Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sept 17, 2006: A Tennessee Rite of Passage

2005 UT Football Games at Florida and against Georgia 014

I have hereby passed yet another official Tennessee Rite of Passage. That we've been in the Knoxville area for seven years and it's taken me this long to accomplish this unique task is amazing, but at long last: I have attended a U.T. football game!! And not just any U.T. game, mind you, but the UT/Florida game, which is the game of the year.

How to describe this experience? I've practically nothing to compare to being in the midst of thousands and thousands of crazed people wearing orange, or sporting bodies painted orange and white. In size, with over 108,000 attendees, this far surpassed the largest concert I've ever attended. (There were almost as many people in Neyland Stadium last night as there are in all of Blount County!) The unity of the crowd--the pure devotion, the absolute volume of emotional intensity--was far more profound than at any church-related convention I've been part of. The noise level was similar to being right up against the speakers at a concert.

Football is an amazing beast. It causes thousands of people to stand and sit, moan and yell, at the exact same moments. It causes grown men who are probably rather sedate and dignified in everyday life to yell "C'mon, baby! Please, baby!" at the tops of their lungs to tiny little men on the field who can't possibly hear them. It makes women dangle large orange "Ts" from their ears and stick pom-poms in their ponytails and...other places. (How do they get them to stay there, anyway?)

What a night! And miracle of all miracles, I even understood the game of football for the first time in my life! After years of playing in the marching band and watching every game in high school, after nearly two decades with football on TV from Saturday through Monday night, and finally--finally--I had a breakthrough! I found that if I concentrated very hard and watched every single move, I could actually follow the game! For me it meant giving up a lifetime of observing players' outfits and other fashion faux pas, but it was worth it for that moment of enlightenment when I, too, joined the rise and fall of the crowd. Truly a night to remember. And a special thanks to Chris and Caroline for sharing their tickets and their Row 10 seats with us!

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