I'm sitting in my hotel room, sipping on coffee and looking out my window at the Sun Sphere.
Down the hall is an old high school friend, one whom I have lost several , very public (read: You Tube) bets to on games between us and Georgia these last few years. This is his first Tennessee game. He has his family and his son, and I am hoping to show them the error of their philistine ways today.
Downstairs is another friend. A former US Marine, this will be only his second game here. It's his wife's first. A Scottish national, she has never seen live American football, and thought this would be like Midlothian Rugby. Her husband is trying to prepare her.
We all have them.
The quest is ensuring that our expectations don't over run the realities of what w can accomplish.Without a doubt I have been a steadfast Dooley supporter.
Largely I still am.
I think Will put it best when he said "You want to see the guy who pulled the program out of the ditch succeed" and for a program whose heraldry has coaches here for anywhere between 15 to 30 years, we don't want to see our program go through yet another three to four year restructuring.
We also do not want to sink further in to irrelevance.
Lets face it, here are the facts ugly as they are:
1. We have become Alabama's Kentucky.
2. Florida is working on doing the same.
3. From a top tier program to a middle weight contender in a heavy weight league.
4. Winning seasons? Whats that again?
5. Run Game. Where?
I'm reminded of when we let Fulmer go, when Ramon Foster all but shouted "What just happened? That's not Tennessee."
What's happened in the last few years hasn't been Tennessee either. Not the Tennessee I watched in the late 1970's and 1980's. Not the Tennessee I sat in my rack in Bosnia as my aging VHS player creaked and whirred watching the likes of Peyton Manning and Shaun Ellis.
I haven't felt as despondent about a season since 1981, when we lost our season opener to Georgia 44-0 and followed that up with a 43-7 loss to USC. Johnny Majors on the sideline looking like he had swallowed a frog, while Anthony Hancock drops passes but still makes it to the NFL.
But we resurrected ourselves, we over came adversity. It took time, years, work, and a lot of pain and suffering by the fans in that time.
Today's fans don't seem to understand that work I think. They don't grasp that it takes time to build a behemoth of a program. They look at instant success with Saban and others and revert to the microwave burrito theory. They want it now, today and thanks to EA Sports see no reason it should not happen.
Today is typically viewed as a nothing game. It's Akron. Arkansas had the same problem a few weeks ago with Louisiana St Monroe. Adversity comes in many shapes and sizes and some times as a wolf in sheep's clothing.
As an expat, someone who doesn't live in the Tennessee region, we are subjected to the ridicule of other fan bases literally daily. My office is a shrine to Tennessee, with footballs, orange posters, rugs and assorted memorabilia covering it from stem to stern. I have had my office draped in Razorback red, LSU purple and all of my Tennessee gear removed, placed in a box and replaced with Alabama gear. We don't have the local sports radio to fan the flames: we don't need it. The other fanbases do it for us.
We live for seeking information from here, and other news areas, reaching and struggling for the latest info every second of every day. Wanting a reason to hold our head high, while we stay strong through tradition and heritage...a tradition that gets further and further away lost in the past every year.
It's hard. But we do it.
The point is, we can get through this. It's a beautiful day today. The temperature is just right, and we have good friends everywhere. I want them to see Tennessee as I do, a place of good fans, good football with ceremony and tradition unlike any other institution in the south. Since 1794 we have set standards and I expect no different for coming years.
Today we start anew. Today we start with a new focus, a new desire and a new expectation.
Today is the first day of the rest of our season. A season that win or lose we will write up in our own heraldry and the memories become what we make of them. Beyond the stats, beyond the numbers, beyond the ratio and percentages. Today Tennessee Football is something special.Today will be a victory.
Because Tennessee is not just the team, something I think that has been lost in the new generations.
Tennessee is 110,000 screaming fans who create a home field advantage like any other. A home field that should scream for their team in win or loss.
Because when the fans give up, why should the team fight on?
Today we rise from the ashes.
Today we are Tennessee.