Heh. Now that I've got your attention allow me to clarify. I am certainly not thanking Lane Kiffin for leaving the Tennessee football program in shambles, but I do owe him a small debt of gratitude because it was his actions last night that led me to the epiphany I've been searching for these last few months.
I found out about Kiffin's jump to USC last night through a text from an employee of mine (remember who you work for Fridge!!) that just happens to be a Virginia Tech fan. I jumped on to ESPN.com to check, and sure enough, my wife put me on suicide watch and started digging out all my Yankees jerseys to try and cheer me up. She went to bed, but I just had to keep torturing myself with the coverage of his departure until I reached a moment of enlightenment and a zen-like feeling came over me. I was able to wake up with a smile on my face.
Sometime in between Terrance Cody blocking our FG attempt with the bag full of cash his agent gave him and "The Great Filling Station Holdup", I stopped posting on Rocky Top Talk after a year of checking every five minutes and responding to every comment like I was the "First!" patrol over at GVX. When I first found this site, it was like a breath of fresh air for a Vol fan. In the past, I had only read over the comments at GVX and ESPN in the manner of someone slowing down for a car wreck. Here, I felt like I had found a community of well informed Vol fans that were fun to banter with and generally had a good outlook on all things Tennessee. As this past season progressed, I became angry that what I felt was poor oversight by the admins were allowing trolls to turn this site into another GVX/ESPN type board. I was of the frame of mind that this should be a safe haven for Vol fans only, and all these Florida and Bama fans needed to be banned. In the end, I decided to quit posting because of this and because of the fact I felt it ridiculous that I was getting so mad about what these rival fans said.
This was the beginning of the process that ended last night.
I was only reading the comments here like I was at GVX, a car wreck. It finally dawned on me that it was insane for me to get so angry at what other fans said as if the snarky comments actually meant anything. Suddenly, my search for a balance to my fandom had become introspective. Then I got Clay Travis's book "On Rocky Top" for Christmas. Reading Clay's very personal experiences as a Tennessee fan confirmed what I was beginning to become more aware of myself. I take my fandom very personally. By that I mean that I don't want to see or read what other people really think. I wanted the facts and nothing else to create my own conclusions. A prime example of the way I "go about" being a fan of Tennessee is my behavior during the 1999 Fiesta Bowl.
A large group of mainly Tennessee fans gathered at a local sports bar here in Chattanooga to watch the Vols play for their first National Championship in 43 years. Well, 43 years if you go by any set of rules other than Alabama's. Going by Bama's rules, it would have been their eighth and a half MNC of the season. I digress. I couldn't take the pressure. I was so nervous and hyped up about what was happening on the field that I couldn't bear to be around even the most die-hard Vol fans. I went home at halftime and watched the second half and ensuing celebration from the solitary comfort of my bedroom.
The MNC of 1998 isn't the only time I've done this either. I watched all five of the Yankees' championships won during my lifetime in solitude. I prefer watching Tennessee games at my house instead of a party or other location unless I'm at Neyland. I can't stand it when people talk negatively about Tennessee, so I avoid it at all costs unless I feel the need to punish myself.
What does all this rambling mean, where am I going, and what does this have to do with Kiffin? Here it is.
Last night it dawned on me that I, as an insane fan of Tennessee, need to scale back my exposure to Tennessee news to what it was 22 years ago when I first saw "CobbWebb" streaking down the sideline each Saturday. I need to stop fretting and agonizing over every single piece of news about Tennessee as if it affected my life in any way. Lane Kiffin leaving hurts my team, but it doesn't hurt my marriage, my business, or any other aspect of my life really. I need to go back to the way things were before 24 hour internet reporting and every high school player with talent got their own personal entourage of sportswriters. In a world where the whims of 16-17 year-old high-schoolers create huge chunks of revenue for "media" sources such as Rivals and Scout, I want to go back to the way things were when the newspaper was your source for Vol news and you didn't really know who the freshmen were until the preseason reports hit your local sports section.
My epiphany was this: None of this garbage really matters. Lane Kiffin can leave. Players can decommit or transfer. Rival fans can talk smack on chat boards. ESPN can report every single secondary violation they want, but I'm now a changed man thanks to Lane Kiffin. I am hereby making it my New Year's resolution to take myself back to the way things were. I'm not so naive to think I won't be checking RTT, GVX, and ESPN for pertinent news stories about my beloved Volunteers, but when it all comes down to it, I'll be sitting in my recliner cheering on those that want to and are lucky enough to wear the Orange and White and run through that T on autumn Saturdays. These are the ones that created my fandom to begin with and the ones that are deserving of something I take so personal. The players like Peyton Manning, Eric Berry, Wes Brown, and Josh McNeil. The ones that bleed Orange like me and we call our Vols. Not the coaches, directors, boosters, writers, rivals, or recruits. Win or lose Tennessee, I'll be watching and hanging on every play, but then it's back to the real world where my fandom is something I keep to myself where I enjoy it the most.
...."well I had a dream I...I stood beneath an Orange sky. Yes I had a dream I......stood beneath an Orange sky"