Many life lessons can be obtained by watching movies. “Forrest Gump” taught us how to overcome the odds. Everybody treated their pets a little better after “Homeward Bound.” Even “Grown Ups 2” let us know to never watch Adam Sandler movies.
Me though, I take all my cues from 1998 cult classic “Rounders.”
Poker pro Mike McD, played by Matt Damon, had it all down pat. He taught me that if I couldn’t spot the sucker at a poker table within an hour, then I was the sucker. I quit playing poker shortly after I saw the movie.
Mike also got great advice from a professor telling him, “Destiny chooses us.” So here I am writing again.
Most of all, Mike’s outlook on taking people’s money at the tables by spotting their tells was a key teaching tool. As he put it, “If a guy acts strong, he’s bluffing. If he acts meek, he’s got a hand.”
This brings me to Tennessee football. Diehard fans, like myself, are laying low right now, but the inner confidence is starting to build. A strong, silent storm is brewing in Knoxville. We have a team again.
Leading the way is Butch Jones, who starts his third year with his team ranked in the top 25 of the coaches poll despite finishing last season 7-6 and needing a last-second Hail Mary pass breakup against Vanderbilt to even be bowl eligible. He’s got a young team, but it’s hungry. And it’s extremely talented.
Back-to-back top five recruiting classes have restocked the cupboards. For the first time since the lone Lane Kiffin season, the Vols will put SEC-caliber players on the field at every position. There won’t be former walk-ons playing crucial roles like the last five years.
Junior quarterback Joshua Dobbs is a dark horse Heisman candidate after compiling 1,408 total yards and 15 touchdowns in five starts last season. Sophomore running back Jalen Hurd could be the next special talent in a rich history of Vol tailbacks. The defense returns 10 starters, including havoc-wreaking defensive ends Derek Barnett and Curt Maggitt.
Still though, there’s only cautious optimism. Georgia is the SEC East favorite. Alabama is still the class of the conference. Tennessee will have to prove itself on the field, starting in Nashville Sept. 5 against Bowling Green. Win that game and follow it up with a home victory over nationally ranked Oklahoma Sept. 12, then Vol fans can puff out their chests.
Like Mike McD, the Vols have been down to the felt and had to build back up from nothing. Now stocked with a pair of aces in the backfield, winning on the river (the Tennessee River to be exact) is the Vols path back to prominence.
As for me, I’m still hanging around at the Southern Standard. I guess I have alligator blood.