Football is Fun Again
I realized something last night, something that really shocked me.
It’s been a long time since I’ve watched a Tennessee football game and experienced nothing but fun. No dreaded anticipation, no feeling that a loss would be the end of the world, no feeling of exhausted relief after a win.
It was just plain ol’ fun.
My expectation going into this season was that 5-and-7 was the best this Vol team would be able to accomplish. Thus, there was no sense of entitlement to protect.
Last season wasn’t fun. Yes, there was a lot of excitement, but it was excitement borne more of an amphetimine trip than joy. We all were turned into some alter ego forced into continually justifying our newly-found smart-assed attitude, because that was the way to the future – the way of the future.
The several seasons before last year certainly weren’t fun either as the Vol Nation was being divided into two camps regarding the coaching situation and the overall slow-boil decline of the program. It approached the current state of national politics in the U.S., almost as if there were red Vols and blue Vols. There were great moments. But it really wasn’t fun.
Now, I’m watching a group of seniors that have been through the Bataan of collegiate athletic careers, finally having the opportunity of true self expression on the gridiron that smacks of pure joy. Seniors like Gerald Jones and Denarius Moore look like they’ve been given a new lease on life, playing out of their minds for the pure fun of it.
And there are the freshman who now look like the kinds of kids that for the first time have earned the right to stand, speak and be heard.
The present sense of excitement is somehow free of any heavy weight of expectation. I just watch these young men play to see what happens. Sport is a beautiful endeavor when out of nowhere, a struggling, seemingly directionless program finds its identity and the road to recovery starts to have a few less hairpin curves. It gives the likeness of warm, sunny days in the arctic that are there to be fully appreciated in every moment, as such days are rare gifts.
So, before those days of expectation return – expectations of a winning season, a January bowl appearance, a SEC East crown, a conference championship, and heaven help us, a national championship – I will simplify the experience of being a Vol, relish what unfolds, no matter what happens, and just have fun.