Walking back and forth, dancing to the pre-game music on the sideline before any Tullahoma Wildcat’s Football game is where Mike Finn will be found on almost any given Monday, Tuesday, and Friday nights in the Fall. During the game he will be yelling along with the coaches “get the ball”, “defense”, and almost anything else he feels will help the Wildcats pull out a victory. After the game he will be right behind the Head Football Coach as he gives his post game speech, and then Mike will help the players break it down as they all yell “Pride, Pride, Pride T-Town” with Mike right in the middle.
Mike Finn, a 61 year old man with special needs, is not just any fan. He is Tullahoma Football’s number one fan, manager, coach, ball boy, water boy, and friend. Mike gladly plays all the roles.
“Yeah, I am Tullahoma’s number one fan. I been helping them for about 30 years,” said Mike. And in those 30 years he has become a family member to not only the football program, but also to the small community of Tullahoma, Tennessee.
Although Mike isn’t from Tullahoma he said, “I just like Tullahoma, I like to coach them and do everything with them.”
This is definitely not an understatement. The young players start seeing Mike on the sideline at their Middle School games. Mike moves up with them, following them through Middle School Football into Freshman, Junior Varsity, and then Varsity at the High School Level. He becomes a part of their family, and everyone knows Mike Finn.
Mike has a core group of friends and families that help get him to church, practices, and games. The players will see Mike around town and he will come up to them with a high five and a “Hey there, you ready for Friday?”, in the familiar voice that can only be Mike’s.
“Mike lives alone, and different people all along have picked him up,” Cherie Olive, Coach Olive’s wife, said. “It used to be Coach Winningham, now the Barnetts pick him up and help him with anything he needs. They became connected with Mike through their son, Alex, and still help him out. But Mike will call our house about every night and just talk to me about what happened at a game, or ask me if I knew about this or that. He is apart of our life.”
Just like Mike is impacted by the community and players, they are also impacted by him. When asked who his favorite player is on this years varsity team Mike said, Chase Dixon. Dixon is the senior varsity quarterback for Tullahoma. Many people know about Dixon’s athletic abilities and how he performs on Fridays, but one thing many people don’t know is that he brings Mike to many practices and games.
“I gave him my phone number,” Dixon said. “He calls me everyday, and after every single game to tell me how it went. He lives close to me so I pick him up and take him with me to the field house. We talk, listen to music, and everything. He loves rock music.”
Every player has a special relationship with Mike that is different.
“The boys are protective over Mike,” said Tullahoma Head Football Coach, John Olive. “If anyone says anything about him yelling, they will be the ones to take care of it not the parents.”
Mike is Tullahoma Football and without him the program wouldn’t be the same. There wouldn’t be someone yelling and running up and down the sidelines on cool Fall football nights in Tullahoma if it wasn’t for Mike. Nor would there be anyone to shout out exactly what the fans in the stands are thinking, or anyone there to always hold the Coffee Pot after a victory over rival Coffee County if Mike wasn’t there.
“Mike gives the Football Team a rallying point, I mean, he has adopted all these kids from their days at Pop Warner Football and up and I think that’s the connection, ” said Coach Olive.
Every football program across the country hopes to have a culture and fan base to support them and give them life, and Mike is that spark of life for Tullahoma Football.
Tullahoma fans will always be listening to hearing Mike’s deep, passionate voice on the sideline of every game, and to them he will always be their number one fan.
Written by Macy Marin https://www.linkedin.com/in/macy-marin-833311112
LifeWorks Media and Photography