for everyone would include these following facts. From a Yahoo News story: "More than half of new U.S. cases each day come from Arizona, California, Florida and Texas, home to 30% of the country's population. All four states plus 10 others saw new cases more than double in June." Wowser. Wear a mask friends, whether you're doing it for you, for a family member, for your neighbor, for a self-absorbed need to have football in two months, mask up friends. (Side note: Holy buckets, college football is supposed to start in two months. Oh my we've got a long way to go.)

— We have tried to remain in the middle on the corona, listening to medical experts as well as realizing that our way of life would end if we lock-it-down until a vaccine is developed. Yes, we almost always wear a mask and encourage others to as well. (See above.) But to borrow a phrase from media savant and sports personality/antagonist Clay Travis, the fear porn peddled with corona is not helpful either. Like this headline from Dennis Dodd story that projects deaths if FBS football is played in 2020. Yes, the headline reads "Hospitalizations, deaths projected by data analysts if FBS plays in 2020." Well, yeah the corona is still going to be around come fall, no matter our steps. But here's the quote from the University of Illinois computer expert who ran the data-driven model that projected a 30-to-50 percent infection rate among players: "A few of them could end up in the hospital, and you'll have a small number who could die." There are a couple of colds in there right? Could is a dangerous word to base that kind of headline on, if you ask me.    

— Speaking of The Athletic, Seth Emerson talked with former Georgia player Aaron Davis said he and four former Bulldogs teammates discussed the big question around college football right now that really no one is discussing. Would you play? Davis and his teammates all said yes, with an added wrinkle. "They all feel like they would play, but there would need to be compensation involved. They feel as if they are putting their lives on the line, so they would need to be paid in order to step on the field. I think this is a very interesting take, and one to be seriously considered, especially if a large majority of the players feel like that." Amid all the optimism/desperation of the college administrators and league commissioners who know what the fiscal impact of no major college would be, the lack of actual players weighing publicly — never mind not being invited to the planning sessions about the path to playing — is quite telling.

— Here, from Sports Media Watch, is the list of the 50 most-watched sports broadcasts of the first half of 2020. The NFL dominates. Football dominates. And the popularity of The Last Dance — as flawed as I thought it was — was evident. Football has the top 18 entries with the NFL's 11 playoff games ranking firth-through-11th. (Heck the first round of the draft — I love the draft, you know this — was 14th and the Pro Bowl was 18th.) All 10 of The Last Dance installments made the list with episode 1 ranking 21st.

— Butch Jones' Knoxville pad is on the market for more than $3 million, and holy bleep, it's got a very sweet set-up, especially the pool area. Yes, the buyout would be sweet, but having a dream place like that and having to sell it because you get canned would stink too. (Side note: Speaking of Lake Martin, on the other side of the lake from the in-laws is what they call Coach's Row in a place called The Ridge with Pearl, Malzahn and AU baseball coach Butch Thompson all living next door to each other. Also a sweet set-up if you're curious.)

— Saw this late this morning, but now the big-money players are getting involved. Investors with Nike, FedEx and Pepsi are asking those monster corporations to cut ties with the Washington Redskins because of the team's name and mascot. Anyone else starting to think that the question is now when rather than if about changing the Redskins' name?

Today's questions

True or false Thursday? I say true. True or false, if they were being played this weekend you would attend an NFL or SEC football game.  

True or false, Tennessee will have high school football in the fall.

True or false, the name Redskins will be changed before the start of the 2021 season.

As for today, July 2, let's review.

Hey, a few young and talented and attractive actresses were born today. Happy birthday to Margot Robbie, Lindsay Lohan and Ashley Tisdale, among others.

The movie Airplane! is 40 years old today. Well done Zucker brothers and Abrahams. Well done.

Larry David is 73 today.

Brandel Chambree is 58 today.

Does Chamblee make the Rushmore of unlikable TV sports personalities? Who else would you nominate?

Go and remember the mailbag.

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Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 4/15/14. Staff Mugs
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