It's been a little while since my last article and I thought I might drop by for a few lines...much to the chagrin of several of my critics.
Regardless, I have noticed that what seems to other programs and fans as a passive state of passion for Tennessee football, and what might have been voracious fandom in the past, is not in fact passivity but rather a wait-and-see approach—until the last second mentality.
Tennessee fans have been walking on eggshells since Lane Kiffin, more so that much of eastern Tennessee looks like a dusting of snow that has been perpetually on the ground without thawing. But why?
Well...do we really want or need to answer the question? I think that anyone wearing orange could easily admit that expectations are, if nothing else, an X-factor. Nobody knows what to expect, really.
Six-seven-eight wins, rock bottom or the very pinnacle of SEC stardom?
I think we reluctantly accept the X-factor because it's honest, and every Vol fan is sick and tired of the rest of the SEC beating their chest (which we desperately miss doing ourselves).
Again, there is always the ever-present rumors of the notorious hot-seat. Don't think for a minute that Dooley and company don't also have that on their minds.
To even imagine that Coach Dooley doesn't realize the size of the shadow that his father has cast is beyond intelligent reasoning. The assistants are also quite mindful of the fact that there are many wondrous expectations, as many new faces have replaced familiar ones with the promise of "...getting it right this time."
And the new faces can still see the faint outline of X's and O's on their predecessors' dry-erase boards. They also recognize that the new seats they have taken are still quite warm and can be heated by another new pair of buttocks just as quickly.
As with all new recruits and the progressions of sophomores and so forth, it comes to mind that this could be the season; or else it could be Justin Hunter all over again. Heck, let's really muster the anxiety and throw in another Bray thumb for good measure. While we're at it, lets add a couple of stolen laptops.
At least they can scale Mt. LeConte without issue.
So is this the long-awaited season that all Vol fans have been waiting for, for the last seven years?
I asked Henry, my favorite Vol fan, a single question last week. Henry has been outspoken since my youth on a variety of Vol football topics, many of which would have made General Neyland's ears bleed. He has been a season ticket holder for longer than he and I can remember, and has weathered many whistles in his day, but I digress. Henry always has something colorful and prophetic to say.
As he rocked back and forth in his old hickory rocking chair I noticed that the 72-year-old Henry (who is usually too cheap to turn on his air conditioner) had a stack of recent periodicals previewing SEC football on his little stool beside his chair.
"So, Henry, what do you think about this year?" I asked him quietly. Henry pulled the pipe out of his mouth that had gone out long ago, and eyeballed me viciously. "You still writing on the computer?" He queries. "Yes, from time to time." I tell him and he pauses thoughtfully. "I just don't really have anything to say."
He rocks a few more repetitions then stops and leans forward and belts out. "IF it was back in the Majors or even the Fulmer years I'd be more then happy to talk ball, but I've read every 'expletive' one of them flippers there and none of them tell me more than I, and every other body around here already knows."
"What's that, Henry?" I ask him cautiously. "That we're still waiting and holding our breath."