Wednesday, July 20, 2011

To All Who Come To This Happy Place: Welcome.

To all who come to this happy place: Welcome.

Okay, that was what Walt Disney said when he introduced Disneyland to the world in 1955. So, I totally ripped that off. But, the sentiment behind it is the same. Welcome to Big Picture Sports.

I’m not going to break down contracts. I’m not going to analyze stats. I’m calling this Big Picture Sports, because I want to take a look at, well, the big picture. The great thing about blogs is that the infinite amount of space provided allows us to get really deep into the details. That’s great and all, but that’s not where I’m going to go (most of the time). I might decide to focus on some minutiae every now and then, but that's not my true intent. I’m going to zoom out the lens a bit and look at things from the broad perspective of a casual fan. I’ll cover things happening in the world of sports, both on and off the field/court/ice. A lot of what will be posted here will be Nashville-centric and Southern-centric, but there might be some other opinions about general sports topics or national stories.

I can't guarantee you a post every day. I'll write as the mood (or a particular opinion) strikes me. And I'll promise that after this initial post, I'll focus more on sports and less on myself. I hope you enjoy it.

Now, the rest of this post is all about me. I’m not asking you to read it, but if you want to understand my mindset, this would be a good place to start…

My name is Zack Bennett. I am Nashville-born, Wilson County-raised. I grew up bouncing around from team to team among the four major sports, really riding the bandwagons and not rooting myself with a deep love for any particular team, until the Titans and Predators came along.

I watched the first Predators game through a snowy picture on a clearance TV hooked up to a coathanger in the electronics section of the now-closed Hermitage Kmart, which is where I was working in 1998. That game, against the Florida Panthers, was broadcast on WNAB-TV 58, and our TVs only picked up Channel 5. So, I had to find a way to make sure I witnessed history. I’ll never forget it. I had always been curious about hockey, and my knowledge of it was fairly limited to what I learned playing NHL ’94 for the Sega Genesis. But I remember being SO excited that we had a team to call our own.

My first Predators game came against the San Jose Sharks. I was still in high school, and my mother wouldn’t allow me to go by myself or with friends, so I bought her and me a ticket. We sat in section 316. I don’t remember if the Preds won or lost, but I do remember how fascinated I was, and how my mother had no clue. My second game was part of a Lipscomb University recruiting excursion, and it was the Preds’ first shutout: a game against the Phoenix Coyotes, when Tomas Vokoun permanently stole the spotlight from Mike Dunham.

During the 2002-03 season, at MTSU, I began a friendship with Brendan Stubblefield (@vols7381 on twitter), and thanks to a combination of $10 Upper Goal Zone seats, and $8 tickets on Thursday via a weekly coupon in The Tennessean, the two of us went to as many games as we could afford. It was then that I fell in love with hockey and the Preds. I bought single-game seats to almost every game in the 2003-04 season, most of which were in the famed “Cell Block 303”. The lockout and a subsequent move to Alabama for nearly 5 years forced me somewhat out of the loop, so I wasn’t here for all the turmoil surrounding the Jim Balsillie and Boots Del Biaggio affairs.

But once I moved back to Nashville in 2010, and began making new hockey friends on Twitter and reading the various blogs, I was hooked again. Now, in 2011-12, I will be a season ticket holder for the first time, and I can’t wait.

My relationship with the Titans is a little different. Right out of high school, I began working for WANT 98.9 FM in Lebanon, a Titans Radio affiliate. Quickly, I volunteered to man the control room during all the games. I was literally getting paid to watch football. The first game I attended was, of all things, the Music City Miracle game. After the Super Bowl loss, I applied for (and received) an internship with Titans Radio, where I wrote for, and produced audio packages for the broadcast each week. Imagine me, at 20 years old, getting practically unlimited access to one of the NFL’s elite teams. The whole experience was surreal. For the 2000 season, I was manning the controls on the flagship station, WGFX 104.5, and in 2001, I was manning master control for the entire network. Then, it all came to an end. My contract was revoked for reasons I still don’t fully know, though admittedly, it was probably because I was being an ass. But, I managed to stay on board at 104.5 as it became “The Zone”. After a year of working with guys like Willy Daunic and George Plaster, I was fired again, so I went to work over at Cumulus, which then hosted 106.7 The Fan. So, there, I got to work, albeit briefly, with Blake Fulton, Joe Biddle, and Pete Weber. Interestingly, me and Kevin Ingram were the only two people to work with both sides of that faction after its very public breakup in 2003.

After moving to Alabama to manage and program a Sports Talk radio station (WUMP-Huntsville), I worked with the station’s afternoon host, Thom Abraham. Yes, the same Thom Abraham who would later come to Nashville. During my time there, I requested a media credential (and received it) for the Titans from 2007-2009, so I went to almost every home game during that span as a member of the media.

As far as college sports goes, I’ve always been a fan of the Vanderbilt Commodores, first and foremost. It’s been a pretty crappy fandom. But, I live by this simple rule: everybody needs a winner in their life. So, I have created a new rule: If you claim to be a lifelong fan of the Vanderbilt Commodores, you get one other team to be a fan of… but you always have to root for Vandy first. So, I adopted Alabama as my secondary team of choice when I was 11 years old. That alliance came in very handy when I was running WUMP – Huntsville’s Crimson Tide radio affiliate.

So, there you have it. I really can’t believe you read all of that, but thanks.

NOTE: The blog's title changed to "Picks, Pucks & Pigskin" roughly 24 hours after the site's launch.


  1. Congrats on the new digs, and your season tickets!

  2. Welcome again to the Cellblock, look forward to insight on the big picture.

  3. very interesting. You've had a behind the scenes look at some interesting stuff. I still want to know what went down with Plas, Blake and Joe. I miss that line up. I also miss Daren. I mean the way talk radio expects you to forget the guys that were on yesterday and pretend like they were never there bugs me. i guess that's how it works.

  4. That's all water under the bridge at this point, and they would tell you that, too. I don't know all the details, but it was 8 years ago. Everybody has moved on.

    As for Darren, he's back on the air every day from 12-3 at WNSR 560. Unfortunately for him, he's going head-to-head with what I believe is the best sports talk show in town, and one of the best local shows I have ever heard anywhere: the 3 Hour Lunch.