Today we are playing Florida, our hated rival. While in the past we have expressed our desire to destroy them via food:
this week we are celebrating it via ESPN:
A show called "Gameday" is broadcasting from the lawn in front of my office, and this is apparently a big deal. "Gameday" had to be explained to me because I only watch dodgeball on ESPN 8 (The Ocho!), and am therefore unfamiliar with the programming on the other ESPN channels. People are very excited about this, and were already lining up yesterday for a chance to be glimpsed on camera:
and possibly interviewed, if "Gameday" is the kind of show that does that.
Either way, people are excited, and I'm excited, because it's a home game and it's the Florida game and according to the sports section of the student newspaper, which I skimmed for a full two minutes, we might actually win. Winning is exciting!
Last weekend, though, I was apparently too excited. Getting ready to leave for our first home game, I posted this on Facebook:
"Wait, what time is it? Oh, that's right... IT'S FOOTBALL TIME IN TENNESSEE!"
Apparently, for my friends and family this was akin to posting, "I LIKE CHICKEN WITH BONES IN IT NOW! AND SKIN! OH, GOD, I WANT TO EAT CHICKEN WITH SKIN!" or possibly, "Hey, friends... I'VE DECIDED TO VOTE REPUBLICAN! STRAIGHT DOWN THE TICKET!" Shock and horror greeted a status update in which I expressed excitement over a football game. I received a few confused comments on the post, pointing out that I never liked football that much when I was in college, but then received three private messages from friends asking, "Wait, you really like football now? Do you stay for the whole game and paint your body orange?"
I also received two phone calls.
Was it the all caps part that seemed shocking and confusing? Did I express too much excitement?
In order to set my friends and family at ease, let me try to explain:
I have no great affection for "football", the game. I understand the rules about as well as I understood them in college, which is to say almost not at all. I know what kind of things you get points for, and if a field goal is good, but I still have little conception of what the specific people on the field are supposed to be doing (Why are there so many "backs"? There's a quarterback and a runningback and a fullback and a tailback and a cornerback and a halfback and a backback and an in-the-back and I have only the vaguest notion of how they all go together.), and I continuously fail to understand the whole concept of "downs". There might be three? Or four? And if you get five, I think the game goes into multiball?
If it doesn't work that way, it should.
You get the point. I still don't understand the mechanics of the game, and that's mostly because I don't really want to. I find watching football to be crushingly boring, like watching golf.
However, I love "Tennessee Football", which is not just a boring game where guys crash into each other and throw a ball around. Tennessee Football is an institution, a whole greater than the sum of its parts, an experience and a way of life and one of the most exciting things about the fall. Every weekend that I work a home game, I get to go to a party attended by 100,000 people who are wearing matching outfits and happy to be there:
And it's not just on campus. All of the registers at Kroger will have orange and white balloons tied to them today. People all over town will put orange and white flags on their lawns. They will decorate their cars:
and their bodies:
and they'll put up tents on their lawns:
because this is about more than football.
This is about being part of the University of Tennessee. This is about the seven or eight weekends a year when our entire campus comes together with the people around us, when our stadium becomes the fifth largest city in the state, when we are united with one goal, behind one team. And yeah, it happens for basketball and sometimes baseball, and yes, our university is about a lot more than football, but in the fall Tennessee football is about being a Vol and being part of the University of Tennessee.
So, no, I don't suddenly like football.
But I love being a Tennessee Volunteer.