I'm a Tennessee Volunteer, through thick and thin.
Living in the heat of one of the most hated rivalries in all of college football -- Alabama and Auburn -- it seems sometimes that I'm taking bullets from all around. Even when I wake up in the morning, I roll over and look at the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. Yet when it comes time to wear school colors, she puts on crimson.
I married her because she lied to me by wearing orange and cheering for the Vols the whole time we were dating. [Well, and the beauty thing didn't hurt.]
Now, it can be a difficult life in these difficult times, especially for those of us who write about the Vols or read about them as a passionate hobby. There's nothing we love more than you guys coming by Rocky Top Talk to voice your opinions about the goings-on in the Big Orange Nation ... just like there's nothing we'd rather do than write about it.
It's the healthy community of passionate Tennessee fans that keeps this site strong. And Hyundai wants to reward you -- an SB Nation reader -- for reading and for sticking with your favorite team through the good times and the bad. Hyundai is sponsoring this contest -- the Hyundai Fanthropology Campaign -- and the winner is going with a companion to any game [including bowl games] of your choice. That includes two airline tickets, hotel accommodations and two game tickets to the regular season or bowl game of your choice in this season.
So, how do you enter? All you have to do is be a fan in the comments section. All you have to do is write below this post why you are such a loyal, committed fan of your favorite team. Tell us a story that illustrates your fandom, give us a reason why you're the fan you are. Anything you want to say that lets us know why you're the rabid, passionate, loyal fan you are will be welcomed.
Joel and I will read all the comments and select which one we think is the best by Monday 11/12, and if we select your comment, you'll be selected as Rocky Top Talk's finalist for the sweepstakes prize. Then, you and Joel will have an email conversation and record that conversation in another post that will go on the front page some time before November 19.
If you don't want to be a finalist who has a conversation with Joel featured on the front page, that's fine. We'll choose someone else, so feel free to participate in the comments even if you would decline the invitation if selected.
The judges of the contest will read all of the conversation posts and select a grand prize winner by November 22. If you win, you can mail your extra ticket to Brad Shepard, and I'll gladly accept.
One little "fine-print writing" thing that you guys need to understand about the contest: Readers only get one entry across the ENTIRE SBN network, and that is the comment left earliest in time. Therefore, if you guys leave a comment here at Rocky Top Talk and then 20 minutes later, you leave a comment at Roll Bama Roll, [first of all, we'll all wonder aloud what you were doing over on that site in the first place...] the one you posted here at RTT will be your entry. The one over on RBR will be ineligible for being selected.
So, there you have it, folks. It's a VERY cool competition with an awesome prize. Be eloquent, be passionate and be sure to tell us why you're loyal and why you're passionate about Tennessee football.
For me, the Vols are just ingrained. I remember my first ever game vs. Temple in 1990 when I felt like the world's most important person because my Daddy took me to the game. I was there when Peyton Manning made his first career start against Washington State. I stormed the field against Florida in 1998. And I've suffered through blowouts and Alabama fans singing Rammer Jammer in our house in the dark ages since.
Yet -- still -- most of the articles of clothing I own are orange. I have a room in my home dedicated strictly to Tennessee. I pay for tons of Tennessee information, and I still talk daily with program "insiders" because I care about getting back to where we're supposed to be. I care too much, most likely. I wear my colors with pride, and I wear it at least twice a week to my job in Huntsville, Ala. Amid the snark and the sneers of UA and AU, I fly my flags, talk my trash and talk of better days. When we found out we were having a little boy, I bartered with my crimson-clad bride to make sure that my boy would grow up wearing orange and white. Now, as a 2-year-old, he'll yell "Dough-Balls!" -- his version of "Go Vols!" unprompted while running around the house in his UT jersey.
I'll leave you with this story: The night before my Papaw died, my dad and I sat in his room watching a Tennessee Thursday night game against Ole Miss. When my dad was in the early stages of chemotherapy in his ultimately winning battle with cancer, the first trip he felt well enough to go on was to a Tennessee football game. When I'm old and gray, I pray my son wants to attend UT football games with me the way the generations of Shepard men have before me.
And I don't know if they sell orange caskets or not [or if my wife would have me in one] but they'd better bury me with a Power T. Or I'm coming back to haunt them all.
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