Opry Party

I was a pitiful child. When I graduated fourth grade, I was the only student voted most likely to enter the field of manual culvert excavation. I was a total loser.

“But Sean,” I can hear you saying, “we were all total losers when we were kids.”

Thank you for trying to make me feel better, but no, we were not all total losers. Some kids were actually attractive and popular and brilliant.

Case in point. Yesterday, a 14-year-old from Florida won the National Spelling Bee. The kid’s name was Dev Shah. His winning word was “psammophile,” which is an extremely rare noun used to describe organisms that prefer sandy soil environments.

I, for one, am impressed inasmuch as I once lost the elementary spelling bee to the word “potato.”

“T-A-T-E-R?” I spelled over the microphone.

The auditorium erupted in laughter.

I never won anything when I was a kid. I was unimpressive in every way. My Little League team never won a single baseball game.

This is because my Little League team was composed of Deepwater Baptist boys. Our parents did not believe in winning. We believed in the doctrine of suffering. We believed in being of service to others.

So whenever other teams were undergoing batting slumps, they played us and felt much better about themselves. That was our team’s role.

We were not taught to win. My team was named the “Submergers.” We were servants. If my team had won a gold medal, our mothers would have just had it bronzed.

Spelling bees? No way. I come from country people. My people did not emphasize spelling.

When I was a kid, for instance, I remember when my aunt Jospehine died.

My uncle Jerry Lee called the funeral home, in tears. Jerry Lee gave the funeral-home driver directions to his home address, which was at the end of Eucalyptus Drive. To which the funeral home operator replied, “Can you spell that for me, Jerry Lee?” My uncle paused for a long time. Then he finally said, “You know what, how about I just drag her over to Oak Street?”

So I grew up learning how to lose. I was a chubby kid, which means I was never picked to be on sports teams.

Do you remember being chosen for teams? We kids would all line up before community games, whereupon some tall, slender, nice-looking, sports-oriented boy was elected team captain.

The team captain would walk around and begin choosing people for his team based purely on physical attributes and height.

The athletic, popular kids always get picked first. Eventually, after all the cool kids were chosen, what you were left with were the dregs of society. Mostly, kids who still wet the bed.

Take me. I wet the bed for a long time. I don’t know why, and I don’t know how to explain this problem. My mother used to tell me bed-wetting was nothing to worry about. She said that whenever I went to sleep, I simply felt so close to Jesus that I had a “River of Life flowing out of me.” Then she’d clap her hands and start singing:

“Spring up O well,
“Down in my soul,
“Spring up O well,
“And give to me,
“I got a river of life made out of pee…”

I was 29 years old.

The reason I bring all this up is because I was invited to play on the Grand Ole Opry in only one week. And I am pretty nervous about it.

I’ve been performing my one-man show for almost a decade around the U.S. But the Grand Ole Opry is different. On June 10, I will be taking the stage to play music and tell my stories before a national audience.

And on some level, I think I am still in denial about all this. Because in my heart, I will forever be that fat kid who was chosen last for the baseball team because of incontinence issues.

Even so, the reason I am writing this is because if YOU are coming to the Opry on June 10—although why would you?—I want you to know that I want to meet you afterward. I’d like to hug your neck.

So if you’d like to get a beverage with me directly after the show, I will be at: Scoreboard Opry Bar & Grill, 2408 Music Valley Drive, Nashville, TN, 37214.

Please don’t feel obligated to come. But if you do, please don’t tell me “potato” is spelled with a P.


  1. stephen e acree - June 3, 2023 9:49 am

    Nothing would be more fun to me than coming up to Nashvegas for your show and to hang out at that Opry Bar and Grill. But the new jobs a hassle and the kids with the flu but its sure nice reading your stories , Sean, it sure nice reading them with you

  2. David in California - June 3, 2023 3:04 pm

    Except for the part about performing at the Grand Ole Opry, I can relate to every single thing you wrote today.

    Looking forward to listening to your performance next week on WSM (online).

  3. Cathy Moss - June 3, 2023 4:22 pm

    I can hardly wait! Not only for the show but for the after party and the hug. I don’t miss a party or a hug from one of my favorite people. Can you spell special?❤️

  4. Cate - June 3, 2023 4:37 pm

    Oh Sean, would that I could come to Nashville and hang out with you. But alas, duty calls for me to remain here. I would love to talk with you about writing and lots of other things. Break a leg, Sean!

  5. DAVID SWANNER - June 3, 2023 5:27 pm

    I cud b wrong, but i Bleave a VP of these U. S; of Americia cuddnt spell Taters ither.
    keep up the goood wks!!!!!!!

  6. Corky Smith - June 3, 2023 5:43 pm

    I love you. We all love you, or we….& your (really huge) national audience….wouldn’t find daily sustenance in your column, read your books, & attend your events. You are not only a success, you are a phenomenon! It’s time, I think, to let go of those childhood insecurities, & the visions of yourself as a fat, unattractive, inept, & unpopular youngster, & acknowledge the popular, successful & attractive adult that you are! We are all the products of our childhoods; please don’t be a prisoner of yours.
    All the best of luck on the 10th at Opry! We’ll be listening though the 4,000 miles makes it a bit far to be there in person.
    Break a leg! ❤️

    • Katy G. - June 4, 2023 1:13 pm

      Amen, Corky! I keep hoping that Sean will drop the self-deprecating humor. I love who he is *now*.

  7. Cathy M - June 3, 2023 8:15 pm

    I was told by a brilliant counselor yrs ago that she needed my back up story. I remarked that I did want to dig that up again. I had done it several times. She smiled and said , well I can’t help you if you don’t dig it up because you bring your childhood to your adult life and in order for her to help me she needed my full story. I think almost everyone I know had some childhood difficulties. Some worse than others. While I don’t dwell on my difficulties, I also don’t judge others and how they were effected. It’s awfully hard to lose a parent at a young age. Life changing for sure. The way that Sean lost his father is the very worst way. I also think that as we age we tend to look back more than we did in middle age because we have more time to reflect. I don’t think Sean’s childhood defines him . I think it makes him the wonderfully compassionate and sensitive man he has become. He is a noticer of people from all walks of life. Until you have experienced the loss of a loved one to suicide, go easy. Just sayin

  8. Katy G. - June 4, 2023 1:11 pm

    Crapola! This is the second time you’re gonna be at the GOO, and the second time I’m gonna be out of town! (I live in nearby Murfreesboro, but used to live in B’ham and that’s where I’ll be.) I’ll just have to hope that they keep asking you back!

  9. Josie - July 4, 2023 10:40 am

    I was exactly that kid you described but somehow I made it through and I love reading your wonderful stories my dear friend they are absolutely amazing and so heartfelt I always feel so much better after reading one of your stories so keep them coming and congratulations on playing at the grand ol Opry you well deserve it 😊🤗🙏


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