It’s Football Time in Tennessee!
It’s magical really.
A late summer afternoon, still a little hot but what glorious orange sunshine and there’s a nice little breeze off the Tennessee River.
Families and friends are gathered in lawn chairs or on car hoods. They listen to the radio, play corn hole or just sit and talk. The hamburgers and hot dogs are cooked and ready. So, they’ll eat, wait for more friends to drop by, but mostly get ready for the game to start.
There are more than 100,000 of them – all dressed in orange.
In East Tennessee, there is simply nothing like a Tennessee Football Saturday. The Vols prepare to open their home season Sept. 8 against Georgia State, and these fans can hardly wait.
Fans can tell you how many decades they’ve had their season tickets, where they’ve parked their cars and tailgated every home game for the last 30 years, or where they’ve docked their boat to be a part of the colorful Vol Navy.
True fans here can rattle off names like McEver, Majors and Manning like they’re members of the family.
They can point you to Volunteer Village where something is always going on. They can tell you when the Vol Walk starts so that they get to watch this generation of football heroes parade to the stadium. They’ll let you know that when the Pride of the Southland marching band forms the “T” on the field it’s time to go crazy. And, they can all sing “Rocky Top” like it’s the only song they ever learned.
Neyland Stadium holds 102,037 and even in down years it is almost always full or close to it. The stadium is among the largest in the country and has a tradition that dates back nearly 100 years.
Neyland has just received a multimillion dollar facelift. Surprisingly, it wasn’t to increase seat capacity; in fact, that was shrunk a little. The idea was to improve the fan experience. So, they styled the place up, putting a nice façade on the front, adding a plaza to stroll around before and after game time, commissioning a statue of legendary coach Gen. Robert Neyland, making the concourses wider, improving the bathrooms and concessions, and, well, the list goes on.
The Vols play seven home games this fall, including a visit from those spiteful Florida Gators on Sept. 15 and defending national champ Alabama on Oct. 20. They even host the new Southeastern Conference member Missouri on Nov. 10.
Getting tickets to those games could be as challenging as finding a parking space at game time, but UT fans can tell if you there’s a will there is a way.
Do you have a game-day tradition that you enjoy? Let me hear about it. Enjoy the season and Go Big Orange!