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Remembering bullsgapvol

Posted: 7/5/2014 9:39 PM

Remembering bullsgapvol 


When the telephone rang at Shawn Williams’ home Monday afternoon the caller introduced himself as Donnie Tyndall.

 

Barb Williams handed the phone to her husband, who spent the next five minutes chatting with Tennessee’s head basketball coach. When the call concluded, Shawn’s nurse asked, “So, who are you again?”

 

“I’m nobody,” Shawn replied.

 

“Oh, you’re somebody,” said the nurse, a knowledgeable Vol fan, “or you wouldn’t have gotten a call from Donnie Tyndall.”

 

Shawn Williams was somebody, all right. He might be the most devoted Vol basketball fan who ever lived. He spent hours each week scouring The Internet in search of news on prospects, then posting links on the Hoopsville message board. He read every word he could find on Big Orange hoops. He attended home games when his schedule permitted. When he couldn’t attend he watched on TV. When that option was unavailable he listened on radio. Afterward, he’d join the post-game discussion on Hoopsville. Some posters would respond to a disappointing loss by blaming the coach or a player. Not Shawn. Posting as “bullsgapvol,” he loved Tennessee basketball too much to find any fault with any aspect of it.

 

Shawn loved life, too. That’s why he was devastated on May 1, 2013, when doctors discovered tumors in his brain. Upon learning that Tennessee’s most devoted fan was facing a fight for his life, Vol head coach Cuonzo Martin sent Shawn Williams some words of encouragement in a get-well card. Shawn was touched by the gesture from Martin, himself a cancer survivor.

 

Last fall was a rocky one for Martin, who struggled to get his underachieving team on track. It was an equally difficult fall for Williams, who struggled through chemo and radiation treatments while worrying that the tumors were continuing to grow. Upon hearing this news, Martin and Tennessee’s players autographed a souvenir basketball for Shawn Williams.

 

Fortunately, there are bright spots even in the darkest times. Cuonzo Martin and Shawn Williams shared one on Dec. 30. Shawn’s sister and brother-in-law transported him to Thompson-Boling Arena, where he sat in a wheelchair near courtside for the Vols’ home game with a Virginia team destined to make the NCAA Elite Eight. It was Tennessee that looked like the Elite Eight team on this night, however, hammering the Cavaliers 87-52.

 

I’m blessed to say that I developed an Internet friendship with Shawn through the Hoopsville message board. We were surprised to learn that our homes are nine miles apart – his in tiny Bulls Gap and mine in equally tiny Mosheim. Since InsideTennessee wasn’t sending me to College Station to cover the Vols-Texas A&M game on Feb. 22, I asked Shawn if I could watch the telecast at his home. He agreed.

 

The first thing I noticed when I walked through Shawn’s front door was that souvenir basketball signed by the Vols, prominently displayed in a glass case, resting on his kitchen counter. It was facing the front door, so it would be among the first things visitors saw upon entering his house. Seeing how much the Vols’ kind gesture had meant to him brought a lump to my throat.

 

 The second thing I noticed upon entering Shawn’s home was his attire. He wore a Vol sweatshirt, with an orange and white lap blanket wrapped around him for warmth. Even facing his own mortality, he was surprisingly positive … except toward the officials. At one point late in the game he turned to me and said, “Those officials haven’t given us one call all day.”

 

When A&M won the game Shawn was disappointed but not discouraged. Apparently, fighting for your life sharpens a person’s perspective on just how trivial the outcome of a sporting event is in the grand scheme of things.

 

No one was more thrilled by Tennessee’s surprising run to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 than Shawn, whose emails to me were filled with excitement and optimism. And no one was more thrilled when Tyndall signed eight newcomers this spring in hopes of assembling another NCAA Tournament team for 2014-15.

 

I called Shawn from Catholic High School nearly two weeks ago to tell him one of those Vol newcomers, Kevin Punter, had scored 54 points in a Rocky Top League game. Getting no answer, I left a voice mail. The next day I got a text message from Shawn, telling me he had begun hospice care.

 

When Barb felt Shawn was up to a visit, I drove to his home last Saturday, not knowing what to expect or what to say to a man with no hope of recovery. I can tell you this: There was no pity party. Shawn admitted that he “asked God to take me home” when the pain peaked but insisted that stage was behind him. Though weak and somewhat subdued, he asked me how the new Vols were looking in the Rocky Top League and if the Big Orange is close to signing a big man for 2015.

 

Word of Shawn’s failing health quickly made its way to Tyndall, who called a man he would never meet to talk Vol basketball for a few wonderful minutes on Monday afternoon.

 

Tyndall’s act of kindness came just in time. Shawn’s condition deteriorated to the point that he was barely responsive on Tuesday. He spent Wednesday on morphine in intense pain before dying peacefully in his sleep Thursday morning. He was 53 years old. He is survived by Barb, two sons and a daughter.

 

Visitation is scheduled from 4-7 p.m. Monday at First Christian Church of Morristown, with the funeral service to follow. Shawn’s body will be laid to rest wearing black pants, a white shirt and a bold orange tie.

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Posted: 7/5/2014 9:48 PM

Re: Remembering bullsgapvol 


Thanks Randy for taking the time to share. This is probably the most memorable post ever ever on Hoopsville from my perspective.
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Posted: 7/5/2014 9:48 PM

Re: Remembering bullsgapvol 


Went back, just to be sure, and the last thread he started on here says a lot about him. Wishing a happy fathers day to the fathers and single mothers here: http://mbd.scout.com/mb.aspx?s...p;stm=158186398 

Quite a guy that will be missed by many of us here. I can only imagine how much his family misses him. Grateful that he is no longer in pain and that he now has the best seat in the house for Vol games.
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Posted: 7/5/2014 9:58 PM

Re: Remembering bullsgapvol 


Damn.  Damn, damn.

Cancer just sucks.

Damn.




Thanks, Randy.  I mean that with all my heart.  Thanks.
  




Looks like this is his last post.  It was a reply to me, I think.  I thought he started to post and then tried to cancel, but hit the post button instead.  I've done that before.  But I didn't notice the subject line of his post before now.  Looks like he went down in good spirits.  






Hey, BGV!  I'm glad you finally have only pure joy, now!  Dance one for me up there, will you?

Last edited 7/5/2014 10:08 PM by Glenstorm

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Posted: 7/5/2014 10:04 PM

Re: Remembering bullsgapvol 


Thank you, Randy. I know how much your kindnesses meant to Shawn. Everything you wrote is spot on. Only thing I'll add is that, while it's hard to say you know a man who you met only once, after sharing hundreds of board and e-mail chats with BGV I feel pretty comfortable in saying he loved the Vols, but he clearly loved his Lord and his family more. And, those were aspects of his character well before he grew sick. The last back and forth we had ended, not with any words about himself or his disease, but a request for prayers for his family. I'd like to enlist those of you who pray, and even those of you who don't normally pray, to remember Shawn's family tonight and every night that he comes to your mind.

He was a good guy who was a joy with whom to share the passion for Big Orange Basketball. I miss him and will continue to do so every time I see a note about some recruit considering the Vols or some tidbit about the team and automatically reach for the keyboard or iPhone to send it to our buddy, BGV.

He's in a better place. Maybe he'll even get around to looking up Ray Mears. I hope so. That would be a conversation that might last a while.
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Posted: 7/5/2014 10:28 PM

Re: Remembering bullsgapvol 


As someone who never met, but had many conversations with Shawn on here and through email I really appreciate your post.  Thank you.

Is there anything donation wise available that we can give for his family or a charity?
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Posted: 7/5/2014 10:36 PM

Re: Remembering bullsgapvol 


Thanks Randy, you're a good man. Send our thoughts and prayers along to the family. Let them know we'll always remember Shawn here.
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Posted: 7/5/2014 10:55 PM

Re: Remembering bullsgapvol 



utfan620 wrote: As someone who never met, but had many conversations with Shawn on here and through email I really appreciate your post.  Thank you.

Is there anything donation wise available that we can give for his family or a charity?


Barb requests that donations be made to First Christian Church of Morristown, 155 Parker Road, Morristown, 37813.

By the way, Barb told me Shawn's casket spray will feature orange and white flowers. Inside his casket will be two orange roses and a white rose, representing his two sons and daughter.
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Posted: 7/5/2014 11:18 PM

Re: Remembering bullsgapvol 


That's the best article I have ever read on any fan site. 

I hate BGV passed away.  He will be missed in this little part of the world.  But I'm glad he isn't hurting anymore.  And I am glad he knew Jesus.

My wife regularly shakes her head at my interest in this board.  "Why would you want to talk so much to people you don't know".  Except, I do know some of you, sort of at least. The TN basketball side of you. BGV loved TN basketball. I'm gonna miss him.
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Posted: 7/5/2014 11:24 PM

Re: Remembering bullsgapvol 


Brilliant piece. There is no doubt about it, he's in a better place now. No more pain. Only joy.
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Posted: 7/5/2014 11:54 PM

Re: Remembering bullsgapvol 


Thanks Randy for taking the time to write such a wonderful article. Belated thanks to bullsgapvol for the many informative posts on Hoopsville. You will be missed.
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Posted: 7/6/2014 12:36 AM

Re: Remembering bullsgapvol 


Thanks Randy for such a great story about someone that will be forever missed on this board and in life.His posts were always a highlight because you always knew that he had spent so much time scouring the internet for even the smallest details.Wish I had gotten a chance to meet him but,he will always be remembered here on this board for sure.
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Posted: 7/6/2014 1:45 AM

Re: Remembering bullsgapvol 


Thank you for that wonderful piece, Randy.
Shawn Williams Obituary - Visitation & Funeral Information
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Posted: 7/6/2014 8:25 AM

Re: Remembering bullsgapvol 


Thanks for taking the time to write that, Randy.  What a very cool thing to do and share with us (my apologies for using the word cool...that isn't at all what I really mean).  I'll echo the sentiments of pdl, as I also at times have similar conversations with my wife. 

BGV was certainly one of those posters whom, while I never met personally, I certainly considered myself to "know" him in some form, based on how often we communicate with one another on here.  He will certainly be missed in this community and already was over the recent months as his posting diminished.  Again, thanks for sharing with us and hopefully his family is aware of how much he meant to this, our small community of "internet friends who love Vols hoops."
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Posted: 7/6/2014 8:56 AM

Re: Remembering bullsgapvol 


A great tribute to a great Vol Fan.

Thanks
Randy
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Posted: 7/6/2014 1:34 PM

Re: Remembering bullsgapvol 


What I won't forget about BGV is his demeanor. He was always a first class Christian gentleman and never had a discouraging word for anyone.  His example is worth emulating and I am confident he was following Christ's lead in this regard.
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Posted: 7/6/2014 2:35 PM

Re: Remembering bullsgapvol 


Thanks Randy, it makes me wish I knew him, and I am only 20 miles away in Greeneville.

So you live in Moshieim?  For how long?

If you are downtown, drop in to see me.  I am a devoted VFL.  As was my father before me.
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Posted: 7/6/2014 8:58 PM

Re: Remembering bullsgapvol 


I can't say anymore than what has already been posted, and I agree with everything said. Selfishly, I too will miss BGV having attended a game with him, traded numerous emails, nagging him about going hunting with me, facebook and of course Hoopsville.

Thank you Randy for uncovering a little bit of Shawn's persona for fellow Hoopsvillians to read.

What a man he was!
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Posted: 7/6/2014 9:25 PM

Re: Remembering bullsgapvol 


Thank you, Randy. BGV had a great deal of respect and friends here. His loss is painful to all of us. Prayers for his family.
There's just no place I'd rather be...
Than here with you, here in Tennessee
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Posted: 7/6/2014 9:32 PM

Re: Remembering bullsgapvol 


I'm so sorry to hear this.  BGV seemed like a great guy from his posts.  I'm only sorry I didn't know him better.  Though this message board was my only knowledge of him, I shall miss him.  This board won't be the same without him.  My thoughts are with his friends and family....
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