Family and football…great start to 2016

Published 10:06 am Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Oh happy days!

There’s nothing better than starting off a New Year surrounded by the two most important things in my life….family and football! I was lucky enough to enjoy that double dose of joy this past Friday and Saturday.

First….the real important stuff. For the first time since Deborah and I were married in 1979, we did not spend Christmas Day at her sister’s home in Roanoke Rapids….the site of the annual family gathering.

Over the years, that trip was always highly anticipated; not for the presents, but rather because my sister-in-law (Ramona Vann Swink) is a great cook. All the traditional Christmas meal items were on the table, to include Ramona’s famous cornbread….that alone could be made into a meal.

However, as it is with most families, as our children grew older, married and had families of their own (complete with other obligations at Christmastime) it became tougher to get everyone under one roof for one day.

For Deborah and I, the birth of our grandson in 2013 changed our priorities as we now spend Christmas Day in Colerain watching Brody’s eyes light up when he opens a gift. However, we still desired to continue a family tradition with the annual trek to Roanoke Rapids.

This year we enjoyed the best of both worlds.

Thanks to the planning of our nephew, David Swink, the Vann descendants met this past Saturday (Jan. 2) for lunch at the famous Oscar’s Restaurant (founded in 1953…the year I was born) on 10th Street in downtown Roanoke Rapids. That area of town brought back some other Christmas memories for yours truly as Oscar’s is only one block away from where I spent Christmas Eve as a child…visiting my grandmother Bryant’s home on the grounds of Rosemary Baptist Church where she lived with my step-grandfather who served as the church custodian.

Following a great meal at Oscar’s, we moved the family gathering to Ramona’s house for dessert and presents (once again having a chance to see Brody’s reaction to opening gifts).

We (22 strong) have vowed to continue this new tradition. By the time the next gathering occurs, we will have added one new family member (Deborah’s niece, Mamie Chamblee, is expecting her second child this spring); and celebrated the May 2016 marriage of Deborah’s great nephew, Jacob Swink, to his finance Elizabeth.

As for my second love over the New Year’s holiday, the college football bowl games were extremely disappointing (competition-wise) until Saturday, Jan. 2.

Both of the national semifinal contests on New Year’s Eve were lopsided with #1 Clemson derailing #4 Oklahoma’s high-powered offense in the second half, and #2 Alabama completely dominating #3 Michigan State (38-0). Hopefully the national championship game (Clemson vs. ‘Bama) on Jan. 11 will be a bit more entertaining to watch.

As I settled into my recliner on Jan. 1 for what I hoped to be some great games, I found myself nodding off throughout the day. Tennessee smacked Northwestern (45-6) in the Outback Bowl; Michigan mauled Florida (41-7) in the Citrus Bowl; Ohio State was dominate in a 44-28 win over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl; Stanford routed Iowa (45-16) in the Rose Bowl; and Ole Miss manhandled Oklahoma State (48-20) in the Sugar Bowl.

Saturday’s (Jan. 2) games saved the day for this diehard football fan.

Fifth-year senior quarterback Bram Kohlhausen (subbing for starter Trevone Boykin who was sent home after skipping curfew and getting into a bar fight with a police officer) rallied TCU from a 31-0 halftime deficit and the Horned Frogs defeated Oregon, 47-41, in triple overtime to win the Alamo Bowl.

In the Cactus Bowl, West Virginia quarterback threw for a record 532 yards, to include the game-winner with 2:19 left, as the Mountaineers outlasted Arizona State, 43-42.

Those Saturday games, coupled with the family fun on the same day, made for a great start to 2016.


Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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