I have spent the majority of this week in Colorado Springs, CO. Before that I was in Minnesota.
It has been years since I have been back here. 1997 to be exact.
I was stationed at Ft. Carson at the time. In those days getting Tennessee games were a real challenge for me unless it was a big match up.It was here that my family started recording the games on to VHS tapes. Dutifully stopping the recording at commercials and restarting it to save tape. I'd miss 30 seconds or more of the game and it pained me, but it was better than not watching the game at all.
Two days ago I stood along the mountain causeway, at the bottom of Pike Peak and realized we had our own mountains to climb.
Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, CO
Garden of the Gods, Knoxville, TN
We all have our countdown. Some of us have been counting since last November after the Kentucky game. After we felt that our very souls have been ripped from us. We felt we had hit bottom. A team we had beaten countless times had not only beaten us on the field, they were the final straw in what seemed to be a complete and systematic dismantling of everything we Tennessee fans cared about, loved and what made our team great in our eyes.
I do not think that there is a fan among us who holds there this year holds either our greatest achievements or an even greater downfall. Very few hold the middle ground. We have and hold great expectations for this team. Gone are the days where we could say they have no experience. Gone are the injuries that laid us low last year. The recruits are becoming better, stronger even if we have a great many unknowns among them.
But still there is that damnable mountain.
Pikes Peak, CO
14, 115 feet high, it towers over the towns of Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs. Much like our programs previous dominance, it looms large in the room reminding us of the standards that we should be meeting and daring us to challenge it.
It is both beautiful and dangerous. A silent history book telling us of what was, what is and what could be.
Pierre Corneille, a French playwright, wrote "Ambition displeases when it has been sated...having reached the peak, it aspires to descend."I don't know many fans who aspired to descend, but descend we did. No one will argue that point.
So we find ourselves here, at the bottom of the mountain. Surrounded by towering rock monoliths that have stood the test of time, wind and rain.
Staring upward, fists clenched in anger and determination. The wind in our hair, and the roar of over 100,000 people at our backs willing us to move forward and achieve great things.
It is a powerful feeling. A feeling that when we see them line up on the field it reaches deep within us and spurs us to cry out in joy, in triumph, and raise out fists to those around us to say "We are Tennessee!"
It is a feeling I have found no where else. It is a kinship that can not e described that strangers can meet in parking lots and speak to each other, brought together by nothing else than the color orange that they wear.In Tennessee, thats not uncommon.
But out here? In the land of the other conferences? We are looked on as mad.
But what is madness?
Is it mad to think that we can conquer that mountain? Mad to think that we, who at one point or another have taken and beaten all comers at least once in my lifetime, could do so again?
Is it mad to think that Heaven has the as of yet unreleased SEC Network and Robert Neyland is its lead Analyst?
As I take my first step up the Barr Trail to see the top of this mountain myself I think how August will be out first step as well. Day 0 is gone. The path is now.
And no one has ever accused me of being sane, anyway