There's a lovely little internet rumor going around that the Florida fans are going to sing Rocky Top at the game on Saturday as a way to taunt Lane Kiffin. I can't tell if the rumor has any serious legs, if it's complete bunk, or if there will be small pockets of singers strewn about the stadium, but it's out there. Most Vols fans are understandably a little put off by this, as is sensible whenever somebody attempts to disrespect one of your traditions, but I'm quite on the other side of this. I really mean this seriously when I say that I really like this idea and I hope they do it. I hope it's thwarted by a Tennessee victory, naturally, or at least blunted by a really close game, but I hope they do it early on.
There's no punch line at the end of this article and I'm not trying to sneak one past you. It's not April First, and I mean this totally seriously. Having Florida fans singing Rocky Top can be far more beneficial to the program than you think.
Think for a minute about how the human brain works. Basically, it's an input-output-reward mechanism. The brain receives information, runs it through a series of processes, and arrives at an output. Then it judges the output on a judgment system (usually something along the lines of pleasure/pain or happy/sad). Positive judgments then reinforce the process that was used to go from the input to the output, and negative reinforcements encourage the brain to try a different process. This is why a series of consistent rewards for good behavior and disciplines for bad behavior are so effective with us: the pleasures reinforce the desired thought processes and the pains disincentive the undesired ones.
Pavlov's dogs are the common example of the same phenomenon. The dogs learned to recognize the patterns that preceded food, so their brains reinforced those patterns and associated pleasure when they were observed.
The thing is, the learning mechanism can be gamed. Over time, the connection can be made to drift through a series of gradual changes where the original patterns are slowly de-emphasized and the new patterns gain precedence. Think of the conditioning that some people have where pain is considered pleasure. While pain was once an undesired event, their brains were slowly trained to view the pain as the desired response - as a form of pleasure itself - and slowly drifted away from our very early understand of pain as a bad thing.
So it is with Gators fans. Let them sing Rocky Top. Encourage them to sing it. Sing it with them as if they were part of the Tennessee fanbase. While they're singing Rocky Top, the Florida fans will be experiencing pleasure. Initially, the source of the pleasure is the thought that they're taunting, but at the same time, there is the very real sensation of singing the song itself, and both events are getting positive reinforcement.
Here's the real crux of it: physical conditions receive stronger feedback than abstract conditions (for most people; there are rare exceptions). They'll initially be experiencing the pleasure from the abstract taunting concept, but will actually be gaining stronger reinforcement to the very real and physical experience of singing Rocky Top.
It's a small step, but it's a step in Tennessee's favor. The more they sing it, the more they encourage their behavior to be that of a Tennessee fan. And after that's over, we can continue to find ways to positively reinforce those feelings.
Conversely, if they do hold more strongly to the abstract taunt, singing along with them will add a disincentive to the taunting. They won't have the experience of seeing their taunt work, which will encourage them to avoid that behavior in the future. It may take a while to make a substantial behavior change happen, but it's still an opportunity to reform the Florida mind into one more positively disposed toward Tennessee. Even the small steps are worth taking whenever given the chance.
So, in all seriousness, sing along with them. Thank them for singing if you have the chance. Encourage them to do it again. By giving them reasons to be encouraged in a pro-UT direction, you'll be leaving them more UT-friendly than when you first met them (just like UCLA fans last week).