As if my life doesn't have enough aggravations already, it's college football season again.
After stewing in the humiliating soup of the season-ending loss to the lowly Kentucky Wildcats, the Vols first loss to the 'Cats in 26 years, Tennessee is finally taking the field again tonight. It will either be a case of redemption, or yet another humbling defeat. And I'm not sure I can handle another defeat.
You have to have grown up in east Tennessee to understand. If you're one of those college football fans who can perfectly mimic the voice and inflections of every play-by-play man who's ever been assigned to broadcast the radio games of your team, you might have a clue.
I'm often asked why I don't play "fantasy football", given my passion for the game. And the reason is quite simple: Enough of my weekends are already spoiled by "reality" football without me looking for fantasy misery.
Somehow I've grown to be a 58 year-old man who can have his entire life's attitude warped or uplifted by the actions of 18-to-22 year-old kids wearing the Orange and White. And that's a perilous state of mind, considering the recent futility and mediocrity of the Vols football teams. After going over 30 years with only two coaches, we're now on our third coach in the past four seasons. And it shows.
Tonight's game against the North Carolina Wolfpack of the ACC is being played on a neutral field in Atlanta, in a dome where the Vols have NEVER played a decent game of football. Oh sure, they've won a bowl game or two in that building, and I was there for two of their SEC Championship Game wins in the 90's. But in every game at the Atlanta Dome the Vols have played stupid, embarrassing, poorly coached football. And somehow they've still managed to win some of those games.
And to the Hooey Gods who scheduled this game for a Friday night, let me offer the middle finger on each hand. Friday nights are for high school football games, and local fans shouldn't have to choose between supporting the local teams or staying home to watch the Vols.
I should have my camera at a district game being played by a high school I cover, but like I said, it's an all-consuming passion that won't tolerate rival suitors. I considered shooting the high school game and letting the DVR catch the Vols, but... who was I trying to kid. I can't focus on work if the Vols are playing.
So I'll settle back, chew my nails, nervously check the clock every two minutes between now and kickoff tonight. And within ten minutes of action they will have reminded me why I need to find a new hobby.
It's like an addiction to a drug that's never as good as you'd hoped. You know, the hopes you have for your "fantasy" team. Running back the opening kickoff, stuffing the other team with stifling D, swarming on special teams' play, brilliant calls brilliantly executed. Fantasy-land success from the opening coin flip to the final whistle.
That's how it plays out in my daydreams. That's the dream that floats me away as I'm drifting off to sleep at night. The eternal optimism of a new season, an unblemished record at the start of a potentially memorable year.
Here we go.
"It's football time in Tennessee!"
(god help us...)