Anyone can like a team that wins. But it's when a team loses, you learn to love them.
If that statement is true,Tennessee fans are now head-over-heals for the Volunteers.
The pain of possibility ruined by disappointment has become a familiar feeling for the Volunteer faithful.
Hope of Dooley's third season at Tennessee. Hope that we would once again beat Florida and take our rightful place in the SEC pecking order. Hope that we would beatMississippi State and have our first win over a ranked opponent in three years. Hope of beating Georgia. By the time we got to South Carolina, all hope had disappeared. That is until we saw a victory within our grasp, only to be pulled from our hands like the football from Bray's. Hope that Tennessee would still be the better team than Vanderbilt.
What would a sane person do after all this hope is crushed? They would stop hoping, and start being realistic. But, folks, no one ever said a Vol's fan is sane.
No, after all this hurt and despair, we suddenly believed that a Super Bowl winning coach would ride in on his white horse and return Volunteer football to it's rightful glory. Hope. Even after all the rumors were crushed and we were hours away from the hiring of Butch Jones, the message boards were abuzz with conspiracy theories. People claiming to KNOW FOR A FACT, that Jon Gruden would still be coming to Tennessee. Hope.
So we set our eyes on what we thought was not only a possibility but a probability. Charlie Strong would leave Louisville, return to his SEC roots and deliver the Vols to the promise land. Hope.
Then when it seemed all hope was lost, out steps a man who claims this is his dream job... And all of our hope was ripped away. We moaned and we wailed. Some of us packed up everything orange we own and put it in our attic, promising to remove the dust when Tennessee did the same. Some of us just quit listening.
Then it happened. A spark in the mind of someone. Hope. And suddenly we were looking around for reasons, convincing ourselves that this wasn't a bad hire. Not a bad hire at all. In fact, this was the best hire. Hell, he's better then Gruden. He's beat Charlie Strong two out of three times. Not bad. Not bad at all. You know what? This is the messiah of Tennessee football. You know, he kind of looks like the General.
Tennessee fans, I need to tell you something. Sit down, this may be difficult for you to hear. Every time you read the word hope above, it wasn't hope at all. It was delusion. That is what this fan base is settling for. If we look at things with our orange colored glasses, we can make everything seem okay again.
Is Tennessee one of the best coaching jobs in the nation? Objectively, I would say absolutely. We have a great fan base. We have some of, if not the best facilities in college football. We have tradition. A winning one too. We compete in the most prestigious conference in college football.
Is Tennessee the great program we all grew up with? No. It's not. That is just a fact, pure and simple. It doesn't mean we can't ever be again. It doesn't mean that Butch Jones isn't the coach that will return us to prominence. It just means we need to eat a big slice of humble pie, dig down deep inside ourselves and work to be better.
We can support our coaches and still judge them objectively. Butch Jones wasn't my or virtually any of our first pick for this job. But he has said the right things so far. He is putting together what appears to be a great staff. He seems like he wants to win just like any of us. But he's saying what none of us will. Tennessee can be a good program IF the players buy into it and believe.
So let's keep hope. Let's strap in for the long haul. We may have some bad seasons ahead of us. We might have some great ones just beyond that. Results might be instant, they might not be. Let's not lose hope.
But we need to lose our delusions.
So, pump the brakes. This is the end of the line for the bipolar express. This is the first stop for hope.
GO BIG ORANGE!