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Anonymous Confessions of a Lunatic Fan

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Presenting a list of demands for the Tennessee Football Program. It's not for me, you understand. It's for my lunatic friend.

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

I cannot tell you how much I'm looking forward to this season. Fall camp always brings with it new questions and hope that they'll be answered with happy exclamation marks. How much will the wave of talent that began to arrive last year improve with a year of experience? Just how talented is the new group of guys? What will the guys who've been here for years do with some real help and another year in the system under their belts? How much will the Year Two phenomenon matter?

And besides all of that, hey, it's Tennessee Football. The band, the stadium, the Running Through the T. It's almost time, and it's making me giddy.

But I've got this lunatic friend. He's a respectable individual with a great personality, but he struggles on the inside. You see, this friend - let's call him Joe - Joe loves the Vols, but he's also plagued by Bad Thoughts, primarily in the form of unrealistic desires for the immediate future, including the upcoming season. He knows that what he wants is too much to ask, but he's so ravenous for Good Things to ward off the Bad Thoughts that he's asking and expecting anyway.

Joe's been trying to get his kids to become Vols fans since the time they entered the house. Unfortunately, the fan-making moments - those special and joyful flashes in time that sow the wonderful seeds of fandom - have been much too few and far between during his kids' formative years. His oldest daughter is now 18 and going off to college in a week and a half, and it pains Joe to think about the fact that she was only nine years old when Tennessee started circling the drain in 2005. Joe's next-oldest daughter was only three at the time. Yeah, Joe knows that the 2007 season featured a couple of fan-making moments, but they were tempered by embarrassments against rivals Florida and Alabama, and besides, these two daughters were only 11 (and she only had eyes for horses at that time) and 5 at the time. And with one exception, the past seven years have been almost entirely devoid of The Sounds of Crazy Happy Dad in the Basement or enticements sufficient to lure the kids away from their other interests in order to Be There when the Magic happens.

That exception? Yes, last year's South Carolina game. By some miracle of persistence, grit, and determination, they were all there in the stadium for the kids to experience a taste of the Magic, the fumes of which have been barely getting Joe through the past many seasons. The seeds have finally been sown, but now it's time to water them. To make sure they are not choked out by the weeds or otherwise neglected to death.

So Joe, my lunatic friend, knows exactly what Team 118 is up against in 2014, yet he still harbors these Unrealistic Desires for the team for the sake of his kids' Big Orange Fandom. And perhaps his own. Are they going to happen? Almost certainly not. But he's given me his checklist anyway, and I submit it to you for consideration.

The Lunatic Friend's List of Demands

The Usual

Joe's on board with the most common expectations and goals for this team this season, which are to get to 6-6 and a bowl game. An extra game to look forward to rather than having the season end in November is a good start, he says, because it means he doesn't have to explain again why a team like Tulsa is still playing while Tennessee is home for the holidays. But Joe wants more.

Put an End to the Vanderbilt and Kentucky Nonsense

Hear Joe sigh. Before the 2005 season, none of his kids had ever known a loss to either Vanderbilt or Kentucky. That ended in 2005, when it was still new and novel on the internet to refer to a season as Something of Which We Do Not Speak. There have now been three additional losses to those two teams the last three years, and Joe's heart hurts when he thinks that maybe his kids think that's normal. No, it's not normal, kids, and the team is going to start proving it to you. My lunatic friend says this needs to happen.

Pass South Carolina and Break the Streak Against Georgia

During the Good Old Days, the Circles on the Schedule were Florida and Alabama. Sure, Georgia was always a formidable opponent, but it sort of had the feel of a second-tier rival, one you couldn't overlook but always had the expectation of beating. You just weren't as afraid of the Bulldogs as you were the others. And the Gamecocks? They were more like Kentucky and Vandy than the current group that is competing for the SEC East crown. Yeah, those teams are better now, even better than Florida this year, but Joe longs for a return to the day when it was Tennessee and Florida vying for the top spot in the East, with everyone else playing from behind. As it stands, Georgia holds a four-game winning streak against the Vols, which is Joe's oldest daughter's entire high school career. If you try to tell Joe that he needs to temper his desire here because the Dawgs are simply a lot better than they used to be, he'll tell you that they are merely filling the vacuum created by Tennessee when it abdicated its rightful place among the top of the SEC East. The Vols need to put Georgia and South Carolina in the rear view mirror where they belong. I'm not asking for me, you understand - it's for my lunatic friend.

Break the Streak Against Florida

The Vols have not beaten Florida since September 18, 2004. That daughter of Joe's who's going off to college at the end of the month? She was eight freaking years old when James Wilhoit kicked that 50-yarder and then ran around the stadium like a wild man dragging a euphoric team behind him. Both daughters were asleep in their bed and didn't even hear the Happy Daddy Noises in the basement.

Break the Streak Against Alabama

Yeah. It's Alabama, and they are absolutely formidable for any opponent, much less a charred corpse climbing out of a smoking crater. But tell my lunatic friend that, and he'll just smile and remind you of the most-improbable near-miss in 2009, and he'll tell you to start thinking positive thoughts. Beat Bama. It's for my lunatic friend.

Break the Streak Against the Top 25

With the exception of a one-week appearance at #23 in 2012 AP poll, the Vols have not been ranked in the Top 25 since Joe's daughter was in the sixth grade. It's time to get back into the national conversation. It's time for my lunatic friend to say, "I told you so."

Someone made a passing comment the other day about how it made him ill to see all of the bandwagon Alabama fans in Tennessee towns these days. Joe's take? Some of them may actually be bandwagon (read: new) fans, but a lot of them are probably actual, loyal Tide fans who are just louder and prouder these days now that the team they love is winning. That's unfortunately the way of many fans today, and Joe wants me to tell you that it's time to put the car flags back on the car and start being loud and proud about the Vols again.

Not next year. This year. Right now.

Picture it: 102,455 lunatic friends in orange in Neyland Stadium. Making moments, just like old times.