I've been awake since the better part of 4 am Central Time.
I passed out in the front seat of my car around midnight.
My night has been one long radar screen peppered with storm chasers reports, pictures, and video.
The last thing on my mind has been the Vols. Or has it.
How'd you spend the weekend before kick off?
The most violent storms form from the clashing of hot air and cold air. Its how Cold and Warm fronts form. One air mass advances, another retreats.
I linked a Clay Travis article the other day that listed a complete breakdown of how our last several seasons have went. He pointed how Fulmer retreated, Kiffin advanced, then collapsed. Dooley advanced and we come to present day.
I don't need to give you a replay of those days. You were there, I was there, we all know how it's been. I don't see any point in rehashing old news just to stir the pot, do you?
I've also seen several stories here talking about fans. Fair weather fans. Band wagon fans. It's all true.
Let me tell you about one. Me.
My grandmother was a Volunteers fan. From her home in Sevierville we would watch every game. Her son, my Uncle, would graduate UT. University of Tennessee for us was not just a school. It was a way of life. And the Alabama Tennessee game was our way of life against theirs.A clashing of fronts.
My educational path went a little different.
In high school I could see almost any SEC game I could desire. Living in North Georgia, Knoxville was a short drive, as was Athens, Atlanta, Duke, you name it. Within 4 to 5 hours I could be at almost any major game, and if you drove fast enough you might catch two (I once saw Tennessee and Georgia Tech play in the same weekend, live)
My University of Tennessee education lasted 1 semester before I joined the Army in a typical 19 year old fit of anger. But I never lost my love.
In 1995 while the Vols were preparing to kick off I was invited to play a very tiny roll in Operation Deliberate Force in Bosnia which was eventually rolled in to Operation Joint Endeavor and my attachment to IFOR. We didn't have streaming camera's, or Internet in our barracks. I got to watch the Southern Miss, Kentucky & Vanderbilt games all in the same weekend. On VHS. In January of 1996.
I'm 4,000 miles away and screaming my head off like the game happened yesterday. I still have those VHS tapes, and the tapes of every other game my parents and grandmother sent me of every game I was not around for.
Me meeting James Wilhoit
In 1998 I was banished to the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, stationed at Ft Lewis, in Washington State. The TV programming we got in our barracks is whatever was authorized by the post commander. Satellite was not. So except for the games shown on ESPN, I again was relying on video tapes to arrive weeks after the scores posted.
While my buddies admonished me for not heading to Vancouver I sat glued in our group room watching the big screen TV as we won our National Championship.
In 2001 I was out of the Army in New York. The future was bright for us all. Just 3 short years before we had reached the pinnacle. Many of us expected our dynasty to begin. This was it! The fans there did not understand my dedication to college ball. To them life was about tailgating with the Bills outside Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Yup. I'm in there. We're aren't huddled for the picture...its cuz of the cold!
Two days after watching our Vols whup Arkansas here in Fayetteville via ESPN September 11 happened. And again I was relying on VHS tapes (my parents couldn't afford a DVD recorder) as i was brought out of IRR on a civilian contract to work in NYC for four months.
In 2003 I moved to Arkansas, finally settling in a small town in Missouri on the Arkansas line, a very unique place for college football. To my north I have Kansas, KSU, University of Missouri and Missouri State University.
No this ain't Knoxville. This was my truck in 2006 as we prepared to face off against the Razorbacks. It was a looong drive home that night. But i didn't take off my flags.
To my West I have Oklahoma State University and Oklahoma. South is University of Arkansas, Texas , LSU and south and west we have Memphis. It's not like the early 1990's though. It's 400 miles to Arkansas's nearest rival. So you don't have that buffer to keep you humble as a fan and to inspire a healthy dislike for another team like we have with Alabama and Florida. With Wal-Mart and JB Hunt here we have fans of every denomination, background and confrence you can name in the area.
But Arkansas prevails.
Arkansas fans are...well.....uh....
I've been all over the world.
Bosnia, Kuwait, and Bahrain just to name a few. Worked in over 30 states doing cell towers and I have always had one constant: my love for the Volunteers. One company I worked for refused to allow me to park my truck anywhere near the main office on the Friday's before game days...because I would have mine decorated for tailgate.
When I went through my volunteer training with the NOAA my instructor told me that 25% technology 50% science 20% witch craft and 5% luck. In a lot of ways so is college football.
I, as a Vol fan will not bend to the storm winds. We can weather this. Not only can we weather it, we can rebuild, and be stronger. We've already started that process. We can be the best team in the entire damn SEC, and we all know we have the capacity. The question is, just like a hurricane or a tornado, will we have the patience, the foresight, to know whats coming and wait for it?
Three Generations of Volunteer Fans..and one part time convert.
Just like any other storm that comes through we have ups downs. We can be in any number of places as is demonstrated by this website. Here at Rocky Top Talk we have fans who have been and are in Combat Zones, Foreign Countries, some are near the school, others are miles away. We have fans with more than one loyalty, which is fine. Sometimes you get the best light from a burning bridge.
Hurricanes, like Irene, pull their energy from the surrounding environment. Warm water, cold water, warm air, wet air, dry air it all plays a part in the size and strength of a storm and how much power it has. I'm not a meteorologist. I'm just a volunteer lackey who helps collect data and transfer information. But our situation in Tennessee is quite similar.
We can either draw the energy, the positive flow of fans in to our fold for this season and roar forward strong. Or we can collapse, and be left with only a handful of folks hoping for a better season.
The conditions are ripe. The winds are starting to blow and I can almost smell the rain in the distance. Football season is almost upon us.
I think we are all familiar with this story.
I chose to be a Vols fan. I never graduated from there. I am not Alumni.
I have taken my licks from every imaginable conference and team imaginable.
In storms if you are 600 or 700 miles ahead of your front the cold air, wispy clouds at about 30,000 feet overhead could be the first sign of the approaching warm air. As the front moves toward you or if you move toward the front, the clouds overhead grow thicker and lower and eventually rain, snow, sleet, or freezing rain begin falling.
We aren't 600 miles. We're just days away. We've been tracking this storm since our last game, last season.
As the leaves change, and the only green that remains is the turf in Neyland Stadium, as yourself:
What kind of fan will I be?
As for me? I'm a Vol For Life.
I'll see you at the game.