I was just going to let tomorrow come without mentioning it here... But I guess I can't stop myself.
Tomorrow, at a ridiculously early hour (8am isn't THAT early, I know, but it is a Saturday), I will find myself, clad in blue, arriving at Liberty Bowl Stadium. The stadium holds 62,338 people. I predict at least half will not be similarly clad in blue, but rather in Orange. It's that time again.
It has been ten years since a game between the Tigers and the Vols ended on a happy note for Tiger fans. Ten years have passed, but still that night stands as The Best Sports Experience of my life. One of the reasons it was such monumental win was the very fact that we expected a blowout loss. I don't even think I paid much attention for most of the game, because who wants to watch a butt kicking? I went to the game that night with my camera, not expecting to have anything in particular to shoot, but because it was the next to last home game of the season, and I wanted to get some pictures of the marching band (yes, I know, I'm a huge band geek). I did not take either of these photos, by the way. The only one of mine that came out was of the scoreboard, although that's certainly a nice shot.
The crowd was loud and raucous (they even cheered like crazy for the band's halftime show), and though we didn't expect an upset, there was something different and electric in the air. When the game was over, we were as shocked as the Vol fans were. I remember the way they sat there, in stunned silence, while the field flooded with Tiger students and fans. The goal posts came down quickly under the weight of players and fans. Stadium security tried to prevent one group of fraternity boys from taking an entire upright out (six or seven of them carried it on their shoulders), so they marched up to the top of the stadium, intending to DROP IT OVER THE SIDE so they could have their souvenir. Fortunately, security decided to ease up rather than to risk lives, and pieces of goal posts were (safely) taken home by many of the revelers. Of course, since I was in the band, I wasn't able to storm the field. We remained in the stands, and just kept playing until our chops were worn out.
The more time that passes, the sillier it might seem to reminisce about that game. It was, after all, ten years ago. That is a long time, especially in college football (today's players were still in elementary school in 1996). And it didn't mark the beginning of a new era; it wasn't the first in a string of wins over Tennessee-- we have yet to beat the Vols again-- and the Tigers didn't become a powerhouse. Some Tennessee fans scoff and say, "even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while." Maybe that's true, but some things have changed. The more recent games have not been the cakewalk for Tennessee they used to be, and Vol fans (some Vol fans) have become less friendly, more defensive, even sometimes hostile. While they may refuse to acknowledge the existence of an actual rivalry (we're not good enough for that), no longer do they pat us on the head, chuckling over their little brother trying to tag along. The games since that night-- the competition tougher, the scores closer-- have taunted them, but teased us. For us, they have planted seeds of hope, encouraging our faith, egging on our dreams of another victory.
And another victory will come.
Maybe not tomorrow.
But it will come. And I hope I'm there to see it.