Commentary: Jim Phillips Provides One Final Inspiration

by - Correspondent -

CLEMSON - For those who insist a column originating from a football game have at least something to do with the game, let the record show that on Saturday afternoon at Death Valley Clemson rode the strong right arm of Charlie Whitehurst to their first impressive victory of the season, 37-14 over Middle Tennessee.

A technicality to be sure, but you'd be surprised at the e-mails a technicality can generate.

The rest of this column is dedicated to the memory of Jim Phillips, the 36-year "Voice of the Tigers" who unexpectedly passed away last Tuesday at age 69.

This is the second piece I've written on Jim since his death, though there easily could have been more. His passing has elicited an outpouring of emotion this week which transcends the idea that Jim was just a member of the Clemson family. We found out that Jim was a member of many families, some of which whose color scheme has no trace of orange.

The display Saturday was impressive, beginning with the huge balloon formation of his initials, JP, which were released to the sky during the pregame festivities. The halftime montage on PAW Vision was touching, as was the Clemson band's spelling of the word "Jim" during the break.

The most touching scene was saved for last, when Jim's son, Jeff, thanked his fans and dedicated a song to his father on the postgame radio show.

Then there was the radio booth, where I ventured following the network postgame show to do my "Gameday Wrapup" show which follows every Tiger broadcast on 104.9 FM, WCCP.

In the booth was a large color photo of Phillips, standing guard over the kingdom over which he presided for 36 seasons. On it were the years of his life, along with all the football head coaches of his tenure.

It was enough to bring a tear to my eye which, as you might expect, wasn't the first one of the week.

In the few moments I had to prepare for the broadcast, I reflected on not only the last four-plus year that I knew Jim, but moreso this particular week - how I heard the news, the radio station's day-long tribute to his memory, the outpouring of emotion that even perfect strangers - stopping me on the street or at lunch - wanted to share.

I also reflected on a tough decision I had to make Friday, which was not to attend Jim's funeral.

Work obligations and my parents being in town were obstacles in my way, and I struggled with the decision for the better part of two days. Finally I realized that if Jim were here he would have smacked me in the back of the head and told me to visit with my folks. They were more important.

It's that kind of advice that Jim was so good at providing, and taking that into account proved to be a Godsend for me because, sure enough,I got my own reminder of how important family can be.

An unexpected death in my wife's family occurred early Saturday morning. I found myself at Greenville Memorial Hospital at 3 a.m., wife in arms, watching the rest of the family comfort itself in their time of loss.

It served as a stark reminder that none of us are promised tomorrow. So every precious moment you can spend with friends and family should take a prominent role in your life at every opportunity.

The advice I perceived Jim giving me is something I'll always abide by from now on. I hope you will too.

College sports is important in this area and plays a big part in all our lives, but it pales in comparison to the time spent with those you love.

Thanks Jim, for that bit of inspiration Friday. Though I wanted to be with you as your friends and family said goodbye, the unexpected time spent with my parents proved to be a morale booster I so desperately needed.

Further, it gave me the strength needed after a tough week to be there for my wife early Saturday morning when she needed me most.

I raise a glass to your memory, Jim Phillips.

Here's hoping your legacy isn't only the brilliant radio moments you gave us over 36 years, but the fact that so many people considered you a friend.

When my time comes, I hope just a fraction of that love is headed my way.

If it is, I'll be richly blessed.

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