As Nashville undergoes a whiplash of change under a web of steel cranes, the Ryman stands sturdy among the neon and glass. Hallowed halls like “the mother church of country music” can’t merely be built like a skyscraper or condo complex after all. They must become — painted with layers of experience and mystery over time. Try to uncover the meaning in their spirit by peeling back the paint, and you’ll only find another color, deeper and richer, worn in.
The Ryman is a physical emblem of the spiritual — a reminder that takes us beyond ourselves. And as former Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell put it, the Ryman reminds us, looking forward, of who we still want to be. Through two renovations — one in 1994 and another last year — the building helps tell the story of this place from the performers who graced the stage to the men and women who built and ran the place. But it also offers a comeback story of Nashville, saving a piece of its soul. Because in the 1990s, after a century of becoming, the old lady Ryman had nearly come to her end. … Read More
The moment has been lauded for over 40 years. It trumped, for a short time, the more ominous brand of “white flight,” that of white folks selling their houses and fleeing to the suburbs. Hank was the right hero at the right time. He had no bluster about him. He had poise and was stoic, Russell said. Some white folks of the day said they liked that Hank wasn’t “uppity” — as if his grace was just an act to please them.
Aaron suddenly has some diplomatic descendants in the meshing of two sides of town. Just as baseball has ripped us apart as a sporting city with the Braves and their business flight to Cobb County and the taking of public money to build their new stadium, there are some new heroes in our midst at the right time. They created a oneness with a round ball — this one weighing about 22 ounces. They play with poise and heart, like Hank played.
I’m talking about the Hawks, of course.
Preposterous, you say?
Go buy a playoff ticket and see for yourself. They are the People’s Team. … Read More
I was seven years old and my grandfather, who had not yet been diagnosed with leukemia and did not know he had only two years to live, was seventy-two when Hank Aaron stepped up to the plate to break Babe Ruth’s home run record.
For more than a year Granddad and I had been tracking Aaron’s climb up this Mount Everest of baseball statistics. No other player, not even the legends, had come close to hitting 714 home runs: Willie Mays ended his career with 660, while Mickey Mantle had finished with 536.
Ruth had retired from baseball in 1935 and died in 1948 but decades later remained an unassailable icon, flush with nicknames that lived vividly in the American imagination: the Babe, the Bambino, the Sultan of Swat. He is credited with no less than canonizing the home run, anchoring the preternatural status of the New York Yankees franchise, and cursing the rival Boston Red Sox to a century of futility. He still ranks on most lists as the greatest player who ever played the game.
But by April 1974, Aaron, who had grown up in Mobile, Ala., played in the Negro Leagues, and moved into the majors as the Civil Rights Movement began, sat poised to knock the Sultan of Swat down into second place. … Read More