Wish that I was on Ol Rocky Top (Play it Loud)

I ventured in to the belly of the beast this today. I spent 8 hours in the largest company in the free world, a mere miles from the University of Arkansas. Surrounded by Razorbacks, Tigers, and a handful of Bears. Despite the jokes, laughter and chortles I strode mightily, ignoring their guffaws over our past seasons. As they approached my desk, also bathed in a beautiful Tennessee orange glow, asking me the old adage regarding picking up garbage on the interstate, I responded with an old joke of my own: All big game hunters wear orange. And the hunting looks good this year.

We are the Tennessee expats. The folks who are not located in Knoxville, but whom every season, every year, look back at home and wonder what in mothers name posses us to leave the Garden of Eden.

Then we remember that our spouses like things like paid mortgages, and electricity and keep our mouths shut. The point being we are where we are because we need to be for our careers, not because we want to be. But for almost 4 months a year, and almost 4 days a month, we imagine ourselves among the throng and brethren making our way to Neyland.

Our group here represents the south west Missouri and north west Arkansas area. We are small, but loyal. We are dedicated, but flappable. We make it a point to try to welcome each season with open arms.

You ever seen Good Morning Vietnam?

At one point Robin Williams impersonates a caller from an artillery unit. He makes the comment "I don't care what you play, play anything just play it LOUD!"

We play it loud out here, brothers and sisters, and we wear it proud. I think you'd be hard pressed to find another group, so far from Knoxville, who is as dedicated to our roots.

We make every effort to bring Knoxville to the area. We put up banners, we play soundtracks, and we adorn every inch of our bodies with orange and white daring others to try to take it from us. Our vehicles looks like rolling parades and the Vol Walk takes place every time we venture out of doors.

It's not Knoxville. It's not Tennessee. But for a few hours, we feel like we are back at home, and we are among friends.

See for folks back at UT, it's not always as easy to see tree's for the forest. Out here we are not power slammed with Tennessee talk radio, we aren't awash with folks telling us what the coach had for breakfast and what the running back was seen buying at the mall. It's not a 24/7 info feed, even with the wonders of the Internet. Instead we are more like addicts, scraping for any piece of unbiased coverage we can get. Grasping seeking, listening and analyzing, drawing our own ideas, thoughts and predictions.

That's not to say we are omnipotent. Far from it. Rather we don't always have that direct emotional, blood pressure inducing informational IV that most folks get when they are located near home. Rather, we see ourselves as ambassadors. We meet regularly with Arkansas fans. This year, a group of us is convoying to Columbia, MO.  Next year, a group is going to OU. Plans are already being made, and trips scheduled. It's the curse of three of us working project management, but I digress.

The point is that for a few hours, we are hooked in. We are connected. We can smell the grass of Neyland and feel the breezes off the Tennessee River. For a few hours, our world is Orange and White, Smokey, Rocky Top and the Tennessee Waltz.

For a few hours, we are not employees, vendors, transplants, expats, or crazy orange wearing sports fanatics: we are Tennessee.

And Tennessee is us.

Just as Tennessee is you.

We've spent four years of trying to choose between cheering our players, cursing our coaches or crying for our seasons.

I vote we start this season right. Play Rocky Top. Play anything. Just play it loud.

And remind the folks around you...just who who in the hell is Tennessee.

Our noble group, at the last Tennessee Arkansas game  We stayed until the bitter end.

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My noble family. Putting up with my madness for 10 years and the Critter, who has learned early that there is only one shade of orange in our home, which also fortunately matches our Irish Tri-Colour: Tennessee!

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