The Uniqueness of Tennessee
Tennessee is a special place. When the Fighting Irish invaded Neyland Stadium in 1990, John Ward pointed out all of the special traditions and pageantry that accompanied them. But then he made a comment that stuck with me then and still gives me chills. “When it comes to tradition, ladies and gentlemen, the University of Tennessee takes a back seat to no one”. I am likely misquoting him but you get the point.
As jaded and cynical as I am, the “salute to the hill” never fails to give me chills and take me back to my childhood. Throughout the 90’s, there was no better spectacle than watching visiting fans grin and admit that Tennessee was fucking awesome as they were trapped in a sea or orange watching it all unfold. Those, my friends, were the best days of life. Neyland Stadium was a monster, the Pride was relavant, and the VOLS would knock your dick in the dirt. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Lee Greenwood would poke his head out once per annum to sing “God Bless the USA”. Fuck you if you think it’s corny. The drum major high stepping up the field, the fucking Vol Navy, the Tennessee Walking Horse, the power T, we were a fucking BEAST. Can it ever be repeated? I am hopeful. I don’t think you can ever go back but I am grateful for the memories that I have.
I’m of the opinion that our traditions have been slowly eroding over the past 15 years. The VOL Network made a mistake by replacing the unique and special John Ward with a solid but decidedly-not-unique Bob Kessling. Mike Keith would have been a far better selection. He was unique, had a great sense of urgency in his voice similar to Ward, and would have carried on the tradition. The Pride of the Southland Marching Band, despite the hissy fit thrown by past and current members in the comments section of another article on this site, has declined greatly in quality. Orange Blossom Special replaced by Iron Man? Get the fuck out of MY stadium with that shit. And I’m sorry but a female drum major, much like a female fire fighter, is some strange form of twisted affirmative action that only results in us being less safe. Only this time it is less entertained. As Andy Griffith might have said “Ladies ought never to high step”
But despite these erosions of our uniqueness, we are still the most impressive spectacle in college football. Having been to most SEC stadiums and several others, I can tell you without a doubt that Tennessee is special. John Ward was right, Notre Dame is the only place in America that comes close to matching the pageantry of Knoxville on a Saturday. And they fall short because our stadium kicks their stadium’s ass. Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina? No. No. No. Alabama has more championships but they don’t have the spectacle. UGA has nothing and USCe has even less. I’m not even mentioning the Tennessee River and the Vol Navy. I don’t own a yacht. But that’s pretty neat too I guess. My point is that Tennessee is the the crown jewel of the SEC and the country. Just give us a winner and let us bring this monster back to life.