By popular request, Rocky Top Talk attempts to go negative (sorry!)

Saturday, October 6, 2007. With blowout losses to both Florida and Cal still fresh in the minds of Tennessee Volunteer fans, local columnist John Pennington publishes an article quoting nine anonymous former Tennessee players that have some pretty serious concerns about the current state of the program. Coach Fulmer calls it a cheap shot and the team goes out and thumps the Bulldogs 35-14.

Saturday, October 27, 2007. Steve Spurrier's coming to town, and local artist Dan Proctor publishes a cartoon depicting the Grim Reaper at coach Fulmer's door with the OBC ringing the bell. Meanwhile, ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit opines on a national broadcast that Tennessee's players are more concerned about the NFL than their college team. Coach Fulmer and the players are not amused. Tennessee dominates the Gamecocks in the first half and holds on for an impressive 27-24 overtime victory.

Friday, November 2, 2007. It's Homecoming, and Knoxville talk radio host Jimmy Hyams publishes a column on Scout.com's Inside Tennessee web site criticizing the team for requiring media criticism to get up for games. The following day, Tennessee waxes Louisiana-Lafayette 59-7.

Monday - Saturday, November 5 - November 10, 2007. An entire nation engages in week-long all-McFadden-all-the-time idol worship. The players, sick and tired of hearing about it, put on the defensive performance of their collective careers and humiliate the Hogs 34-13. "I think we play our best when everyone counts us out," says linebacker Ryan Karl. Fellow linebacker Jerod Mayo does him one better:

Every time you guys talk bad about us, we play good, so keep talking bad.'

Um, okay, Jerod. Really? Look, anyone who's read Rocky Top Talk for any amount of time knows that I tend more toward optimism than the pessimism. I may point out errors and voice frustrations, but outright Katy-bar-the-door criticism comes hard for me. But all fans need to pull their own weight, and so I will GIVE MY ALL FOR TENNESSEE TODAY, even if it means I have to go negative. What about the rest of you? I'm throwing down the gauntlet. Ghost of Neyland, yeah, I'm talking to you. Are you willing to GIVE YOUR ALL FOR TENNESSEE TODAY? Fulmer's Belly? Holly? The Power T? Vol Abroad, Voluminous, Vol Nation, Loser with Socks, are you with me? Rocky Top Talk writers and readers? What do you got?

Deep breath. Sigh. Tennessee Volunteer football players and coaches, this is going to hurt me a lot more than it'll hurt you.

Okay, so we're 7-3 with only Vanderbilt and Kentucky, but let me remind you that two years ago, during the Season of Which We Do Not Speak, the Commodores came to Neyland,  and, well, it was the end of the world as we knew it:

First loss to Vandy in 22 years. First losing season in 17 years. First year without a bowl game in 16 years. Tennessee wasn’t going to the Rose Bowl. Or a BCS Bowl. Or the Citrus, Outback, Music City, or Independence Bowls.

The Tennessee Volunteers were not going to the Alamo.

(Sorry to bring that up, guys!) The after-effects were not good, with players behaving badly, including spitting on (not really!) and cussing at cameramen. (Oh! Did that hurt? I'm sorry!)

That entire season was U-G-L-Y:

(I didn't mean it! Jerod Mayo told me to!)

And what about this year? Sure you may be in the driver's seat for the SEC East (go Vols!), but y'all went out to Cal and a bunch of nekkid, tree-huggin' hippies scored waaay too tenny muchdowns against you. (You were close!). And don't forget the dishumiliarrassment at Florida just two weeks later. (But they have Tim Tebow, and they're doing it to most everybody else, too!) And the Alabama blowout that featured a few of my not favorite things? It was like every guy on our defensive squad had a concussion. How many fingers am I holding up? "Wednesday!" they all shout in unison. (Just kidding!)

So what if you beat Southern Miss and Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette? (At least you weren't upset, like Michigan or Southern Cal!) Having good games against Georgia and Arkansas just confirms that you are bi-polar and that you can play well during your manic phase. (Get well soon!) Tell me why fans shouldn't expect a relapse into a depressive state against Vandy this week or Kentucky next? (Your meds have kicked in, and you'll be ready!)

Think you're good? Think you're worthy of the SEC Championship Game? Prove it. I'll believe it when I see it. (You can do it!)

Okay rant over. Um, if you couldn't tell, that was a bit uncomfortable for me. Love ya, guys! I think you're great! You can beat both Vandy and Kentucky, just like you usually do.

But please just motivate yourselves, because I really suck at it.

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