Saturday was my first trip to see an actual game (I went to the Orange and White game a few years ago) in God's house (aka Neyland Stadium) in far too long. I participated in a bus trip with the Nashville chapter of the UT alumni association, which was an ideal way to go.
On the way to the game, we watched a DVD of Decade of Dominance, which celebrated UT's rise to national promimence in the 90s. It was strange to look back on a large number of games I attended in person during my time as a student there. I am wondering if watching this was a mistake because it showed a lot of big plays and so I went into the game expecting every play to be a big one. (It's been three plays, why don't we have a touchdown yet?!?)
We got to Knoxville and seeing the stream of cars flowing in was great. We got off the bus and I mingled around the crowd. Some guys from work were there and had invited me to come down and tailgate, but due to traffic I couldn't make it from the bus parked to the tailgate party and back to Neyland in time to see the running through the T. Which, let's face it, was part of the reason I was there. So, I wandered around for a bit, took in a bit of the kick-off call in show and then headed into the stadium to my seat.
I got there, watched the warm-ups and then the teams went off the field. At this point, the Pride of the Southland, the greatest band on the face of the earth, started their pre-game show. And you could just feel the electricity building. Again, to sound like a broken record, I'd forgotten how incredible a pre-game show this is. During the national athem, a bald eagle flew in, which was pretty amazing. Then, it was time...the band played Stars and Stripes Forever and began to form the T. Then, it split open, creating the T and the team ran out...I have to tell you, if you've seen it on TV only, you have no idea how incredible this moment is. I don't want to appear un-manly here, but I had tears of joy and emotion in my eyes watching them run out. At that moment, there is always such hope--no matter who you're facing. Cause it's the start of the game and anything can happen.
Well, I have to admit we didn't play all that well. Our defense played well and we screamed out lungs out to try and help them both. But mistakes on the offensive side of the ball just killed us. And our special teams--not so special. Mistakes and penalties--story of the season. As I watched the game, I had to wonder--was that second half against LSU the fluke of the season on offense? Becuase I'm just saying--I have seen nothing to convince me otherwise in the other games we've played.
Now, I was in Neyland Stadium and not in the student section..but people around me were standing up and cheering and as some of you who've been to a game with me know, I get pretty darn excited just being in the stadium. So, I like to stand and cheer and try to give the Vols some sense of home field advantage. Well, about a minute into the second quarter this guy behind us yells out, "Sit down! This isn't the student section!" Now, if I'd been the only one standing up, I might have thought I was being rude. But when the rest of the section is, for the most part, standing up cheering, not so much. I'd heard about these types of fans on the radio in Knoxville, but this was my first encounter.
Speaking of encounters--UGA fans, you are the worst fans ever. I lived in Georgia a while and I am sorry you took such personal offense to my power T on my car and my decision to wear orange at every possible opportunity. And I hear all these horror stories of how rude the fans are in Knoxville, but we ain't go nothing on you. Walking back to the bus, after you'd beat us, I can't tell you how many of them jeered, yelled and made rude gestures my way--just for wearing orange and white. Now, I didn't say a word to any of them, instead just trying to get to the bus so I wouldn't be left behind in Knoxville...I'm minding my own business and yet you feel the need to jeer, taunt and be rude to me. UGA fans--we can't handle losing and we sure as hell can't handle winning.
But, anyway....enough of that. Despite losing, it was nice to be back in Neyland Stadium on game day. I hope to return again sooner rather than later.
posted by Michael Hickerson at 10/10/2005 07:29:00 AM