Oh my God, it’s football time in Tennessee!
What? I know the game’s in Charlotte, NC. I also know that on September 1, Charlotte, NC is getting annexed by the Tennessee Volunteers. Regardless of the West Virginia fans crowing online about how well their fan base travels, I don’t think they truly understand Vol Nation’s habits.
I don’t think they really get how predatory everyone associated with the Volunteers is right now. Oh sure…West Virginia fans are hanging out in the hills an hour from where I’m writing this column, daydreaming about how they’re going to beat UT by 70 points.
You know, there’s not a better feeling that watching those daydreams shatter, especially when the soundtrack to that agonizing disappointment is Rocky Top on loop.
All smack talking aside, West Virginia should have always been a natural rivalry for UT. The Mountaineers and the Volunteers have a lot in common. Both schools are in close proximity, occupying a section of the country that’s unfairly maligned with terms like “hillbilly” or “ridge runner”. To the ignorant third-party onlookers, the fans of both schools are considered to be stupid, illiterate, ignorant, and backwards. Both fan bases are condescended to by the national media, although there’s a little Heisman love early for WVU QB Will Grier this year.
So while WVU coach Dana Holgorsen does his best John Cooper whine imitation (you know–back when the then coach of Ohio State ganked one of Joey Kent’s cleats from the 1996 Citrus Bowl, and used a ruler to “prove” they were illegally too long) complaining about the ORs on the depth chart, and bemoaning the circumstances that permit Tennessee to start classes before West Virginia, thereby allowing the Vols “extra” preparation time for the Belk College Kickoff, I find myself reminded of everything we have in common with the Mountaineers. There’s no denying we possess some of the greatest real estate in the country, and preserve our long-held culture while forging into the modern age.
Yes, ESPN. People in Tennessee and West Virginia really do have wifi signals in their outhouses out by the cement pond.
But what I prefer to look at this week, heading into what’s likely going to be a wild, crazy start to the football season, is the huge difference between WVU fans and UT fans.
No one can understand what it’s like to be a Tennessee fan post-reVOLution. No one. I don’t care what school you support, you have no idea what it’s like to rise up in protest against your own university and force change from the Board of Trustees down to the head football coach. You don’t have a clue what it’s like to be just a regular Joe fan and find yourself fighting like a mad dog for weeks to give the athletes that wear your colors and your logo the absolute best opportunity to succeed on the field. You don’t know what it’s like to deal with an administration so incompetent that you endured a week of such silliness you could barely hold your head up.
You don’t know what it’s like to be vilified by the national media for refusing to accept what we were being told, and to sit down and shut up because we had no right to determine our own flagship state university’s future.
I’ve always liked the Mountaineers in a tepid sort of way. Always pulling for them to get the upset–go on, WVU, and beat Oklahoma/Texas/Oklahoma State/TCU/etc because that’ll be hilarious to watch. I have nothing against them–except this weekend–and the rest of the season, I’ll happily sit down to watch them play because say what you will, the Mountaineers are a hell of a lot of fun.
But equating WVU fans with UT fans? No.
When Vol Nation sees Tennessee’s first game on September 1, there will be no fear. No one in Vol Nation fears anything about WVU. We’ve already faced the worst there is to face, and they all wore spiffy little UT lapel pins and claimed to have our backs.
So the Tennessee Volunteers that take the field against West Virginia are as big a mystery in many ways to us, the people who love and support this team, as they are to His Holiness Who’s Holier Than Thou of Perpetual Confusion and Whining, Dana Holgorsen. We can’t tell WVU what to expect because we don’t know.
What we do know about this team is that we put ourselves and our school on the line to give these players and coaches the opportunity they have now. We have given our ALL for Tennessee since November 26, 2017 and we don’t take lightly the “we are the caretakers now” title we claimed.
And we are secure in the knowledge that this team, a team more ours than any that have come before, will give their all. These young men know how much this team means to us and what we did to save it.
If West Virginia for any reason thinks this game will be easy? They’re in for a nasty surprise. There’s never been a college football team in history that’s taken the field with the assurance and confidence that their fans support them, because these players witnessed first-hand what the passion and fury of Vol Nation accomplished. These players, these coaches, this athletic director–these men were empowered by the fan base of the University of Tennessee and they know it. Win or lose, we’ll still be with them and they know it. This team is built from our Volunteers, and we gave our all to make sure our university honored the commitment they’d given to us.
And they know it.
Sorry, Mountaineers. I know it’s just the luck of the draw, but I don’t envy the Saturday you’re more than likely going to have. I know for a fact the Vols are going to come out to give their all for us. That’s the way we do things down in Tennessee.
When we say “all”, we mean it.
Welcome to the 2018-19 football season, Vol Nation!