Saturday, May 28, 2011

Trouser Trauma

With the massive brood of cicadas in full swing here in Tennessee and environs, I thought I would pull out an old blog about a bizarre experience I had on a first date during the last invasion…

Annie was a lovely lass that I had thought was fetching for quite some time, and after a lot of patience and planning, things finally worked out that we could go on a first date. She had some work that brought her to my side of town, and we rendezvoused at my place on a warm May evening. After some fun pleasantries, we decided to walk over to Bosco’s, a local eatery, for dinner.

As some of you may recall, the spring of ’98 marked the return of the of the thirteen year cicada across the Mid South. This odd occurrence can transform normally peaceful, spring days in Nashville into a buzz saw of chattering mating calls from literally tens of millions (perhaps even billions?) of a benign sort of locust. They have been gestating in underground cocoons for a baker’s dozen of summers, and now they ooze to the surface, and crawl up the nearest tree where they grow to around two inches in size, molting along the way, and fairly screaming their ear splitting love songs in attempts of “hooking up.” Once the females have been impregnated, they implant eggs in the bark of trees, which in turn hatch a few days later and drop to the ground, and they somehow burrow inward for the process to begin all over again. Meanwhile, the mature brownish green bugs, with their red “eyes” and translucent wings, flutter about for a few days of “gettin’ it on” before dying relatively quick deaths. When Tom Petty wrote “The Waiting is the Hardest Part,” I wonder if he had these crazed caeliferas in mind.

What can not be emphasized enough, for those of you not familiar with this phenomenon, is the preponderance of these critters. They are everywhere—especially dominating neighborhoods with trees, covering nearly every square inch of bark, making the trunks look like they are undulating with movement. Flying about recklessly (and harmlessly), they can be particularly irritating to those with long hair. I’ve seen more than one woman freak out from one getting entangled in her locks.

Lawnmowers are attractive to these hovering grasshoppers due to the vibration and noise. So, as you cut your yard, you have to swat thousands of these away, and sometimes even have to clean out the rotary encasement from the gizzard goo that accumulates around the shaft and blades. They also wreak havoc on cars, splattering by the dozens on grilles and windshields with every errand you run. Sales of window-washing fluid skyrocket during these months. I had one sneak into the interior of my Chevy Cavalier once, wedging itself into the air vents of my dashboard. For several days I had to endure its mournful squeals every time I turned on the AC.

As Annie and I strolled through my heavily wooded neighborhood towards the restaurant, we recounted some of our run-ins with these winged creatures, being serenaded by the massive swells of volume as they harmonize in their mating song. It was so loud at times, it rendered conversation almost useless. We couldn’t help but have several crunchy moments underfoot, too, as the husks of evolving bugs were scattered thickly along our path. We just laughed, and batted a few away as they came near us, or occasionally landed on us---you get used to them pretty quickly.

With this being our first date and all, I was trying to play things particularly cool. So, when I felt one of these fellows land on my neck, I calmly tried to flick it away. However, it slid down the back of my shirt instead, fluttering about in the bunching fabric down near my belt. Being somewhat ticklish, I began to giggle. I thought I would try to hold out until we got to the restaurant and I would then eradicate the winged thumper while cleaning up in the men’s room. After about a block further of striding towards our destination, the bug’s hyperactivity got the best of me, and I finally decided to admit my ordeal to Annie. She stood in a mixture amusement and amazement at my calm as I pulled out my shirt tale and shook it. For all intents and purposes, I should’ve been caterwauling about the sidewalk having a conniption fit. But, with the confident demeanor of James Bond under extreme duress, I defused the tickling time bomb. It was hard to tell if I set the spittlebug free, because there was so many others darting about in the air and on the ground.

Once we were seated at Bosco’s, I sensed something was amiss. You see, the sport shirt I was wearing was of medium length, and so as not to have the tail popping out from my waist continually, I had tucked it into the top edge of my boxers underneath—a common practice employed by a fair amount of guys when necessary. Well, it appeared that in the process of pulling the shirt out a few minutes earlier, I had actually created a ramp for the pest to slide snuggly down towards the inner sanctum of my undies. The leaf hopper sought after a space where it wouldn’t be squashed, and once I was seated it found such sanctuary in the upper crevasse between my glutal cheeks— the northern end of my butt crack, as it were. At first I thought it might be a just the discarded exoskeleton of the intruder, as there was just an awareness of a foreign object. But when said entity began to migrate towards more space, I realized I was in trouble. He was alive, irritated, and on the march.

Annie was regaling me with a fun story about her youth in Kansas City, and I had been enamored with her dancing blue eyes, lilting laugh, and just charmed out of my gourd with her simple beauty. But I was quickly becoming duplicitous in my agenda. While trying to stay engaged with our repartee, I simultaneously was “negotiating” with this groping grasshopper.

Here was my plan: I began shifting weight back and forth on my haunches trying to move the foreigner away from the center, where I would then, in my warped reasoning of the moment, crush the life out of it with one of my bums. This, however, proved problematic…for the more I squirmed (very surreptitiously, I might add, so as not to alarm Annie), the more the katydid burrowed towards any free space.

In about half a minute, it had worked its way to the most nether region. I now felt it fidgeting around my---how do I say this delicately---scrotum. The sensation made certain very personal probes during annual physical exams seem like a walk in the park in comparison.

It would be hilarious to see what my facial expressions were during this torment. On one hand I was being so debonair with Annie, trying desperately to be affirming and involved with her childhood story, while simultaneously avoiding gritting my teeth and grimacing from the sordid sensations emanating from my crotch.

My male pride wouldn’t allow me to come clean about it at this juncture, since I had already used up my “quirky equity” when I tried to discard the bug out on the street. And I didn’t want to cut her off in mid-story for fear of it appearing rude. I was just going to wait for closure to her tale, then excuse myself to wash up. Annie was none the wiser, and she kept chatting away.

As I would be nodding my head and chuckling along with her commentary, I’m sure I made responses along the lines of “uh-huh…yea…OHH! (eyes suddenly widening)...uh-huh…(chuckle)…I see..EEEEeee (jaw tightening as my body would spasm ever so slightly)…well, of course you should haaaAAAAAVE.”

After another minute or two of this (seemed more like a fortnight), Annie could sense something was not up to par. She interrupted her train of thought with a concerned “are you alright?” At that juncture I think the bush cricket decided to try a double summersault into a full gainer somewhere near my “taint” and I blurted out “well, remem-BERRR (sharp breath) that cicada in my-YYYYYY shirt a few minutes AAAAgo?”

Her eyes gleamed and she said “yeah….?” as a smile began to break across her lovely face.

“Well, he’s taken up residence iii-IIIIIII-n my drawers, and seems to be-eEEEE trying out some M.C. Ha-ha-ha-HAAAAmmer moves down there. Do you mind if I-YI-YI-YI excuse myself?!”

We couldn’t help but burst out in laughter. She said “Oh my God—go NOW!”

Once again, trying to maintain a cool exterior, I got up from the table and tried walking with my butt cheeks clenched, even though my little passenger was vibrating to beat the band. After sauntering about twenty-five feet across the main floor, I turned out of her sight and into the hallway leading to the restrooms, and sprinted the final five yards.

Once inside I furiously unbuckled and “dropped trow” as I tried to eradicate the chirping interloper. Two other gentlemen glared at me with awkward bemusement as I tried to explain my ordeal while simultaneously slapping and clawing away at my exposed daddy-parts. They kind of leaned up against the wall so as to not get too close, chortling at my predicament. I’m sure they had some lovely table talk at my expense when they returned to their dates…but who could blame them?

I dispatched my lil’ French tickler and brought his short life to an even hastier demise with a firm squash of my right penny loafer. Turns out it was one of the newly hatched cicadas, a teneral, that was a bit smaller, still whitish in color and a bit dopey in the early stages of its short life. I didn’t want this to take too long, but it seemed to take forever trying to clean up. I kept worrying that Annie would think I was a total spazzoid.

Eventually, I made it back out to her. She was such a sweetheart about the whole thing, and we tittered about it on and off through the rest of our dinner.

So, if you ever see me acting out of sorts and wonder what my deal is, I can safely attest that I have indeed had a “bug up my ass” on at least one occasion, and have a pretty good idea what that’s all about. Therefore, you may have to use another term to question what my problem might be. One thing’s for sure, thinking back on it helps me not take too many other strange things that befall me too seriously now.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Let Them Eat Tanks

Ben & Jerry's co-founder Ben Cohen talks with Jim Wallis of Sojourners Magazine about ice cream, Oreos -- and how the bloated military budget is destroying our economy and making us all less secure.

Jim Wallis: Why should you, a successful businessperson, be worried about the military budget? Why did this become such a life mission for you?

Ben Cohen: It was the same spirit that led Ben & Jerry's to work to improve the quality of life in the communities that we're a part of. There are things a business can do to integrate concerns for social justice and people who are being oppressed, but there are also things that only a country can do.

When I was working through Ben & Jerry's, it was clear that even big businesses, even huge foundations that have gobs of money, pale in comparison to how much money the federal government has. To restructure the edifice that creates injustice and poverty, you really need to look at the federal budget. That's where there's enough money to solve all these problems, without raising taxes, just by moving some money around. So that’s how I got to that point.

Wallis: How did you first become aware of how much money we're talking about and what that could mean for everything else?

Cohen: Part of it was getting just the vaguest idea of how much $1 billion is. You hear numbers such as 500 million, a billion, 500 billion, and they're all more than you can ever imagine. As Ben & Jerry's became a $100 million business and then a $300 million business, I began to understand how much that really is. Three times that is still less than $1 billion. It is shocking to me that we now spend $700 billion a year on the Pentagon budget. When I first started working on this issue a decade or so ago, the Pentagon budget was about half that amount.

Wallis: How do you help people visualize a number that large?

Cohen: There are two demonstrations I've done that have been incredibly popular. One is the BB demonstration and the other is the Oreo demonstration. The BB demonstration was shown to me by Sen. Alan Cranston of California. He used it to demonstrate the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. He would drop one BB into a container to represent the 15 kiloton bomb that went off over Hiroshima. Then he would drop in 60 BBs to represent enough nuclear weapons to blow up all of Russia. Then he would say, "And now I want to show the number of BBs that represent the U.S. nuclear arsenal," and he would pour in 10,000 BBs, and the noise just went on forever. It was so clearly illogical and irrational, and so clearly a waste, not just of money, but of our spirits and our soul -- in the same way that Martin Luther King Jr. warned that a nation that continues to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

Spending money on unnecessary weapons is taking away from our schools and hospitals and housing, and taking away the hopes of our children and the genius of our times. It's just amazing to think about the huge expenditures of money on these unneeded weapons and what could be done with that same amount of money, if we used it to actually help people, especially people in poverty.

Wallis: Tell me about the Oreo demonstration.

Cohen: That's a demonstration I developed on my own. It makes it easier to understand the federal budget. One Oreo represents $10 billion. The $700 billion Pentagon budget is just a stack of 70 Oreos -- you can understand 70 Oreos. In comparison to that, the federal government spends just four-and-a-half Oreos on education, just one-half an Oreo on alternative energy, and a fraction of an Oreo on Head Start. If you take just seven Oreos off the Pentagon budget, you could provide health care for all the kids who currently don't have it. You could provide Head Start for all the kids who need it. You could eliminate our need for Mideast oil through energy efficiency. You could change our country into one that cares about people, eliminates poverty, and helps people climb their way out, through education.

Wallis: You mentioned Dr. King's comment about a nation that makes these choices being on the path to spiritual death. Are there spiritual roots to your concern about military spending?

Cohen: It's definitely a spiritual issue, as far as I'm concerned. My life is interconnected with the lives of everybody else. When people are suffering, I’m suffering. The thing that motivates me is the understanding that there is no lack of resources. We do have enough money. I've been inspired by a quote from Teilhard de Chardin, who wrote, "The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, [humanity] will have discovered fire."

I believe that we can create Martin Luther King's beloved community. And the thing that just drives me crazy is that we have enough money. We're just spending it in the wrong places.

The military budget grew to half of what it is now during the Cold War, based on the idea that the Soviet Union was spending more than we were, so we were in this neck-and-neck arms race. We had a peer competitor; there were two superpowers. We thought that they were out to get us, so we needed to spend as much as the Soviet Union.

Today, there is no peer competitor. There is no other superpower, and we are spending more than five times as much as the next country that's not an ally. And that country is China, our biggest trading partner; we're not about to go to war with China. And yet we continue to spend this ridiculous sum of money for weapons that we plan never to use.

Wallis: How did you bring these issues into the last presidential campaign?

Cohen: We were trying to encourage presidential candidates to take a stand against militarism, to take a stand in favor of shifting money out of the Pentagon budget and into social needs. We did that by educating people in Iowa and New Hampshire about how the federal budget was spent. We didn't really need to do much convincing.

The huge majority of the population is not aware of how the federal budget is split up, and they're not aware of how much other countries spend on their military compared to us. In a recent poll, 16 percent of people thought that less than 20 percent of the budget goes to the Pentagon, and 64 percent of the people thought that military spending was less than half the budget -- it's actually around 58 percent, not even including the costs of past wars or foreign military aid. The Pentagon happens to be the biggest-ticket item in the entire discretionary budget.

Once you give them that information, you don't need to do anything else. They come to the conclusion themselves that we should shift money out of the Pentagon and put it into stuff that people need today, like better schools.

Wallis: You've done incredible work educating people about this issue. You've convinced people of this pretty readily, but you've had a tougher time with the politicians.

Cohen: That's exactly right. Politicians are deathly afraid of being accused of being "weak on defense." They regard that as political suicide. But the reality is that we are muscle-bound on defense. The reality is that it's our excessive military spending that’s creating the deficit that we have. That's what's making our country uncompetitive economically, because so much of government spending goes into building weapons instead of into creating things that people really need.

Wallis: It really isn't about "defense" anymore, is it?

Cohen: No, it's definitely not about defense. I called it the "military budget" or the "Pentagon budget"; it's definitely not the "defense budget." The huge majority of the money that's being spent is not being spent to defend the United States -- it's being spent to prepare to fight wars of aggression against countries that have not done anything to us. The United States has an ocean on each side that prevents countries from coming and attacking us, and we've got two good allies on the north and south. There's no country that has the ability to attack the U.S.

Wallis: How does the fact that we're engaged in two major wars, and now a third, in Muslim nations affect the politics of military spending?

Cohen: When you take into account the size of the military budgets of our opposition in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now in Libya, they're virtually nothing. They’re way under $10 billion a year. If what we're concerned about is terrorists -- they're spending a lot less than $1 billion a year. So these huge Pentagon expenditures of $700 billion and more, it’s like trying to take an aircraft carrier to hunt down one terrorist. It's overkill.

Wallis: Of course, people would say, sure we have the oceans and allies, but we were attacked on 9/11, and that's what we're afraid of now. How do you defend against terrorism?

Cohen: I don't think that's the reason to go to war. I think the terrorists that attacked us were criminals, and they should be hunted down like criminals and brought to justice. But terrorism is a tactic that's been used for centuries. Other countries have dealt with terrorist attacks, but no other country that I know of has gone to war over it.

Wallis: The Pentagon-related think tank The Rand Corporation put together a pie chart with statistics on how, historically, terrorism has been defeated. One big chunk, 40 percent, involved police tactics, intelligence, preventing things from happening. Another 43 percent involved reaching a political settlement, such as in Northern Ireland. In 10 percent of cases, terrorists win. And only 7 percent of the time has terrorism been defeated by military solutions. So why are we investing all our money in the 7 percent solution? What's driving all this, if it isn't our legitimate defense needs?

Cohen: No, it's definitely not our legitimate defense needs. It comes down to the military-industrial-congressional complex. You’ve got the Pentagon that is run by people whose careers depend upon getting a certain weapon system built, and they are always lobbying Congress to fund these weapon systems. The standard operating procedure is to do what's called "political engineering." Political engineering means to spread out the production of a weapons system across as many congressional districts as possible, so if there's a threat of cutting that weapon system, the majority of members of Congress hear howls of resistance from the people in their districts that have jobs making those weapons. And then you've got the weapons manufacturers themselves that are lobbying Congress to provide more funding, and providing campaign contributions to pressure them, in a form of legalized bribery, to keep the money rolling in from Congress.

Wallis: You told me recently that you thought that we now have the second biggest opportunity ever to really challenge military spending. The first was the end of the Cold War, with the "peace dividend" that never really happened. In fact, we've doubled the Pentagon budget since the end of the Cold War. But you think now might be an opportune time.

Cohen: Absolutely, because of the deficit. Because people are starting to understand that we can't continue to run up all these unpaid bills. When you start looking at where the government spends the money, and you start trying to find places to cut to bring the deficit under control, you realize that over half of all discretionary government spending is the Pentagon. If you're going to start bringing the budget under control, you can't just be fiddling around the margins; you've got to deal with the really big-ticket items. The bipartisan deficit commission came up with $100 billion a year worth of obsolete, unneeded Cold War-era weapons systems that do not need to be built.

The whole time I was running the campaign to cut Pentagon spending, we were desperately trying to make the campaign bipartisan, but we couldn't find any Republicans that would get on board. Now, the campaign to cut Pentagon spending is being led by Republicans. A lot of the people that got elected as part of the tea party have been fighting to cut Pentagon spending. It's logical. You can’t avoid cutting the Pentagon when you take a look at how the federal government spends its money. So you've got tea partiers and libertarians speaking out in a very loud voice about how the Pentagon should be cut.

Wallis: Where are you finding support for your efforts?

Cohen: I think that religious people are likely supporters. They're the people that make so much sense to be on this bandwagon because this is what the Bible and Jesus is all about.

Wallis: We do have these scriptures about beating our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks.

Cohen: It's unbelievable that politicians give all this lip service about how religious they are, but when it comes to putting their money where their mouth is, they don't do it. People talk about the needs of children and education and hunger and poverty, but there's very little money that they ever come up with. On the other side, there's very little talk about the Pentagon budget. It's not really a subject of conversation. And yet that's where all the money is going.

(Copyright, Sojourners Magazine, June, 2011 issue)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Letters About "Embracing the Gray"

I have gotten some thoughtful letters, notes, and messages about my first book, Embracing the Gray: A Wing, A Prayer, and A Doubter’s Resolve. Here are some excerpts:

Your book recalls some our shared days at Wheaton College. You were a deep sea diver without good equipment finding treasures many feet beyond the equipment you were held your breath....and brought us truth...I will respect that forever. I appreciate that you aren’t a pretending or posturing follower of Jesus. You have earned every scar and survived many valleys and in the end have a fresh voice for real hope. No formulas here like you often find in many "Christian" books and novels. -B.M.

Quite a life you've had, Mark. Some of your experiences very heart warming and some pretty scary. But your search for answers, although a couple of bumps along the way, continues. Thank you for sharing your story. Your kind heart makes you a hero to many. -E.W.

You have embraced the grey, painted it with colors often brighter & sometimes darker. kept seeing, looking, thinking, and praying. This posture is rare in an age where we are all tempted to give up & let others paint life for us. -D.B.

This book is some very beautiful fruit from a very tough season in your life. -K.T.

I finished your book this afternoon. It's absolutely fantastic-- the best thing I've read all year. I have a million things to say about it, but as for now, I'll leave it by saying that I'm so incredibly glad you shared your story. I really like that you acknowledge that not all our questions have easy answers, but still compellingly argue that God is with us as we face our questions. Too many Christians out there refuse to go beyond platitudes, and seem threatened by those who do. -A.S.

Finished your book last night, I laughed, I cried, I almost peed in my pants, :o/ I sang with the lyrics and I said out loud with no one else in the room: "what a privilege to know you and to be able to see into you soul." Thank you so much for putting word to paper. Blessings as God expands your territory and influence. -R.R.

My mom, dad and I are reading your book out loud in the living room, and mom is on the floor about to wake up the neighborhood with her laughter. thanks for the stories. :) -A.C.

Can't say that I'm all that surprised to hear about the responses you've received. You've really put it out there where your convictions shine through. Of course, it is still the well-spoken Mark I've always known. People identify with that type of honest struggle and it really does hit a nerve. Hopefully, this work will manifest itself by opening yet another door for your personal ministry and introduce others whose paths would have otherwise been obscured by their doubts. -C.D.

Wow, Mark. You totally have had me in tears reading your book... both laughing and crying. Thanks for putting so much out there. I mentioned it's a quick page turner, but I think it's also going to end up being a multiple times read for me. -S.G.

Just finished your book. Two sittings. It was such a pleasure to read and I thank you for sharing it. I hope you're having a good time basking in lots of affirmation over it! You really are an extraordinary guy who's had extraordinary experiences.

You probably didn't notice, but the night of your 'debut' when Amy was reading the piece about Mercy - I lost it. I was ugly crying on the back row. As God would have it, D.T. had just snuck in late and there was an empty chair right next to me. She basically held me while I wept over your eloquent, horrible, perfect, redeeming description of your story w/ Mercy. And - in light of their adoption of S. was deeply moved, too. Wow.

You've merely dented the surface w/ your tellings in this book. I do hope there will be another one (c'mon, admit it.. you're working on it, aren't you?). -C.M.

I just finished your book night before last... it was a great write. loved reading it. You made me laugh, you made me cry, and you even made me think... I want to be like you when I grow up. When does the next volume come out ; ) -L.H.

I love that U have always been who you are at whatever cost. You are an intense bright light in a world full of 10 watter's. I'm not surprised your book is having a great response. You have always said things that people wish they could say....or even think out loud. -S.S.

I continue to be humbled by these thoughtful words. And equally excited that the book is connecting with so many others. If you would like to read more reviews, or write one of your own, or order a copy (now available in Kindle format as well) go to:



Wheatmark Books


Contact me directly if you would like to purchase a signed copy. : )

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The History of Cellblock 303 (Part 2)

303 was becoming “the place to be.” The Predator’s front office was getting more requests for individual game seats in 303 than any other section. 303 quickly became full of the most season tickets of any section in the whole building. Even out of town guests specifically asked to be assigned tickets there when they came in to visit.

Head Coach Barry Trotz refers to 303 as "the secret weapon of our home-ice advantage."

To help organize the chants even further, Hollingsworth created a series of Cheer/Taunt sheets that were distributed at every game so people knew what to yell. These began filtering all around the arena. Additionally, a 303 database was created via questionnaires, getting folks organized to assist with Viewing Parties for out-of-town games, Christmas Parties, the annual mid-summer Slap Shot Party (where everyone gathers to watch the infamous movie), Draft Day Parties, Sign-Painting Parties, etc.

Preds' broadcaster, Pete Weber, and the gang at one of the mid-summer "Slapshot Parties."

“When people have notable birthdays, hundreds of us will sign a card for them and sing Happy Birthday during a break in the action,” says Andress. “When folks were hospitalized due to injury or illness, we would send cards, and set up visitations.”

At the end of Season Two, Craig Leipold came up to our Section during one of the final games and started giving us the “I am not worthy” bow (made famous in Wayne’s World). During the on-ice ceremonies after the final home game that year, Leipold addressed the crowd saying, “I wasn’t sure what I was going to say to all of you this evening after an even better season of support than our first year. But then I looked up there (pointing to us), and thought it’s great fans like those in Section 303 that have made this whole journey worthwhile!”

Original Preds' owner Craig Leipold doing the "I am not worthy" bow to Cellblock 303 in 2000.

In Season Three we started Initially it was Joe Estep who skated with the puck. Then Chuck Schwartz came alongside as our first real webmaster. The site quickly garnered a reputation, and thousands of visitors were logging-on to find out what zaniness we were coming up with next. Hollingsworth helped compile literally thousands of chants, one-liners, taunts, riddles, nonsequiters, jokes, Top Ten Lists, etc. all based around an irreverent hockey humor theme that were catalogued on the site. One of the most requested sections features “The Hated Opposition” spotlighting the current team the Preds will be hosting next, replete with all kinds of taunts specifically for that team and city.

Bill Clement of ABC/ESPN said he had never heard a louder arena in his life. "You guys in 303 are crazy!" he declared.

Others have assisted in the 303 website along the way like Gordon Boulton, John McCloskey, and Win Barker. The current team of Jeremy Grover, Patten Fuqua, and Cody Holland do a stellar job with editorials, interviews, podcasts, photos, promotions, and even organizing road trips to watch the Preds play in other NHL cities. There is even 303 merchandise (shirts, hats, buttons, stickers, etc.) available there. The adjoining Cellblock 303 Facebook page has thousands of fans and is highly trafficked as well.

By the third season, with his marketing/PR background, Hollingsworth began setting up dozens of interviews and features on every local TV station, nearly every main radio outlet in the city, and every daily and weekly newspaper in the region. National media began to take notice as well, with mentions on ESPN, Fox Sports, NPR, ESPN The Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Sporting News, etc. Media would come and sit right in the midst of 303 to capture the whole ambience. The web site was getting hundreds of new visitors each day, with eventually people leaving messages from every state in the union and 22 countries.

Bill Daly, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel of the NHL is well aware of our shenanigans.

The Preds management approached the group about hanging a huge banner above the wild bunch with some sort of whacky nickname. The core guys kicked a bunch of things around…but it was actually Bryan Shaffer, the then-Game Operations Manager for the Preds, who came up with “Cellblock 303.” They liked it, and with their approval, he came up with the design. The franchise paid for and hoists the banner before every home game. “We couldn’t be prouder, or more humbled by the gesture,” says Hollingsworth.

There are lots of characters in the Cellblock like “The Perv,” “The Librarian,” “The Duke of Rebuke,” “Flag Boy,” “A Boy Named Sioux,” “Red Beard,” “School Marm,” “Wild Bill,” “The King of Pop,” and so on. But one of the most famous cellmates had no intention of ever being so. 82 year-old Eudora Hunter faithfully attended every game with her son, Charles.

“For the first two seasons, I would notice her sitting there like a statue, with this shy little grin in the midst of all our chaos,” recalls Hollingsworth. “I kept thinking to myself what on earth can we do to get her involved? Then it dawned on me that she could become our own Larry “Bud” Melman (an odd little old man that used to make regular appearances on David Letterman). So, I asked Eudora one night if I gave her a silly sign, would she be willing to hold it up? Then I would have Tom, one of the roving in-house TV cameramen, come over and get a shot of her for the jumbotron.

Eudora Hunter, alongside her son, Charles, displaying one of her vintage signs.

The first sign I gave her was “Mike Watt Is a Hottie” (he was a call-up from Milwaukee who had Tom Cruise-like good looks). When that image was shown on the big screen, the arena erupted into laughter. I knew we had something good going with this. So, every game I would come up with another silly saying for her to hold up stone-faced for the camera. Some of the most hilarious were, “I let the dogs out;” “Fear the Mullet!” “If it wasn’t for hockey, I’d still be married;” “I be getting’ all up in yo grille;” “The more you disapprove, the more fun it is for me;” “Puttin’ on the foil, Coach;” “I like the cut of his jib;” “Chaos, panic, and disorder…my work here is done;” and “He looked a lot better in the chat room.” There were hundreds of ‘em. Her popularity grew with each passing game. Kids would come up to get her autograph…it was great,” recalls Hollingsworth.

Eudora Hunter signing an autograph for a young Predhead in early '03.

Eventually, the Predator management even incorporated her into television spots, having her play the recurring role of a fictional version of Scott Hartnell’s grandma in the “Smashville” campaign in the 2001-02 season. Sadly, Eudora passed away in the fall of 2003. The section honored her empty seat the remainder of the season with flowers and mementos. Many attended her funeral. Even Predators front office staff paid respects at her internment.

The shrine at Eudora Hunter's seat (303, F-1) showing the love we all had for her.

Some of the originals in 303 have moved to other cities. A few have moved down to “better” seats (although most 303ites would argue that there’s any place better) when they became available. But it remains the #1 most requested section for season tix and individual game purchases. There are always new members of the 303 family coming into the fold, and it has spilled over into other areas of the upper deck. “The N.B.P. Posse” is now made up of thousands of others in 303’s extended family. “In fact,” says Andress, “we think 303 is really more a state of mind than a location.” This is well evidenced by how the entire arena joins in on many of the chants now throughout each game. “There’s something quite amazing about hearing 17,000 people yell “you suck!” in perfect unison at an opposing goalie,” laughs Swartz.

“What started off as three bozos wanting to have a way to blow off some steam and laugh at a game has evolved into a real part of the Nashville Predators tradition…and we couldn’t be happier or prouder,” concludes Andress.

Perhaps when the Predators win the Cup, they'll engrave "303" in with the player names (we can dream, can't we?)