Orange is about to be en vogue once again.
In a time-honored tradition that has persisted for the majority of the 21st century, Tennessee fans will go to their closets, grab their orange and white gear, puff out their chests and proclaim this is the year the Vols come back to prominence. And they’ll (actually, we’ll) most likely be wrong, but we do it anyway.
September is the easiest time to be a Tennessee fan. Everybody is 0-0 (well, except Alabama. I’m sure the Tide will be 1-0 by the time you’re reading this) and hope springs eternal. The SEC title isn’t a pipe dream. It’s sitting right there for the Vols to win. Every piece of misery from the previous season has been washed away by the time kickoff arrives, even losses to Vandy. “That won’t happen again,” is what we’ll say.
We say a lot … in September.
Here’s a good sampling of what you have probably heard this weekend, or the last few weeks, from Vol fans:
“The national media is wrong.” - This isn’t just a President Donald Trump mantra. Vol fans perennially think the national media is out to get the Vols – ranking the team too low, taking pot shots or applying unmerited hot seats to the coaches. Being a member of the media, albeit a step or two under what is probably considered “national,” I tend to laugh off this assertion.
“This is a make or break year for Butch Jones” – OK, this is probably right. Jones is the owner of back-to-back 9-4 seasons, but one of those squads blew double-digit, fourth-quarter leads twice and the other started the season ranked in the top 10. Falling back to 6-6 would be a deal breaker for Jones.
“Remember 1998?” – This is a personal favorite fans pull out when pundits start to write the orange and white off in September. Tennessee fans will point out people did that in ’98 too, right after Peyton Manning and defensive end Leonard Little took their talents to the NFL. That’s when Tee Martin, Al Wilson and two guys named Travis (Henry and Stephens) went 13-0 en route to the very first BCS title.
Every start of the season could be a new 1998 for Vol fans.
In fact, did you know the Vols just graduated a celebrated, four-year starter at QB and Derek Barnett, the best defensive end for the Vols since Little? An inexperienced signal caller waits to take over for Josh Dobbs, be it Quinten Dormady or Jarrett Guarantano. The defense should be fierce. There’s even some unheralded running backs ready to step up.
There I go again, thinking it’s 1998 all over.