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To anti-gay conspirators, busted officials and legislators gone wild, we say: Occupy This!

The 2011 Boner Awards



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Wherever there's a blocked shot or a missed goal — or an ill-advised side career as a rapper — you'll find the Boners getting athletic support.

The first time's never good, kid.
In the glorious final moments of a Nov. 17 thumping of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Predators rookie Craig Smith found himself alone before the unattended goal, the Canadians having politely pulled the goalie. Just needing to slip it in from mere feet away, Smith decided with the bravado of youth that he'd show off a bit. Readying his stick, he tried to elevate the puck — and before the disbelieving eyes of the crowd and Coach Barry Trotz, he sent the rubber soaring into the protection around the rink, missing the goal completely. His is now the gold standard for empty-net bloopers.

To be fair, this is the last known usage of a fax machine.
The rules governing NHL free agency are complex and Byzantine — including one antiquated but pivotal provision that says offers to restricted free agencies must be delivered to players by a certain date by certified mail or fax. Simple, right? Tell it to the Predators. Just a few days before free agency was to begin in earnest, news emerged that something wasn't quite right with the team's restricted offers: The Preds sent the offers via FedEx by 4 p.m. deadline day — but missed the deadline by fax, allowing players to claim they didn't receive their offers in time. Their hand forced by their Boner, the Preds had to sign the agents to contracts with hefty premiums.

Music City Boned.
Some Boners are so big they change the world — like the catastrophic finale to the 2011 Music City Bowl. Down 20-17 to UT, North Carolina was driving with no timeouts. A run failed to get the Tar Heels a first down, so they scrambled to spike the ball and stop the clock. For some reason, though, UNC ran its special teams out on the field as the quarterback snapped the ball. With the Heels having roughly 19 players on the field, the clock showed three zeroes and the refs headed for the tunnel — prematurely, it seems. The spike hit the ground with one second left. North Carolina would be penalized for having a team and three quarters on the field, but they'd get another chance. That was all they needed to tie it with a field goal — allowing UNC to win in overtime. Boos, fits and bottles of bourbon rained down from the orange-clad partisans, but their uppance did not come. This series of forehead-smacking mishaps did have one positive outcome: Penalties against the offense now result in a short clock run-off to keep teams from feigning a Boner to get a second chance.

No-Show Johnson.
During the NFL lockout, Titans running back Chris Johnson did what anybody does in their leisure time: He recorded a rap song. His "Act On Deck" extols his manly virtues and the glories of entertaining young women in a Bentley coupe (hence the boldly minimalist rhyme of "hoes" and "hoes"). But when the lockout ended, Johnson got down to business: that is, holding out for a big contract. As fans grumbled whether "CJ2K" was a sign how long he intended to sit out, the star's irritation at the constant sniping finally exploded Aug. 31. Tweeted CJ: "Can these fake Titan fans STFU on my timeline I don't have a regular job so don't compare me to you and I can care less if uthink I'm greedy." Helpfully, CJ provided guidelines to who was a real fan and who was fake. First, if his tweet upset you, you were fake (or possibly an English teacher). Also, fake fans are racist. Eventually, of course, he got his big deal done and proceeded to thrill real and fake fans alike with 10 weeks of two-yard-per-carry outings. No matter, CJ. You had us at, "I act brand new on my ho-ho."

Hey, Curry, your ride's here!
Nobody in Nashville's sporting world has sported a Boner quite like Titans receiver Kenny Britt. Rather than using the lockout usefully — say, by recording a rap song — Britt decided he would keep getting arrested for completely avoidable driving offenses. Like driving on a suspended license. Or speeding while driving on a suspended license. Or driving recklessly with a suspended license. Kenny, dude — hire a driver. Of course, no chauffeur could have prevented Britt from his New Jersey arrest for obstructing the administration of the law, resisting arrest and evidence tampering. Britt did not react well to police suspecting he was in possession of marijuana. Cops say they smelled dope and found a crushed-up cigar in Britt's hand. This all happened — swear to God — a day after some of those numerous motor vehicle charges in Jersey were settled. Then Britt didn't react well to speculation he'd be suspended, leading to a bizarre incident in which he claimed his Facebook account had been hacked — first with retirement news and a special message for the NFL commissioner ("F*** You Goddell"), then a "Change of Heart" vowing that "I will accept any penalty like a man." Kenny's lockout missteps were glossed over when the players came back to work and the young wideout showed great promise — until he blew out his knee and missed the rest of the year. As you recuperate, Kenny, consider these two words: public transportation.

Last year, Gov. Bill Haslam and the potentates of the General Assembly swept into office promising that they'd create jobs. And so they did! Gag writers for late-night TV have been working overtime to process the steady stream of insanity rolling downhill from the Capitol this year. With every month bringing a steaming new present from your state legislators, 2011 was Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, the Yuletide and Talk Like a Pirate Day all rolled into one. Empty a cartridge into that partridge and join us as we sing ...


"Twelve 'phobes a-plotting ..."
The New Year's Baby couldn't wait a month to start soiling his diaper, as a conservative cabal led by state Reps. Glen Casada and Jim Gotto met secretly at the LifeWay offices of the Southern Baptist Convention just weeks into 2011. Outraged over Nashville's new anti-gay-discrimination ordinance — jeez, now everyone'll want one! — they hatched a plot to beat back gay rights in Tennessee under the guise of protecting small businesses. Their strategy? Ram a state law onto the books that invalidates Nashville's ordinance — and bans any other Tennessee city from enacting any such measure ever again. After David Fowler's Family Action Council of Tennessee produced a web video depicting gay men as stalking pedophiles, the bill flew through the Republican-dominated legislature. All the meeting's FACT-up participants are now busily denying they are bigots in proceedings in the inevitable lawsuit to overturn the state law.

"Eleven bongs a-blazing ..."
To clarify existing drug laws, state Sen. Randy McNally and Rep. Bill Dunn proposed legislation in February that would add a helpful detail: If someone is busted for possessing drug paraphernalia, and the item in question hasn't even been used, the person arrested can't use that as a defense. (Remember Minority Report, where future cop Tom Cruise arrested people for murders they hadn't committed yet? Think of this as intent to commit munchies.) Bloggers cracked that after considering all the everyday items that pot smokers MacGyver into makeshift bongs, the clarification could get somebody busted for felony possession of a potato.

"Ten Darwins dancing ..."
Dancing at the end of a rope, that is, as Knoxville Rep. Dunn went on to propose legislation brought by creationists that would open the door to teaching intelligent design in public schools. Oops — make that require schools to "create an environment" in which teachers "respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues," including evolution. The bizarre debate in March recalled Tennessee's own Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925 and touched on topics including the number of chromosomes in chimpanzees, the Big Bang Theory and the odds that Elvis is alive. Dunn, a Knoxville Republican and point person for his party's "education reform" agenda, insisted he aimed only to promote "critical thinking" in schools about the origins of life. But the bill died when the Senate sponsor couldn't bear the embarrassment and dropped it.

"Nine [language redacted] ..."
April showers brought a golden rain on democracy from state Sen. Stacey Campfield, whose ignominious-on-arrival "Don't Say Gay" bill made Tennesseans traveling outside the state want to disguise themselves as Mississippians. Outlawing cities' own rights to set anti-discrimination policy evidently wasn't hardline enough on the ooh-scary "gay agenda" for East Tennessee's one-man Boner industry. So Campfield proposed making it illegal for school personnel to even acknowledge the existence of homosexuality — y'know, since stifling sex education works so well in fighting teen pregnancy. In the nationwide ridicule that ensued, the proposed bill got exactly the level of public discourse it deserved — e.g., a Twitter rebuke from the dude who played Sulu on Star Trek. And after his messy sparring with playwright Del Shores, Campfield proved only he could lose a battle for the rhetorical high ground with the author of The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife.

"Eight plates of doo-doo ..."
In an open letter to constituents in May, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey put a positive spin on the legislature's woeful track record for the GOP's first session in charge since Reconstruction. Others saw endless social-agenda dickering and an unemployment rate higher than the national average, but they weren't dining at the same Catbird Seat of legislative accomplishment as Ramsey. "Tennessee Republicans have talked a lot about what we would do when we took power," Ramsey wrote. "Now we are showing what we can do. This year was just an appetizer. Next year, and in the years to come, you will see the main course." Translation: If you like what we're making the Democrats eat these days, you're gonna love eating it for the next century.

"Seven naked Nazis ..."
Gosh, Gov. Bill Haslam must have figured, it's been a few weeks since the entire country was laughing at us. So in June, he signed into law a measure supported by Democrats and Republicans alike that could make posting a picture on Facebook or a blog a crime, if it causes "emotional distress" and is posted "without legitimate purpose." If that meant ridding the Web of child porn and white-power garbage, no one with sense would object. Alas, the wording was so vague (whose distress? what purpose?) that as critics from Rachel Maddow to Roger Ebert pointed out, almost anything could be actionable — as Clarksville artist Brandt Hardin attempted to prove with a grotesque portrait of first lady Crissy Haslam topless in bondage gear.

"Six clips reloading ..."
"It is an honor to lead this working group so our Majority can craft responsible public policy that reflects the values of Tennesseans." Thus began the (short) reign of the new chairman of the Republican Caucus Firearms Issues Task Force, Rep. Curry Todd — who wasn't kidding in July when he said he planned to set "legislative priorities for firearms."

"Fiiiive ... gol-den ... stings ..."
If any situation showed the depth of nationwide hostility to the federal government — and this was before anybody occupied anything — it was accused rosewood smuggler Gibson Guitar Corp. successfully casting itself as a victim of officious bullying. After an Aug. 24 raid on Gibson's Nashville headquarters by federal agents, who seized a reported $1 million in guitars and guitar parts that they alleged had been obtained illegally in India, Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz mounted a PR campaign to portray himself and his company as victims of selective prosecution. Lt. Gov. Ramsey helped spread the idea that Washington Democrats were punishing Gibson for its financial support of Republicans, even though the company had shelled out bucks to Democrats also. But no one was more shameless in supporting Gibson than U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who made a public show of solidarity with the embattled guitar maker — despite the fact she voted for the amendment to the Lacey Act that made the raids possible.

"Four galling words ..."
When the Knoxville News-Sentinel asked candidates for state Sen. Jamie Woodson's seat in September what one piece of legislation they would sponsor if they won — again, this is the state legislature — candidate Victoria DeFreese said she would suggest a resolution calling for the "impeachment of President Obama."

"Three henchmen ..."
As Metro Council members and allies struck back at the bill overturning their anti-discrimination ordinance by filing suit, state lawmakers Jim Gotto, Glen Casada and Mae Beavers claimed in October they were exempt from subpoenas seeking their strategy memos. The reason: They said they were shielded by the speech and debate clause in the Tennessee Constitution — a provision typically applied to legislative acts in the House or Senate, not to secret political maneuvering elsewhere (like, oh, picking an example totally at random, the LifeWay Building downtown). Otherwise, they'd essentially be above the law — as the U.S. Supreme Court argued in a ruling on the federal speech and debate clause, calling such bulletproof lawmakers "super citizens." Hail the Injustice League.

"Two handcuffed doves ..."
Practically from the minute Occupy Nashville set up shelter on Legislative Plaza, the Haslam administration began its occupation of the Boners. Had the state simply let protesters succumb to bitter winter weather, tedium and public indifference, everyone might be home now catching holiday reruns of Elf. Instead, Gov. Haslam, safety commissioner Bill Gibbons and General Services chief Steven Cates, using public-health and indecency complaints from a few state legislators as pretext, did the one thing guaranteed to fan the movement's flames: They mounted two nights of heavy-handed raids on the plaza, which mobilized public sentiment for the encampment in a way the protesters previously hadn't been able. (Among those arrested was Scene reporter Jonathan Meador, there covering the raids, whose "public intoxication" charge magically disappeared later — thanks in no small part to Meador's video camera, which arresting officers didn't know was running as they slapped on the zipline cuffs.) Talk of protesters defecating on the plaza gave way to voters, judges and international media wondering why state officials were doing the same to the Constitution. There is likely a joke to be made here about "pitching tents" and Boners, but we're above that sort of thing.

"And a fruitcake in a bare tree!"
Since the Republicans' last experiment in hog-tying the hands of municipal governments went so swimmingly, that Casada (joined by Brian Kelsey in the state Senate) has his sights trained next session on items such as minimum wage, health care coverage and family-leave allowances — none of which cities would be able to set beyond state levels. And it's just in time for the Republicans' gerrymandering to begin in earnest. Happy Birthday, Jesus!


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