Tennessee does it better than anyone. While there are myriad reasons college football inspires fanaticism among its followers, one stands above the rest.
It's the anticipation.
Today's on-demand technology has rendered that state of human emotion known as anticipation practically extinct. Do you remember, back in the day, when your TV received programming from a grand total of three channels? Back then, programming was fixed in time and therefore scarce. Frosty the Snowman was shown once in December, and if you missed it, well, you just missed it.
Enter the modern era of VCRs, DVDs, TiVo, and hundreds of channels of syndicated programming and on-demand content. Today, it's like a Chinese Buffet; you can watch whatever you want whenever you want to. Want to watch Frosty in July? No problem. Did you miss the season premiere of Lost? No worries, your TiVo has saved the day. You can even pause "live" TV for bathroom breaks or because the phone rings.
This technology is great, but it does come at a cost. It effectively ensures an unlimited supply of programming of our own choosing, and the overabundance of supply has killed the wonderfully agonizing state of anticipation.
But anticipation is alive and well with regard to sports, particularly football, where a relatively limited number of games are all played at roughly the same time every week for a limited number of weeks. It's like Frosty used to be. Kickoff is at a fixed time on Saturdays, twelve to fourteen times each year. That's it. If you miss a game, you've missed it. And no, it's not the same to watch it later on your TiVo, as there is something that nags at your subconscious, reminding you that 100,000 other people in the stadium, hundreds of thousands more in town, and perhaps millions more in their living rooms at home across the nation have already experienced the unscripted event together in real time.
And so you wait through the long, slow off-season, openly loathing it yet secretly loving it because you know that it means that when the next season finally, finally, finally kicks off, scarce supply will meet pent up demand, and you and a million starving others will experience something special, improvised, unpredictable, together in real time.
To capture that magical moment when the waiting is over and the game has begun, 100,000+ folks on Rocky Top open each home game with a phrase that expresses the release of emotion that has been building since the final second of the last game.
The teams take their positions on the field. The referee blows his whistle and drops his hand. The kicker checks his men to the right and his men to the left.
He sprints to the tee, head down.
And then . . .
. . . finally . . .
It's Football Time in Tennessee!