Since it's not a proper Hate Week unless outside sources can confirm it (witness Peter's blog last year while preparing for UGA), I enlisted help. With that in mind, here's my friend Bart with his thoughts on the evil that is the University of Tennessee. If you wish to know more about Bart, he's working as a youth director at Liberty Crossing UMC.
When I was a boy, my father took our family on a trip to Tennessee. It was the third weekend of October. The autumn leaves were exploding in reds and oranges all across the Smoky Mountains. We rented a cabin in the mountains of Pigeon Forge. Enjoyed a picnic lunch in Cades Cove. Bought fudge in Gatlinburg. Watched Phillip Doyle kick a game winner with time expiring for a victory in Neyland Stadium.
And on the ride home through Knoxville, a blue haired woman in a Lincoln town car gave me the bird. Then a middle aged man in orange polyester mooned us from the passenger side of a truck. And that was my introduction to the glorious and awful rivalry that exists between Tennessee and Alabama.
Since we lived in Oxford, Alabama at the time, the Tennessee game was a one-week-a-year affair. We were dominating the Volunteers at that time. And since it had been a rough few years for a skinny boy in glasses wearing his #26 Bobby Humphrey jersey, I was more interested in sticking it to the Auburn Tigers for the Curry era.
Then we moved to the Tennessee Valley. That’s in Alabama for some reason. Huntsville was a city divided into four factions, Alabama fans, Auburn fans, Tennessee fans, and funny talking engineers who believed football was played on Sunday. It was during this time that Gene Stallings’ grip on the UT rivalry was loosening. David Palmer had to make an amazing effort to secure a tie in Legion Field. Some Manning kid was signed out of New Orleans. And I began to hate Tennessee more than Auburn.
My freshman year at the Capstone, the Tide was soundly defeated and that Manning kid earned my lifelong hatred. When Tennessee won a national championship in 1998, there was a parade through downtown Huntsville. Where was Bull Connor when he could have served all Alabamians? Then came the Dubose era. Four nauseating years of hand clapping our way through one embarrassment after another. Mike always insisted that the Lord was hard at work. Apparently the Lord forgot to explain to Mike that it was not His job to game plan for Peerless Price.
Around my first or second junior year of college, I was a bitter fan. Correction, I was a bitter person. I can’t blame that entirely on the Volunteers or Phillip Fulmer. But God help me, they were just such perfect heels! The obnoxious orange, the orange and white seersucker suits their frat boys wore, the coach who looked like he just swallowed a Stuckey’s, the players who inspired the makers of Grand Theft Auto 3, the national press who fawned over Peyton Manning. It was just too much. Victory on the field was not enough anymore. I wanted payment in flesh.
Unfortunately it has not been satisfying to watch the collapse of Big Orange over the past few seasons. Maybe it was just growing older. The marriage, the kid, the mortgage or the student loan bill. Did you know you have to repay those?! They all have taken priority over football season. But whatever the reason, I have not found victory sweet enough to make up for the scorched earth that I find when I survey the landscape of total warfare that is the Third Saturday in October. Sanctions levied, coaches subpoenaed, boosters disgraced.
To borrow from Waylon and Willie, maybe it’s time we got back to the basics of hate. Today I affirm that I will exhibit an appropriate level of hate on Tennessee and not blame the entire state or athletic department for all of the problems in my workplace, my relationships, my state or my team. But Kenny Chesney sucks and he’s friends with Peyton Manning so there’s still that. Roll Tide. Alabama, 38-13.