Two strong Southern women, each a force of nature in her own way, and they had never met.
Not until Wednesday at the Knoxville Convention Center during the Go Red For Women fund-raiser for women’s heart health.
“Barbara Dooley,’’ Pat Summitt said, “I can’t keep up with you.’’
Summitt, rest assured, can keep up with most people. But Dooley would be a challenge.
I knew she was a gregarious public speaker, the wife of Georgia football coaching legend Vince Dooley and the mother of Tennessee coach Derek Dooley.
I knew she had co-hosted TV and radio shows. I knew she had written a book: “Put Me In Coach, the Confessions of a Football Wife.’’ I knew she had run for the Georgia legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives.
Then there was so much I didn’t know.
She is a realtor. She was once a spokesperson for the State of Georgia Beef Council. She was on the board of directors of the Georgia Lottery Commission.
She has been grand marshal of several parades, including the Atlanta St. Patrick’s Day Parade. She has been a celebrity chef.
She has been a chairperson of the United Way campaign and United Way Volunteer of the Year. A five-year survivor of breast cancer, she has lent her time to Easter Seals, Toys for Tots, March of Dimes, Special Olympics, Paralympics, battered and abused women, epilepsy and diabetes.
She has judged a state oratorical contest, which would surprise no one who has been within earshot. She has been chairperson of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party — I don’t think it’s *that* Tea Party.
It’s a good thing Vince had coaching a football team to fill his time all those years. Otherwise he would have gotten lonely.
She also found time to raise four kids, two boys and two girls. There are 11 grandchildren now and when they all visit, she says her house smells “like a urinal.”
You get references to urinals and the like when Dooley commands a microphone. I’m not sure the Go Red crowd had ever heard the phrase “sex in the elevator” uttered at a previous luncheon.
It’s horrible. Ten times more horrible. It’s SEC football. We’ve been there. I know the stress.
Barbara Dooley, on the difference between watching her son Derek coach at Louisiana Tech vs. at Tennessee
You should hear the story about the time Texas coach Darrell Royal accidentally ended up in her hotel room and got “nekkid” before he discovered his mistake.
Derek’s attempts to muzzle her have failed, just as Vince’s did.
Her oldest son Daniel, she said, once asked: “Mom, do you stay awake at night just thinking of ways to embarrass our family?’’
She was delighted to finally meet Summitt, the icon of women’s basketball.
“I’ve watched her on television and heard about her,’’ Dooley said. “And I’m seeing this person at my table who’s calm. She looks like a lady and acts like a lady.’’
One lady ended her address by singing along with Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called To Say I Love You.’’ The other lady then launched into “Rocky Top.’’
The former is an old favorite of Dooley’s. The latter is growing on her in her late-life incarnation as mom of UT’s football coach.
I asked her if fretting over Derek’s games at Tennessee was different than his games at Louisiana Tech.
“It’s horrible,’’ she said, “ten times more horrible.
“It’s SEC football. We’ve been there. I know the stress.’’
And few things could be more horrible than watching her son get victory snatched away by penalty flags on the final play — not once but twice.
She watched the LSU game on TV, knocking Vince out of his lawn chair at the tumultous ending. She was in the stadium in Nashville at the Music City Bowl when the unthinkable happened again.
“You can quote me,’’ she said, “the officials screwed up on that one. How those officials could sleep at night I will never know.
“If I had just gotten on that field.’’
It wouldn’t have been just to say she loved them.
Mike Strange may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at http://twitter.com/strangemike44 and http://blogs.knoxnews.com/strange.