Archived Story

Honoring a patriarch: Radney family’s annual football game pays tribute to “Big Tom”

Published 12:00pm Saturday, December 22, 2012

By Ed Bailey

Around this time of year, the Radneys take one afternoon to fortify their bond as a family. And they do it the only way they know how: a good, old-fashioned pickup game of flag football.
This year, however, the game had a much deeper significance as it is now played in remembrance and honor of the Radney family’s patriarch, Tom.
Tom Radney, who was affectionately known as “Big Tom” by his family and friends, originally conjured up the Radney Bowl. He passed away last year and as a tribute, the Radneys decided to dedicate the playing of the game to his memory.
“We used to play at his (Tom Radney) house and this was his idea,” Ellen Price, red team member and daughter of Tom Radney, said. “We play in memory of him and since we’re a big family, we split into teams of two and we play.”
The third annual Radney Bowl took place yesterday, with the white team shutting out the red team to the tune of 28-0, avenging last year’s one-sided shellacking. Despite it being a family affair, there is no love lost on the gridiron. Price said that while sharing in good times with one another and strengthening family ties is vital, there is no love lost on the gridiron. The kids and grand-kids play to win.
“We take it pretty serious,” Price said. “It gets more intense and more competitive every year. But it’s a lot of fun and it brings us closer together as a family so it’s all worth it.”
Due to their victory, the white team received the “Big Tom” trophy.
Luke Harvey, one of 11 Radney grandchildren was a standout performer that afternoon, racking up two touchdowns for the team. When asked how he felt about scoring, he shared a sentiment that any proud father, or in this case, grandfather would hold when seeing their little boy succeed.
“I was happy,” he said. “One of the touchdowns I scored was on a flea-flicker.”
Anderson Radney, grandson and a standout player for Alexander City Middle School was unable to give it his full effort but due to tradition and the chief reason of the game, he decided to trot out and run around with his siblings, even if he couldn’t do so at the speed he wanted.
“I wasn’t fast enough today,” Radney said.
He added that he was looking forward to next year’s Radney Bowl as he expected to be at full strength. Radney was a nightmare for the white team last year as he led them to victory.
Finlay Radney, granddaughter and member of the winning team wasn’t buying her kin’s sickness.
“I think he had excuses,” she said with a smile.
While she was unable to score touchdowns, she found other ways to contribute and more importantly, enjoy herself and jovial times spent with her family members.
“I did really good today,” Radney said. “I blocked like crazy. I’m the best blocker out here.”
Nevertheless, the Radneys understand what matters most during their annual shin-dig. The result itself is inconsequential and a particularly scintillating play is forgotten soon after the final whistle sounded. What matters most to the kids and grand-kids is that they have fun while continuing to honor the man who created and originally officiated the Radney Bowl.
“The most important part of this is that we play in the memory of their grandfather,” Fran Radney-Harvey, daughter of “Big Tom”, said. “He loved to watch them play. Now he’s watching them play from heaven.”