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So long, RTT. And thanks for all the waffles.

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I’m not disappearing, just moving on.

A couple of months ago, after agonizing over all of the many pros and cons, I decided to move on from Rocky Top Talk. I started this site for SB Nation four months shy of 11 years ago, and man, it has been an awesome wild ride.

When I joined the network back in 2006 as the Tennessee blogger, sports blogging as an industry was just beginning to stand upright on wobbly legs. We were publishing on an extremely clunky platform called Scoop, and for the company, persuading other independent bloggers to join the network was the main goal and a huge challenge. Just over a decade later, Vox Media is a billion-dollar startup “Unicorn.” I don’t really know what that means, but it sounds absolutely magical.

So yeah, it’s been a wild ride, and I am so glad for the many memories I have of this special place. So why leave? The shortest answer is that I’m consolidating most of my various business activities into one place for the sake of efficiency. First and second, we’re changing the name of the store and the name of the magazine, both to Gameday on Rocky Top.

And third, I’ll be blogging at a new site beginning on April 20, 2017 that will also be called Gameday on Rocky Top. Our old friend Brad Shepard, who’s still writing national content for Bleacher Report, will be joining me, and we’re planning to add additional staff as well.

I’m extremely excited about this move (and grateful to the folks at SB Nation for allowing me to include all of that information in this post, which they didn’t have to do.) The imminent prospect of leaving, though, has also thrown me into a full-on fit of nostalgia.

This weekend, as I was sitting down to draft this announcement, I made the mistake of “just taking a quick peek” at the archive of nearly 5,500 posts I’ve accumulated at RTT over the past ten-and-then-some years. When I looked up, my weekend had disappeared like Lane Kiffin when the NCAA rings the doorbell. It was like meaning to clean the house but instead getting totally derailed by an old photo album or scrapbook you haven’t pulled off the shelf in years and losing yourself in musty old memories. Nostalgia steals time from you in buckets by plugging you into an unregulated dopamine IV drip.

So before I head over to the new place, allow me to flip through some pages and share some of the stuff that made me smile this weekend.

Animated Polls

Some of my best memories of blogging during those early years was time spent getting the Animated Polls just right. They were crazy time-intensive, but I just loved it when they finally came together. Unfortunately, most of the old links have gone on to URL heaven either because they were broken into pieces during one of the platform migrations or just because someone somewhere decided that Adobe Flash was evil and drove a stake through its heart, rendering my favorite pastime collateral damage in the process.

But by some miracle, most of the 2007 and 2008 (Week 12 is my favorite) versions survived. And I’d completely forgotten about the Animated BlogPoll's take on the tragic and chaotic end of the 2010 Tennessee-LSU game, and it made me laugh out loud as if I'd never seen it before. I thought for a while this weekend that that was the last one I ever did, but it looks like I snuck in a smoke monster before sending the thing out to pasture. I'm relatively certain that this was not the first (or last) LOST reference on the blog.

It’s supposed to be fun, right?

The Animated BlogPoll was just one of the ways we had fun just for the sake of having fun. I’m no longer sure what triggered it, but I burned much of the summer of 2008 making fun of college football logos, grouping them into four categories and ticking off 74 different fan bases all within a week’s time:

LOL Your Logo is Sooo Scary!

The 29 most boring college football logos

The 10 worst college football logos

The 20 coolest college football logos

Another time, a basketball game against Marquette didn’t end until after midnight when I was in the throes of a wicked cold, so I downed a full dose of Nyquil just before starting to write the post-game and raced it to the end. Almost beat it, too. Almost.

There was also the time old friend Corn from a Jar outed me as an 80's rock and roller and the time in 2013 that I used an infomercial to promote the magazine. Good times. Goofy, but good.

Hope, optimism, high points, and disappointment

A lot of that was an absolute necessity to get through the past ten years, which may have inadvertently coincided with the worst ten-year period in the history of Tennessee athletics. In my first year blogging (2006), we beat Alabama. Woo and all, but it never happened again. We did beat Florida last year, but it was only after losing to them every single year before that, and we usually had our hearts broken in some novel new way to boot. Bonus!

And so we adopted humor as a coping mechanism. We had a lot of practice implementing that particular strategy, and we really opened the throttle in 2008. It was either that or prescription medication, man.

Our first look at the highly-anticipated Clawfense produced the post Pants, It's Just Pants, and The Florida debacle that year inspired a Lou Holtz parody in which I prescribed Zyrtec for the Vols' allergic reaction to the red zone. We did an entire post-game for the matchup against Auburn, but we could have just stopped with the title: Opportunity plays ding dong ditch with the Vols. By the time the South Carolina preview was due, I had completely succumbed to a raging case of apathy and wrote a game preview that mostly consisted of the word “blah.” Eventually, I dubbed 2008 the Season of Constant Sorrow and created a lowlight video to go with it. Like I said, it was either that or heavy-duty narcotics.

The 2008 season wasn’t the only year during which we had to choose between humor or the fetal position, either. The Derek Dooley Era didn’t give us much to celebrate on the field, so we had to settle for writing headlines such as Derek Dooley is winning through relentless personal hygiene. And even as late as 2013, after losing to Vanderbilt, I punted the post-game to a fictitious Pakistani virtual assistant “whose hourly wage in U.S. cents equals Tennessee's passing yards tonight." If you don't follow any other links in this post, at least follow that one, because Tariq has a way with words and a hope for the future.

All of this led at one point to the post Hope petitions for another year of eligibility, and multiple opportunities to use the tag "Blogging While Wrong." Which I’m totally going to use at the new site, too.

High points

That’s not to say, of course, that there weren’t any high points along the way. There absolutely were. My all-time favorite is probably the Fiddlin' on the Roof: Tradition! video found in the linked post, even if it did celebrate a win over lowly Kentucky. I'm still waiting for the Pride of the Southland Band to work that into the repertoire.

There were other big moments in football along the way, but the most important takeaway is that we have, in the last two years, been able to check off all but one of my lunatic friend's list of demands. That’s actual good news.

In basketball, we will always have Bruce Pearl and Hulk Smash, Dane Bradshaw's sweet steal-and-spin move for a victory over the Gators, and the ever-awesome Pearlfection, a super-late-night recap (3:55 am!) of the win over a previously perfect Calipari Memphis team. Alas, that video, like so many others, fell victim to the YouTube cease and desist ‘bot.

Honoring the good in the midst of the bad

We even found some joy and honor in the truly difficult times, honoring a recently-fired Phillip Fulmer because he was and will always be Tevye to me. Like Tevye, he would have the final word at home. It didn’t end at the time he chose, but at least it ended the right way.

Who knew what madness would ensue after Fulmer’s termination in 2008? Send in the clowns, indeed.

Similarly, our beloved basketball coach had a rocky ending, but there are very good reasons why we love him anyway.

Friends

Yes, blogging here at RTT over the past 10+ years has been an experience, and it has brought me opportunities and into relationships I never would have had the joy of experiencing otherwise. I’ve been interviewed by NBC Sports and flown to the Microsoft campus to participate in a focus group for one of their new products. I’ve interviewed Bruce Feldman on the blog and Dane Bradshaw on our podcast. And then we interviewed Dane again, except I apparently hung up on him twice in a row. I actually have no recollection of that. Must have repressed it.

Most importantly, though, are the friendships I’ve made while sitting behind a keyboard reading and writing words on a screen to people I see mostly in my inbox. I’ll treasure the non-RTT friendships I’ve forged with Spencer Hall, Peter Bean, Brian Cook, and a multitude of others. And I don’t want to risk missing anyone on staff over the years here at RTT, so I’ll purposely mention only Will, who has been an amazing writing partner and friend for many years now and will continue to be in the future.

And finally, I sincerely appreciate all of the RTT commenters, readers, and lurkers over the years. Y’all have had your Tennessee Orange everywhere, but I’m so glad you spent so much of your time here with us.

Waffles

Back in 2010, Wayne Chism said to Wes Rucker, who was a reporter for the Times Free Press at the time, “Every second I’m talking to you is another second I’m not at Waffle House.”

This place has been my Waffle House for over a decade, and the fact that I’m going to be gorging on breakfast delicacies someplace else from now on does not for a minute diminish all of the great memories I have of this place. I will always cherish them.

So long, RTT.