I am "one of those". A Tennessee Football Fan(atic). It goes all the way back to childhood, as I'd observe my typically reserved father burst into cheers and choruses of Rocky Top. The voice of John Ward, all time greatest sportscaster, permeated my autumn Saturdays, as I was growing up. My parents didn't have the time or money for season tickets. We almost never went in person to Neyland Stadium. But we were devoted from afar, glued to a radio or television, rarely missing a single game. I felt like crying when Ward finally retired, only a few years ago.
Certain phrases can only be appreciated by a Vol fan. Words like, "GIVE HIM SIX!" and "It's football time in Tennessee!"
Or, "the second Saturday in October...". Google those words, I dare you. They've found their way into Wickipedia - the saying has become our gift to pop culture. The generations-long rivalry between the Volunteers and the Crimson Tide is the stuff of history. Here, grandfathers tell their grandsons glowing tales of conquest and victory. Somehow, the defeats get lost to the annals of time.
Everything changes on a game day Saturday, here in Knoxville. You can feel a change in the air. The atmosphere becomes electric. The ethos of a whole city becomes that of grit and spit and celebration, while heartily singing hymns of the stadium. Orange flags are unfurled from every vehicle, and the game is broadcast over the loudspeaker of every grocery store. You can't live here and not be affected by it. East Tennesse would not be the place it is without its football.
I'm proud to say that the next generation are die-hards. My children now "holler n' yell", wear orange and white, and rearrange their lives so as not to miss watching important games on television. Even today, my husband and I are gleefully planning a trip to the store for plenty of chips, salsa, sodas, and whatever we think would be fitting for the first game of the season - whatever can be eaten "blindly", with both eyes on the football, awaiting the first snap from the center.
It has been a long, long time since we last saw a good game.
...and the tradition continues.....