While I wait for my coffee to kick in and jumpstart my day, I want to try to put into words what my hometown is like today, a day most citizens of Knoxville, Tennessee, put on par with Christmas and the Fourth of July.
“TODAY’S FORECAST: partly cloudy, high of 82 degrees, perfect conditions for FOOTBALL FOOOTBALL FOOOOOOTBALL!”- (said every single newscast in East Tennessee today)
We may not be the best football team. We may not have the biggest football stadium. We do, however, have a good claim on one thing- we’ve got arguably the BEST fans.
The Tennessee Volunteers, the SEC college football team hailing from the University of Tennessee Knoxville, is (to borrow a common phrase) kind of a big deal. Around here, game day means there’s no possible way you’re arriving at your destination on time, so you might as well stay home and watch the day-long TV coverage leading up to the big game rather than fight with the insane traffic. Game day means if you’re not wearing orange and white, you get sideways (and less-than-friendly) glances from everyone you encounter. Speaking of clothing, game day means that lawyers and bankers trade their suits and heels for overalls, bare feet, and body paint (because even if you aren’t a redneck, around here you show a little pride for your roots each Saturday during the season.)
Every team probably has their own running jokes and traditions, but I don’t know of any that are as comical as the cult following that surrounds Dooley’s pants. Derek Dooley (above) is in his third season as head football coach for the Tennessee Vols, a position he’s filled with determination, gusto, and a fiery passion so characteristic of this little valley.
Though I’m not exactly sure how the hype surrounding Dooley’s signature orange pants (that he wears to nearly every game) started, it has grown into one of those things that even ESPN mentions when they talk about this SEC team. From twitter accounts (@Dooleys_Pants), to a dedication page here on WordPress, Dooley’s pants have reached celebrity status both on the web and in the valley.
Today, September 15th, is one of the biggest games in the Vol season: UT vs. the Florida Gators.
Florida is one of our heated rivals, so tonight’s game (on home turf, Neyland Stadium in the heart of Knoxville, Tennessee) is critical. Vol fans are riding the high of being undefeated thus far, and though it is early in the season, tonight’s game could be crucial in getting the Volunteers to the SEC Championship. TN has lost to FL for the past 8 games, but old Rocky Top has never seemed more confident; the Gators, more nervous; Dooley’s pants, more orange; or the air here in the Mug, more electrified.