Although I’ve lived in East Tennessee for 27 years, I have never made it out to a University of Tennessee football game. Ironically, Mr. Right, who moved down here late last summer, attended several in once season. So when my mom called asking if we wanted tickets, I was certain that he would want to go. I called him to confirm that there were no scheduling conflicts, and let her know that we did indeed want the tickets.
I’m not a big college football fan, never really have been. I wasn’t really excited about going to the game, but I was excited about experiencing the spectacle that is UT football in Neyland Stadium.
I hunted through my clothes, and found 3 things that might be acceptable—a polo that was more peach than orange, a v-neck knit top that said “hook ‘em horns” more than “go big orange”, and a sleeveless athletic shirt that my mom had purchased on the sale rack several years ago for me to go hiking in.
Mr. Right confirmed that the athletic shirt would be perfect (wait a minute-I thought he was color blind!) and since I didn’t have an acceptable shorts, promised to have my white Capri pants cleaned if anything happened to them.
We parked on the other side of the Henley Street Bridge and started our hike to the stadium. We went (very literally) over the river and through the woods. By the time we got into the stadium and up to our seats, I had sweat rolling down my back. I took my seat, thankful that the person sitting to the left of me hadn’t arrived yet, and looked around.
The stadium was huge—far bigger than I expected. I was very thankful that I had fulfilled my dream of seeing Lambeau field, before going into Neyland for the first time. Green Bay’s capacity of 80,000 would have been underwhelming compared to the 107,000 in the UT stadium.
The first part of the game, the fans were quieter than I expected, but once the second half started the Vols kicked it up a notch, as did the fans. Mr. Right had told me before hand that I had to sing Rocky Top at least once or he wouldn’t take me back—so when the band played it in the 3rd quarter, I sang along. But once I fulfilled the obligation, I was done.
At one point in the 2nd half the fans were trying to get the wave started. I didn’t want to seem like a spoil sport, so I did the wave when it came my turn — Mr. Right did not.
“That’s so 1980s.” He held that position until later in the game when the wave really took off. It seemed that everyone was joining in, and the upper deck had the timing down perfectly with the lower portion. He conceded that it was possibly the best wave he had ever seen and joined in.
The Vols were playing Southern Mississippi, Brett Favre’s alma mater so I had to fight off the urge to cheer for the opposing team. Their quarterback had a similar play style to Favre, fearlessly running the ball if there were no pass options. Something that couldn’t be said for Eric Ainge on one particular 4th and 1 play. But, once again, I value my life so I kept my opinions (for the most part) quiet.
Mr. Right and I decided to head out with 5 minutes to go in the game. We hated to leave early, but with a score of 39 to 19 there was no doubt that the Vols were going to come through with their first victory of the season. We were just outside the stadium when the fireworks started over the Vol Navy. The lights from the boats were beautiful on the water, even if they did include the red and blue lights from the police boats.