The Boner Awards 2009: Our annual roundup of the year’s biggest blunders, boondoggles and oddities 

F2K.

Seriously.

We should have known this decade was born to suck right off the bat in 2000, when the Volunteer State up and volunteered to put the nail in native son Al Gore's presidential coffin. But who knew that in some ways, that was as good as things would get? Along came devastation, war and political turmoil— accompanied at home by a furious hard-right shift that wouldn't even leave the scab of the Snopes Trial unpicked.

By this year, we as a state couldn't even embrace whatever hope the rest of the country felt in electing Barack Obama president. Tennessee Republicans cackled, gloated and used their newfound clout to advance reactionary agendas so blatant the rest of the nation watched in dawning astonishment. Tennessee Democrats, meanwhile, put up about as much resistance as pamphlets in the path of a leafblower— with one notable exception.

So what is our little blue oasis of Nashville to do, awash in red-state rancor? Put down our pitchforks and reach for our Boners—the Scene's 20th annual round-up of the year's biggest scoundrels, bumpiest scandals and strangest snafus. In these pages, you'll find moving targets ranging from finger-wagging philanderers to a certain loudmouth rapper, with lots of bad behavior and public catastrophe in between.

Should we dare to hope that the next 10 years will be better? We remember asking something similar 10 years ago about this time—and now as then, against our better judgment, we'll answer...yes? But if another decade of infamy such as this one lies in store, we'll give you the only consolation we can offer: Our Boners will be standing by.

Why, here they come now....

And the award for king boner goes to.....

Sen. Paul Stanley, R-Germantown, who started 2009 with the most noxious piece of "family values" tub-thumping to come down the legislative pike in years: a bill that would ban gay and lesbian couples—and really, any unmarried couple—from adopting children. In case the bill's fundamental ugliness were unclear, Stanley spelled out that children should be placed with families who "will foster an appreciation for the policies of this state"— you know, since there's nothing a hungry, lonely child needs more than an indoctrination in state policy. As it turned out, though, the married Stanley was all the while fostering an appreciation for his 22-year-old legislative intern— which turned into even tawdrier spectacle when the intern's boyfriend found a disc with sexually explicit photos seemingly taken in Stanley's apartment. The boyfriend tried to extort $10,000 from the wayward moralist, leading to a suitably tacky face-off with the TBI behind the El Rey Azteca Mexican restaurant in Whites Creek. Manning up, the senator placed responsibility right where it belonged—on the media. "I hope some positive things will come out of this and maybe it'll be an example for others," he said. Positive thing No. 1: Stanley resigned.

But Stanley's Boner didn't end there...

Luckily for Stanley, a colleague rose to defend him in his hour of crisis. Unluckily for Stanley, it was none other than Rep. Stacey Campfield. His novel theory: Everyone in the legislature is a cad—so why punish his buddy Stanley? "If the Legislature starts asking every legislator to step down who has cheated on their spouse or had sex with an intern/staffer/lobbyist," reasoned the Van Wilder of the state House, "then it's going to be a lot more difficult to get a quorum." There's a shame. Another pearl of Campfield wisdom: "Well, I guess this is just more proof, Republicans are clearly irresistible to females." (Obviously, instead of "females" he intended to say "Boners.")

House of Boners

Where the Boners are concerned, there's always some assembly required—the General Assembly, that is. Unfortunately, a banner year for Capitol Hill Boners isn't exactly great news for the citizens of Tennessee. Read 'em and weep.

Et tu, Naifeh?

Poor Jason Mumpower. Kicking off the Boner sweepstakes just a few weeks into January, the 35-year-old Bristol lawmaker thought he would make history as the first Republican speaker of the state House in 40 years. So certain was his coronation, after the red tide rolled across Tennessee, that the state website already proclaimed him the new House potentate. All that remained was to make it official. On the day of the vote, no fewer than 65 state flags—intended as keepsakes for special constituents—fluttered over the Capitol per instruction from the mighty Mumpower to commemorate his triumph. Let's hope he kept the receipt from Flagz R Us. In one of the most brazen and outrageous FU's in Tennessee political history, Mumpower watched gap-jawed as the Democrats rose up in a collective sneak attack and elected Rep. Kent Williams, an obscure Republican restaurateur from Elizabethton with whom they'd cut a clandestine deal. The ensuing pandemonium required a state trooper to restore order. It also created a climate of contention, fury, hypocrisy and hostility that set the tone for the year in state politics—for which the grizzled stool-fillers at the Capitol Hill reporters' hangout Brandon's would like to say, thank you.

Dr. Evil goes down.

Once the shock of seeing effectively organized Tennessee Democrats wore off, a show of sympathy after the House vote would have been immediate—had the victim been anyone other than Mumpower, whose bully-boy hubris was memorably documented in a Tennessean profile not long before the vote. "[During] one roll call vote last session," the morning daily wrote, "he stalked up and down the aisle, glowering and tapping in his hand the metal baton he used to press his voting button." The article even had a gloating Mumpower, just a monocle and fluffy white cat away from becoming a Bond villain, quoting Machiavelli after an earlier victory: "A new dawn has arisen, and a new order is at hand." His nemesis Jimmy Naifeh couldn't have said it better. After decrying "the web of lies" that led to his downfall, there was nothing for the sulky Mumpower to do but go the time-tested Al Gore consolation route: grow a beard.

The devil made her do it.

In the ensuing Mumpower crapstorm, no one slung more poo than then-Tennessee GOP chair Robin Smith, who went apecakes moments after Kent Williams was elected House speaker and never came down. Williams said he was "really shocked" that day when Smith approached the podium and essentially called him evil incarnate. "Her exact words were, 'Congratulations, Speaker. It's hard to kill the devil, but in two years, you're a dead man,' " Williams said—then added, with the observational acumen of a born leader, "That's a pretty harsh statement." For her part, Smith denied making that remark. "Kent Williams continues to try to personalize this," said Smith—who then demonstrated her lack of personal animosity by leading the charge to kick Williams out of the Republican Party.

Putting the ass in General Assembly.

As if to prove Williams' election had opened an alternate universe where scheiss was now Shinola, who should pop up in moral outrage but Rep. Brian Kelsey, the General Assembly's champion grandstander? Mustering all the righteous fury of Col. Sanders condemning the frying of chicken, Kelsey lodged an ethics complaint against Williams for supposedly sexually harassing Rep. Susan Lynn in the Legislative Plaza parking garage. (Williams reportedly told Lynn, "I will give a week's pay just to see you naked." Shoot, that's just earmarking appropriations.) But first, in a move somewhat unusual for an ethical stickler, Kelsey sent Williams an evident offer to back off in exchange for a committee chairmanship. Kelsey admitted he sent the following text message—"Tell Kent I'm willing to talk about reconciliation if he's willing to talk about chairman of the full committee"—but explained that it didn't mean what it clearly meant. Others wondered why Kelsey and the GOP's shining knights suddenly picked now to defend the flower of Southern womanhood, since they twiddled their thumbs when the alleged incident was reported to Mumpower in 2007.

You got a permit for that concealed Boner?

Sen. Doug Jackson, D-Dickson, and Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, win a double-barreled bipartisan Boner as the pistol-packing Elmer Fudds of the legislature's Year of the Gun. They helped push through new laws to let handgun-carry permit holders go into bars and city parks and playgrounds—all on the premise that toting guns around liquor and kids will somehow make each safer. To the surprise of no one outside the legislature's duck blind, the laws brought a mixture of gasps and guffaws around the world, painting Tennessee as some trigger-happy holler full of sloshed Yosemite Sams. "Bring to me evidence that this [has] caused harm to the public in the states that have had this law for many years, I'll pull this bill myself," said Jackson during what passed for debate on the guns-in-bars laws, even as our state's citizen gunmen were accused of four murders during the legislative session alone. Oddly, the General Assembly's fearless minutemen agreed there was one place where constituents should not be allowed their Second Amendment rights—in the lawmakers' own workplace.

Send in the clones.

Democrats have historically owned the House seat in southern Middle Tennessee's District 62—but that was before last fall's special election put Democrat Ty Cobb up against Republican challenger Pat Marsh. More specifically, it was before Cobb's handlers hired Bill Fletcher, the Anton Chigurh of Tennessee Democratic political consultants, to flame Cobb's opponent with TV smear ads. In a truly bizarre tactic, ads portrayed pillar-of-the-community Marsh as some kind of scofflaw bent on human cloning. Though absurd, the campaign worked like gangbusters—for Marsh, who gave Cobb the kind of drubbing Cobb's namesake would've dished out to a batboy.

Gone with the windbag.

When the nutty guy rattling a can at the bus station claims to know what God is thinking, out come the men in white coats. But when Rep. Tony Shipley does it, people are supposed to nod gravely. In March, on the OpenPen blog, a children's-issues lobbyist described an alleged encounter where the Kingsport Republican made a list of claims that ranged from spurious to wacko—starting with the assertion that God would plonk California into the ocean for its gay-adopting ways, and continuing with an apparent veiled threat of civil war. "If [secular progressives] keep pushing and pushing and pushing, they're pushing us too far," Shipley said, according to the lobbyist, "and something will happen—just like we did in 1860."

Nacho Feeble.

How do the Boners love thee, Rep. Stacey Campfield? Let us count the ways. In January, the Knoxville Republican was hammered with 47 codes violations for a home he was renting to four college students for $1,600 a month—for which the students got amenities such as no hot water and a basement full of raw sewage. In March, Campfield advanced the discourse surrounding a false-paternity child-support bill by telling Rep. Sherry Jones, "Sherry, if I had sex with you, I wouldn't want to pay for your children." (Obviously, instead of "children" he intended to say "years of therapy.") But Mein Campfield scored a Boner touchdown on Halloween, paradoxically enough, by getting tossed out of a UT football game for wearing a Mexican wrestling mask in mask-free Neyland Stadium. In just that one fiasco, Campfield managed to a) scare some little girls; b) get busted sitting in the wrong section; and c) start an incident with stadium police concerned about his "odd behavior." Unlike them, we're used to it.

Hallowed Halls of Boner

Beyond the state legislature, the political climate was just as volatile—frostbite one moment and fever the next. How does one follow a vaudeville act like the General Assembly? Walk a mile in these clown shoes.

Meet Dr. Phil.

Gov. Phil Bredesen lobbied the Obama White House hard to be named health and human services secretary. He was all for universal health care (you betcha!) and couldn't wait to help the president achieve this goal. For some reason, though—his relentless bad-mouthing of Obama during the 2008 election? His knee-capping of state Democrats?—the new administration greeted Bredesen as enthusiastically as a cold bedpan. No happier were liberals, who howled over the prospect of putting an ex-HMO executive in charge of health care reform. In the end, Bredesen lost the job to Kathleen Sebelius, which gave him an excuse to do what he does best these days: play The Guy Who's Smarter Than Obama to the national media, complaining about those terrible unfunded federal mandates included in the legislation working its way through Congress. Asked if he ever thinks about what might have happened if he'd been named HHS secretary, Bredesen replied, "I feel like I have dodged a bullet." Us too.

Hall of Shame.

It's tough to find top-flight entertainment when you're a pro-segregationist group that has described blacks as "a retrograde species of humanity" and "genetically inferior." Fortunately for the Middle Tennessee chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens, one man decided to correct this habitual injustice. Unfortunately for Nashvillians, that man was Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall—who did some fancy back-pedaling indeed to explain why the county's top cop was essentially addressing a sheet-free Klan 3.0. "The person doing the scheduling for me had no reason to believe that this was such a group," a red-faced Hall told The Tennessean. Those following Hall's championing of the controversial 287(g) program—which critics say encourages racial profiling and harassment of immigrants—had no reason to believe him.

Pedro the (Cowardly) Lion.

Ousted Metro schools superintendent Pedro Garcia had to clap a lot of erasers to get this much Boner dust on him—especially in absentia. Garcia had nerve to spare writing scathing memos that denounced the new student assignment plan and cast the school board as a gang of conniving segregationists. But when it came time to testify in the lawsuit those accusations spawned, he took a powder. NAACP officials, who claim the board discriminated against black children by ending mandatory cross-town busing to Hillwood, say the courageous Garcia wouldn't testify because he was worried it might hurt his future job prospects in the education field. U.S. District Judge John Nixon hasn't ruled yet on the lawsuit, but Garcia gets a firm verdict—Boner in the first degree.

What Would Jesus Undo?

Ah, the good old days when gays were hauled off to the hoosegow and fired when their names hit the papers. In an email to supporters, Tennessee conservative Christian leader David Fowler longed for those gentler times, lamenting Nashville's new ban on workplace discrimination against gay and lesbian city workers. In his missive "Nashville Takes on a New 'Identity' " (geddit?), Fowler presumed to know what Jesus would have thought about the ordinance. When an adulterous woman was dragged before Christ by the Pharisees, Fowler wrote, "I know that Jesus did not say to her, 'Woman, I am sorry that these people do not appreciate your preferences in expressing your sexuality and your understanding of marriage and marital fidelity.'" Call us when you hear what Jesus says to the self-righteous windbag.

And the Boner goes to...

Craptastic Mr. FOX.

Of all 2009's sorry political spectacles, none was sorrier than watching Sen. Lamar Alexander play Peanut to Sean Hannity's Jeff Dunham. Claiming to offer "friendly advice" to the White House on the Senate floor, Alexander accused President Obama of using Nixon-style tactics to vilify his political foes and warned that the president is close to compiling an enemies' list. Who were these defenseless nonpartisan innocents supposedly under attack by Tricky Dick Obama? Alexander named an unholy trinity of GOP shills: the Chamber of Commerce, the health insurance industry and Fox News. Upon closer inspection, it turned out that Alexander was serving as ventriloquist dummy for some Fox News talking points. We regret the insult to Peanut.

Boners in the Spotlight

We guarantee that the following music-related Boners are 100 percent John Rich free.

Rescue Yourselves.

So Kanye got drunk on some Hennessey and did something he shouldn't have done. We in no way endorse the Swiftus Interruptus that went down at the VMAs. But the way people rushed in to "defend" Taylor Swift was patronizing and lame—nearly everyone's question to her seemed to be some version of, "Were you scared by that big scary man who jumped onstage?" Then there was the chivalric impulse: Leno making Kanye cry, 50 Cent (!) saying he'd give him a black eye. Maybe that was admirable in its antiquated and almost charming way, but it missed the point: Swift could take care of herself—and she did. If you're gonna get the last word, an SNL monologue isn't a bad place to do it.

There's no 'we' in WRVU.

What's the best thing about Vanderbilt's campus radio station 91 Rock, WRVU 91.1 FM? If you answered "DJ Hal," the automated robot DJ that fills empty air, you're in luck! The Vanderbilt Student Communications board—citing a concern for students while unceremoniously ignoring and/or opposing the students on the station's executive staff—decided to cut the number of community DJs in half and place a hard cap of 25 per semester. It's not like WRVU and its eclectic, irreplaceable variety of community DJ-hosted shows are beloved institutions in the local music scene and the greater Nashville area or anything, right? Right. JACK-FM is a great model for college radio. Now open Sarratt's loading-bay doors, Hal...Hal?

Lava or leave it.

"Jam Band Suffers Lava-Lamp Injury" may sound like an Onion headline, but alas, it was bitter truth for jammy locals Moon Taxi. Their saga reads like a how-not-to for aspiring bands: Don't set up your lava lamp on your merch table, have it break on the floor, then have your band's guitarist fall and cut his hand on the shards—and if that should happen, somehow, don't threaten legal action against the club. What's the best way not to get cut on the glass from a broken lava lamp at your show? Answer: Don't bring a lava lamp to your show. This message has been brought to you by three guys in a '74 Chevy van with Frank Frazetta warrior chicks airbrushed on the side.

And the Boner goes to...

Kings of Mom Jeans.

What a year for the eight-legged Boner machine that is Kings of Leon. One minute they're saying Americans have shitty taste in music, the next they're sulking their way to No. 1 on the, ahem, American Top 40. One minute they're saying the U.K. has superior taste in music, the next they're flipping off adoring crowds in England. But the cherry on top of the Boner this year was Caleb Followill's complaint to Spin magazine that all these fans and their money simply aren't worthy: "That woman in mom jeans who'd never let me date her daughter? She likes my music. That's fucking not cool." That sure is rich coming from a dude who got famous wearing women's jeans onstage.

Drop Down and Give Me Boners!

Sorry if you had wagers on the home teams this year. There's only one sure bet each year on the athletics front—the Boner scoreboard. And when it comes to Boners, our cups runneth over.

He was wasting away in Margaritaville.

Before the start of the season, Titans running back LenDale White revealed that he had lost 30 pounds during the off-season and was in better shape than ever before. His secret: giving up tequila.

This Bird's For You.

From his private luxury suite, where NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had been sitting with him earlier in the game, Titans owner Bud Adams began flinging obscene gestures with each hand after his team defeated the visiting Buffalo Bills. Minutes later, from the sidelines at LP Field, the 85-year-old Adams began loosing more birds. Adams later apologized, but Goodell fined him $250,000 for his actions.

Last Dance, meet Let Down.

After sharing his weight-loss formula, White announced that he was changing his nickname from "Smash" (as part of the duo, with teammate Chris Johnson, that White had dubbed Smash and Dash) to "Last Dance." The new moniker, he explained, referred to the Super Bowl, where White expected the Titans to be playing in February. Defying White's prediction, the Titans raced out to an 0-6 start. Meanwhile, Last Dance found his playing time steadily reduced—culminating on Nov. 29, when he was not allowed to suit up against Arizona after arriving late for a walk-through the day before. Last Dance is now Looking Doubtful.

By contrast, the battle of the Little Big Horn was over in just 20 minutes.

Those early back-to-back losses were gut-wrenching enough for Titans fans. But they were just a warm-up for the 59-0 massacre the Titans suffered at the hands of the New England Patriots—the kind of trainwreck people don't slow down to watch but speed past to avoid. No NFL team had been shut out by a wider margin in nearly 70 years. The systematic slaughter took three hours—by which point home viewers had moved on to something happier, like reading

The Road.

Meanwhile, Titans fans were sporting brown paper bags.

During the Titans' early losing skid, Coach Jeff Fisher raised eyebrows (and a few hackles) by donning a #18 Peyton Manning Indianapolis Colts jersey as part of a charity event. He told the audience he wanted to feel like a winner.

Now we know where Bud's fingers were pointing.

Under public pressure from owner Bud Adams after the team ran out to an 0-6 record, Fisher finally started Vince Young, who had not played at all in the first four games and saw action only late in blowout losses to Indianapolis and New England. With Young at QB, the Titans won five straight.

Sure, but with a break or two they could have been 3-9.

The Scene ran a cover story wondering if Vanderbilt's football team could surpass its record of a year ago—proving that last season, which included a victory in the Music City Bowl, was no fluke. Instead, the Commodores finished 2-10, losing even to Army—proving that as a pigskin prognosticator, Scene editor Jim Ridley shouldn't be trusted any closer to a football field than watching The Blind Side.

Hey, sailor—wanna squeeze our Big Oranges?

In December, the NCAA began an investigation of the UT football program after "Orange Pride" recruiting hostesses traveled to South Carolina—in apparent violation of NCAA rules—to attend a high school game featuring three top prospects. Some of the alleged recruiting tactics sound pretty subtle: During the game, the hostesses reportedly held signs reading "Come to UT."

Careful, son, you could put out a football career with that thing!

Three Vols football players, including two highly touted recruits from the freshmen class, were arrested for attempted armed robbery after allegedly pulling a gun on two men parked outside a Knoxville convenience store. The players, two of whom were wearing orange UT gear, fled after the intended victims showed them their wallets were empty. When they were collared shortly afterward, police found the weapon allegedly used in the attempted heist: an air-powered pellet pistol. That's the last time anybody worried this season about UT's air power.

And the Boner goes to...

Lane Kiffen, UT's brash young first-year football coach, who became a walking Boner factory almost overnight. A few snapshots of life in the Boner Lane:

• Within days on the job, he earned a reprimand from the Southeastern Conference for falsely accusing Florida Coach Urban Meyer of a recruiting violation—while committing minor recruiting violations of his own.

• When the Vols made a much-anticipated visit to Florida in September, Kiffin had his team running the ball when they were down by two scores in the fourth quarter, leading many observers to believe that he had given up on trying to win the game and was merely hoping to hold down the Gators' margin of victory.

• Kiffin rashly boasted that his team would sing "Rocky Top" all night long after beating Alabama. They lost.

• Attempting to draw a contrast with his predecessor, Phil Fulmer, Kiffin bragged that his program had gone more than 11 months without having any players arrested—even though one had been nabbed for shoplifting the week before. Three more were jailed a week later.

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