Football fan’s drama continues with Vols’ feats and flubs
Lord knows it’s not easy being a football fan.
The ups and downs impartially captured on the scoreboard. The resulting surge of energy, passion and heartache. Hearts jump and pulses race, as the seconds tick down on the game clock. We hold our collective breath as the pigskin flies toward the uprights. We send silent urges to the referees, pleading to stretch that first-down chain just a little further.
Sometimes our devotion is rewarded. Sometimes our team comes out on top, claiming another win, inching a step closer to that bowl game. But that’s not always the case. Sports create two absolute roles: the champion and the vanquished. For every victory, we, the audience, must acknowledge that someone else must lose.
Sometimes, that’s our team.
It’s a simple, harsh truth. Something that must be expected, even embraced. As in life, each defeat presents us with lessons, ensuring the next victory and its fruits are sweeter, more rewarding. After all, success means close to nothing without risks, preferably significant ones. Sports tries to approximate the human condition and teach us lessons about ourselves by manufacturing conflict, sometimes bitter conflict. However, we, the audience, must understand our roles.
We aren’t contestants. We don’t walk upon those hallowed fields. We don’t battle underneath those bright, bright lights in front of 100,000 people who hang upon every second of strife, scrutinizing every move and decision. We, the audience, observe. We watch the game, a mere play. That is our role. No more. No less. We can critique the scenes, harangue the actors, but it is not our play. It will not be a part of our folio.
The last few years have been understandably tough on Volunteer football fans. Once a dominant powerhouse both in the SEC and college football, the University of Tennessee has been stripped of its bay laurel leaves, exiled to the NCAA-equivalent of Hades and forced to find its own way out.
For those of us who are fans, it’s felt like a tragedy pulled from Sophocles’ masterful mind. For those of us who have invested so much in this play, it’s been almost unbearable.
I’ve been a Vols fan since I was little. I grew up on Tennessee football, watching the games with my granddaddy. For me, once a Vol fan, always a Vol fan. Same goes for the Atlanta Braves and the Dallas Cowboys. I’ve liked them since I was young and don’t plan on changing that anytime soon.
Phillip Fulmer is the first coach I really remember. To a young girl, he was the Vol nation. He stood on those sidelines looking as brave, noble and regal as any epic hero. He could have been Beowulf, reigning as king of the Geats.
Fulmer was head coach for 17 seasons, from 1992-2008. In his tenure, the Vols’ record was 152-52 and he brought the team to a national championship in 1998.
The Vols’ performance started declining in his later years, and Fulmer was ousted. A rather tragic plot twist, but the Divine playwright thought it necessary.
In swept Lane Kiffin, the young, brash man of noble (football) birth who presumed to bring honor back to the House of Vols. He promised conquest, led his team to a 7-6 record, broke his sacred oath and pledged allegiance to a new house: the University of Southern California.
In came Derek Dooley, a man who still doesn’t have a clearly defined role in this play. Sure, he’s the coach. What else? Will this new character prove to be a hero, villain, comedic relief or the Once and Future King? Can Dooley remove the team’s proverbial sword buried deep within that stone?
His first season brought the Vols a 6-7 record (3-5 SEC) that finally ended with a loss in the Music City Bowl. Year two saw the Vols go 5-7 (1-7).
As I write this, the Vols haven’t taken on No. 1 Alabama yet. But win or lose, it’s not going to change my opinion.
You see, if fans had their way, the streets would be running with the blood of Coach Derek Dooley. Even the Rock on the UT campus was painted with horrible comments, calling him Fooley, making fun of his distinctive orange pants he dons at gametime, etc. I’ve even heard some “fans” go so far as to say they wish UT would go ahead and lose games so we could get rid of the coach.
Honestly, the reactions I’ve been seen are shameful. I think it’s disgusting to see so-called fans so unabashedly trash their team and coach. At what point is enough enough? Spectators can’t write this play. We must sit in our seats, observing its feats and flaws, hoping that everything turns out well for our cast members. Let us place faith in the Divine playwright. He will never led us astray.