Roll Vols, Go Alabama

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 17, 2001

I am a football fan, more precisely an SEC football fan. A few teams in other conferences interest me in that they serve as targets for derision. Every fan needs know, Penn State, Notre Dame, Michigan…those teams SEC fans love to hate. But really important football happens in the SEC. All southerners know that.

But now we come to SEC rivalry. The third Saturday in October is upon us. It is time for my personal, all-time biggest of the big ball game

University of Tennessee vs. University of Alabama.

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I grew up in Knoxville and am a graduate of UT. Orange and white are more important to me than red and green are to Christmas. To my thinking, Tennessee has no more reviled an opponent than Alabama.

I can today close my eyes and be back in the student section of Neyland Stadium. The air is thick with football rage and the smell of our beloved Jack Daniels. I still see the Alabama cheerleaders drop to their knees at the goal line to worship their Crimson and White heroes who are prancing around in the end zone celebrating a TD scored against my Vols.

After college I had two children. They grew up. They committed the mortal sin. They both went to school at Alabama. I was sure that I had failed them. The first time I wrote a tuition check to &uot;That School&uot; was one of the most wrenching experiences of my life. But I did write it. And I did go to Tuscaloosa to see my defectors. It was not such a bad place.

And since our hearts often go where our money is, I became a part-time Tide fan. I cheered for them against anyone except the Vols. After moving to Greenville and hearing five years of &uot;Roll-l-l Tide&uot;, my loyalty was even more diluted. But I never crossed the line. I'd sometimes forget myself and cheer for both teams, but I never gave up Tennessee entirely.

I’m back in Big Orange Country now and again a part of the most obnoxious group of fans in the country. But we are loyal, and oh so dedicated. So the old rivalrys are renewed. I know who I support. Unfortunately, I look no better in orange now than I did when I first moved away from here. Even though I won’t wear the color, I’m again filled with the fervor of the true Vols fan. I heard recently that people outside the SEC take a dim view of the intensity of the fans within our conference. They say we treat football like it’s a life and death matter. We actually all know it is far more important than that. So on the 20th, my loyalties will be clear. I hope that loyalty is of more benefit in Tuscaloosa than it was here when Tennessee lost to the Georgia Bulldogs recently. It remains to be seen. But I’ll do what I can then and every Saturday until the season ends.

With some luck there will be some post-season bowl games worth watching. Fans have that to look forward to. We’re ready to break out the chips and salsa, the beer, the hot dogs, the beer, the chile, and don’t forget the beer. We’re in for the long haul no matter how many games there are to watch. Erma Bombeck said, &uot;Anyone who watches three football games in a row should be declared leaglly dead&uot;. If that’s the case, I’m proof of reincarnation. I just keep coming back as the same person. But I will be watching until the last goal post comes down.

To all you football fanatics who, like me, know what’s really important between September and January, I leave a little ditty written by a Scottish football fan named Jimmie McGregor. There is a lot of truth in it, but it is truth I wear proudly. I am not ashamed of what I am:

&uot;Oh he’s football crazy,

He’s football mad.

The football it has robbed him

Of the wee bit of sense he had.&uot;

…Go Vols…