Monday, February 16, 2015

Remembering Tommy Spinks, and what he believed in

Tommy Spinks (mid-1990s photo)
      I wanted to share a Friday Facebook post by Teri Spinks Netterville, her father Tommy's credo -- statement of religious belief (I had to look up the definition).
      Many of Teri and Tommy's friends have seen this, but I think it's meaningful -- thus the "share."
      Tommy Spinks, for those who don't know, was one of the best multi-sport athletes -- and one of my favorites -- in the 1960s for Woodlawn High and Louisiana Tech. We also went to the same junior high (Oak Terrace).
      We shared memories and times, games and practices, and a lot of laughs, including my saying that he made a great quarterback of Terry Bradshaw.
      Tommy was a sensational receiver in football and a cornerback, a shortstop in baseball and a pole vaulter in track/field. He had plenty of talent, but it was his desire to excel that drove him.
      He was a good preacher's son, he was one of the most popular kids in school, he was smart, he was funny, and he used to tell me he was good-looking.
      Actually he was a quarterback through his junior year in high school, but so were Trey Prather and Bradshaw. He then realized that the big, blond kid with the strong right arm could be something special, and he decided to move to receiver.
      Bradshaw became his best friend -- male friend -- and their work ethic in the off-season (winter of '64-65) helped make them a passing combination to remember.
      Bradshaw-to-Spinks was a major reason Woodlawn almost won a state championship in 1965 (lost in the finals) and why Louisiana Tech had a 17-4 record in 1968 and '69 -- including 15 wins in a 16-game stretch. Tommy was All-State in high school and set receiving records at Tech that stood for years.
      He wasn't as fast as some receivers, but an excellent route runner and had such body control and instincts to make hard-to-believe catches, including those rifle shots fired by The Blond Bomber.
      He had his shot at pro football that injuries cut short, then went into coaching for a while, broadcasting (Tech football analyst) and then into a variety of business interests, some of which turned out to be very successful.
      His best friend from high school on was the gracious Barbara Lindsay, who became Barbara Spinks soon after they came to Tech. They were a team, the epitome of love. They had three beautiful daughters and a son, and the family has grown much in the past 15 years.
      We lost Tommy much too soon, in August 2007 at age 58 to a virulent, excruciating rare form of cancer.
      His daughter Teri (familiar name) writes beautifully about life and her family and her Facebook posts offer much insight about her father and our friend. I think you will agree when you read her Friday post. (The photo, as Teri noted, is when he was 43 or 44).
      Here is a portion of that credo ...
      ... I just hope that I am growing. The only way I personally can grow is to question my own thoughts and the thoughts of others. I have been unable to grow by sitting and listening to others and accepting what is said as "the way." On the other hand, if someone can grow by sitting and listening to others and accepting what is said as "the way," then for them, it is "the way."
      I think we are all on separate paths. I think our beliefs are based on what we grew up hearing, what we have heard from others, what we have read, and liked, and from our own feelings and experiences. How in the world should we expect someone else to believe the same way we believe?  So, why do we judge someone wrongly or put them at a lower level on the "Christian totem pole" if they don't agree with our own beliefs, or if they don't say the same words that we say. We are just on different paths. No one is more right and no one is wrong.
      So, I am trying to put some of my thoughts on paper for myself. I might share them with some of my friends that I feel will not judge me, but who will question some of my statements out loud and make me explain some statements, which will only help me grow more.
      Some of my statements might evoke criticism from some individuals, but I can learn from them also. But I will try to be open and honest with my thoughts because if I'm not, there's no sense in writing it. So, without being overly dramatic here and a little hokey, here is what I feel about a few things:
      I believe in laughter and a whole lot of it.
      I believe in crying, but not a whole lot of it.
      I believe it is OK to show emotion in public.
      I think children are the neatest things on earth.
      I love people who can laugh at themselves.
      I love people who can kid and take kidding.
      I have a hard time figuring out people who can't take kidding.
      I believe we take things too seriously, especially religion.
      At the moment, I can't believe I'm trying to be serious.
      I believe religion gets in the way sometimes of spirituality.
      I believe many of our churches are dying because they are boring.
      I believe many preachers are boring.
      I believe a lot of church curriculum for our children is boring.
      I believe a lot of church curriculum for adults is boring.
      I believe I am boring right now.
      I believe in Heaven.
      I believe in Hell.
      I love people until they become too hard to love. Then I become angry with myself that I do not possess unconditional love.
      Making love to people has nothing to do with sex.
      I would rather children like me than adults.
      I have difficult feelings for people who are judgmental.
      That is a judgmental statement. Sorry.
      I have trouble with Bible quoters who talk behind people's backs.
      People's actions speak so loud, I can't hear which scripture they are reading.
      I love people who are honest with their feelings, even though others may judge them for it.
      I love Love.
      I believe Jesus understood love like no one else.
      I believe Jesus was the greatest man who ever lived, whether we think he was God, God-man, or whatever. I believe He was a man.
      Jesus would be my hero whether I was religious or not.
      I believe Jesus was the son of God.
      I believe we could be like Jesus, because He said we could.
      I believe in miracles.
      If I could be anyone in history, I would be the man who carried the cross for Jesus when He no longer could.
      I believe Jesus had a great sense of humor.
      I believe in God. Infinite, eternal, only one, that to which all things are known and in which every physical object has its being... this is God, and all of God is in us this moment, right now, and all the moments to come. There is nothing that isn't God.
      God simply "IS."
      "Who hath seen me hath seen the Father." -- Jesus
      I respect other people's beliefs if their beliefs make them better people.
      I can't get over how much other people's thoughts make me think about my own beliefs.
      I believe in families.
      I believe in marriage.
      I believe in divorce.
      I believe in sports.
      I believe in competition.
      I love to watch married couples argue on the tennis court.
      I don't believe in harming the body through excessive alcohol, smoking or eating.
      I believe in good.
      I believe good and evil is thought, nothing more, nothing less.
      I think I could, as well as anyone else could, go on forever about what I believe or disbelieve in. I think, like most people, my quest is to find what makes life worth living. When I think of God, images come to my mind more than anything else. These images are a private dimension of my life, but to omit some of these images, would be omitting my image of God.
      Thus I believe, and put value in and see God in and have seen God in:
      -- Watching the glow on my father's face as he preached each Sunday.
      -- A cork disappearing beneath a lily pad.
      -- A bride advancing toward me down the aisle all those years ago.
      -- Stiff, aching muscles the day after a game.
      -- Sights and sounds of a son and daughters only minutes old.
      -- My mother's smile.
      -- The passion of competition.
      -- Bright autumn days.
      -- The 1960s.
      -- The eyes of those I could have helped but didn't.
      -- Recurring sounds of words regrettably never spoken.
      -- 2325 Alma Street, Alexandria, La.
      -- Any sweet innocent child.
      -- Finding out about a great happening in a friend's life.
      -- Looking down from a jet at 35,000 feet.
      -- That same jet landing safely.
      -- My first home run.
      -- My first touchdown.
      -- The injury in Pittsburgh that ended my youth-long dream.
      -- The smiles I am sometimes able to bring forth.
      -- My Sunday School class.
      -- Securing a business deal.
      -- My first car, a 1951 Chevrolet.
      -- My junior year in high school -- a picnic ... I knew I would marry her.
      -- Old pictures in old yearbooks.
      -- New pictures of our family.
      -- My whole family lying on our bed talking and laughing.
      -- The phone calls from my babies in college.
      -- High school reunions.
      -- Friends who died before our high school reunions.
      -- Little old ladies and little old men.
      -- The greatest tree house ever built in 1961.
      -- My awareness that the feelings I really have don't come across the way I would like when I put them in typed words.
      -- The numbers 11 and 43.
      -- A friend trusting me with a secret.
      -- Memories. Why do I get so sad when I think of the past?
      -- Friends that I haven't stayed in touch with; I miss them so much.
      -- Playing golf with my dad. Oh, how I wish I could talk to him again.
      -- Watching my best friend become a true national football star.
      -- Holding my second best friend at the moment cancer took his life.
       The longer I live, the more questions I have as to why am I here and what is life really all about. I sometimes believe that I complicate those things which shouldn't be complicated. In my estimation, life should not be complicated. It should be fun and full of love for other people.


  1. From Kay Prince: Thank you for sharing this. It has touched me to the very marrow of my bones. I love it and I love that it is so thought-provoking. It makes me think that my requiring my college students to write their very own credo at the end of the quarter may have really been worthwhile for them. I can't wait for Keith to get home from you-know-where [the golf course] and read this.

  2. From Tim Hall: I'm sorry to say I was not aware Tommy had died. I knew him from Little League baseball in Alexandria, LA. He was younger than I by two or three years. The first year he tried out for little league he didn't make the team and I remember being disappointed. I really liked him. He made the team the next year ... if my memory serves me, he played third base. I certainly could be wrong about that because that was 58 or 59 years ago. I really liked his older sister, Betty; she and I were the same age. I remember going to the house on Alma Street and hanging out with the family and making peppermint ice cream.
    I do remember when the family moved to Shreveport and I do remember not being surprised at all when, years later, I began to hear about him being a standout athlete.
    Shortly after Carol and I married I had heard Reverend Spinks had died. We were in downtown Alexandria one weekend and as we were leaving Wellan's Department Store we met Reverend and Mrs. Spinks at the entrance to the store. I was so shocked to see him I blurted out something like, "Reverend Spinks, I thought you had died" ... not exactly the smoothest greeting I could have conjured up, to be sure. Well, he and Mrs. Spinks had a good laugh and I was delighted to find out I had bad information regarding his untimely demise.

  3. From Dick Hicks: Thanks -- I remember Tommy very well. What a great athlete. I wasn't aware he had passed away.

  4. From Keith Prince: Thanks for running this. It sums up beautifully the way I remember Tommy. I never knew him as well as you -- seeing and talking with him often his senior year at Tech and then only infrequently later on throughout his life -- but I am not surprised by these thoughts he expressed. He came across to me as very fun-loving, and he was, but obviously there was much more to him than just having fun. He cared deeply for many things. I wish we all could think in those same terms. So sorry that he was taken way too early by a horrible disease.

  5. From Shellye Abington-Cooper: Tommy and I were in different classes and circles at Woodlawn. I knew him, of course, everyone did and everyone liked and respected him ... and not just because he was a great athlete. When I think of the many, many things that made Woodlawn great, people like Tommy come to mind. He was, as many have said, gone too soon, but what a wonderful legacy he left behind in his family and those lucky enough to be called his friend.

  6. From Ross Montelbano: Of course everyone liked Tommy Spinks. I didn't know him, never met him, but I have to say his beliefs are so on target, in my opinion. Judging others, quoting the Bible, and putting others on the lower end of the Christian totem pole are very real. Thanks for sharing this.

  7. From Nelda Strickland Milligan: I'm so glad Teri shared this with everyone. Tommy was truly a "rare breed." He continues to make a positive impact in this negative world.

  8. Janet McCallum German: Tommy couldn't have said it any better than this. He was a very awesome person and he and Barbara were the way a couple should be. When I heard he had died I thought we lost a wonderful human being. I didn't know his dad was a preacher because he didn't act like a preacher's kid. Ha! Ha!. His daughter must be very much like him and thank her for sharing his beautiful thoughts. Maybe he should have been a journalist, too. ... Tears streaming right now.

  9. From Charlotte McDearmont Pennington: Great tribute to an exceptional guy. It was a nice start to the day. Another home run.

  10. From Wally Hood: Tommy was a "Great Example" to us all and still is today. Thank you for sharing this. I will save this and read this from time to time.

  11. From Rita Young Fegley: Tommy was an awesome person, and he and Barbara were the perfect couple. He has left a great legacy.

  12. From Jim Shaw: I only knew Tommy on the periphery of football days at Tech as well as knowing Bradshaw a bit more because we dined together. I ran track. I knew it was Tommy who helped make Terry what he was at Tech. Fingers that could catch a ball like a Iizard hanging underneath a piece of glass. I knew that he lived in this area [Fort Worth] for a while and I regret not making his acquaintance. I wish I had. Good work.

  13. From James Pigue: Tommy was one of the friends I recently said was not with us any longer. He could make you laugh and feel better just talking with you. I will always remember seeing him in the hall at the hospital when my daughter was born. We were both waiting for the arrival of our children. Tommy ran up to me and ask why I was there and I told him; he then said, "James, this is the greatest day in our life, man, we are so lucky!" Yes, Tommy, we were very lucky, and I look forward to seeing you again my friend. Thanks for sharing Tommy's words.

  14. From Margaret Trussell Ochs: We from Oak Terrace, Woodlawn and Louisiana Tech remember well the memories you have shared.

  15. From Larry Hymel: His daughter Lindsay played volleyball at Southeastern [Louisiana] and coached here for a short time. I've gotten to know all the family and they are great people as you would expect from all I've ever heard about Tommy. My only regret is that he attended a lot (most) of her matches and I never got to visit with him and share Tech-SLU football stories.

  16. From Glenn Murphy: I miss Tommy. He was truly a nice guy.

  17. From Sharon Maples: Thanks for sharing. I remember the moments at Tech football games when the ball was flying through the air and holding my breath until it was successfully caught. What a thrill.

  18. From Maxie Hays: Tommy Spinks had good genes. I loved Otis and Grace Spinks. I was so blessed to have lived in Ruston when they did and visited in their home many wonderful times. Awesome preacher and beautiful lady.

  19. From Stan Horton: Thank you for sharing. What a horrible waste if this hadn`t been revisited. I knew nothing of the list, but wouldn`t it be neat to make our own? ... You know it`s what we leave behind that ultimately says who we were. Tommy was a LOT!

  20. From Doug Rimmer: Very nice Valentine's Day gift from Tommy via Teri. Worth the read.

  21. From Carolyn Lindsay Blaikie: Blessed to be in this family. My precious niece Teri carries on her daddy's legacy of sharing his heart in words as well as actions. Tommy is missed but each one of his children and his wife, my amazing sister, have continued on to impact and make this world a better, happier place.

  22. From Jimmie Cox: I love the personal side of these gentlemen. I did not run in the "jock" crowd, so it is really nice of you to tell the other side of their life. I too went to Tech after graduation and saw our WHS alumni excel in sports.

  23. From Cookie Hollowell-Agan: Thank you. We all remember and care for Tommy. He was a part of our lives at Oak Terrace, Woodlawn and beyond. He, along with all the Woodlawn Knights that have gone before us, will never be forgotten and will always live in our hearts.

  24. From Sandi Tison Atkinson: Thank you for sharing this amazing dialogue. I laughed and cried, often at the same time, reading such insightful words ... and the tenderness of his heart.

  25. From Beverly Ann Tozier Harlan: Thanks for taking the time to share with us. I, too, laughed and cried as I went down memory lane. What beautiful thoughts left by father and daughter.

  26. Fromj Durwood Lee: Well said. Tommy was a really likeable person and great athlete. His children have much of his personality. Their Mom gets credit, too. Glad we are still connected.

  27. From Joyce Craft Bridges: Truly a special man ... and a blessing.

  28. From Pamela Summerlin: Very special. Thanks for sharing. He was and is truly connected to his family. I know he is watching over them.

  29. From Ricky Wyatt (No. 88): [Tommy] made fun of my legs while he was my coach in high school. I helped paint the Spinks house when he had a broken leg. He helped me get a tryout for college football and he always had more confidence in me than I did. He was great. I moved away when I graduated in1973 and never came back. I'm sorry I never got to see him again.

  30. From Bruce McMellon: Thanks for sharing, Nico and Teri, and of course, Tommy. Not many can share their heart this openly and as a blessing for all who read it. Blessings and love to Barbara and family.

  31. From Margetta Stoddard: I love the picture, I love the thoughts and I love the memories I have of his years at Woodlawn and his love for Barbara from high school to Tech and all of the remaining years. He seemed so content to be close to Barbara and loved the children. What a wonderful person and my memories of him were happiness events. His influence at Woodlawn was of fun, respect and doing his best and he made us all better for knowing him.

  32. From Tommy Canterbury: Tommy was a GOOD friend, not a best friend, I guess. He was so respectable. So special. Reminds me now of my son. Thank you for the memories.