CAN YOU remember what it was like sitting underneath Friday night lights? The night always started with those first few fans arriving quietly and much earlier than the scheduled game time. Then slowly and steadily, the stillness grew into an entire stadium roaring with laughter and filled with noise. The smell of hot dogs and fresh cotton candy fill the air. The band director motions as the pre-game clock dwindles and members sharply rise to a standing position. A quick and startling drum strike commences the fight song, “Buh bah, buh bah, dum, dum, dum, dum-dah!” The student section roars with excitement as their highly praised boys of fall come ripping through the banner. Cheerleaders perfectly dolled up in make-up and ponytails perform high kicks. Up, down, up, down, matching each strike of the drum sound. The crowd is successfully hyped and zoned in for the next play on the field. A referee sporting black and white stripes raises his arm and holds it high. With a gentle nod towards the press box he quickly drops his arm, and the madness begins. “It’s football time, boys!”
While almost every American can loosely place themselves somewhere within the scene described above, what comes next is solely unique to our community here in Tullahoma. On the sidelines, standing in the middle of a sea of shoulder pads, is a man in his official Wildcat football attire. At the start of every down, he begins, “Ugh, ughh, ughhh, AHHH!” getting louder and louder in excitement until a tackle is made. His deep voice can be heard cheering from the sidelines. While this man is not an official coach, he has been on the football, baseball, and basketball sidelines with the teams for well over 25 years. He is incredibly kind and relational. Mike has met countless kids throughout the years and never forgets a face. He has nicknames for everyone and can make anyone feel important! Mike Finn is truly Tullahoma’s biggest, most passionate fan.
“Mike is the heart and soul of Tullahoma athletics. Whether that is supporting young Wildcats in Little League, or under the Friday night lights. He is there rain or shine,” says former multi-sport athlete Jon Neal.
Coach Olive shared the first time he remembered seeing Mike, saying, “Mike has been around longer than I have. I remember watching film when I was first considering taking the job as Tullahoma’s head football coach. After the kickoff, I watched the camera pan over, following the receiver. On the screen, I saw a guy in the middle of the field attempting to run back towards the sidelines, holding the kickoff tee while dodging football players. My very first question when I came into town to meet the athletic director was, “Who was the guy caught on the field dodging players?” It was Mike Finn. Olive shared that he did not have the privilege of meeting Mike until the following football season. Since then, however, Mike has been right by his side on the field, at Kings Cross Church, and as often as Mike picks up the phone.
Whether it’s little league baseball, basketball, football, or more, Mike Finn is committed to finding a way to cheer on or coach his teams. Mike is very connected. He has a slew of friends that he will call to make arrangements with, ensuring he can get to the games on time! Just like a person’s face, once Mike has your phone number, he will not forget it! When Mike was asked about his commitment to Tullahoma athletics, he shared, “I like to help out. I’m just a fan. Big fan.” While Mike might think he is just a fan, anyone who has been to school in Tullahoma or had children at the high school, knows that he is much more. Mike is a vital light to our community. He is a constant comfort in an ever-changing world. He is a fixture at any sporting event, and our community is better because of Mike Finn. -GN