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By Jack McCall

When I left you last week, my daring and resourceful cousin was presenting himself for entrance at the vendor gate at the Titans’ stadium (once known as Adelphia Coliseum – now Nissan Stadium).

You may recall he had become very adept at gaining entrance to Dudley Field at Vanderbilt football games. One of his friends had mistakenly told him he could never do such a thing at a Titans game. That started his mental wheels turning.

So he created a bogus purchase order calling for him to inspect the artificial turf at Nissan Stadium prior to an upcoming game. He arrived at the gate with toolbox in hand.

Across the Miles
Jack McCall

He must have been very convincing. The gatekeeper let him in! But not before he assigned two security guards to accompany my kinsman while he made his “inspection.”

I can see him now, with toolbox in hand and two security guards in tow; as he slowly worked his way across the playing field – his eyes glued to the turf much like a man looking for arrowheads in newly plowed ground. Occasionally, he would stop and “repair” a suspicious-looking seam in the artificial turf.

My cousin stands no more than 5-foot-7, and there he was weaving in and out among the players as they warmed up. While telling this story he said to me, “You know, some of those lineman are really big!” I guess nothing beats being “up close and personal.”

I should mention here that some of his friends had arrived early and were witnessing this unfolding drama.

It took all of 30 minutes to complete the inspection. During that time my cousin, who is quite the talker, must have established good rapport with his security escort. As they passed the vendor hospitality tent, they asked if he would like to have a hot dog and drink before he left the stadium. He allowed he would. They left him there.

After he enjoyed his refreshments, he decided he might as well stay for the game. So he moseyed on over and took up position on the Titans sideline to watch the game.

I suspect there are security people positioned up in the press box who constantly monitor the sidelines during professional football games. Because halfway into the first quarter, two different security guards showed up and asked, “What are you doing on the sidelines, sir?”

Since “inspecting the artificial turf” wasn’t going to fly, my cousin suggested, he “was helping the chain gang.”

“Let’s go,” one of the guards said.

As they headed for the nearest exit, wouldn’t you know they passed another vendor hospitality tent? And my crazy cousin had the nerve to ask if he could grab a hot dog before he left the stadium.

The answer was “no.” They saw him to and through the gate.

I’ll bet he laughed all the way home.

There is something in me that has always admired the prankster. The Brits speak of a person with a “cheeky grin” on their face. Call that person “sassy” if you will – that person who “pushes the envelope” a bit.

As I considered my cousins exploits, I was reminded of the guy who was often seen at major sporting events back in the 1980s. In the early days, he sported a rainbow-colored Afro hairdo. He would strategically place himself in a position where, sometime during the competition, the TV camera would focus in on him. When he was in full view of the camera, he would hold up his sign. It simply read: John 3:16.

Over the years, I saw him at college football games, major league baseball games, and professional football games. Once I saw him at Wimbledon. He even showed up at the World Series and at Super Bowls.

His ability to acquire seats in exactly the right place and his knowledge of television camera timing were uncanny. The sign was no larger than 1’ by 2’, usually a bi-fold. When the camera zoomed in he would nonchalantly hold it up. It simply read: John 3:16.

No more, no less.

I was watching a college football game a few months back. One team was kicking the extra point, when to my delight and surprise; some kid who was sitting about 10 rows up in the end zone seats – right smack between the goal posts – held up a sign. It read: John 3:16.

Different person. Different time. Same, timeless message.