Dimon Kendrick-Holmes: A different sort of sports widow

April 4, 2014 

Today I wanted to write about a friend of mine who is in her 80s, but she threatened to do me physical harm if I mentioned her name in the newspaper.

I'm not going to risk it.

But I will say that my friend is an enthusiastic fan of the Atlanta Braves. Every year, like clockwork, she asks me when we're printing the team's TV schedule for the entire season.

(We've printed it the last two Sundays, March 23 and March 30.)

It's a great question, because watching the Braves isn't as easy as it used to be, when every single night America's Team was playing on the Superstation.

And my friend is not alone. We get lots of calls this time of year from people asking about the publication date of the schedule, and then asking when we're going to reprint it, and then asking if we can just send them a copy of that paper.

Then throughout the season, they call to ask what time the Braves are playing that night, what channel they're playing on, and why there's so many television channels these days but nothing decent to watch, except of course for the Braves.

Many of these callers are women in their eighth, ninth or even 10th decade of life.

I wonder if they've always been Braves fans. My friend hasn't.

The Braves were in Boston when she was born, then moved to Milwaukee in 1953, then moved to Atlanta in 1966.

Somewhere down the line, she got married and her husband became a Braves fan if he wasn't one already, listening to games on the radio and then watching them on television.

Married women sometimes like to call themselves widows during certain sports seasons. There are football widows in the fall and early winter, and then baseball widows in the spring and summer.

I don't know if my friend considered herself a baseball widow; probably not. She loved her husband, but she didn't profess any great passion for the Atlanta Braves. She had a happy life without worrying about where the Braves stood in the pennant race or what channel they were playing on.

(Life was simple back then; it was usually last place and Channel 17.)

Then her husband died, leaving her with decades of life to live.

She needed something to keep her busy, and she wanted a way to feel connected to her husband of so many years.

She found just the thing.

She found the Braves.

And now she's one of the biggest Braves fans on earth.

Which reminds me of my wife's Uncle Owen. He was one of the biggest University of Tennessee football fans on earth. A Volunteer player from the Memphis area, his career ended when he blew out his knee and the legendary General Neyland called him into his office.

"You're from the farm," Neyland said. "What do you do when a horse injures his leg?"

Owen was quick. "You take away his scholarship and send him home?"

Years later, in 1998, his beloved Vols won the national championship. Uncle Owen gave me a commemorative book, which was kind of a joke because I hated the Vols. Weeks later, Uncle Owen was dead.

I still don't like Tennessee, but when I see that orange checkerboard end zone on TV, I think about Uncle Owen and I tell my kids what a great guy he was.

I wonder if he's watching those games with us, or if sports -- even SEC football! -- becomes boring to people once they get to heaven.

But I know one thing for sure, and my friend knows it too: Sports is worth a lot down here, and in ways that surprise us.

Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor, dkholmes@ledger-enquirer.com.

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