Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sometimes It's Simply About the Effort

The view from our seats was swell^

Often breaking the routine is the best cure. For years, on the third weekend of the football season, I've either been in front of a TV showing the Florida-Tennessee game or in the stadium in Knoxville watching it. Most often the game ended with disappointment. Today, it ended with a loss, but no disappointment. Maybe that's because I went to Lexington to see Washington & Lee play and get a little perspective on this thing.

Tennessee-Florida, at least for a UT fan, is where football sits when it reaches the top. Lately, our guys have been knocked off the top more often than they've thrust a saber skyward when the final whistle blew.

Today, anticipating No. 1 Florida--which was not only good, but also pissed off at UT's new, brash coach--blowing the Vols' doors off, I headed off to one of the prettiest little towns in Virginia to watch a football game in a marvelous new stadium (great views, as you see above) with my friend Doug Cumming, assistant professor in the journalism department at W&L. We saw a dandy (W&L lost in overtime in a game whose lead changed several times and whose last minute of regulation was a whing-dinger) and I started back to Roanoke* feeling better about everything, reconciled to Tennessee's loss.

Then an odd thing happened. Tennessee wasn't being humiliated. It was hanging close; it was belting Florida's storied quarterback. So I hurried on home to catch the second half. The game ended as a 10-point loss, considerably less than the 30 points the bookies predicted Tennessee would lose by (or the 100 some of our brilliant "analysts" predicted) and I was tickled. I have to admit that I was more satisfied watching these UT kids overachieve and lose than I was watching Philip Fulmer's undisciplined, heralded players play at less than their best and win games.

Ultimately, as I mentioned to Doug, it comes down to competitiveness and effort--which we saw a lot of in Lexington. And today, in Gainsville with my Vols.

(* I was on the road back to Roanoke at 4:20 after watching a full game, an overtime and eating a meal. That's 3 hours, 20 minutes, 10 minutes less than it normally requires to play a regulation Division 1 game--with all those TV timeouts and breaks for commercials. I love Division III football.)

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